By Staff Reports
(Victor Valley)– Today, the House of Representatives unanimously passed HR 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 The BLM land being exchanged was withdrawn from development under the Homestead Act for water conservation purposes in the early 1900s.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 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.”
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.”
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.