Local Congressmen Introduce Legislation to Protect Businesses and Environment
On Tuesday local congressmen joined together to introduce legislation to protect businesses and the environment Rep. Paul Cook (R-Apple Valley), who represents Yucaipa, and Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-San Bernardino) introduced the Santa Ana Wash Plan Land Exchange Act. The bill is a land-use plan that allows for land to be transferred between the San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District and the Bureau of Land Management while protecting space set aside for conservation and existing businesses operating in the wash area.
SBV Water Conservation District and BLM both own land in the wash. Land owned by the Water Conservation District is used to recharge water basins, and also provide Riversidean Sage Scrub habitat. Under the new legislation, new land would be set aside for conservation near lands managed by BLM.
Cemex and Robertson’s Ready Mix, which extract aggregate for cement and concrete production, both operate in the Santa Ana River wash. The businesses support millions of dollars in infrastructure projects and pay $35 million in payroll annually.
The exchange of land between the district and BLM will connect a patchwork of land ownership to create a consolidated open space for conservation purposes and will optimize mining efficiency and water conservation efforts.
“This will align local land ownership with appropriate uses, setting aside already disturbed land for aggregate mining and setting aside important habitat for conservation purposes,” Cook said. “It’s a win for the economy and a win for the environment. I look forward to working with Rep. Aguilar to get this done for our communities.”
“The Wash Plan will empower industries to take root and flourish, continue investments in our transportation and infrastructure, and preserve our environment and regional wildlife,” Aguilar said. “This is an important step forward for our communities.”
“The land transfer will lead to more protection efforts for habitat, improved connectivity in the wildlife corridor, expanded water recharge and storage capacity, and the future establishment of public access and trails which, once built, would connect and help complete the Santa Ana River Trail,” said Daniel Cozad of the San Bernardino Water Conservation District.
The Wash Plan has been in the process since the 1980s, when it was a proposal in the cities of Redlands and Highland. The bill was referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources.