California desert communities can breathe a tentative sigh of relief with a recent Obama Administration decision that puts the proposed Eagle Mountain landfill
project in a precarious position. A legal battle that has waged for two and a half decades
could be drawing to a close now that the Department of the Interior
is no longer defending the developer behind the project. This is a major victory for residents and environmental groups that have opposed the Eagle Mountain landfill since it was conceived in 1988.
is situated near the now-defunct Eagle Mountain iron mine, about 200 miles east of Los Angeles, and adjacent to Joshua Tree National Park
. The iron mine was active for a little more than 30 years, but closed in the early 1980s. Since then, the only development opportunities for Eagle Mountain have been a prison facility for low-risk inmates and the landfill
that would have received up to 20,000 tons of L.A. County's trash per day. The prison was not a success, and now it seems as though the area can finally stop defending itself against a potential waste invasion.
The defunct Eagle Mountain mining operation is actually an interesting historical and environmental site. In 1997, Donna and Larry Charpied, residents who opposed the landfill project from the beginning, organized a competition for local design and architecture students. The "Vision for Eagle Mountain
" contest centered around alternative land use designs for the remote desert location with its open, abandoned mining pits and stretch of railroad tracks that extends to the northeastern shore of the Salton Sea
More recently, Donna Charpied told Allison Johnson, author of the blog Edge of the Mirage
, "Our vision [for Eagle Mountain] will come to fruition when the 29,775 acres are returned to Joshua Tree National Park and the Eagle Mountain mining area becomes a historical monument ... The vision for Eagle Mountain will be a showcase to the nation that communities can develop sustainably with a strong economic base."
When the landfill was temporarily blocked by a San Diego Superior Court Judge in 1994, Dan Roman, a plaintiff in that lawsuit, commented, "It's time for the people of L.A. County and other urban areas to start addressing real alternatives to solid waste management. The desert ... will not be California's toilet. We won't let it happen."
Thanks to sustained citizen opposition and this DOI reversal, it did not.