Santa Clarita city officials pleaded with a U.S. Senate subcommittee Thursday to block the creation of a massive landfill in Elsmere Canyon, appealing for federal intervention to preserve national park land on the perimeter of the proposed dump.
An entourage of civic leaders, led by U.S. Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon (R-Santa Clarita) and Santa Clarita Mayor Carl Boyer, testified in Washington D.C. that the proposed 190-million ton landfill would desecrate pristine wilderness and could pollute ground water.
To emphasize the point, McKeon brought a fossil of a seashell found in the area to indicate the ecological value of the land. McKeon said he showed it to the only senator who appeared at the hearing, subcommittee chairman Larry E. Craig (R-Ida.).
"I let him hold it," McKeon said jokingly. "If I can get his vote, I might just give it to him."
The hearing before the Senate Subcommittee on Forests and Public Lands Management focused on a bill authored by McKeon. The bill is intended to stop Torrance-based BKK Corp. from creating the landfill in the canyon just east of the city of Santa Clarita.
"I think we made a very good case," Boyer said.
The bill would prevent the transfer of U.S. Forest Service land in Elsmere Canyon for use as a dump.
This would inhibit BKK's plans because a portion of the proposed 720-acre landfill would be on federal land in Angeles National Forest. BKK has offered to buy private property of comparable value and swap it with the Forest Service for its Elsmere Canyon property, which the bill would prevent.
"We do not believe that an area which was established as part of the first forest reserve in California over a century ago should now have the honor of being buried under 190 million tons of garbage," Boyer testified.
Forest Service officials have indicated they are opposed to the land swap, but took issue with McKeon's bill, charging that it interferes with their jurisdiction.
McKeon is betting that the support of the Republican presidential front-runner, Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.), will help pass his bill. U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), the Senate sponsor of the bill, did not attend the hearing but submitted written comments.
"Elsmere Canyon is a major wildlife corridor connecting the San Gabriel and Santa Susana Mountains. This corridor serves the needs of deer, bear, cougars and many other animals," Boxer wrote. "If the corridor were closed and the interconnection blocked, many of these animals would probably end up in residential areas, threatening both the animals and the local residents."
BKK's president, Ken Kazarian, said at the hearing that it is "inconceivable to me why the Congress would contemplate micromanaging and perhaps derailing this public process.
"If you pass this legislation, you will have every special interest with a similar problem knocking on your door seeking a 'quick Congressional fix.' It may begin with the Elsmere project, but it won't stop there."