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November 17, 2015

Aguilar and Cook Spearhead Initiative to Protect Environment and Support Economic Development

Today, Reps. Pete Aguilar and Colonel Paul Cook introduced H.R. 4024, the Santa Ana Wash Plan Land Exchange Act, which is a land-use plan that allows the transfer of land between the San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District and the Bureau of Land Management. The land exchange takes place in a designated region within the Santa Ana Wash, at the junction of the Santa Ana River and Mill Creek.

Currently, land within the Santa Ana Wash is owned by both the San Bernardino Water Conservation District (the District) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).  Parcels owned by the District are currently used for the purpose of recharging water in more than 77 basins, and also provide Riversidian Sage Scrub habitat.  New lands would be set aside for conservation purposes near land managed by BLM.  The wash area is occupied by two mining companies, Cemex and Robertson’s Ready Mix, which extract aggregate for cement and concrete production. The production of aggregate will support approximately $8.5 million in infrastructure projects and $36 million annually in payroll from this site alone. 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.  

“I’m glad to have the opportunity to work with Rep. Cook and businesses, local governments and environmental groups to make this land transfer a success,” said Rep. Aguilar. He continued, “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. This is an important step forward for our communities.”

Rep. Paul Cook said, “This important legislation will complete the land swap at the center of the Santa Ana River Wash Plan. 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. 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.”

Robertson’s Ready Mix employs approximately 80 workers at the affected site. Property Manager Christine Goeyvaerts said, “It is with sincere appreciation that we provide our enthusiastic support for the Santa Ana River Wash Plan land exchange. From the many employees that call this site their workplace, we thank both Congressmen for their tenacity and hard work representing our area.”

Daniel Cozad of the San Bernardino Water Conservation District added, “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.” He continued, “This project has been 15 years in the making. Doing a Habitat Conservation Plan with this many Task Force Members is unusual, particularly when you consider each has a different mission to implement.”

In total, the land exchange will continue to support Inland Empire business and transportation projects, while safeguarding essential environmental conservation efforts. It also expands property for the development of a long-term water supply and storage. The Wash Plan has been an ongoing project since the late 1980s, when it was a proposal to the cities of Highland and Redlands. Years of meetings, studies and committee reports have culminated in the final presentation of the Upper Santa Ana River Wash Plan. While both on the Redlands City Council and as Mayor, Rep. Aguilar supported the initiative and numerous studies that went into making the Wash Plan a reality. A map of the land transfer can be found here.