GILROY, Calif. - The Amah Mutsun Tribal Band is calling on Santa Clara County to stop a project they say will destroy hundreds of acres of sacred land. A private company wants to build a sand and gravel mining plant there and will need the county’s approval to do it.
It’s not just the tribe that’s against this project. The tribe has the support of San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, the ACLU and environmental groups like Green Foothills. They all say the risks far outweigh the benefits and once the damage is done, there’s no turning back.
"Find a way that our people can return to that park and have that park be recognized as a tribal park," said Valentin Lopez, chair of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band.
The Amah Mutsun Tribal Band wants Santa Clara County to deny permits for a sand and gravel mining project near Gilroy, at the Sargent Ranch Quarry, also known as Juristac. The chair of Amah Mutsun spoke at a rally opposing the project earlier this month.
"Why do the regulations allow that? If this right here was a Catholic site, if this right here was a Jewish or Muslim or any other religion, they would never even consider doing that," Lopez said.
Debt Acquisition Company of America based in San Diego is the company behind this project. Initially, it wanted to develop 403 acres. It has scaled back those plans to 292 acres.
Still, environmentalists also say digging pits hundreds of feet into the soil will have devastating effects on the groundwater table and interrupt the migration patterns of animals that live there.
"When you pump groundwater, you impact the amount of water that flows in the creeks and rivers that are nearby," said Alice Kaufman, Green Foothills Policy and advocacy director. "This is a very important watershed that’s home to steelhead trout, which are an endangered species in this area. So, it’s really a very serious thing that they’re proposing to do,"
Kaufman says the environmental impact report shows that about 86,000 gallons of water per day will be pumped from the ground during the mining process, severely impacting the hydrology of the entire area.
"Our region is not running out of sand and gravel. This quarry doesn’t bring a benefit to the public. It only brings profit to the landowners," Kaufman said.
KTVU reached out to Debt Acquisition for comment but didn’t hear back in time for this report. Public comment on this issue was supposed to end on Monday, but the date has been extended to November 7.