Mono County Supes send landfill lease back to DWP
On Tuesday, the Mono County Board of Supervisors reviewed a one-year lease agreement with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power for the Benton Crossing Landfill … approximately six months after giving the go-ahead to sign a five-year lease agreement with the agency.
“The lease process neared completion in March 2012 when the Board approved a five-year lease and associated environmental document, but DWP subsequently identified issues and refused to sign the lease,” stated Solid Waste Supervisor Tony Dublino’s staff report.
The main issue identified by DWP back in the spring was that of a minor amount of groundwater contamination at the landfill.
“We submit groundwatering monitoring reports to the Lahontan Water Control Board on a quarterly basis,” Dublino told The Sheet. “DWP has always had the ability to review these reports, however, they just realized this condition that has been in the report for years and have now questioned it.”
Dublino stated that it should be the Lahontan Water Control Board that should dictate water quality, not DWP.
“Lahontan hasn’t taken us to task for this since the early 2000s,” Dublino said. He emphasized that the contamination was minor and was something to be expected in groundwater that has been sitting under a landfill for 30 years.
The County has been working under an expired lease for the landfill for several years. Without a new lease with DWP the County cannot acquire the Solid Waste Facility Permit it needs to be in compliance with CalRecycle.
In addition to dealing with lease and permit issues, the County eventually needs to address the deficit created every year by solid waste.
The County was $50,000 over budget in the 2011/12 fiscal year. Luckily the agency had enough in its coffers to cover the gap, but with approximately the same deficit expected in 2012/13, some long-term solutions are needed.
“We need to study the numbers,” stated Supervisor Larry Johnston at Tuesday’s Board meeting.
“But today is about short-term decisions,” Board Chair Vikki Bauer pointed out. The item on Tuesday’s agenda was to simply deal with the DWP lease and the Solid Waste Facility Permit.
“But I want long-term discussions,” Johnston said. “I am worried that every time we get a new lease from DWP we are responsible for more and more.”
Johnston would ultimately like to see the County acquire the landfill site from DWP.
“With less going to the landfill [because of recycling laws], the life of the landfill could be extended,” said Johnston. “We should acquire the site since it’s going to be ours indefinitely anyway.” He was referring to the monitoring fees the County will have to pay the state for 30 years after the landfill’s closure to ensure there are no issues.
His fellow supervisors pointed out that DWP would have to be willing to sell the property in order for Johnston’s plan to work.
“Or we could condemn it,” Johnston said, reiterating his idea from March.
The rest of the Board, however, wanted to finish up the housekeeping items and sign the lease with DWP before diving into further conversations.
“I’m concerned that DWP may not want to sell the land,” said Supervisor Hap Hazard. “We need to determine that before we have a discussion.”
The Board unanimously authorized County Administrative Officer Jim Arkens to sign the one-year lease with DWP.
As of press time the lease was being reviewed by DWP.
Bill and repeal fall flat
Last week the Board sent a letter to the California Legislature asking it to oppose Senate Bill 1148, which many close to the fishing industry, including District 3 Supervisor Elect Tim Alpers have stated will negate the positive impacts of AB 7 on hatcheries.
The bill, however, has made it to the Governor’s desk where it awaits his review and potential signature into law.
According to District 2 Supervisor Elect Fred Stump, who spoke to the Board on behalf of an ill Alpers on Tuesday, the bill would cost $30-60 million to implement.
“It is being requested that the Board now send a letter to the Governor to veto the bill based on the cost,” Stump said. “The Board should also write a letter in support of SB 505, which supports AB 7.”
Staff will draft these letters and bring them to the Board’s Sept. 11 meeting. CalTrout and Retire Senator Dave Cogdill will also attend the Sept. 11 meeting to argue both sides of the bill. CalTrout supports SB 1148, while Cogdill, who worked heavily on AB 7, is opposed.
Also last week, the State Responsibility Area fire fee repeal fell apart, according to Hazard.
“We were thrown under the bus by our representatives who eliminated the SRA fire fee repeal,” Hazard said. The repeal was proposed on Aug. 24 in the form of SB 1040, which was attached to AB 1500.
If SB 1040 had passed, it would have left an expected $85 million on the table in uncollected fees that were earmarked for CalFire. This gap would have been filled by AB 1500, which was expected to generate $1 billion in tax revenues from out-of-state corporations to fund middle class scholarships. By linking SB 1040 and AB 1500, about $90 million of those tax revenues collected from AB 1500 would reportedly have replaced the losses from the fire fee repeal.
However, according to Hazard “the Howard Jarvis people [the group leading the charge to litigate the SRA fees] went to the senators and claimed they had a 100% chance of support in the courts. By challenging it in court they claimed the issue would be resolved once and for all.
“We’ve been left out,” Hazard concluded.
The Board discussed its positions on Propositions 30 and 31, which Hazard was expected to discuss in upcoming talks with the California State Association of Counties (CSAC). The Board decided to remain neutral on both propositions, but gave Hazard the flexibility to oppose Prop 31 if necessary.