By Craig W. Anderson 

Trucks regularly visit the Forward Landfill, many from other counties, as the mountain continues to grow.
Photo by Vicky Boyd


THE BIG DAY finally arrived: the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors would, after a public hearing, hopefully support the San Joaquin Farm Bureau appeal of the planning commission’s approval of the 2018 Forward Landfill expansion project, allowing the expansion to proceed.

“This is a private dump right next to Stockton Metropolitan Airport, which is the worst possible location for everyone concerned,” said SJFB President David Strecker.

However, Mike Hakeem, of the legal firm Hakeem Ellis and Marengo representing the landfill company, surprised the audience by requesting a 30-day continuance due to an Aug. 22 letter from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that said an expansion of the landfill “would be incompatible with safe airport operations at the Stockton Metropolitan Airport.”

“I feel this is a reasonable request,” Hakeem told the supervisors. “30 days is the minimum time we’ll need to prepare.”

Hakeem said he was at a loss to understand the FAA’s decision.

Katie Luchesi, an attorney with Terpstra Henderson, the law firm representing SJFB, responded, “The FAA repeatedly has been in opposition and it continues today. To kick this out another 30 days will make it difficult for farmers to attend as harvest season will be ongoing.”

FAA letters oppose landfill

Blodgett noted, “All of the FAA letters have the same opposition so this should be no surprise to Forward.”From an October 2012 FAA letter to Kerry Sullivan, director of the county’s Community Development Department, noted, among other things, “The landfill is currently located in close proximity to aviation activity and would be extended further ... [into] the direct approach and departure path of Runway 29R.”

And: “... land use practices that could encourage wildlife to enter an airports approach or departure airspace or air operations area are of concern. The landfill and proposed expansion area is located less than 10,000 feet from the airport and therefore would not meet the separation standard established by [the FAA]. The proposed landfill expansion would be located directly under the approach to runway 29R.”

A September 2013 letter from the FAA stated: “This letter confirms that the FAA’s position has not changed, as conveyed by [the] letter of Oct. 22, 2012, to San Joaquin County.”

And the Aug. 22 letter said ominously, “As identified in previous correspondence between FAA and San Joaquin County, the county should take appropriate action to restrict the use of land at or near the airport to uses which are compatible with airport and aircraft operations.”

Grants threatened

Because: “Failure to restrict land uses to those compatible with airport operations .... could result in a finding of noncompliance with applicable Grant Assurances, and could affect future grants for Stockton Metropolitan Airport.”

Blodgett said, “It’s obvious that now the extension project will have to stand the scrutiny of the FAA.”


First rule

“The first rule in all of this is to be sure airport development isn’t impeded,” said First Vice President Ken Vogel. “This expansion probably isn’t needed or warranted.”


Trucks of trash

During the public hearing, SJFB’s Joe Ferrari told the supervisors of his extensive food safety background and how he’s seen trucks of trash heading to the Forward dump site losing portions of their loads “blowing off for miles all over the road.”

He pointed out that his family farming operation in Linden requires seven huge binders holding “just the Federal food safety regulations. With more trucks there’s more chance of lost loads and if this material is deposited on farms ... if we’re held responsible for violations it could mean jail time.”

He asked if the county was prepared to indemnify farmers when trash from trucks blows onto their land.


Miller expresses concern

Supervisor Katherine Miller said, “The FAA letters call into question all other aspects of this issue including [grant] funding of the airport. This letter could change the positions of other agencies. We have plans for the airport and I don’t feel we have all the information from the FAA and we need to get all the information.”

Supervisor Tom Patti expressed his concern about “the potential for losing grants.”

Waste arrives from outside county

Strecker observed that “more than 70 percent of the waste delivered to the Forward Landfill site is from outside San Joaquin County. We’re the dumping ground for the neighbouring counties and from far reaching communities.”

The vote was 4-1 in favour of the 30 day continuance.

“With Amazon’s flights increasing and other airlines taking off for Los Angeles and other destinations, Stockton Metro is growing and a dusty, dirty landfill is an existential threat to the airport’s future success.