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Operators claim mining project would address county’s needs

The Cottonwood Sand Mining Project proposes the conversion of the existing Cottonwood Golf Club golf courses to a 10-year sand mining operation with an additional two-year reclamation period.

About 214.4 acres of the approximately 280-acre site are proposed for extractive use which would occur in a total of four phases. Cottonwood Golf Club, located on Willow Glen Drive within Rancho San Diego in unincorporated El Cajon, was purchased by Michael Schlesinger in 2018 through his company, New West Investment Group, Inc., located in El Cajon.

In an email interview with the developer, project spokesperson Ken Moore stated that San Diego County is suffering from a sand shortage, which is driving up the price of construction, raising the cost of goods and services, and hitting residents in their pocketbooks.

“Few people know that sand is the second most consumed raw material after water, which has resulted in a critical global supply shortage and crisis,” he wrote. “Establishing permitted local sources will help meet San Diego County’s growing need for sand and reduce the need to import sand from outside of the county. Importing sand from other areas costs more, resulting in higher emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollution. Transforming a blighted golf course into an environmentally-sound, responsible sand mine will have a positive economic impact to our local government by bringing jobs to the region, increasing the tax base, and resulting in a potential millions of dollars in tax revenue, helping to take the pressure off local property owners.”

Moore said that the project will employ nine individuals onsite.

“While it is difficult to quantify the exact number of jobs the project would create in sand production and its supporting industries, the economic benefits to the region and local trucking and construction industries are undeniable,” he stated.

When asked how much sand production would be utilized in the county, Moore stated that it is unlikely that the project would ever export materials generated in the proposed project with the demand of this “valuable commodity” in the county greatly outpacing the amount the project would produce.

“The San Diego region, and the world, is suffering from a shortage in sand, which is negatively impacting our economy and threatening our ability to mitigate our area’s housing crisis,” he stated. “Keeping sand locally costs less and results in lower emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollution.”

Moore said that other contractors buying sand from this project is beneficial to local costs in construction for local developers.

“It is well-known that San Diego is suffering from a serious housing crisis, failing infrastructure and sky-high construction costs,” stated Moore. “Concrete mix; a primary material for residential, commercial and infrastructure construction; typically consists of 25% sand. Reducing the price of sand by producing it locally is projected to help lower local development costs across the board. This will spur construction of housing and support infrastructure repair resulting in an economic boost to the region and help attract young families to the area.”

There are three alternative projects listed in the DIER. Alternative 1: No project alternative.

Under Alternative 2, or the Biological Resources Avoidance Alternative, the proposed mining footprint would be set back 50 feet from the Sweetwater River channel and 500 feet from the riparian habitat to the south and west of the Project site. The total area mined under this alternative would be 117.6 acres and the total extraction volume would be approximately 2.9 million cy, an approximately 33-percent reduction compared to the Proposed Project. This alternative would involve the same overall annual extraction and marketable product of 380,000 cy (570,000 tons) as the Proposed Project, but mining activities would occur over a period of approximately six years rather than 10 years.

Under Alternative 3, or the Noise Receptor Setback Alternative, the proposed mining footprint would be set back 400 feet from residential properties surrounding the Project site, as well as from the Adeona Healthcare facility. The total area mined under this alternative would be 119.1 acres (approximately 95 acres less than the Proposed Project) and the total overall extraction volume would be approximately 3.5 million cy, an approximately 26-percent reduction compared to the Proposed Project. This alternative would involve the same overall annual extraction of 380,000 cy (570,000 tons) of marketable product as the Proposed Project, but mining activities would occur over a period of approximately seven years rather than 10.

“Reducing the production of sand as presented in the alternative proposals will reduce the economic benefit for the region. It will drive up the cost of development and will require the purchase of sand from other areas, when and if it’s available, at a much higher cost and greater environmental impacts,” stated Moore.

Moore said it welcomes the community’s feed back from residents, businesses and organizations that are concerned about traffic, noise, environmental impacts, and health issues, some of the top concerns presented in previous meetings. He said proposed mitigations addresses these concerns.

“These improvements include conducting smaller phases of mining with immediate revegetation, using top of the line environmentally sensitive equipment, and employing noise attenuation measures to decrease noise impacts in the area,” he stated. “Importantly, the project will also fully restore the Sweetwater river channel, which will benefit the environment, attract and protect local wildlife, and improve water quality. We are also evaluating ways to dedicate part of the project as permanent open space.”

Moore said the operation of the mine would be managed in strict adherence to all applicable air and water quality and noise regulations. He said additionally, the longer term benefits to the area are “real and tangible.”

Moore stated that some of the highlights of the project are:

Creating several miles of new walking and biking trails throughout the site.

• Adding 142 acres of new public greenspace, which will also enhance access to and conservation of the Sweetwater River channel.

• Restorative widening of the Sweetwater flood control channel, to replicate conditions more closely prior to construction of the Cottonwood Golf Course.

• Revegetating the Sweetwater River floodway with native riparian plant species consistent with natural wildlife habitat.

• Staggering the mining process in phases so that residents will be able to enjoy newly planted trees and native vegetation in real time during the future operation of the project.

Moore said the community is encouraged to review the draft EIR and submitting comments and questions directly to the appropriate San Diego County officials.

Moore said in addition to other community benefits, water use was not discussed much during previous public meetings.

“The proposed project would utilize less than 20% of the annual water used historically by the golf course operation. Eventually, groundwater use on the property would stop completely,” he stated.

Moore said the proposed project also brings additional benefits to the region.


Provide recreational trails for local and regional use after site reclamation.


Provide an open space resource within the County, that ultimately protects and enhances the Sweetwater River channel.

Maintain the existing low-flow channel of the Sweetwater River to accommodate water transfers from Loveland Reservoir to Sweetwater Reservoir.

Widen the existing flood channel of the Sweetwater River to more closely mimic conditions prior to golf course construction.


Reclaim areas of extraction to uses consistent with the General Plan and the County Zoning Ordinance.

Revegetate areas within the Sweetwater River’s floodway with native riparian and upland species suitable for wildlife habitat.


Recover and process construction aggregates in a safe and efficient manner.

Provide reliable, high-quality, aggregate product to meet approximately one-quarter of San Diego County’s annual sand demand.

Reduce the County’s dependence on imported aggregates.

Operators claim mining project would address county’s needs

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Source: East County Californian

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