The cost to finance and construct new sorting and composting facilities at Tajiguas Landfill to extend the dump’s diminishing lifespan has jumped $91 million — to $540 million — since the city signed on to the county-led project in December 2016, the council heard Tuesday. A redesign, lawsuit, and increasingly volatile recyclables market created the delays and unforeseen price increases, city environmental and financial managers said, pushing the project’s timeline another two years out and inflating tipping fees to an expected $142 per ton. Translated into monthly trash bills, that would mean a $9 jump for the average resident and a $90 spike for the average business when the new facilities went online.
Phil McKenna, former president of the Gaviota Coast Conservancy, which legally challenged the project on California Environmental Quality Act grounds, urged the council to use the delay to explore other options. “The heart of this is that the costs are going up and the revenues are going down,” he said, emphasizing how China’s recent waste-import ban has upended the global recycling market. “The trade war with China has directly affected the City of Santa Barbara,” he said. Given the project’s constantly growing price tag, McKenna went on, “You desperately need to look at alternatives.”
By Paul Wellman (file)