SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS RADIO) – A proposed gravel and sand mine development threatens a large swath of land in southern Santa Clara County and would damage sacred Native American tribal grounds.
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The proposed land is located southwest of Gilroy in an area called Sargent Ranch – 6,500 acres of lush and pristine hillsides, grasslands, creeks and woodlands.
The county's just released environmental impact report indicated the development, proposed by a land-holding company called Sargent Ranch Partners, would cause "significant and unavoidable" impact on air quality, biological resources, the ecosystem and native history.
Valentin Lopez, Chair of the Amah Mutsun tribal band and president of the land trust board, told KCBS Radio the grounds are "important cultural and sacred sites to our tribes. There's actually a lot of documentation over the years, going back to the 1800s."
The organization is highly opposed to even a suggestion of development.
"We requested an ethnographic study be completed to show the strong relationship of Juristac (the Mutsun term for the Sergeant Ranch land) to the Amah Mutsun," Lopez said.
"The county's regulations and stuff like that allow the permit to be approved and we think that's disgraceful to be perfectly honest because the county knows that this is a sacred site," he continued.
Meanwhile, environmental groups, including Green Foothills, emphasized the irreparable harm a sand and gravel pit would have on such a beautiful space.
"Any development with significant impact is unmitigatable for helping to ensure protection of the property," Lopez said. "We're hoping that the county appreciates that designation.”
Lopez said in order to shut down the project, they need people to speak up.
"What we've learned is the only thing that will stop it is overwhelming public support," he explained. He added the Amah Mutsun tribal band is focused on getting the word out to deny development on this historical land.
Santa Clara County has given the public until Sept. 26 to submit comments on the project to develop Sargent Ranch.
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