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RWQCB defers Gregory Canyon bridge decision

The Regional Water Quality Control Board voted 4-2 November 18 to defer a decision on a water quality certification for a bridge which would connect State Route 76 to the proposed Gregory Canyon Landfill and cross the San Luis Rey River.

The Clean Water Act Section 401 Water Quality Certification is separate from the waste discharge permit application for the proposed landfill, but the RWQCB is seeking a deadline extension from the Army Corps of Engineers so that the actions on the bridge and the waste discharge permit for the landfill itself can be consolidated into a single hearing.

“It seemed as if their preference was to have these heard either together or have the bridge heard after the waste discharge permit,” said RWQCB senior environmental scientist Chiara Clemente.

Gregory Canyon, Ltd. plans to replace the existing low-flow crossing with a bridge from State Route 76 which will be able to support vehicles and equipment associated with construction and operation of the landfill. The current bridge located downstream of the proposed bridge is not able to support the required equipment and would be abandoned upon project completion.

Abandoning that bridge would include removal of culverts and cover, which would open a gap approximately 25 feet by 25 feet in the crossing and improve the river’s quality by improving water flow at the location of the existing crossing.

The new bridge would span the river but would place three concrete support piers into the San Luis Rey River. The bridge and piers are expected to remain permanently. The piers themselves would impact 2/1000 of an acre (approximately 80 square feet) of the water while construction access is expected to require up to 0.49 additional acres. The construction access area would be revegetated after construction is completed. In addition to the 0.49 acres, the restoration plan for the bridge project would create an additional 2.3 acres of riparian habitat.

Federal law requires the RWQCB to act on water quality certification decisions within 60 days of receiving a completed application. The Gregory Canyon application was deemed complete October 13. “We were under a 60-day limit and took an action,” Clemente said. “One of the actions we could have taken would be to request an extension.”

RWQCB executive officer John Robertus did not issue a staff recommendation, opting to let the board make its own determination. Robertus retired at the end of the November 18 meeting, so new executive officer David Gibson will be responsible for any staff recommendations for the Gregory Canyon permits when the hearing actually occurs.

In addition to the Army Corps of Engineers, the bridge will also need permits from the California Department of Fish and Game, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the county’s Department of Public Works.

The RWQCB has received more than 700 comments on the waste discharge permit application and will review those comments before setting a new hearing date. The issuance of a waste discharge permit had originally been scheduled for an August 12 hearing, but on June 26 the RWQCB made the decision to postpone that hearing indefinitely due to a change in circumstances in the plan to import recycled water for the landfill which could force a revision to the California Environmental Quality Act documentation.

“Hopefully it will be coordinated so that both items are there and we have one hearing for both,” Clemente said.

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