Plunge Creek flows through the north side of the Santa Ana River Habitat Conservation District

Plunge Creek runs along the north edge of the Santa Ana River Habitat Conservation Plan in Highland after it comes down from the mountains.

Today, Reps. Pete Aguilar (D-San Bernardino), and Paul Cook (R-Apple Valley) introduced the Santa Ana Wash Plan Land Exchange Act, a bill to complete the Upper Santa Ana Wash Land Management and Habitat Conservation Plan (Wash Plan) in the cities of Redlands and Highland.

 The bill would initiate a land exchange between the San Bernardino Water Conservation District and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to continue mining operations on designated parcels of land within the Santa Ana Wash. This agreement would consolidate what is now a patchwork of land to allow economic development in the region to continue alongside conservation efforts.

The San Bernardino Valley Water District estimates that implementation of the plan would result in over $47 million in investments for infrastructure projects as well as other public projects such as a 15 mile walking trail in Redlands and Highland.

“This bill is a commonsense, bipartisan solution to a problem in our region. I’m proud to have the opportunity to work with Col. Cook once again to expand conservation efforts within our communities while helping small businesses grow and create jobs here in the Inland Empire,” said Rep. Aguilar.

“This bipartisan legislation will be a win for both the local economy and for conservation. It permits the expansion of existing aggregate mining operations to support infrastructure, enhances water storage, and supports critical habitat for threatened and endangered plants and animals. I look forward to working with Rep. Aguilar to get this important bill passed into law,” said Rep. Cook.

 Daniel Cozad, general manager of the San Bernardino Water Conservation District, added, “The exchange of land will allow the district to improve and better protect species habitat and connectivity. It will also expand water recharge and storage capacity and expand jobs in our region. Additionally, it connects public access trails to help complete the Santa Ana River Trail. A large group of stakeholders has been supporting this project for almost 20 years. These Task Force Members represent special districts, cities and the County of San Bernardino who all work together to better serve their communities.”

Anthony Edwards, property manager for Robertson’s Ready Mix, a local company that has mining operations within the wash, shared, “It is with great appreciation that we provide our support for the Santa Ana River Wash Plan Land Exchange Act. We thank the congressman for his hard work in representing our region. This bill will help us to expand our business, offer more jobs in the region and provide recreational space for residents to enjoy.”

“With so many stakeholders involved in the process, the Upper Santa Ana River Wash Plan reflects locally led collaboration at its best. We fully support the land exchange, and look forward to seeing it move forward and enacted into law,” said Christie Jones, Resource Manager at Cemex, another company with operations in the wash.

The Santa Ana Wash Plan Exchange Act was passed by the House of Representatives when Reps. Aguilar and Cook introduced the bill in the 115th Congress, but never received a vote in the Senate. The bill has been reintroduced in the Senate by California Senators Diane Feinstein and Kamala Harris.

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