Bipartisan Bill to Spur Economic Growth and Protect the Environment in San Bernardino County Passes the House of Representatives
H.R. 497, the Santa Ana River Wash Plan Land Exchange Act, passed the House of Representatives unanimously by a vote of 424 to 0. Rep. Pete Aguilar joined Rep. Paul Cook to reintroduce the land-use plan earlier this year, after originally introducing the bill together in the 114th Congress. H.R. 497 allows the transfer of land between the San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). 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 in an area bordering the cities of Highland and Redlands.
The land exchange will empower two mining companies that sit on land managed by BLM, Robertson’s Ready Mix and Cemex, to increase efficiency and produce aggregate that will support infrastructure projects and approximately $36 million in annual payroll. Additionally, the exchange will preserve 59 acres of land for the San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District to use for conservation purposes to protect endangered plants and species, and to recharge water in more than 70 basins.
Rep. Aguilar spoke on the House floor ahead of the vote, commending Rep. Cook for his action on this bill and to urge his colleagues to support the bill, stating, “The Santa Ana River Wash Plan Land Exchange Act moves this decades-long process forward, which will allow San Bernardino County to take advantage of critical economic and environmental benefits.” He concluded, “This bill is a smart, bipartisan plan that will help us support our local economy and protect the environment. It is a victory for all involved and I offer my complete support, and urge my colleagues to vote in favor of the Santa Ana River Wash Plan Land Exchange Act.”
Rep. Paul Cook said, “This important legislation will complete the land swap at the center of the Santa Ana River Wash Plan. The Wash Plan will allow for the expansion of existing aggregate mining operations to support infrastructure, protect water recharge in the wash and manage critical habitat for threatened and endangered plants and animals. I’m grateful to Rep. Aguilar for co-sponsoring this bipartisan bill and thank my colleagues for passing the bill today.”
H.R. 497 is the final step to complete the transfer of land between the San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District and the BLM, a process that began in the 1980s as a proposal from the cities of Highland and Redlands. When he served on the Redlands City Council and later as the Mayor of Redlands, Rep. Aguilar worked on the project at the local level and witnessed the meetings, studies and committee reports that went in to the Wash Plan. Constituents and local stakeholders have also expressed overwhelming support for the exchange act, which includes letters of support from Robertson’s Ready Mix, Cemex, the County of San Bernardino, the City of Highland, the City of Redlands, the San Bernardino Valley Water District, a local chapter of the Habitat League and Inland Action.
View Rep. Aguilar’s full remarks here.