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No Decision Yet on Liberty Quarry

A second hearing lasts into the night, pushing a vote to next week on whether to allow the proposed Liberty Quarry.

No Decision Yet on Liberty Quarry

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors held a second public hearing today on a strip mine proposed near Temecula, hearing from dozens of speakers, most of them opposed to the quarry over environmental
and health concerns.
The number of speakers pushed the meeting past 7 p.m., and board
Chairman John Tavaglione decided another hearing would be necessary to
complete testimony on the project. The board agreed to hold a final hearing
on Feb. 14 at the County Administrative Center.

"The quarry will present air quality issues that have a direct negative
effect on the fastest-growing minority community, the disability community,'' Ruthie Goldcorn, a disability rights activist, said during today's meeting.

"The economy of illness trumps the economy of the quarry.'' 

Temecula resident Curtis Meyers told the board that ``you can't breathe
silica dust out.''

"Granite Construction promises to curb operations when the winds
reach 25 mph,'' Meyers said. "But it doesn't matter whether they're blowing 5 or 25mph.

"What about the diesel exhaust? There will be additional pollution from
those trucks driving slowly up hill, loading up and going back down, riding
their brakes, each day, every day, decade after decade, in a concentrated

Hundreds of people came and went from the Riverside Convention Center to
express their feelings on Watsonville-based Granite Construction's appeal of
a decision by the county planning commission last year to deny grading and
zoning permits for the 414-acre Liberty Quarry.

Former Temecula City Manager Shawn Nelson told the board that
Granite had intentionally misled county staff about the existing amount of
aggregate available in the county for construction projects to make its case
for opening the pit.

"There is more than 70 years of available aggregate to support future
growth  in Riverside County,'' Nelson said. ``We do not have an aggregate
shortage in this county. More than two-thirds of the aggregate mined here will go south to San Diego County. If that's the case, why not build the Liberty Quarry in San Diego County?

"The citizens of Riverside County should not have to bear the significant negative impacts of this quarry just to provide aggregate to San Diego County.''

Granite Construction is seeking a 75-year operating window, during which
it plans to remove an estimated five million tons of construction-grade
aggregate -- gravel and sand -- from escarpments just north of the boundary separating Riverside and San Diego counties, east of the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve and west of Temecula, adjacent to Interstate 15 and Rainbow Valley Boulevard.

About 100 direct jobs and nearly 200 collateral jobs would be created by
the project, according to Granite. Planning commission staff estimated the
quarry would add about $341 million annually to local government coffers.

The aggregate extracted at the mine would provide asphalt and concrete
for roads, homes and other infrastructure projects, Granite officials said. A
planning commission staff report indicated the mine would cut down on how far trucks have to transport aggregate for projects in  northern San Diego County and southwest Riverside County.

"Riverside County needs more aggregate ... for roads, schools and other
public facilities,'' Menifee Mayor John Denver told the board during its
first hearing last week.

"Right now, we're trucking in aggregate from far-reaching places. We're
paying for the higher costs associated with that. Having this (quarry) is
vital to the sustainability of our region.''
Homeowner and environmental groups, as well as all of the area Indian
tribes, are staunchly opposed to the project. Supporters include almost all
the chambers of commerce located within the county, along with officials
from cities throughout the central and eastern county regions.
Opponents argue the quarry would result in noise, pollution, drainage
and habitat changes, with lasting repercussions. Additionally, members of
the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians say the project threatens sacred
cultural sites.

In their 4-1 vote against the project, members of the planning commission cited elevated levels of silica dust and other pollutants in the first two years of the project, the permanent impact on area aesthetics, including nighttime lights, and the adverse effects on area wildlife as reasons
for their opposition.

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