Shifting Sands

Reuters - February 18, 2021

The messy business of sand mining explained

Thinking Man on Couch
Doctor with Files
Examining an X-ray

A Sand Mine in the middle of a residential community may bring significant health risks to community members such as Silicosis, Pulmonary Fibrosis, Cancer, Asthma, and Valley Fever. The COVID-19 pandemic has already made vulnerable people with underlying respiratory diseases shelter in and around their home. A Sand Mine and its potential health risks might mean that these individuals who reside on or near the Sand Mine and who have respiratory disorders, won't even be able to walk outside their home.

Silicosis is a lung disease. It happens when you breathe in dust that contains silica. Silica is a tiny crystal found in sand, rock or mineral ores like quartz. Over time, silica can build up in your lungs and breathing passages. This leads to scarring that makes it hard to breathe.


Pulmonary Fibrosis refers to scarring of the lung tissue (fibrosis of the lungs). Symptoms include cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, and decreased exercise tolerance. One of the causes of pulmonary fibrosis involves Environmental Toxins. Treatment options are limited as the disease is progressive (worsening over time). The prognosis is poor for pulmonary fibrosis. The life expectancy for most patients is less than 5 years.


Cancer – Silicosis, as described earlier, is an inflammatory disease of the lungs induced by exposure to crystalline silica particles. Multiple studies show that high cumulative levels of silica increase an individual’s risk of developing lung cancer. In addition to lung cancer, respirable crystalline silica also causes chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and kidney disease. Exposure to respirable crystalline silica is related to the development of autoimmune disorders and cardiovascular impairment. (Information obtained from


Because the body’s ability to fight infections may be weakened by silica in the lungs, other illnesses (such as Tuberculosis) may result and can cause: fever, weight loss, night sweats, chest pains, and respiratory failure. (Information obtained from


Asthma, a chronic condition that obstructs airflow and leads to difficulty breathing, can be triggered by allergens including air pollutants (tobacco smoke, diesel exhaust, aerosol agents, dusts, gases and vapors) and upper respiratory diseases. Dusts include wood, rock, coal, protein dusts, silica, asbestos, and latex. These triggers are known to affect people with pre-existing asthma who then experience aggravated asthma attacks due to the exposure or may cause new asthma cases due to the exposure. (Information obtained at


Valley Fever (Coccidioidomycosis) is an illness that usually affects the lungs. It is caused by the fungus Coccidioides immitis that lives in soil (in the top 2 to 12 inches of soil) in many parts of California. When soil containing the fungus is disturbed by digging, vehicles, or by the wind, the fungal spores get into the air. When people breathe the spores into their lungs, they may get Valley Fever. Serious illness can develop with pneumonia and flu-like symptoms. In very serious cases, disease spreads outside of the lungs causing severe illness. Parts of the body that may be affected include the brain (meningitis), bones, joints, skin, or other organs. This is called Disseminated Valley Fever. As few as 10 spores or fewer may cause a Valley Fever infection. Advanced Valley Fever, especially with people with weakened immune systems, can be fatal. (Information obtained at

Children Photo.jpg

The Valle de Oro Community Plan states that new projects must eliminate safety hazards caused by direct access of traffic onto major arterial or collector streets. Technical studies will be required of the project applicant regarding fire protection planning and traffic.

There are two facilities serving children adjacent to the proposed Sand Mine. These vulnerable children who would be impacted by  the hazards of a Sand Mine and subsequent heavy truck traffic, exhaust, and noise include Adeona Healthcare, a residential treatment facility for 70 adolescents dealing with substance abuse and mental health disorders (including trauma) and Jamacha Elementary & Extended Day Program, a very busy public school serving over 500 students from Kindergarten to Fifth grade.


Sand Mine would be a half mile from Jamacha Elementary School that serves 504 students in grades K-5 who are ages 4 to 12

March 13, 2019 "Large Crowd Shares Concerns At Rancho San Diego Sheriff's Coffee With Community" by Miriam Raftery


Jamacha Elementary School, part of the Cajon Valley Union School District, has 504 students enrolled in grades K-5. Children are between ages 4 to 12.

Location: 2962 Jamul Drive, El Cajon, CA 92019

Principal: Colleen Newman

Willow Fire 12.2.20.jpg

April 26, 2019 "San Diego Communities Considered Some of the Worst Places to Escape a Wildfire" by Melissa Adon

December 3, 2020 "Willow Fire Burns 30 Acres In Rancho San Diego, Now 50% Contained" by City News Service

Sand mine and its large trucks, which would be directly across the street from the 12/2/20 Willow Fire, could hamper a quick evacuation for community residents on Willow Glen Drive

Polluted Water

This mine has a potential for significant impacts on the environment. Major impacted areas may include problems with noise, water and air quality.


September 25, 2014 "Danger In The Air: Health Concerns For Silica In Outdoor Air" by Environmental Working Group


SANDAG’s 2011 San Diego Region Aggregate Supply Study of which the Sand Mine developer (EnviroMINE, Inc.) was part of the expert review panel, indicates that sand mines should be located in areas not developed and that have not been conserved for environmental reasons. In addition, the study also states that a 1,300-foot setback from residential areas has been determined necessary to mitigate immediate impacts. Although sand is a needed commodity, this sand mine project’s proposed location does not meet County standards. It needs to be located in an appropriate environment with minimal negative impact to people, wildlife, water, air, and roads.

"Sand Mining Facts" by The Ojos Negros Research Group


Development in floodways and floodplains has the potential to alter natural hydrologic flow. This can cause soil erosion and increased storm water runoff leading to loss of wetland. Health issues related to surface and groundwater contamination, including our drinking water, is a major concern.

The Sweetwater River is a 55-mile long stream in San Diego County from the Cuyumaca Mountains to San Diego Bay. Its drainage basin covers more than 230 square miles, all of it within San Diego County. Shortly after leaving the Cleveland National Forest in Descanso, the river flows into Loveland Reservoir, formed by Loveland Dam, the first of two major dams along the Sweetwater. After passing through the Rancho San Diego Cottonwood Golf Course, the river enters Sweetwater Reservoir, which is formed by the Sweetwater Dam. Below the dam, Sweetwater flows through Bonita and between National City and Chula Vista before reaching Sweetwater Marsh, a part of the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge, and then empties into San Diego Bay.


The surprising discovery of an endangered species, the Western Pond Turtle (Actinemys marmaorata), was found by wildlife officials in a tributary of the Sweetwater River near the Rancho San Diego Cottonwood Golf Course. The adjacent San Diego National Wildlife Refuge is also home to endangered birds such as the least Bell's vireo (Vireo bellii pusillus) and California gnatcatcher (Polioptila Californica) and the rare Quino checkerspot (Euphydryas editha quino) butterfly.

It's clear to see that the Sweetwater River, with its riverbed at Rancho San Diego, is definitely not an appropriate location for the proposed Cottonwood Sand Mine.

Photos on left were taken at Cottonwood Golf Course by Elizabeth Urquhart on 2/21/19.

January 11, 2021 "Valve Opening Sends Billions of Gallons of Water From Loveland to Sweetwater Reservoir" by Joe Little

February 27, 2019 "Sweetwater River from Loveland has Sweetwater River flowing" by David Gotfredson and Shawn Styles

February 25, 2010 "Water transfer between reservoirs set to generate cost savings for South Bay customers" by David Hernandez


Site of proposed Cottonwood Sand Mine

Western Pond Turtle.jpg

This project will require concurrence from the California Department of Fish & Wildlife and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.


Several federally endangered and/or threatened species have been identified on this project site and within the vicinity of the project. The surprising discovery of an endangered species, the Western Pond Turtle (Actinemys marmaorata), was found by wildlife officials in a tributary of the Sweetwater River near the Rancho San Diego Cottonwood Golf Course.


The adjacent San Diego National Wildlife Refuge is also home to endangered birds such as the least Bell's vireo (Vireo bellii pusillus) and California gnatcatcher (Polioptila Californica) and the rare Quino checkerspot (Euphydryas editha quino) butterfly.

"The Western Pond Turtle (Emys marmorata) in the San Diego MSCP and Surrounding Areas" by Melanie Madden-Smith

September 4, 2014 "Western Pond Turtles Getting A Closer Look" by Karen Pearlman

California Gnatcatcher.jpg

"All About Birds - California Gnatcatcher"

September 27, 2018 "Species Spotlight: The California Gnatcatcher" by Samantha Wynns


November 23, 2018 "Recovery Plan For Endangered Butterfly Takes Wing In San Diego" by John Wilkens

February 2, 2017 "Once Vanished, Rare Butterfly Reintroduced on San Diego National Wildlife Refuge" by Lisa Cox

March 27, 2017 "Rare Butterfly Returns To San Diego National Wildlife Refuge" by Erik Anderson


Willow Glen Drive is designated as a County Scenic Road. The character of the area is single-family residential and the proposed project is for a sand mining/extractive use. The approved Community Specific Plan recreation system, including Cottonwood Golf Course, is supposed to serve as a buffer area and provide a larger setback to sensitive habitat areas. For a Major Use Permit to be approved, the sand mine project must show that the location, size, design, and operating characteristics are compatible with who currently uses the area (residents, buildings and structures). Projects must consider compatibility with the environment and community as well as the potential harmful effects it may have.

Aerial View of a Suburb

August 15, 2006 "An Assessment of the Economic Impact of the Proposed Stoneco Gravel Mine Operation on Richland Township" by W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research

December 20, 2006 "Addendum: An Assessment of the Economic Impact of the Proposed Stoneco Gravel Mine Operation on Richland Township" by W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research

Wooden Toy Houses

East County Sand Mine is the ONLY sand mine in San Diego County that we can compare the proposed Cottonwood Sand Mine with. Click on the button to see a view of the property surrounding East County Sand Mine at 12152 Moreno Avenue, Lakeside, CA 92040. As you will notice immediately, there are no nearby residential neighborhoods adjacent to the industrial sand mine. The proposed Cottonwood Sand Mine (see link for a view of the area) would have hundreds of residences as well as schools, senior facilities, recreational areas & retail within feet of the property. This would be unprecedented and inappropriate!

bench overlooking Cottonwood golf club.j

Many neighborhoods surround the Cottonwood Golf Club including "Cottonwood" whose homeowners, in June 2009, came together to improve their shared area by installing a bench to Sit, Relax, Enjoy The View! This visual resource is a primary reason why many nearby homeowners decided to make Rancho San Diego home. These homeowners believed that this greenbelt, a protected piece of land in the Valle de Oro Community Planning Group's approved Rancho San Diego plan, would never be compromised.


Gave myself a calm moment

Stopped the carousel of life.

Ignoring the hungry horses.

An owl hoots her approval.

Might not have heard her otherwise.

Nurturing wind twinkles some cottonwood leaves.

Would I have seen them? Doubtful.

Robin's tweet makes me smile.

Breathing at an all-time low; nature's nirvana.

By: Caren Krutsinger