Summary: This is a limited history based on an extreme volume of information. BAD’s successes include the exposure of Mid-American’s shenanigans and their financial shortcomings. Mid-American Waste Systems, Inc., (MAWS) the previous Campo landfill developer, was defaulted on their sublease agreement by the Campo Band, and kicked off the landfill deal in the mid-1990's, after investing over $36 million in the project and on related issues, which reportedly included the salaries of several tribal members, and/or leaders, who had the right to vote on landfill-related decisions. The default occurred when Mid-American failed to continue advance royalty payments to the tribe of $250,000 per month. It was Chairman H. Paul Cuero’s letter to BAD President Donna Tisdale (10-3-05) that disclosed and confirmed the $250,000 per month figure. Previously BAD had understood the monthly payments to be $135,000. Mid-American ended up bankrupt and dealing with multiple federal RICO (Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization) charges. Through consistent review and response throughout the various stages and approval processes for the Campo Landfill, BAD successfully forced a much more in-depth environmental review of the project overall–including some state oversight that was not previously allowed. The project still has numerous outstanding review processes at the federal and state levels.
BAD also succeeded in getting the federal designation for the Campo/Cottonwood Creek Sole Source Aquifer which raises awareness on the importance and value of our priceless and vulnerable groundwater resources, and a lack of any financially viable alternative water supplies in the event of contamination. BAD prevented the California Pollution Prevention and Finance Authority from handing inept developers over $28 million to build the landfill, by exposing the misrepresentation of the facts. BAD has educated regulatory agencies and regional waste generators on the problems and related liabilities of dumping their waste at the Campo Landfill. BAD got the Campo Landfill removed from the County’s state mandated regional waste management and siting plan. We exposed the previous tribal leadership for some questionable actions and forced them to respond—something they did not want to do. BAD has, and continues to, send out research-based newsletters via bulk mail to help inform and educate the community at large, including local tribal households on the Campo, Manzanita, and La Posta Reservations.
In spite of all BAD’s efforts and successes, we could not stop the feds from approving the inadequate 1992 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The EIS was virtually bought and paid for by Mid-American Waste who, according to Army Corps memos, showed their true colors by asking the Army Corps of Engineers to “sanitize” their comments to “to do the project no harm.” The Army Corps did not comply with that request and due to their critical comments on the landfill, they were purposely eliminated from the current SEIS review process. At that time BAD did not have the financial resources to file suit. The County did file suit challenging the EIS. Their one young attorney, later a city councilman for San Diego, was outgunned by multiple well-heeled big shots, including an ex-US Attorney, representing the landfill proponents. When the Native American attorney for the Campo Band, Kevin Gover, disingenuously told Judge Irma Gonzales that the tribe would lose $4,500 per day if an injunction against the landfill were granted, she handed them a summary judgment denying the injunction.
It was all about the money, not how environmentally sound the landfill project was. It was later revealed that the tribe would not have lost any money if the injunction had been granted, based on contractual agreements with Mid-American Waste. Gover was later appointed by the Clinton Administration to the position of Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs at the Department of Interior. BAD was also unable to stop the approval of the landfill’s Record of Decision (1993). Too late, we learned of some very hefty, and likely illegal, campaign contributions, made by MAWS and their associates that may have had undue influence on landfill decisions. The Jack Abramoff/Department of Interior lobbying scandal is an alarming example of how allegedly corrupt, greedy, and morally bankrupt individuals can manipulate the system to benefit their wealthy clients—truth and honor be damned. If the feds approve the Supplemental EIS for the Campo Landfill as expected, there are still numerous hurdles that the controversial project will need to overcome, including: new reviews of the tribal Authority To Construct Permit, and Permit To Operate, by California’s environmental agencies (per AB240); finding a source of garbage, special waste and/or sewage sludge, to support the project; paying for the crippling fuel costs for long-distance trucking; finding a way to comply with the State Water Resources Control Board’s 1993 Resolution 93-42 which requires the “provision of an alternate water supply prior to operation”; and finding a way to comply with the new AB32 legislation regarding reductions in green house gas emissions—landfills are a major source methane gas. Methane is reportedly worse on the atmosphere than carbon. Our battle continues...
1978: The Campo Band designated the proposed landfill site as “industrial” in their tribal land use plan. Adjacent private property owners do not recall being notified of the industrial designation in their rural neighborhood. The proposed site is at the very southeastern corner of the Reservation, at the headwaters for Lower Campo Creek, which drains into the Campo Valley. It is 1/4 mile from the US/Mexico border, and is abutted on three sides by private property and wells. Groundwater is the only source of water available and the direction and flow of groundwater from the site, in highly fractured bedrock, appears to run in all directions and angles. This makes monitoring the site for leaks, and the spread of contamination, incredibly difficult if not totally infeasible. It is interesting to note that in the same 1978 land use plan, the site of the massive wind turbines was designated as "wilderness" with plans to avoid even the placement of utility lines. Another 80 to 100 industrial wind turbines are in the planning process in partnership with SDG&E and Invenergy.
1986-87: In December of 1986, an agreement was reportedly reached between Robert Barber, Dennis Enright, Peck, McGrain, and Conversion Industries for ownership interests in a trash burner at the Campo Reservation. Barber testified in court proceedings on another case that during negotiations, he would sit on the back of a truck with Ralph Goff, the tribal Chair, and come to an agreement on what they wanted to do. In spring of 1987, Barber and his wife hosted a trip to Tampa, Florida for the Campo tribal council, including Ralph Goff, and Mark White from Pacific Waste Management, to view four trash incineration projects. Later, Bryan Harrison was brought in and created Campo Projects, Inc. and/or Campo Resource Recovery. By July or August of 1987, Barber brought out William Nikas to get an independent analysis of the project. Barber said, “By this point in time I had a substantial investment in Campo. The Chief was on the payroll, the secretary was on my payroll. I had an engineering firm doing preliminary work, paying for Harrison’s time (7-10 days every month). I was paying for the tribal Counsel and the other Tribal Counsel we hired out of Albuquerque. The expenses were getting difficult to digest...” (Certified transcript excerpt testimony of R. Barber in The People of the State of New York v William Nikas and Robert Barber)
1987: San Diego County and the City of San Diego entered into a Joint Powers Agreement and hired a consultant to search for suitable new landfill sites. The Southwest County Landfill Siting Study originally selected 6 sites, including the Campo Reservation (see below)–without consulting the tribe. The County reportedly rejected consideration of the site, for their use, based on groundwater concerns. Later the Board of Supervisors directed staff to seek sites closer to the source of waste generation due to the high cost of long hauling. (Undated Status Report form County of San Diego CAO, Norman Hickey)
1987: The Campo tribe started considering their own landfill proposals and reportedly made $700,000 per year from funding provided by “the waste company” during the development phase. The tribe would earn $3,000,000 per year if a landfill went into operation. (Pg 24, The Campo Indian Landfill War by Dan McGovern).
1988: Ogden Martin entered into an agreement with San Diego and Imperial Valley Railroad proposing to ship a major portion of the City of San Diego’s waste to the Campo Reservation. (San Diego County Disposal Association Newsletter, June 1988)
1989: Ogden Martin delivered a $4,000 check to the County of San Diego to cover the review costs of the Campo Landfill proposal as part of the ongoing County study. The County and the City “subsequently included the Campo Indian Reservation landfill site in the Study as Site C-1.” Ogden had already proceeded with the Environmental Impact Statement process. Then the Campo Band abruptly stopped communicating with Ogden. Lewis Ott Ward of Ogden complained to the County that they had heard reports of another waste company attempting to negotiate a deal with Campo. Ward stated that, if true, that deal would violate the terms of existing agreements between the Band, Campo Resources Recovery Corporation and subsidiaries of Ogden Projects. He also opined that no other company should be able to use the environmental information obtained for the project as it was the proprietary property of Ogden (Ogden letter to Roger Walsh, Dep. Dir. Dept. of Public Works, San Diego County 2-7-90). At that time, BAD was also informed by Rick Daniels at Waste Management, Inc., that the Campo Band had allegedly asked for $1,000,000 in up-front money before they would even discuss a potential landfill deal. Daniels said Waste Management, Inc. declined to negotiate, stating that the tribal demand was excessive.
1989: This was the year that most locals learned of the Campo Landfill proposal. The County held scoping meetings on all their proposed sites, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs held scoping meetings on the tribe’s proposed Campo Landfill. It was made clear at the October 12, 1989 tribal meeting that the tribe would move forward with their plans regardless of the risk. It was their land and their decision. Backcountry Against Dumps (BAD) was organized and we held our own community meeting with several hundred people in attendance. Several community members, who happened to be tribal members from distant reservations, spoke out against the dump and the attitude of the Campo tribal leaders with whom they had spoken. BAD invited Madonna Thunderhawk, a member of Women of All Red Nations (WARN), who attempted to talk to the women on the Campo Reservation, and warn them of the dangers that an industrial landfill represented to the long-term health of their children and families. Thunderhawk informed BAD that she was turned away by the Campo women who stated their men had told them they could not talk to anyone about the landfill.
1990: Mid-American Waste Systems, Inc. paid a $500,000 finders fee to the tribe and cut a deal to develop and operate the Campo landfill (KNSD 7-13-90). Mid-American was now stuck with paying the bills for the big shot attorneys and lobbyists needed to grease the political skids. BAD went right to work investigating Mid-American’s history by contacting neighbors of their existing landfills in Ohio, Indiana, Florida and Georgi—their short track record was not pretty. We created an information-sharing network that really paid off later. Remember, all this happened before the Internet was available.
1990-91: In violation of the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), the Bureau of Indian Affairs approved a conditional sublease between Mid-American and Campo—prior to conducting the required Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). BAD protested this NEPA violation. As a direct result of the Campo lease, the Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs sent a memo (9-9-91) out to “All Area Directors” for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, reminding them that NEPA requires that the EIS process must take place prior to any decisions on the leases. The memo stated there would be “no conditional approvals for waste facilities in the future” to avoid the appearance that some NEPA obligations are not taken seriously.
1990-92: In response to numerous proposals for waste disposal projects on local tribal lands, where regulation was almost non-existent, BAD worked with tribal members from several San Diego area reservations, and Assemblyman Steve Peace on AB3477 which failed, and then on AB240. The goal was to try to get some control over private companies dumping waste on tribal lands. A toothless version of AB240 was signed into law, which allows for voluntary Cooperative Agreements between the State and individual tribes. In the Campo agreement, state agencies are supposed to review tribal permits for waste disposal projects, to determine functional equivalency with State law. The State and local regulatory agencies still claim they have no real authority on tribal lands. While we had to make sacrifices to pay our way to Sacramento, Mid-American bussed up a load of Campo tribal members for legislative hearings on the bill. Tribal interests from across the nation attended conferences to discuss the precedent-setting legislation. In the end our efforts were gutted. The State did not require the tribe to comply with California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) regulations which are often much more strict than federal regulations. BAD’s attorney at the time, Alan Waltner, wanted to file suit against the State over the inadequate Cooperative Agreement between the Campo EPA (ironically, the agreement is not with the tribe itself). Unfortunately, BAD did not have the money to follow through on all the viable legal challenges.
1990-93: BAD hired Ted Smith, a well-qualified geologist to work on the landfill review. He also helped us collect data and successfully petition for a federal designation for the Campo/Cottonwood Creek Sole Source Aquifer. BAD petitioned for the designation to bring attention to the fact that we have no imported water nor access to any. Unfortunately, the USEPA delayed the final decision until after the Department of Interior approved the Campo landfill Environmental Impact Statement and the Record of Decision. BAD felt the delayed Sole Source Aquifer designation was orchestrated in order to avoid influencing the landfill approval process. We base this on the fact that those decisions came within days of each other. BAD felt the USEPA’s tactics purposely favored the tribal “economic development” project over the protection of a valuable and vulnerable water supply for the community at large—on and off the reservation.
1990-95: During these years, local cities were being solicited to sign contracts to send their waste to the proposed Campo Landfill. BAD spent countless hours educating cities, County-wide, on the fact that, under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, they would be held liable for contamination caused by their trash. It is our understanding that the tribe cannot be held liable and the private developer can file for bankruptcy and walk away, leaving the generators of the trash ultimately liable. BAD attended many city council and various waste management meetings, providing ongoing documentation regarding the negatives of the Campo Landfill, and the ongoing problems with Mid-American Waste Systems. No cities signed up to dump at Campo. Without trash contracts, the landfill’s economic viability is questionable. This education campaign is ongoing.
1990-95: The landfill site impacts Mexico, which is located just 1/4 mile south of the project lease boundary. BAD worked with Mexican citizens, local, state and federal legislators, and the media regarding negative impacts to Mexico’s groundwater resources. Ejido Jardines del Rincon and the Teacher’s Rock community are in close proximity to the border and totally reliant on groundwater, including that which originates on the US side of the border, with direct connections to the landfill site. The International Boundary and Water Commission, Mexican engineers, and other professionals, studied the project and concluded the project posed a threat to Mexico’s groundwater. There were petitions from various ejidos, many articles in the Mexican press, and a flurry of political letters and actions. There was even a direct action event planned by Mexican activists, which temporarily shut down the border at Tecate in protest of the Campo Landfill. The Mexican State Department issued a diplomatic note in 1994 protesting the Campo Landfill; unfortunately, it came after the landfill received federal approval.
1991: As part of the groundwater investigation for the EIS process, an intense drilling and well testing operation was started by Mid-American. It wasn’t long before numerous neighbors, with private property and wells abutting and near the landfill site, started getting an unusual salty taste in their water and an influx of very fine sand into their wells. Sand impacted some water heaters, faucets, and washing machines. Donna Tisdale kept a log of the events and those contacted in an effort to investigate the obvious connection between the private wells and those on the landfill site. Locals working on the drilling teams informed BAD that the engineering firm, Dames & Moore, was having trouble determining which way the water was flowing in the geologically complex site, and had not done proper tests on water hauled in from a dormant well prior to injecting it into wells onsite. Despite a knockdown, dragged-out battle, this issue was never resolved. Recommendations by various agencies for more investigative work on the interconnection of wells, including the Army Corps of Engineers, staff for the State Water Resources Control Board, the State Board of Registration for Geologists, and more, were totally ignored by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Department of Interior.
1991: The Bureau of Indian Affairs issued a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for W. R. Grace’s La Posta Recycling Center. W.R. Grace had a less than stellar reputation. A movie, starring John Travolta, was made about contamination at a W.R. Grace site that resulted in a cancer cluster. The hazardous waste incineration project was proposed on the La Posta Reservation near Crestwood between I-8 and Old 80. BAD objected to the FONSI, noting it violated National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) due to the enormous controversy surrounding the incinerator proposal. Senator Lucy Killea asked BAD to enter into mediation with the La Posta tribe. We participated, to show good faith, but pointed out that there was really no compromise when it came to public health and environmental protection from such a threatening project. NAFTA was in the works then and it was anticipated that much of the hazardous waste would be imported from US companies working in Mexico. Tribal members from other local reservations alleged at the time that La Posta never intended to go through with the project; they just wanted the money that came during the approval process.
1992-ongoing: BAD started a local groundwater monitoring network with the County, and local well owners, to establish a record of groundwater levels. Water levels are checked and recorded several times a year. Now, we have a historic record of groundwater fluctuations, which can be used in anti-landfill and other protective efforts.
1992-94: Landfill neighbors and BAD leaders, Ed and Donna Tisdale, filed a complaint against Dames & Moore, the landfill-engineering firm at that time, with the California Board of Registration for Geologists. The board ultimately agreed that more investigation needed to be done on the groundwater flow and the ability to monitor the landfill. Dames & Moore agreed with the State Board findings, that more investigative work needed to be done, and then quietly withdrew from the Campo landfill project. Golder & Associates conducted the Supplement EIS work for BLT Enterprises and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Again, the developer is paying for and controlling the environmental study. Again, we believe the study will be severely lacking in adequate investigation and information.
1992: November 24: The Bureau of Indian Affairs released the controversial Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Campo Landfill. The County of San Diego filed suit challenging the adequacy of the study and asking for an injunction. BAD worked with the County on the lawsuit—again, we could not afford to have our own attorney lead this battle. In hindsight, our more experienced attorney may have prevailed where the young county attorney failed.
1993: On January 31, 1993, the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) reported that the Campo Band had accepted at least $10 million from Mid-American. This pencils out to $8,333 per day / $250,000 per month.
1993: BAD worked with District Attorney Robert Winn from New York and exposed criminal conspiracy, fraud, bribery and criminal conflict of interest charges against officers of Campo Projects, Inc., (Nikas & Barber) dealing with a trash-burning project. After several hard-hitting articles by reporter Billie Jo Shepherd (now Billie Jo Jannen) in the Alpine Sun, the tribe kicked them out of the Campo landfill development deal. Bryan Harrison, one partner who was not charged in the case, came back again and again with different developers. We believe Harrison brought BLT into the deal and may still be involved with the landfill.
1993: The County of San Diego released a groundwater level monitoring report from 25 private wells surrounding the Campo Landfill site. The levels measured between 1.2 feet above land surface (flowing artesian), to 31.5 feet below ground. All but 5 of the 25 monitored were less than 4 feet below ground surface. Springs were noted virtually everywhere throughout the area, including topographically high and low areas. (3-8-93: Eric Gibson, County Groundwater Geologist)
1993: April 27th: The new Secretary of Interior, Bruce Babbitt, approved the Campo Landfill Record of Decision. Congressman Hunter had arranged for Donna Tisdale, BAD’s President, to meet with Babbitt prior to his decision—before he even had a real staff. BAD later learned that Babbitt had received misinformation regarding the depth of tribal support for the landfill (which was claimed to be unanimous), and the alleged support of the previous Secretary of Interior, Manuel Lujan. Lujan had told BAD and Congressman Hunter, at a previous meeting, that he would not approve the landfill because the project was not clean. (Freedom of Information Act documents showed that Army Corps of Engineers had been asked by landfill proponents to sanitize their comments on the project). Babbitt was heavily lobbied and pressured by Mid-American and tribal leaders, and their lobbyists, to approve the ROD. They claimed they needed approval prior to state hearings on the tribal Authority to Construct Permit by State Water Resources Control Board. An earlier memo from a water board staffer (1-26-93) working on the Campo landfill review noted “Washington has found some serious problems with project.” We may never know what was said, or done, behind closed doors to force approval of the project despite those serious problems.
1993: State Water Resources Control Board action: April 27th: It was on the very morning of the State Water Resource Control Board (SWRCB) hearing in Sacramento that we learned the Record of Decision (ROD) had just been approved and signed by Babbitt. It had been faxed in to the Board and the proponents’ attorneys as the hearing was getting started. County Supervisor Jacob, who was present to testify against the landfill, stated that it was obvious that the political skids had been greased. She was right. With the ROD in hand, the SWRCB went on to approve Resolution 93-42 finding that the Campo Landfill met the requirements of Chapter 805 of the 1991 Statutes. This, in spite of the fact that all major environmental issues were referred to the second Permit To Operate phase. The resolution required (in case of impact from the landfill) an alternate water supply of the same quality and quantity for any and all uses to any surrounding and adjacent property owners. No alternate supply is available, as determined by the federal designation of the Campo/Cottonwood Creek Sole Source Aquifer. The SWRCB also did not evaluate or make a determination on the slope stability of the landfill.
1993: On October 12, 1993, during the County’s lawsuit against the federal approval of the landfill, tribal attorney Kevin Gover stated to US District Judge Irma Gonzales, in open court, that if she granted an injunction against the landfill, the tribe stood to loose $4,500 per day, and bonus payments of $500,000 upon issuance of the tribe’s Authority to Construct Permit and another $500,000 upon issuance of their Permit to Operate. BAD later learned that this statement to the judge was reportedly not fully accurate. In fact, the tribe was already receiving $8,333 per day ($250,000 per month), as reported by the BBC (see above). And the tribal agreement with Mid-American allowed for continued payment regardless of whether or not the tribal permitting agency had closed down the landfill (Muht-Hei Monthly, May 1995)
1993: June 25: BAD filed suit when the State Water Quality Control Board and the Integrated Waste Management Board approved the inadequate tribal Authority to Construct permit for the landfill. Major environmental issues had been deferred to the Permit To Operate review. Technically, this would have allowed construction of the landfill prior to a full environmental review. We felt this action violated the Cooperative Agreement between the state and the Campo Band, and the state’s responsibility to the off-reservation residents. The County filed a virtually identical suit. All parties later agreed to a stipulation to delay the proceedings, pending release and state review of the tribal Permit To Operate. The County eventually dropped their suit. BAD never dropped their suit. All these years later, the tribe still has not released their Permit To Operate for review—and we have not had our day in court.
1995-96: BAD appealed USEPA’s approval of the New Source Review air permit for the landfill, winning a few concessions, but losing the battle to overturn the approval. The permit received several extensions. Now, the EPA says the air permit is no longer required due to a variety of changes in air quality and standards. We have been advised that the actual change was not in the quality of the air itself, but in the way it is measured—reportedly giving an advantage to polluters.
1995-96: BAD filed suit in US District Court of Appeals (Washington DC) (No 95-1343: Backcountry Against Dumps and Donna Tisdale v. EPA, Muht-Hei, Inc., et al) and won against the USEPA for approving the tribe’s solid waste management program. The win meant that the tribe could not relax the federal landfill standards on their own (like reducing the thickness of the landfill liner system); they need federal approval form the USEPA first. This was a major win for BAD. This case impacted tribes nation-wide and created a backlash against the Campo tribal leaders. Numerous tribal conferences were held around the nation to discuss the implications of our win.
1994-96: BAD provided factual information to stock analysts, directors, investors, and shareholders of Mid-American Waste Systems (MAWS), the landfill developer at the time. At that point, over $30 million had already been spent with nothing to show for it. The backlash forced Mid-American to stop their $135-000-$250,000 monthly advance royalty payments to the tribe. Campo then defaulted MAWS for breaking their contract agreement. Other major developers shied away. Later, it was revealed that MAWS had spent approximately $36 million on the project, with $10 million of that reportedly going straight to the tribe. The landfill was stalled for years. BLT Enterprises entered the picture in 2003-04.
1994-96: BAD provided information to, and worked with, various federal agencies who indicted the CEO of MAWS, other officers, and the company itself, under the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization Act. Plea agreements were eventually reached in Ohio and Indiana with an agreement not to prosecute in Southern California where Campo was their only project (USA v. Mid-American Waste Systems, Inc., US District Court, Northern Division, Hammond Division; signed 4-26-96). One FBI agent expressed frustration when informing BAD that the US Attorney for the San Diego region reportedly held the position that it was politically incorrect to go after tribal leaders. This type of hands-off policy provides no incentive for tribal leaders to comply with the law.
1997: The County of San Diego, facing bankruptcy, chose to sell off their publicly owned landfills at Otay, Sycamore, and Ramona, to Allied Waste Industries. This, along with Orange County’s bankruptcy and their decision to allow the importation of waste generated in San Diego County, for burial in their landfills, changed the dynamics of the waste industry in Southern California. It also made the Campo Landfill project much less viable and attractive to potential developers.
1997-2001: The situation was monitored and actions taken when necessary.
2001-2004: The Campo Band opened their Golden Acorn Casino and truck stop in 2001. The tribal leaders denied requests from BAD and others for a full Environmental Impact Statement. BAD did not oppose the casino, and had previously suggested a truck stop as an alternative economic development project. However, we requested a full EIS due to expected groundwater and other issues. NEPA review was not required because there was no lease involved and CEQA does not apply to tribal lands. The Environmental Assessment, produced by the consulting company owned by tribal member and officer Michael Connolly, (no conflict of interest or bias there) wrongly stated that there would be no negative impacts. Right after the casino started operation, at least one property owner complained that their adjacent well, which had produced good water for many decades, had run dry. According to tribal members, employees, and others, the casino was having trouble finding enough water. The sewage system was not working properly from the start, reportedly because the contractor was never allowed or paid to finish it. There were complaints of a stench coming from the sewage lagoon and locals complained of bouts of intestinal/health problems after eating at the casino.
2002-05: BAD worked to get the Campo Landfill removed from the County’s Integrated Waste Management Plan and Siting Element. County staff had included it in the County plan as an existing site after being lobbied, and falsely informed by Bryan Harrison, that the landfill was fully permitted and had all necessary approvals. Campo is not yet fully approved or permitted. The State approved the County’s waste and siting plans (minus Campo) in September 2005, after it was approved by a majority of San Diego County’s 18 cities.
2003: Another non-profit group alerted BAD that Campo Resource Recovery Corporation (based in Corinth, New York) had applied, and received initial approval, for $28.5 million in landfill development funding, from the obscure California Pollution Control Financing Authority (CPCFA), to build the Campo Landfill. BAD contacted the state agency and requested the paperwork. We then hired a private investigator and used the information he dug up on the two developers, including the same Bryan Harrison from Campo Projects, Inc (see 1987), to stop the application cold. BAD produced a big binder with the past history of the landfill, documenting the lack of full approval and permits, both state and federal. The binder included information on the unresolved legal challenge to state’s approval of the tribal Authority to Construct Permit and the non-existent Permit To Operate. We also exposed the $287,929 New York court judgment against one of the partners of Campo Resource Recovery Corporation. These two developers, including Bryan Harrison, had failed to disclose this little detail in their state application, as required. Their application also included misinformation and incomplete information. The contact at the CPCFA said they sent a copy of our binder to the developers asking for a response—the CPCFA said they never heard from them again. BAD continues to educate elected officials, various agencies, and staff regarding current and upcoming Campo Landfill decisions. We also continue to monitor the CPCFA for any new applications for funding construction of the Campo Landfill.
2003-to date: BAD hired a new well-qualified attorney, Stephan C. Volker, and other professionals to deal with current legal and technical challenges. We also worked with Dr. Victor M. Ponce, from SDSU, on several reports including: Campo Landfill impacts on the Tierra Del Sol basin (where we had the most site-specific information) (http://tierradelsol.sdsu.edu) and two on groundwater utilization and sustainability (http://groundwater.sdsu.edu) (http://gwsustainability.sdsu.edu).
2004: The San Diego Union Tribune (1-14-04) reported that a Louisiana tribe was suing the Campo tribe contending that Campo had repaid less than $1 million of $25 million it cost to build the Golden Acorn Casino. Costs including interest were reported at over $29 million, with millions more in unpaid development and consulting fees. One quote from First Nation’s suit stated, “Campo has consistently proved its willingness to evade its obligations.”
2004: The Draft Environmental Assessment was released on the Kumeyaay Wind facility for 25 wind turbines. BAD did not comment on the document, believing at the time that it was not an environmental threat—if only we had known what was in store. During construction of the project and interconnection with the electrical grid requiring the reconductoring of the existing 69 kV line, the small communities of Boulevard and Jacumba, along with several tribal communities, were taken off the grid and placed on emergency generators for almost two months. There were numerous brown outs and full power outages due to SDG&E’s difficulty in adjusting their generators. Our community is groundwater dependent. We cannot pump well water without power. Several locals reported damaged electronic equipment, appliances, well pumps, and other losses. Neither San Diego Gas & Electric, the tribal leaders, or the California Public Utilities Commission, disclosed the need to take our communities off the grid during the project approval process—it was an unwelcome surprise. Chronic noise and infrasonic vibration issues, which can disrupt sleep and result in numerous negative health impacts, have also impacted off-reservation neighbors. Industrial wind energy projects can also negatively impact property values due to various impacts including visual.
2004: In December, BLT Enterprises, Inc. of Oxnard, announced that the Campo Band had approved the sublease agreement with the tribal business entity, Muht-Hei, Inc. BAD successfully worked to convince federal agencies that a new updated Supplemental EIS was necessary due to changes in the project and new information made available after the original EIS was approved and certified a decade earlier in 1992-93.
2004-2005: According to various news reports and signed declarations from tribal employees, including the casino’s General Manager from 2001 to 2004, Campo’s tribal leaders refused to pay for the original completion or later upgrading of the casino’s sewage treatment plant and the effluent had never been adequately treated. The Union Tribune reported (6-26-05) that their independent testing showed coliform bacteria levels were 700 times over the safe limit allowed by the state, and the lab that the tribe was taking their wastewater samples to stated the tests were worthless because their lab does not test for coliform bacteria. The General Manager was not authorized to make payments above $100,000 without getting tribal approval, and repeated pleas to those leaders in charge reportedly fell on deaf ears. Insiders reported that cross-contamination had been discovered with interconnections between piping for potable water and effluent. Witnesses reported that virtually untreated sewage was purposely allowed to run out onto the ground in the vicinity of down gradient wells used by the casino, including one private well. The EPA was called in and inexplicitly gave advance warning of their visit. Again, declarations from those involved allege a deliberate and orchestrated cover up of the Casino’s risky handling of the sewage. According to witnesses, the discharge pipe was dug up and sewage diverted to a holding tank and septic trucks were called in to haul it off-reservation. The EPA staffer admitted he never looked for evidence of dangerous disposal practices, never took any independent tests of the effluent, or questioned the hogwash he was being fed by tribal leaders and loyal employees. We were advised that some taxpayer funds were later provided to help bring the sewage treatment plant into better compliance, and the better-treated effluent was being sprayed onto the land surface. No evidence was ever provided to us showing that the effluent from the sewage plant is being properly treated or disposed of, or that potable water testing was being conducted in a manner that would protect the public health and welfare. Tribal leaders and the EPA claim that it is. We hope they are right. However, at certain times the unpleasant stench of sewage drifts over the area, including Historic Route 80. Offers to introduce Dr. Ponce to tribal leaders to discuss the potential for artificial wetlands to be constructed to further cleanse the casino effluent have been ignored.
2005-06: Congressman Duncan Hunter arranged and participated in a meeting in Washington, DC, with Donna Tisdale of BAD and legal counsel for the Department of Interior. The subject of the meeting included the negative impacts of the Campo Landfill and the controversy surrounding it. Congressman Hunter wrote a letter to the Secretary of Interior, advocating the use of the Army Corps of Engineers and the International Boundary and Water Commission as cooperating agencies in the Supplemental EIS review process. BAD submitted similar requests, which were all denied. The US Environmental Protection Agency is the only cooperating agency. The EPA has a government-to-government relation with the tribe and has been less than cooperative with BAD on several issues.
2006: BAD submitted extensive and well-documented comments on the Notice of Intent to prepare the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement. The County, Supervisor Dianne Jacob, and others also submitted comments—all highly critical of the Campo Landfill.
2007-2008: After learning of a questionable taxpayer funded cleanup on tribal land, BAD submitted a Public Records Act (PRA) request to the California Integrated Waste Management Board regarding a $150,000 Board managed grant for the Campo Reservation Illegal Disposal Site Cleanup Facility # 37-CR-0017. Cost recovery for the grant was waived because tribal leaders claimed that no responsible parties could be identified. However, along with the cleanup of several undisputed illegal disposal sites, the clean up also included removal of abandoned cars from Bill Moffett’s junk yard—the subject of previous controversy and the alleged recipient of at least one previous tax-payer funded cleanup. BAD wondered why taxpayers should continue to pay for cleanup that would benefit at least one tribal member who repeatedly trashed his property, and reportedly made about $100,000 per year as a Gaming Commissioner. Upon review, it became apparent that testimony made, and documents submitted, by tribal leaders Michael Connolly and Harry Paul Cuero, Jr., to the Board, prior to grant approval, contained misleading and inaccurate information and failed to fully disclose important issues—like known responsible parties. The PRA documents appeared to reveal an increase in funding to over $424,000. The waste board staff disputed that figure saying it was closer to $223,000. After much resistance from the board staff to pursue cost recovery from known responsible parties, much back and forth correspondence, and an apparent investigation into the Moffett issue, it was determined that the Board did not have jurisdiction on the reservation despite the cooperative agreement with the tribe over waste disposal sites. They eventually claimed to have forwarded BAD’s complaint to the state Attorney General for possible action against responsible parties, and have ignored further inquiries. The AG’s office did not respond to inquiries.
2008: April 15: The Campo Band held their general election which voted out the old guard, Harry Paul Cuero, Jr., Ralph Goff, and Michael Connolly (who did not run for re-election) and voted in an all-female slate. The election was in the controversial dispute/resolution mode for a while with the old guard still claiming power and the newly elected leaders demanding their rights. The Bureau of Indian Affairs was involved in the dispute. Reports of massive paper shredding were alleged, prior to the belated handing over of the reins to the new leadership. There are unanswered questions on whether or not the majority of tribal members, or the new leadership, actually supports the landfill project. We have heard that there is increasing tribal opposition to the landfill and a tribal petition opposing the landfill is circulating. Time will tell.
June 2009: The Campo Band announced a Memorandum of Understanding with San Diego Gas & Electric and Invenergy for a new 160 MW wind turbine project. No details have been made available. BAD formally requested that a joint EIS/EIR process be conducted for this controversial project, which will require off-reservation transmission and substation projects. There will be significant and cumulative on and off-reservation impacts. The Bureau of Indian Affairs has agreed to conduct a joint NEPA /CEQA review because the wind project will require off-site transmission lines and rely on SDG&E’s controversial Sunrise Powerlink and proposed ECO Substation, both of which will require eminent domain action and significant and cumulative impacts on private properties and public lands.
December 2009: We are still awaiting the delayed release of the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS). The Bureau of Indian Affairs sent the SEIS to the USEPA, in 2008, for review as a cooperating agency, prior to release to the public for comment. One year later, release of the SEIS to the public is now projected for this month. We expect it will be released around the Christmas holidays like they did with the original EIS in 1992. It is our opinion that this is part of a conscious strategy to make public participation more difficult and less focused. There will be a 75-day comment period once the document is released and noticed in the Federal Register.
January 2010: The Bureau of Indian Affairs has stated that two public hearings will be held on the SEIS. One will reportedly be held at the Mtn Empire High School gymnasium and the other will be held at the Campo tribal offices. BAD will get word out once we know the dates and locations. The battle to protect and defend our resources, public health and safety, and property values continues....