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San Joaquin County supervisors vote not to expand landfill

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Posted: Tuesday, September 24, 2013 6:58 pm

San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors voted not to allow a landfill to expand within the borders of the Stockton Metropolitan Airport during a meeting Tuesday afternoon.

Forward Landfill, located off Austin Road, asked supervisors to override the airport’s land-use permit established in 1993 and allow the landfill to expand by almost 200 acres and within 6,000 feet of the runway.

The proposal needed a 4/5 vote to pass. Only supervisors Carlos Villapudua and Larry Ruhstaller voted to approve the expansion, while Steve Bestolarides, Bob Elliot and Chairman Ken Vogle voted in opposition.

Bestolarides said that overriding the land-use permit could influence the airport’s development planning already in progress.

“We’re currently working on an airport master plan,” Bestolarides said during the meeting. “Any actions we take could have significant impact on the master plan. We have about $50 million worth of potential investment in the airport and surrounding properties.”

Expanding the landfill would have also extended the life of landfill, which is scheduled to close in 2021.

Following Tuesday’s decision, Kevin Basso, general manager of Allied Waste, which operates the privately owned Forward, said the landfill “will have to look at what alternatives might be available to us.”

The board chambers were packed with interested on-lookers, many of whom gave their opinion on the expansion during the course of Tuesday’s five-hour meeting.

Representatives from Stockton-based Campbell’s Soup, the California League of Food Processors, Unilever, and Lodi-based companies Tiger Lines Trucking and Pacific Coast Producers, said Forward Landfill is essential to their ability to operate. Without Forward, some warned supervisors their companies might have to relocating outside of the county.

“If we don’t have a home for our (agricultural) waste, that’s a show-stopper,” said Ron Noack, a representative with Unilever.

Representatives from other county agencies, including Clean San Joaquin, said approving the expansion would bring about numerous environmental concerns, as well as additional birds, a hazard for aircrafts arriving and departing the airport.

Prior to Tuesday’s meeting, supervisors received a letter from the Federal Aviation Association, which stated that expanding the landfill could jeopardize federal funding the Stockton airport receives.

Community Development Director Kerry Sullivan also told supervisors that moving the landfill closer to the airport could result in a lawsuit from the FAA.

Basso and others associated with Forward Landfill spoke in front of supervisors in attempts to minimize any potential hazards linked to the expansion.

“What we do is not unique, and where we do it is not unique,” Basso said to supervisors.

Basso said the landfill has spent tens of thousands of dollars in order to meet the state’s environmental standards. The landfill has also used falcons and pyrotechnics to reduce the number of seagulls feeding at the site from 3,000 when Forward acquired the landfill to zero today, according to Basso.

Basso reminded supervisors that the county makes $2.6 million annually from the landfill, and if the landfill does expand, Forward would pay an additional $1 million each year.

Bestolarides said the county is currently reviewing the airport’s master plan and expanding the landfill could be addressed at a later date.

Contact reporter Kristopher Anderson at krisa@lodinews.com.

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