Native American Group Upset With Reservoir Project
Viejas Band Says Project Is Tearing Up Burial Site
Last Updated: 1066 days ago
The Padre Dam Municipal Water District wants to build a reservoir and pipeline on a two-and-a-half acre parcel of land just south of Interstate 8 at Lake Jennings Road, but the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians said the tearing up of an ancient burial site is desecration.District officials said the $20 million project is critical to provide reliable water to its 30,000 customers and to protect areas at high risk of wildfire.Viejas councilmember Greybuck Espinoza said the emphasis should be on respect for Native Americans and their ancestors."They have endured so much, and what we'd like to see is just for them to rest in peace," said Espinoza.Padre Dam Municipal Water District CEO Doug Wilson said he wants the same thing, but also added the water district already had approval to begin work on the site before Viejas stepped in."They came in sort of late in the game after we had an agreement and said, 'All your agreements are off. We're now the most likely descendants and you have to renegotiate with us,'" said Wilson.A state agency has determined the remains at the project site are most likely those of Viejas tribal members."That change resulted in Viejas objecting to the agreements that were previously made and asking us to effectively get off the site," said Wilson.Last Thursday, a Superior Court judge granted Viejas a temporary injunction. The practical effect is that work can only continue on a portion of the site and all the work must be monitored by Native Americans.As a backhoe takes away topsoil, monitors are in place to watch what is being dug out. If a monitor sees something they want to have a closer look at, the backhoe will be stopped and they move in with their trowels."How would they feel if we were the ones with the equipment, with the dump trucks, with the water and we were tearing up their loved ones?" said Espinoza.Both sides are due back in court June 25, and the tribe will be asking the judge to make the temporary injunction permanent and have it cover the entire site.The Padre Dam Municipal Water District will argue the injunction will kill the project and cost the utility's ratepayers millions of dollars.