By Staff Reports
(Victor Valley)– Today, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands held a legislative hearing on H.R. 497, the Santa Ana River Wash Land Plan Exchange Act. This bill, which is authored by Rep. Cook (R-Apple Valley) and co-authored by Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-San Bernardino), authorizes an exchange of land between the San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District (SBVWCD) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
This bill would authorize a land exchange of approximately 327 acres of BLM land for approximately 310 acres of land currently owned by the SBVWCD. The BLM land being exchanged was withdrawn from development under the Homestead Act for water conservation purposes in the early 1900s. This land is adjacent to existing CEMEX and Robertson’s Ready Mix mining operations. These companies currently have mining rights on land owned by SBVWCD but those sites are not adjacent to the existing aggregate sites and are located in the middle of undisturbed habitat.
The exchange allows the Conservation District to acquire the BLM land adjacent to the existing CEMEX and Robertson’s Ready Mix aggregate mines, creating greater efficiency for these companies and also preserving quality habitat. The production of aggregate will support approximately $8.5 million in infrastructure projects and $36 million annually in payroll from this site alone. In exchange, BLM will acquire approximately 310 acres of Conservation District land that will consolidate checkerboard parcels to enhance water storage and conservation while protecting critical habitats for threatened and endangered species.
Rep. Cook said, “This important bipartisan 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 look forward to working with Rep. Aguilar to get this done.”
Rep. Aguilar said, “I’m glad to join Rep. Paul Cook on this important bill, and appreciate the opportunity to testify before the Natural Resources Committee to reaffirm that support. This bill helps us accomplish some really important objectives for our community: investing in our regional economy, protecting our wildlife and environment, supporting local infrastructure projects and conserving water. To put it simply, the Wash Plan is an economic and environmental victory for the Inland Empire.”
Daniel Cozad of the San Bernardino Water Conservation District said, “I am so pleased to have the bipartisan support of Congressmen Aguilar and Cook for H.R. 497. This hearing is a critical step in completing the Wash Plan Habitat Conservation Plan that conserves and protects habitat, while permitting water conservation, mining and needed local government projects.”
Senator Diane Feinstein has introduced a companion bill in the Senate, S.357.
A member of the House Natural Resources, Armed Services, and Foreign Affairs Committees, Cook served as an infantry officer and retired after 26 years as a Colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps. During his time in combat, he was awarded the Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts.