Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) introduced the Santa Ana Wash Plan Land Exchange Act (S.308) to direct the Bureau of Land Management to exchange land with the San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District in the Santa Ana Wash, at the junction of the Santa Ana River and Mill Creek. This bill, first introduced in 2017, is also included in a broader Senate public lands bill.
The 4,500-acre Santa Ana Wash is a patchwork of land parcels owned by the water conservation district or BLM. The land exchange would help consolidate 1,347 acres of open space to preserve and protect habitat along the river’s floodplain as part of the broader Santa Ana River Wash Plan.
The area is also occupied by two mining companies that extract materials for cement and concrete production. The bill allows these commercial operations to continue in the Santa Ana Wash in an environmentally sensitive manner.
“We must balance environmental protections with the economic needs of the surrounding communities, and this bill achieves that,” Senator Feinstein said. “The Santa Ana Wash and the entire region will benefit from this plan, which will consolidate pristine land and relocate mining operations to other, more suitable locations.”
Under the Wash Plan, new land would be set aside for conservation purposes near land already managed by BLM. This bill lets the water conservation district exchange 310 acres of pristine land for 327 acres of degraded federal land currently managed by the BLM.
In addition to the 1,347 acres of protected habitat, the Wash Plan allows the development of 15 miles of public use trails, supports the recharge of local groundwater aquifers through 77 recharge basins and allows mining operations to continue.