who we are...

    We are a group of concerned citizens and homeowners in Rainbow, Fallbrook and Southwest Riverside County dedicated to the preservation of the beautiful, pristine hills and open space in the Temecula, Murrieta and Rainbow area.

    Our efforts are currently focused on preventing the approval of a huge open-pit mine on the Temecula border which would destroy the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve currently located on the proposed quarry site, as well as our clean air quality, home values and the booming tourist industry in our area.

 

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SOS-Hills is a non-profit group dedicated to preventing the proposed Liberty Quarry

In the news

This section of the website is a repository for all news articles, op-ed pieces, columns, etc. about Granite Construction's proposed Liberty Quarry and surrounding area. Please note that these articles will open up in a new browser window.  If you know of an article or letter that is not listed below, please email it to our SOS-Hills webmaster.

October 2011 Letters Opinions/Forums News Articles
September 2011 Letters Opinions/Forums News Articles
August 2011 Letters Opinions/Forums News Articles
July 2011 Letters Opinions/Forums  News Articles

Click here to view November & December 2011 and January 2012 Letters, Opinions & News Articles

Click here to view May & June 2011, Letters, Opinons and News Articles

Click here to view Jan, Feb., March & April Letters, Opinions and News Articles

 

October 2011 Letters to the Editor

Why is Liberty Quarry so deceptive?
Temecula.patch.com, Tues., Oct. 18

Granite Construction is saying that the air quality will improve and the truck miles will diminish, and that there will be no noise pollution nor light pollution and our wildlife will love it.

Wait a minute, what about water? Will all the growers in DeLuz be paying hefty hikes in water rates when this monster cranks up to full production?

I feel like I am in the middle of Dummyland. I am pretty much wiped out by all the crapola that they are trying to make us believe. What an insult to our intelligence.

They say, hmmm, how much of a crater can I dig in this town, and how much more pollution can I send up into the air to be within the emission tables? That much? Awesome!

Since Temecula enjoys the best air quality in all of Riverside County, they must feel that it is okay to pollute a bit more. deceptive

The Riverside County Planning Commission is scheduled to finalize their vote rejecting plans for Liberty Quarry. To read about it, click here.

For all the readers that are saying no to Liberty Quarry in our valley please click here and enjoy!

Liberty Quarry would cost jobs
The Californian, tues., Oct. 4

Rich Loomis' letter of Sept. 25 just regurgitates Granite Construction propaganda. He argues that truck miles would be reduced, but ignores that the Planning Commission concluded that truck mileage savings were grossly overstated.

In fact, economists from the Claremont McKenna Rose Institute have testified that 99 quarry jobs would just be relocated jobs, and that Liberty Quarry would cause the county a net loss of $3.6 billion.

Local jobs could be lost by degrading our great air quality that existing bio-tech, tourist and agricultural industries demand. Remember, the environmental impact report states the quarry would cause a net decrease in air quality.

Poorer air quality also could mean the loss of future high-tech, bio-tech and green jobs projected for Temecula/Murrieta, an area that has recently been included in San Diego's Innovation Hub. Also, efficient transportation of products for domestic and international markets cannot co-exist with 1,600 quarry truck trips.

Finally, there is no shortage of aggregate. Granite's nearby Rosemary Mountain is operating at 22 percent of permitted capacity due to lack of demand, and Caltrans/SANDAG have identified alternative quarry locations for future demand.

Help save our economy and jobs. Go to NoGravelQuarry.com for more information.

Mariann Byers, Temecula

October 2011 Opinions/Forums

Liberty Quarry must be rejected
temecula.patch.com, Mon., Oct. 24

I am opposed to Liberty Quarry in Temecula.

Undoubtedly, we all are going through a difficult economic times and, financially speaking, we are not quite at the levels we were in the past.

This particular era of our lives is where we are most vulnerable, and tend to make mistakes that will have a forever-lasting repercussion.

In the case of Liberty Quarry, it will be a 75-year-long repercussion. We all need to seriously ponder before coming to a committed decision.

The county's Planning Commission was scheduled to finalize a vote they made rejecting the quarry, though it may be postponed. To read about it, click here.

Long-term projects like the proposed Liberty Quarry will, without a doubt, impact all of us one way or another. Despite the stubbornness of few in favor, this project has been studied for months. Thousands of pages of EIR (Environmental Impact Report) have been reviewed by county staff and ultimately filtered through the planning commissioners and the mining permit was denied.

We live in a beautiful area to grow our families and our children, we cannot let something of this magnitude to take place.

That’s why we are praying that the Riverside County Board of Supervisors will unanimously vote against it.

Keep in mind that we have only one chance to defeat Liberty Quarry. After that, we may as well give the key of the city to strangers, and prepare ourselves to withstand the consequences. There will be no point of return, history will be written, decisions will be made, and your legacy will resound in an endless echo to posterity.

Is this what we really want for our community? Is this the only way to make Temecula shine?

Not too many years ago, Temecula rose from healthy land with healthy principals, governed by intelligent people that made the right decisions. That’s why today, we can enjoy the fruit of it.

Temecula is the city of hot air balloons, wineries, avocado groves and a fantastic horse community where families come to live a simple healthy life and to educate their children in one of the most functional school system in the state of California.

Make no mistake. This quarry will not be just for the harvesting of aggregates, it will also be a cement plant, an asphalt plant and God knows what else will be added once they will be the king of the hill, maybe a mechanic facility, just in case a truck or two breaks down, exactly where they want to be -- out of site, out of mind.

Neither of us will be there when the charges will be ready to blow, to make sure that westerly wind will be below the 15 mile per hour, as they say, to eliminate the risk of airborne particles of silica, diesel, radon gas and natural asbestos. What do you realistically think will happen when the wind will be 20 or 25 miles per hour? Would they care to wait for mother nature to slow down?

What about when the Santa Ana winds come about. Do you think that their operation will ceased until the wind will died down? Will they blast? Remember, out of site, out of mind.

We will not have control of the quarry once in full production. We'll be witnessing the destruction, the plume of silica dust and diesel particles in the air, the congestion on the freeway, and we'll have absolutely no say.

Right now, we know for a fact there is no air pollution, we know for sure there is no excessive traffic, blasting nor light pollution. According to Granite Construction's officials, all this will be better with their arrival, and we will be able to fully enjoy their services.

More than 400 local businesses are opposed to this quarry in our city! Hundreds of local physicians are expressing their denial to this project, fully aware of the health consequences that may cause.

Click here to read what the physicians had to say. Who should we listen to?

We are already losing revenues in the real estate industry because you must disclose all the material facts affecting the desirability of the property. We are already disclosing that a quarry is proposed for this area, and potential buyers are canceling their contracts, wanting to wait until the final decision will be made by our officials in merit.

As real estate professionals, we have the ethical duty to inform potential clients of any material facts that will create a nuisance or negatively affect or devalue a property. If Liberty Quarry is allowed in our hills, numerous areas will be affected, including Red Hawk, Vail Ranch, Paloma del Sol, Paseo del Sol, Santiago Estates, Glean Oaks and all the wineries east of the proposed site.

In West Virginia in May, 1998, a mining company decided to expand their operation just above the small town of Blair. Rocks and soil from the mountain top would subsequently bury Pigeon Roost Hollow and Creek. In the face of thunderous blasting and lung-choking dust caused by mountain top mining, only 40 out of 300 families remain, that is an 87 percent exodus, thanks to the mine.

We cannot afford to lose anybody, whether a business or a resident. To read about further concerns about the quarry, click here.

 

October 2011 News Articles

Commission postpones final denial of quarry until December
The Californian, Wed., Oct. 26

Looking to make sure it is on legally sound footing, the Riverside County Planning Commission decided Wednesday to postpone finalizing its denial of Granite Construction's Liberty Quarry project.

The commission voted 4-1 in late August to tentatively deny the project, an open-pit mine proposed for land on Temecula's southern border, and it directed Planning Department staff members to draw up the findings to back that vote.

During a meeting Wednesday in Riverside, the commission granted the department's request for more time to put together that paperwork and asked, at the behest of county counsel, that it include a list of negative impacts associated with the proposed quarry to help shield the county from an anticipated legal challenge. The new date when the denial could be finalized is Dec. 7, said county spokesman Ray Smith.

The findings are "crucial," he added, because they establish the legal basis for the commission to take action.

After the denial is finalized, Granite has said it will appeal the decision to the county Board of Supervisors, which will have the final say.

After the board's vote ---- whatever it ends up being ---- the company's application most likely will end up being decided in the court system.

Wednesday's decision to delay the denial was described as "frustrating" by Granite spokeswoman Karie Reuther, who said it will be nearly 100 days before the commission's decision ----the end result of six meetings and dozens of hours of testimony---- is completed.

"What doesn't make any sense is the fact that when the Planning Commission voted in August, staff was directed to return with findings to support their vote within 60 days," she said, adding that Granite, a Northern California-based company, is looking forward to presenting the project and its many benefits to the board as soon as possible.

Granite has been working since 2005 to secure approval forits mine project, a 135-acre aggregate quarry proposed for land just north of the San Diego County-Riverside County line.

The project is opposed by area residents who argue the environmental effects associated with the mine ---- air quality degradation, noise, traffic and destruction of sites sacred to the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians ---- would forever change the area's quality of life. Supporters contend it will add jobs, spur economic activity and improve regional air quality because trucks headed to San Diego with aggregate from points north of Temecula will be removed from county roads.

Commissioner John Petty, addressing concerns about the delay, said the county has spent too much time poring over the project and its potential effects not to take as much time as needed to prepare the findings.

"We need to make it as bulletproof as it can be," he said.

Fred Bartz, a member of two groups opposed to the project's proposed location, said Wednesday that the direction given to planning department staff members back in August seemed pretty straightforward.

Opponents expected the county would draw up the findings, present them to the commission for swift approval and the application would move to the county board on appeal, possibly before the end of the year.

Now, with the department's request for more time, it seems as if the process is more complicated than anticipated and some opponents are confused.

"I guess we were expecting something more simple and direct," he said.

On the positive side, he said, when the department assembles a list of negative impacts that data could make it more difficult for Granite to challenge the findings.

Scott Mann, president/CEO of the Wildomar Chamber of Commerce, said Wednesday that he is livid about the delay, which he said sends a bad message to businesses looking to invest in the county.

"We have to get this economy moving," he said, adding that Granite has proposed investing upward of $300 million in new revenue in the region.

To approve the mine, the commission would have had to make what's called a "statement of overriding considerations," a legal determination that held the project's benefits outweighed the "significant and unavoidable" environmental effects identified in the county's lengthy review of the project.

The commission, with Commissioner James Porras dissenting, said there was "no factual basis" to make that statement.

Commission's denial of quarry project could be delayed
The Californian, Sun., Oct 23

Riverside County's Planning Department says it needs more time to draw up the paperwork that will complete the Planning Commission's denial of Granite Construction's Liberty Quarry project, an open aggregate pit mine proposed for land on Temecula's southern border.

Commission Chairman John Roth said last week that it should take a week or so to have everything reviewed, which would mean the commission could make final its denial of the project in November.

The agenda item for Wednesday's commission meeting, scheduled for 9 a.m. in Riverside, states that planning staff members recommend additional time be granted to "further draft" project denial findings.

Granite representatives have said they plan to appeal that denial, whenever it is completed, to the county Board of Supervisors. That panel will have the final say on the project.

The Planning Commission voted 4-1 in late August to tentatively deny the project.

Liberty Quarry is opposed by thousands of residents in the Temecula area who are worried about the environmental effects associated with the mine, including air quality, traffic, noise, light pollution and the degradation of sites sacred to the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians.

To approve the mine, the commission would have had to make what's called a "statement of overriding considerations," a legal determination that the project's benefits outweighed the "significant and unavoidable" environmental effects identified in the county's lengthy review of the project.

The panel, with Commissioner James Porras dissenting, said there was "no factual basis" to make such a statement.

Granite has been working since 2005 ---- investing about $10 million to date, representatives say ---- to win approval for a 135-acre rock quarry that could produce up to 5 million tons of aggregate material a year.

As part of its project review, the commission conducted six meetings ---- five in a church in Temecula and one in Riverside ---- that were attended by thousands of people, most of whom were opposed to the quarry.

The opposition ---- which includes the Pechanga tribe, area doctors and scientists who work at a field research station to the west of the proposed mine site ---- argued that the project would destroy sacred sites, choke the local air with a new source of pollution and forever change the research at the station, which is nestled in the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve.

Proponents said the mine would provide much-needed jobs and improve local air quality by removing from county roads aggregate-hauling trucks that stream to San Diego County from mines in the Lake Elsinore and Corona markets.

Fred Bartz, a member of two anti-Liberty Quarry groups, said Friday that he was concerned about the delay requested by county staff.

"We're disappointed that the process is moving so slowly," Bartz said, adding that many active opponents of the project are hoping to see the county's review resolved.

Karie Reuther, a Granite spokeswoman, said the company is not happy about the postponement, either.

"After six years of processing through the county and nearly 60 days since the Planning Commission vote, it is frustrating to be faced with yet another delay," she said. "We look forward to bringing Liberty Quarry and its many benefits before the Board of Supervisors as soon as possible."

The benefits, Reuther said, include 300 new jobs and $300 million in new revenue for a county that is facing 14 percent unemployment and an $80 million budget deficit next fiscal year.

Opponents question both the number of jobs and the new revenue that would be generated, arguing there will be a corresponding loss of jobs at existing quarries and a decline in revenue from those operations.

Liberty quarry rejection to be finalized
Temecula.patch.com, Tues., Oct. 16

The county Planning Commission is expected to finalize its rejection of a granite quarry planned near Temecula.

They will hear the matter during a meeting on Oct. 26, according to David Jones, the county's chief engineering geologist.

The commission rejected the plan, though they need to vote on "denial findings" to finalize it, Jones said.

To read about the vote, click here.

Granite Construction, the company planning the mine, plans to appeal the decision immediately after the denial s finalized, said Karie Reuther, the company's spokesperson.

 

 

September 2011 Letters to the Editor

Hearings could have not been more fair
The Californian, Fri., Sept. 16

Granite Construction's Gary Johnson recently made a statement, quoted in the newspaper ("Quarry appeal could be heard before year's end," Sept. 2), that Granite Construction would appeal the Riverside Planning Commission's 4-1 vote against their Liberty Quarry project to the County Board of Supervisors, where they expected to receive a "fair hearing."

What a "sour grapes" and belittling attitude towards the Planning Commission, after commissioners came to Temecula five times to hear the valid concerns of experts and residents of the Temecula Valley. The commissioners sat through these exhausting sessions, one as long as 15 hours, to give everyone, including Granite, the chance to be heard and to prove their case.

These proceedings couldn't have been more fair, and the commissioners should be lauded for taking the time to get to the truth. The truth turned out to be that Granite had picked the wrong location for their quarry, and that it would be a harmful project to our air quality, traffic, water, San Diego State University's Ecological Reserve and wildlife, and would desecrate Pechanga Sacred Lands ---- all was made very clear by expert opposition testimony.

Too bad that Granite isn't fair-minded enough to recognize that the opposition to Liberty Quarry is monumental, and they should seek another site.

Barbara Wilder, Temecula

September 2011 Opinions/Forums

Quarry just a local issue? hardly
The Californian, tues., Sept. 13
marelle dorsey

Granite Construction is now proclaiming that Liberty Quarry should be a local issue, not a state issue.

However, this propaganda has two basic inconsistencies.

One is that when Granite says "local," it is referring only to Riverside County. But logically, Temecula should have been considered the most "local" agency.

The second is that the state should not be involved in the quarry issue. However, the state has more than 150 years of interest in the site.

History sheds more light on the facts.

After becoming a city in 1989, Temecula desired a "sphere of influence" for the land extending south to the San Diego County border and west of Interstate 15. This would maintain the city's southern entrance as both pristine and beautiful.

The Local Agency Formation Commission, LAFCO ---- a state-mandated legislative agency established by state law in 1963 ---- agreed to Temecula's sphere of influence in 1992.

The city did not complete the complex procedures for annexation of the area until 2009. During those 20 years, city leaders were busy creating infrastructure for a fast-growing community, annexing large unincorporated areas, such as Redhawk, and proving that the city was fiscally sound enough to maintain the rural area. This mountain site had long been zoned Rural Residential. It wasn't reasonable that mining and manufacturing would ever be allowed.

It is very expensive and time consuming to ask LAFCO to change boundaries. It cost Temecula about $650,000 to go through the annexation processes.

In 2009 alone, Granite spent $380,000 to defeat the annexation of the proposed quarry site. Their actions demonstrated a disregard for real local control of land use.

By the way, according to LAFCO policies and procedures, Objective No. 2, 3.2.2 states: "Encourage the County to work with cities and unincorporated residents to provide information to the public regarding advantages and disadvantages of annexation." That never happened!

No. 3, 1.3.1, states: "Preserve open space within urban development patterns," not preserve open-pit mines!

In 2010, LAFCO did finally allow Temecula to annex land, but only up to the border of the quarry site and only if Temecula gave up the sphere of influence it had held since 1992.

Real local control would have respected the city's original plans.

History also shows that the state has had a long-term interest in the site.

For 50 years, there has been proven concern and investment through San Diego State University in the Santa Margarita River and surrounding environment.

In the 1850s, the federal government gave land for school purposes to each state. Some of that original land contains the proposed quarry site. In the 1980s, the state sold the land but retained mineral rights. Therefore, there can be no quarry without state approval.

Go to NoGravelQuarry.comfor updates and to sign a petition.

Planners' vote shows we matter
The Californian, Sat., Sept. 3
Phil Strickland

It was a day that demonstrated we, you and me, can make a difference.

And it was so noted more than once from the dais Wednesday, as the Riverside County planning commissioners explained where they were individually regarding Granite Construction's proposal to build Liberty Quarry.

In fact, Chairman John Roth as much as said that all the known civilized world had come out to fight the proposal, flooding meetings wearing orange hats and shirts ---- Southwest County's version of the Orange Crush.

And that had an impact on his vote. He wasn't the only one.

(Aside: The poor unfortunates who know me have heard me say it from the very first hearing that he runs a damn good meeting. Tight. No nonsense. Treat everyone the same. He's got the power and, as demonstrated at the somewhat raucous first meeting, is not afraid to use it. Good man. Good job. Fair hearings.)

Back to business.

Now it gets really interesting.

The supervisors, without benefit of political cover, will face those very same arguments and overwhelming anti-quarry popular support that swayed the planning commission.

And if the supervisors want to use the now-almost completely discredited environmental impact reports as an "official county" document, they'll probably have to approve them themselves, which action would be a vote of no-confidence in the planning commission's decision.

So we'd have the Board of Supervisors taking on the role of advocate, juror and judge.

It could be billed as their homage to a weird kind of tri-cameralism.

Many observers, when pressed, grudgingly gave Granite the edge. Others were hoping for a 3-2 denial.

No one predicted a 4-1 victory for the anti-quarry crowd.

The lone dissenter, John Porras, has been quoted as saying he's had trouble sleeping over this. Waking up in "cold sweats," he said.

No wonder: Porras is Supervisor John Benoit's appointee to the commission.

And Benoit is a recipient in this state of Granite's campaign cash largess.

The stage is set. The planning commission says no and thus can't certify the EIR.

If the Board of Supervisors wants anyone to even think about even beginning to take those purported EIRs seriously, a futile chore for sure, they must themselves certify it and in doing so reveal politicians are at least as bad as we thought and quite capable of anything.

Quarry losing at haltime
The Press-Enterprise, Sat., Sept. 3
Carl Love

If the battle over the Liberty Quarry was a football game, the announcer might say: "And in a surprise at halftime, the environmentalists lead the big money."

Yes ye of little faith, it really is true. The Riverside County Planning Commission rejected the quarry and the economic development it promised.

In the midst of a recession with no end in sight in a southwest end of the county whose population has exploded the past quarter century because developers mostly got what they wanted, big money is losing.

The second half will be played on the Board of Supervisors' turf because Granite is appealing the verdict.

The developer's quarterback, Gary Johnson, says he looks forward to a fair hearing from the supervisors.

Veteran environmentalist Kathleen Hamilton confidently says, Bring it on!

"I don't think there is any doubt that there will never be a quarry there," she said.

"There" is a 414-acre site between Temecula and the San Diego County line. Proposed is a quarry touted to support almost 300 jobs, generate $300 million in sales tax revenue and solve a looming aggregate shortage that threatens the economic recovery, such as that is.

Historically such economic muscle held sway with the local powers that be. How else to explain the hundreds of thousands of people now in a place that not that long ago didn't even have traffic lights.

Hamilton, a local since 1978, has seen it all, from wide-open spaces to bottlenecked freeways, from rural outposts to suburban sprawl.

She likens the quarry to another environmental battle of some 20 years ago, a proposal to plop thousands of homes on the Santa Rosa Plateau. That too was beaten back and today it's a nature preserve, not a subdivision.

She says back then county officials were inundated with opposition. The same held true today, given that more than 1,000 people showed up at the commission's first hearing in April. Interest was so passionate that six hearings were held before a verdict.

Jim Mitchell has seen his share of big development tussles, having been a TV broadcaster for 15 years, including the big-time, ABC network news.

Now he's with the local Sierra Club, a group that -- surprise, surprise -- opposed the quarry.

Mitchell the realist concedes that money, which amounts to political power, usually prevails in such matters. He readily concedes he expected the quarry to be approved by the commission. He's elated that he was wrong.

He sees two reasons for why it happened: First, the opposition's testimony was so knowledgeable and powerful. Typically in such matters, it's the developer who rolls out the heavy artillery of high-paid experts while residents counter with mere squirt guns, well-meaning folks who speak with the heart, not the statistics. This time, the environmentalists matched the firepower.

Second, Mitchell says the community has its own heavy hitter, the Pechanga tribe, owner of an immense casino you might have heard of. When Pechanga talks politicians listen, even if the other side has a powerful megaphone, too.

Now to see how the second half of this Super Bowl of local issues plays out.

 
 
September 2011 News Articles

Fate of Liberty Quarry near Temecula cloudy
signonsandiego.com, Mon., Sept. 5

TEMECULA — A six-year battle over a proposed open-pit rock quarry that would be built just north of San Diego County near Temecula is headed for a final showdown probably later this year.

Opponents of the Liberty Quarry, and there are many, were buoyed by a decision last week made by the Riverside County Planning Commission, which voted 4-1 to reject the project. Commissioners said its potential risks to public health outweigh the benefits.

However, that county’s board of supervisors will have the final say because the commission’s decision, which is nonbinding, will be appealed, the developers say.

The applicant is Granite Construction. It wants to operate the quarry on a 414-acre site, of which 135-acres would be the actual mine. The quarry would operate for 75 years and produce aggregate — tiny rocks used primarily to make asphalt and concrete — by blasting the mountain with explosives.

The company maintains the quarry would not be seen — it would be behind hills to the west of Interstate 15 — and that the blasting and dust it would cause would not affect neighbors. Company officials also say it would create nearly 100 permanent jobs and support another 200, and would generate $300 million in sales tax revenue for the county. It also would provide badly needed aggregate, they say, to Riverside and San Diego counties, which have to haul in some material from farther away.

Calls to the project manager for Granite Construction were not returned this week.

Building open-pit mines is almost always controversial. A much smaller quarry off state Route 76 near Fallbrook about a mile east of Interstate 15 called Rosemary Mountain Quarry, also owned by Granite, took nearly two decades of permitting and legal challenges before finally going into operation in 2008.

Opponents of the project include environmentalists, residents near the area, and the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians who maintain the quarry would be built in an area that represents the origins of their people. It would be like building a quarry next to the Garden of Eden, they say.

Critics say microscopic silica dust from quarry operations could pose a serious health hazard to people in the area.

“Our efforts are currently focused on preventing the approval of a huge open-pit mine on the Temecula border which would destroy the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve currently located on the proposed quarry site, as well as our clean air quality, home values and the booming tourist industry in our area,” writes the activist group Save Our Southwest Hills on its website. The group consists of citizens and homeowners in Rainbow, Fallbrook and Southwest Riverside County.

Actually the ecological reserve is adjacent to the quarry site, not on it. The 4,600-acre reserve is operated by San Diego State University, which has a field station on the property — a living laboratory for climate change research, ozone monitoring, seismic study and other subjects.

“It would be like putting a rock concert next to a monastery,” said SDSU biologist Matt Rahn, who directs the reserve’s field station. He said to suggest, as Granite does, that the quarry would not affect the reserve is ridiculous.

“It’s a pristine remanent of what Southern California used to be,” he said. “It really is a unique window into our past. ... It’s everything — air pollution, the noise, the lighting, the blasting the vibrations — all of those things would substantially change the area.”

The Riverside County Planning Commission held five public hearings before its vote Wednesday. Some were attended by more than a thousand people and one lasted nearly 14 hours.

Planning Commission Chairman John Roth said he had never seen such passion about a project before and several commissioners said such an outpouring of dissent from the public was hard to ignore.

Casino money goes to protecting Indian sacred sites
KPBS.org, Fri., Sept. 2

The Pechanga Band, which owns the largest casino on the west coast, has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to lobby for a state bill, AB 742, to block the Liberty Quarry. The band argues the project in the hills south of Temecula is on sacred ground where their original ancestors lived.

AB 742 is making its way through the state legislature. In the mean time, Riverside’s Planning Board rejected the project 4 to 1 this week, after several heated hearings.

Meanwhile, a bill (SB 833) to block a proposed landfill in Gregory Canyon passed the legislature this week. SB 833’s author, State Senator Juan Vargas, said one reason he opposes it is because it is close to Pala Indian sacred land.

“There are people that lived here for hundreds of thousands of years,” Vargas said. "Some areas are sacred and should be respected. Not all land is fungible. There has to be some meaning, and respect for people's tradition.”

Vargas says he has received campaign funding from the Pala Band.

He said voters who voted for the project in two separate initiatives over the past 20 years were misled into thinking the landfill would not be near the river. He said he has visited the site and it is right on the river.

Nancy Chase of Gregory Canyon Inc., the developer of the landfill, accused Vargas of lying. She said the proposed landfill is not on the river. She said the Pala Casino is.

According to a database managed by California Watch, the Pala Band has not declared it is lobbying against SB 833. However, the Pechanga Band has contributed more than $100,000 to lobbying firms in connection with the bill.

The fate of the bill to block the landfill is now in the governor’s hands. The quarry’s developer, Granite Construction, will appeal this week’s “no” vote to Riverside’s Board of Supervisors.

 

Quarry appeal could be heard before year's end
The Californian, Thurs., Sept. 1

The Riverside County Planning Commission's 4-1 vote Wednesdayto tentatively deny Granite Construction's request for a surface mining permit still needs to be finalized.

That ratification of Wednesday's vote on the proposed Liberty Quarry is expected to be considered by the commission within 60 days, according to county planning staff members.

After that vote, which is a procedural matter, the denial can be appealed to the county Board of Supervisors by Granite or any other party.

Northern California-based Granite has been working since 2005 to win approval for a 135-acre rock quarry on 400 acres just south of Temecula that is bordered on all sides by folks concerned about environmental effects associated with the mine: air quality, traffic, noise, light pollution, degradation of sacred sites and more.

Granite Project Manager Gary Johnson said the company plans to appeal the commission's final denial, and he said he is looking forward to the supervisors conducting a "fair hearing" on the project.

Liberty Quarry is supported by some union members and local residents who point to the jobs it will create and the regional economic benefits they believe it will provide ---- a list that includes a high-quality source of aggregate next to a major transportation corridor that will reduce truck traffic on county roads.

Granite spokeswoman Karie Reuther said the company hopes the Board of Supervisors hearing, or, likely, series of hearings, will be scheduled before the end of the year.

If the hearing schedule ---- which Reuther said she expects will be similar to the commission's detailed review of the project ---- stretches into the holiday season, the final decision might be pushed back to early 2012, she said.

Meanwhile, the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians is weighing its options.

In August, the tribe sponsored legislation that would allow it to prohibit the permitting of rock quarries on land near its reservation borders, a swath that includes acreage tied to the tribe's creation story and the wellspring of the Santa Margarita River.

That legislation was approved by the state Senate's Committee on Natural Resources and Water and moved to the senate's Rules Committee, but it's not expected to be moved from there until at least January.

On Wednesday after the commission meeting, tribal Chairman Mark Macarro was asked whether the tribe planned to lobby to get that legislation approved, regardless of what happens with the county Board of Supervisor's review. He also was asked whether the tribe has considered buying the quarry site.

"All options are under consideration," he said, adding that the legislation could still be needed if Granite steps aside and another company decides to pick up where they left off.

Members of the Senate's natural resources committee indicated that they would like to delay any action on Assembly Bill 742, until the county process is complete. They also said the tribe should try to work with Granite on some settlement.

The odds of a settlement, however, seem slim.

Macarro said a meeting of tribal and Granite officials Wednesday morning was not fruitful because the company is not willing to consider another site for the quarry.

Fred Bartz, an active member of two groups opposed to the quarry, said Thursday that the commission's decision confirms the thinking among project opponents that it's the "wrong project in the wrong location."

He said it also served to fire up opponents ahead of the county board's hearing on the appeal.

"It renewed the energy or the juices of the people. ... People feel they were vindicated," he said.

Proposed California quarry dealt a blow
(AP) signonsandiego.com, Thurs., Sept. 1

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — A proposal to build a quarry on a mountain overlooking the city of Temecula was dealt a blow on Wednesday when planning commissioners voted against the project and echoed residents' concerns that it could worsen air quality, harm wildlife and destroy a sacred cultural site.

The Planning Commission voted 4-1 to tentatively deny the proposal by Watsonville-based Granite Construction Co. to build a 135-acre quarry, citing concerns about air quality and environmental effects. Commissioners also cited the impact on an area deemed sacred to the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians.

The vote drew applause from most of the 250 people who attended the two-hour meeting in Riverside, dozens who wore bright orange T-shirts reading "Save Our Southwest Hills."

"We're just so happy," said Roslyn Holmes, a retired real estate agent who has lived in the Temecula for the last decade. "We love the nice clean air and everything about the town... We've been fighting for this a long time."

The commission still must take a final vote to formally deny Granite's application for a mining permit and on Wednesday directed staff to prepare the paperwork to do so.

Granite proposed to build the Liberty Quarry on the backside of an oak-covered mountain overlooking Temecula, a city of 100,000 people about 60 miles north of San Diego. The company planned to dig 1,000 feet deep and annually churn out up to 5 million tons of aggregate - the sand and gravel used in building materials for everything from concrete to roads to dams.

In 2006, California was reported to need more than 13.5 billion tons of aggregate over the next 50 years, but permits had been issued for what amounted to a 16-year supply, according to the state Department of Conservation.

Granite will appeal the commission's decision to the county board of supervisors, said Gary Johnson, the company's aggregate resource manager.

"The project's been studied to death. It shows there's no impact to people near the site," Johnson said, arguing the quarry would reduce truck trips throughout the region by placing aggregate closer to construction projects and the freeway, and would also create nearly 100 jobs. "It's an ideal site."

But many residents of Temecula disagreed. They argued that a gap between the mountains that brings cool ocean breezes and fresh air to what would otherwise be another sweltering desert town would wind up spewing bits of rock and dust blasted from the quarry across the city. They also worried the project would dampen tourism to the city's quaint, Old West-styled downtown and nearby vineyards, where wine production is blessed by the breeze.

Hundreds of residents packed public hearings on the project. Opponents included residents in nearby towns and the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve, a pristine area surrounding the site that is part of San Diego State University and used for international research on ecology and environmental science.

On Wednesday, commissioners raised a host of questions about the project including the effect of the quarry and related truck trips on local air quality, water resources and wildlife - including the impact of lights and noise from blasting on animals living in the nearby reserve.

"I just can't believe that kind of activity going from dusk until 10 o'clock would not have a significant impact on the wildlife in that area," Commissioner John Petty said.

Several commissioners also raised concerns about how the quarry would affect the Pechanga, who claim the site is located in an area where their ancestors were created and helped advance legislation in the state Senate to restrict mining near Native American sacred sites.

Commissioner Jim Porras was the lone vote in favor of the quarry, citing the need for job creation and aggregate.

Tribal Chairman Mark Macarro welcomed the commission's vote as what he called the "right decision" but said the fight isn't over.

"I'll believe this is over when really this company is gone and out of the community," Macarro said. "I think the bigger question is look, if not this company, there may be other companies lined up behind them to give this mountain a go. So we're prepared for the long haul, to do this all over again, and we'll continue to keep doing this to help protect this site."

Liberty Quarry: Planners deny mine permit
The Press-Enterprise, Thurs., Sept. 1

Plans to build an open-pit quarry near Temecula took a significant hit Wednesday when the Riverside County Planning Commission denied a mining permit and other items needed to build the project.

Opponents of Liberty Quarry erupted into applause and cheers in the County Administrative Center in Riverside after the five-member commission voted 4-1 to reject the permit and a noise ordinance exemption for the quarry.

Commissioners also voted to recommend the county Board of Supervisors not approve a zoning change for the quarry, sought for six years for a 414-acre site between Temecula and the San Diego County line. Because it determined the quarry's negatives outweighed its benefits, the commission took no action on whether to certify the quarry's 8,500-page environmental impact report.

The quarry is expected to reach the county Board of Supervisors before the end of the year. Supervisors have the final say on the project unless pending legislation killing the quarry passes in Sacramento.

The commission's vote was a major setback for quarry developer Granite Construction, which has spent millions of dollars, hired dozens of experts and mounted an aggressive public relations campaign to promote its quarry as a job-creating, environmentally friendly economic engine.

Gary Johnson, Granite's aggregate resource development manager, said after the two-hour meeting that he was "very disappointed" with the vote and his company would appeal the denials to supervisors.

"We feel the (quarry's environmental impact report) more than adequately addressed all the concerns heard," he said, adding Granite "look(s) forward to a fair hearing" from supervisors.

In between hugs of other supporters, Kathleen Hamilton of the anti-quarry group Save Our Southwest Hills expressed confidence the supervisors would also reject the quarry.

"We don't have any rubber-stamp supervisors," Hamilton said. "They will do the right thing."

Hamilton was part of a caravan that carpooled or rode a chartered bus from southwest Riverside County to Riverside for the hearing. A sea of orange shirts and hats filled the audience; quarry critics wear orange to show their opposition while supporters wear green.

The open-pit quarry would include plants to make asphalt and concrete. Over 75 years, Granite expects to extract 270 million tons of aggregate -- tiny rocks used in construction -- through explosive blasts.

Granite maintains the quarry would not be seen, heard or felt by the outside world. Backers say the quarry will support almost 300 jobs, generate $300 million in sales tax revenue and solve a looming aggregate shortage that threatens economic recovery efforts.

Critics counter the quarry would add 1,600 truck trips a day to the region. Microscopic silica dust from quarry operations poses a severe public health hazard, they allege.

The commission's vote came during its sixth hearing on the project. The first in late April drew more than 1,000 people, and another in June lasted 15 hours. Emotional pleas from everyday residents gave way in later hearings to dry testimony from experts hired by Granite and quarry opponents.

Commission Chairman John Roth, who has been on the panel since 1992, said he had never seen a project "that engendered as much controversy and emotion as this has." He said he doubted the quarry would be able to comply with the huge number of conditions imposed on it by county planning staff.

In the end, he said he believed the quarry's negatives outweighed its positives. He feared the quarry could lead to air pollution, increased noise levels and truck traffic. He said the quarry would ruin a sacred site of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians. The tribe argues the quarry would blast away a site that's part of its story of creation.

"Mining will forever destroy the site, whether it's a 1,000-foot pit or a 10-foot hole in the ground," he said.

Commissioner John Petty was critical of the methodology behind Granite's traffic study, which concluded the quarry would reduce diesel truck traffic on county roads. He also said he believed most of the quarry's product would go south to San Diego County.

"You take a less wealthy area, you desecrate, you harm ... to supply the more wealthy area," Petty said. "If San Diego County finds that it needs to have a cheaper source of granite, then it can approve projects that impact its open space and provide its own granite."

Commissioner John Snell said he was concerned about quarry operations affecting the adjacent Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve. He also found lacking a study concluding the quarry would not affect groundwater. Snell and Petty were concerned the quarry would dry up the water supply for area vegetation.

Commissioner Jan Zuppardo said she was "not convinced we are able to overcome" air quality issues.

Commissioner Jim Porras, who cast the only vote to oppose the denial, said the environmental impact report was "adequate." While most of the quarry's aggregate would go south, "I don't believe (the county) line should be looked at as a demarcation line as to whether this project gets approved or not," he said.

He criticized the Pechanga tribe for, in his view, not speaking up earlier or taking action to protect the site if it was so sacred.

He said it was "disturbing that the tribe has the resources today" to support the state anti-quarry bill. "I find it egregious and distressing as far as issues of private property rights," Porras said.

Prior to the vote, Granite asked that deliberations be postponed to Sept. 21 so it could talk with the Pechanga tribe in hopes of finding common ground. A state Senate committee that reviewed the anti-quarry bill asked Granite and the tribe to compromise.

Tribal Chairman Mark Macarro told commissioners that Granite refused to discuss moving the project, so the sides were "at loggerheads." The commission voted 5-0 to deny Granite's request and begin deliberating.

After the vote, Macarro noted he asked the commission at an earlier hearing to "search within themselves to consider a moral basis to make the right decision ... Today, we're glad that they were able to do that. At least four of the commissioners were able to do that."

He added the tribe was in it for the long haul. "I'll believe this is over when this company is gone and out of this community," Macarro said.

Riverside County Panel rejects proposed rock quarry
Los Angeles Times, Thurs., Sept. 1

The Riverside County Planning Commission on Wednesday rejected an application for a massive rock quarry proposed near Temecula that was strongly opposed by the city and the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians.

Granite Construction of Watsonville wants to develop a 414-acre rock quarry operation on a mountain that looms over Interstate 15, a peak the Pechanga say is within one of the most sacred sites for all Luiseno people.

The commission voted 4 to 1 against the proposal, citing concerns about the effect on the environment and health of residents in the Temecula area and because of the tribal leadership's objections.

Gary Johnson of Granite Construction said the company would appeal the vote to the county Board of Supervisors.

"We're very disappointed with the commission's decision," Johnson said. "Concerns were addressed more than adequately. There are tremendous benefits to the project, both economic and environmental."

Granite's proposed Liberty Quarry would mine about 270 million tons of granite from the mountain over the next 75 years, supplying concrete and asphalt to fast-growing northern San Diego County and southwest Riverside County.

Company officials said that a critical need exists for the construction material in the region, and that having a local quarry will take trucks off the highways and improve air quality.

The quarry is on private non-reservation land just west of the U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint on I-15.

Pechanga tribal Chairman Mark Macarro praised the commission, saying "they were able to search deep to find what it took to make the right decision.''

To the Pechanga, the peak is Pu`eska Mountain, a sacred site of the cremation of one of the First People, or Kaamalam, whose passing introduced death into the world.

The rock mine is opposed by Temecula, which tried unsuccessfully to annex the mine property.

August 2011 Letters to the Editor

Support AB 742
The Californian, Fri., Aug. 26

As a resident of Riverside County, I urge our representatives to support the site-specific legislation AB 742, which will protect Native American sacred places and the Santa Margarita River, drinking water for our brave soldiers and their families stationed at Camp Pendleton.

It is unconscionable that an enormous aggregate mine, Liberty Quarry, should seek to hold our representatives hostage in the interests of greed, at the expense of our precious environment and the sacred places of our Native Americans.

Do the right thing. Support AB 742.

Rachel Druten, Palm Desert

More Granite false information
Thurs., Aug. 25

Legislation is pending in Sacramento (AB 742) that would protect Native American sacred sites close to Temecula that are also in proximity to the Santa Margarita River. The latter is the source of drinking water for our Marines at Camp Pendleton. Using AB 742's geographic criteria, this measure is obviously Temecula site-specific.

Yet, contrary to the facts, I have heard that Granite is telling members of the Assembly, Senate and anyone else who will listen is that the measure is not site-specific, and if passed, will preclude mining operations on any site in proximity to sacred ground.

Of course, after more than six years of Granite's false statements, misinformation and general snake-oil tactics, what would you expect?

John Hamilton, Temecula

Letters say it all
The Californian, Wed., Aug. 24

Granite's company line is evident in both Linn Campbell'sAug. 18 letter and Adele Harrison's Aug. 19 letter in The Californian.

Both found it unfair that Pechanga, a band of the Luiseno Indians, asked an Assembly member to introduce AB 742. The bill is site-specific: aggregate mines to be 2,000 yards from the reservation, a little farther for sacred sites, and the Santa Margarita River protected.

The final environmental impact report acknowledged the tribe's concerns, expressed in 2005, but found the concerns "insignificant." The mountain was important in the Luiseno Creation Story, going back 10,000 years.

Both letter writers claimed that the quarry would bring jobs. However, Granite promises fewer truck miles will lead to cleaner air. Achieving both is impossible, as was explained at the recent hearing.

The potential loss of jobs, such as in high-tech and tourism, is the real job problem. Both letter writers warned of economic losses without the quarry. At the hearing, top economists claimed that the quarry would cost the county $3.6 billion. Adele stated the tribe was trying to rezone the quarry site as tribal land. Not true! She said there is a shortage of aggregate. Experts at the hearing said just the opposite!

Help the community. Click on the petition for legislators atwww.NoGravelQuarry.com.

Scott Perry, Temecula

The Californian, Aug. 21

Local control and hypocrisy

It is rather intriguing that those who opposed Temecula's proposed annexation of the mountain are now those who are screaming the loudest about the possibility of Sacramento removing the right of the county to give a permit to the quarry.

They wanted no local control when it meant that Temecula could have the say. Now that Sacramento may protect the religious sites of the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, these same people are all for local control ---- meaning Riverside County officials.

Isn't hypocrisy wonderful?

Alexander Watts, Temecula

Stop the misinformation on quarry

Granite Construction and their supporters are trying to cast a bad light on the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians tribe for legislation AB 742 to protect their sacred and spiritual sites. Granite would have you believe that this is a last-minute end run to prevent their quarry when in fact, the tribe has been mentioning their spiritual places in documents to the county since 2005.

Hundreds of pages of information have been shared with the county planners, and it was only after the planners chose to ignore their concerns and classify their spiritual places as "less than significant" did the Pechanga decide to take action. The planners' designation was truly appalling, and the Pechanga tribe has every right to try and protect their Garden of Eden.

As it was brought out at the hearing, Granite's 99 jobs are really job-shifts and not job increases. Granite has fired hundreds from its other quarries, so it presumably will just shift workers from one place to the other. If Granite is allowed to dominate the aggregate market and forces other quarries out of business, what about the loss of jobs for those workers and truck drivers?

Jim Brady, Temecula

Help to protect our service members

Assembly Bill 742 prohibits aggregate mining near the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians' reservation and sacred sites. In addition to protecting these sites, contained within the bill is protection for the Santa Margarita River, known as the last free-flowing river in southern California.

The Liberty Quarry project is located within the Santa Margarita Watershed. The Santa Margarita River is a major source of drinking water for Camp Pendleton's Marines, spouses and children. As stated by experts, Liberty Quarry's run-off and seepage will contaminate the nearby Santa Margarita River.

In addition, experts have stated that Liberty Quarry will irreparably harm the adjacent San Diego State University's 4,500-acre Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve. Provisions in AB 742 will not only protect the Santa Margarita River, but also protect SDSU's Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve from the impacts of aggregate mining.

AB 742 is site-specific, and contrary to what opponents say, will not affect mining or jobs in other parts of the state.

I believe every legislator must vote to approve AB 742 to protect the Santa Margarita River and the health and safety of the Marines and family members who protect our country.

I urge you to contact your legislators to support AB 742.

Fred Bartz, Temecula

Leave sacred land alone
Temecula.patch.com, Fri., Aug. 19

It is unthinkable, the idea of destroying this mountain, this place in time.

When Granite's people came calling, over six years ago, salivating over the rocky hills, dollar signs before their eyes, someone should have laughed in their face, showed them the door and sent them packing.

"You don't belong here," Someone should have told them. If there was not one human being living here, it would still be the wrong place to destroy.

This land knows no time. It is the place of beginnings. There is so little left. When you stand on this pristine land, the silence permeates your entire being. You are surrounded by murmurs of what it must have been hundreds of years ago. Everything here is holy.

This land is sacred to the Luiseno people. This is their history. The Pechanga tribe has said, "This is our place of creation." What part of this does Granite not understand?

To the myriad species of wildlife that roam the 4500 acres of the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve, this is their place of creation. It is all important. It is all vital.

"There is an enduring truth which can never be altered, that every infraction of the Law of Nature must carry it's punitive consequences with it. We can never go beyond the range of cause and effect," said Thomas Troward.

The first cause here is the land, untouched for millions of years. Cannot we, as human beings, honor this? Leave it alone!

Leave the Luiseno history intact. God knows, enough of it has been ripped away from them over the years. Perhaps it is time to rewrite the history books.

To the politicians who are willing to stand in judgment of this issue: think very long and hard about what is at stake here.

I am not referring to a greedy, money-hungry billion dollar company. What I am referring to is honor, is integrity, is the spiritual significance this whole area stands for.

This place is a treasure. It can't be measured by tons of aggregate. It is measured by the spirits of those who came before us. It is measured by it's value to the Pechanga Tribe.

Honor this. Leave the stories of the past alone. Let them be in peace for the future.

Jerri Arganda, Rainbow

Take a shot at change
The Californian, Thurs., Aug. 18

I dropped off my son at college yesterday in downtown Los Angeles, only a few blocks from where our family business used to be decades ago.

I haven't been in the area for many, many years. My chest tightened. All I can say is that it made me appreciate Temecula more than ever and why we chose to raise our kids down here.

My son, being raised on our rural property, was amazed at the change of sights, and a bit of despair for the surrounding neighborhoods. From one extreme to another. But he's going to put in his time in the big city to achieve the education for his dreams, as many do. Then he can escape, as most of us did, to raise our kids in a better environment ---- if it's still here.

For those who have gotten comfortable where they live, don't forget why we all moved here and that it's worth fighting for, even if it's a simple letter to legislatures over AB 742 or some concern to a County Supervisor. Too many assume the government is corrupt and they don't stand a chance and do nothing. Give it a shot. Visitwww.change.org/petitions/provide-greater-protection-for-native-american-sacred-sites-preserve-the-santa-margarita-river.

Mike Jurkosky, Temecula

Character doesn't really matter
The Californian, Fri., Aug. 12

Granite Construction's corporate slogan is "Character Matters." Granite is certainly aware that the Liberty Quarry location includes the site of creation for the Pechanga Indian Tribe. Further, Granite's Gary Johnson has stated that 70 percent of aggregate from Liberty Quarry will go to San Diego County. Since San Diego County has other alternative quarry sites much closer to Granite's customers, and not on sacred Indian lands, if "Character Matters," then Granite should move on to an alternative site. It's shameful Granite knows the religious significance of the Liberty Quarry site, and continues fighting to mine it.

If "Character Matters," then Granite Construction would have fought the lawsuit against it in San Diego for questionable weight-ticket billing for hauling away debris after the 2007 wildfires. Why did Granite just pay the $400,000 fine? Because if Granite were found guilty, it could not receive federal highway contracts in California, where it makes millions of dollars. Granite does business by paying fines and continuing to operate and make money, rather than defend its character.

Clearly, Granite Construction doesn't follow its public slogan "Character Matters," but rather does business behind its unspoken slogan, "Money Matters." It appears money matters to Granite more than character.

Linda Bartz, Temecula

Residents do not welcome the quarry
The Californian, Wed., Aug. 10

It seems Hemet resident Rich Loomis is very much in favor of the Liberty Quarry being built in the city of Temecula (July 30). I would like to ask why Mr. Loomis doesn't push for the quarry to locate in Hemet. If the quarry is such a positive venture, then Hemet surely could use the makeover.

Mr. Loomis, those of us who live in Temecula and Murrieta simply do not want the quarry. Temecula and Murrieta have developed into very desirable areas to live and work in. The quarry is not a business we welcome.

Why doesn't Mr. Loomis push for the quarry to locate in his hometown of Hemet?

Jeff Miller, Murrieta


Save sacred ground
The Press-Enterprise, Sun., Aug. 7

Letter writer Rich Loomis ("Don't block quarry," Your Views, Aug. 8) writes that he does not believe in the Pechanga tribe's right to have its sacred history protected.

I am half Apache and half Mexican and 100 percent United States citizen, and also a disabled U.S. Army veteran. How would the letter writer feel if Granite Construction wanted to dig Riverside National Cemetery for its source of aggregate? The Pechanga nation has the right and dignity to protect its ancestors' sacred ground. Those members of the tribe were among the first true Americans.

Robert Martinez, Temecula

No quarry on the Elsinore fault makes sense
The CALIFORNIAN, Sun., Aug. 7

"The earth ---- it shakes, you know, irritably, like a dog that has had it with those pesky fleas, and we're the fleas" (from the "The L.A. Earthquake Sourcebook," p. 263). The "Sourcebook" reports that only 15 percent of Californians have earthquake insurance because of steep rate hikes after the 1994 Northridge quake on a "blind fault."

The "Big One" is predicted as a virtual certainty in the next 30 years in California. A Newsweek magazine article ("The scariest earthquake is yet to come," March 2011, www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek) warns that California may be the final fourth corner of the recent cluster of three catastrophic earthquakes vibrating across the Pacific Rim.

At the local Liberty Quarry hearings, a Pechanga expert said there are "faults" on the quarry site. What do we know about these faults? Are they earthquake-related? Should quarries be permitted on top of faults? I'm but a simple supplicant asking for the county to determine, with independent expertise, whether there is a problem here.

Ironically, the Coalinga earthquake (6.5, 1983) in Granite's backyard was (believed by some to have been) a man-made earthquake on a "blind fault," destroying Coalinga's commercial district and causing hundreds of rockslides and rockfalls (from Wikipedia).

No quarry on the Elsinore fault front seems like a common sense, low-footprint idea. "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

What say you, Commissioners?

Kenneth Johnson, Temecula

Simple Answer
The CALIFORNIAN, Sun.,  Aug. 7

 

Re: "Why should government listen to tribes?" by Peter Gonzales, Aug. 3: The answer is pretty simple, really.

Imagine the government came in and forced you from your entire 20 acres where you and your family have lived for hundreds of years. A place where you buried literally hundreds of family members and had many precious and historical artifacts. Then, under the pressure of government pointed guns, forced you to move to a 1,000-square-foot parcel across town and told you to live on it or die. Then, some years later, have the government decide to dig up every buried soul and decimate any possible artifact on your original 20 acres, just for the sake of greed.

By Mr. Gonzales' comments, it seems like he could care less, but I suspect he really does. I'm curious why someone who lives in Chula Vista, but owns property in Rainbow adjacent to the proposed quarry, which will almost certainly become worthless if it goes in, would appear to support it?

David Spayth, Rainbow

Quarry supporter does not have the facts (with CORRECTION)
The Californian, Tues., Aug. 2

CORRECTION: Incorrect information in quarry letter

By the North County Times North County Times | Posted: Tuesday, August 2, 2011 12:00 am
 The Local Agency Formation Commission is a boundary-setting agency and would not be able to approve plans for a rock quarry at the site of the proposed Liberty Quarry. A letter to the editor by Rich Loomis that ran on July 30 incorrectly stated that LAFCO approved the request for the quarry. We apologize.
letters@nctimes.com
--------------------------------------
Californian  August 2, 2011

"Quarry supporter does not have the facts" by Fred Bartz

Liberty Quarry supporter Rich Loomis (July 30) wrote ---- what he called ---- the facts, stating: "Granite Construction worked for more than four-plus years with the county to get their approval for Liberty Quarry. The Local Agency Formation Commission approved and passed their planned request for a rock quarry in that location."

Well, this "fact" never happened. LAFCO never approved "a rock quarry in that location." LAFCO's scope is to approve or deny a city's annexation request, and not a quarry's location.
Furthermore, Mr. Loomis stated: "Granite has done their share in an attempt to supply facts."

Commissioner John Petty is simply questioning these facts. Mr. Loomis stated: "John Petty should be removed from these hearings," because Commissioner Petty is asking more questions. During a Planning Commission Hearing for Liberty Quarry, County Counsel stated that Planning Commissioners can ask questions of anyone they choose, anytime during the hearing. And that's exactly what Commissioner Petty is doing. So many environmental impact report mistakes and misstatements have been identified that clearly, the Commissioners should be applauded for seeking the truth.

Commissioner Petty is doing his job. Hopefully, Mr. Loomis and others will not further attempt to stand in any Commissioner's way. Also, Mr. Loomis, please get the facts straight.

Fred Bartz, Temecula

August 2011 Opinions/Forums

Control key for effective local officials
Phil Strickland, The Californian
Sun., Aug. 28

That doomed old house on Pujol Street is in the news again.

Every time Ladyfriend and myself ride past it, one of us remarks on its primitive appearance and with some degree of certainty proclaims "It could be a really neat place. All you have to do ..."

We can replace that tradition in a couple weeks with "Remember that old building? ..." Poof.

one. Razed to make way for affordable housing.

What doesn't go poof is that which helped hasten its demise.

No, not affordable housing. State-mandated affordable housing.

California requires every city to have a certain number of units at various income levels and if they don't it keeps the RDA dollars which, really, were ours before they took them.

Most recently that would have cost Temecula $2 million.

All you folks ragging on the city over affordable housing are screaming at the wrong folks.
Keep hollering, but turn your attention to Sacramento and you might hit the longest of long shots and actually get the legislators to let the cities and the market place take care of housing needs without interference.

Increasingly, engaged voters see local control as the way to go.

You see it on the left, where sanctuary cities thumb their noses at state and federal law and suffer not.

And you see it on the right as in Maricopa County, Ariz., where Sheriff Joe Arpaio takes a far different view of illegal immigration than the feds.

The point is we can handle our affairs.

The state and the feds mostly get in the way and seize money.

Oh, and when you speak about local control, make sure you've got it right.

For example, in recent quotes attributed to Granite Construction operatives, the comment was made that Assembly Bill 742 regarding mining law that now languishes in committee would interfere with local control.

A sentiment echoed by Sup. Bob Buster. Buster is a good supervisor, but even good ones can be misled.

Here's what: We live in a sovereign nation that allows other sovereign nations to exist on its soil.
In the history of nations it's a rather odd construct, but really, the proper venue is at the federal level ---- sovereign nation to sovereign nation. Not the state, not the locals.

Where the feds abdicate their responsibility to the states, they can step in.

And, where an issue is so local its outcome affects a limited area, it would be proper for cities and counties to be allowed to work with tribes as is the case with the Pechanga-supported Assembly Bill 742 which the city backs and, perhaps more important, is site specific.

Seizing local control?

Hardly. It appears the tribe is helping the city in its exercise.

Thank you, Granite Construction
Mike Jurkosky, North County Times
Mon., Aug. 22


We're the closest Temecula resident west of the Liberty Quarry industrial site. Our property has been our family's sanctuary since 1956. We'd like to thank Granite Construction. Maybe others feel the same?

We thank you for:

  • Taking years of sacrifice to escape urban blight, only to have you drag it back onto our doorstep.
  • The anguish bestowed on our family since 2005: for turning cherished country property adjoining a ecological reserve, into undesirable property nearest a monstrous rock quarry, with only an application.
  • Your smaller footprint: like the new kid on the block promising to hit you in the stomach instead of the face, and expecting gratitude.
  • The 75-year pit of insecurity to the Royal Oak valley's water table and to the pristine stream feeding local wells, that will later flow beside Granite's moonscape of ammonium nitrate and petroleum pollutants.
  • Blasting our nirvana to impose yours. Old houses can be replaced, but not the tranquillity, the pure water and air, the wildness of the land, or the hundreds of grand oaks.
  • Your "friends" demonizing local residents as selfish elitists, dangerous NIMBYs, or radical environmentalists. When did "ordinary families wanting to move to cleaner, safer neighborhoods for their families" become a dirty word? When Granite arrived.
  • Implying Granite is the savior of all the county's economic woes, yet jeopardizing already established bases of tax revenue and livelihoods.
  • Your Caltrans contracts, which are fulfilled at night.
  • Forcing the community to research your EIR (Environmentally Incompetent Report) to protect themselves ---- a report concocted for those needing an excuse.
  • For the fond memories of the Old Temecula Valley.

Thanks for your humorous jokes:

  • Liberty Quarry will make the area greener! ---- I guess the SMER's flora and fauna count will explode!
  • There will be more jobs and fewer trucks on the road ---- funny things, those oxymorons.
  • Granite's trucks will head south, making the air cleaner. ----Ha! Granite refusing northern contracts? Loaded trucks will reverse direction through the county.
  • What's at the end of a Rainbow? ---- A major trucking hub making the area greener!
  • How does Granite pay a mistaken $2,223 overcharge for fire cleanup? With a $400,000 check.
  • How do you make the Royal Oak Valley residents disappear? Use an incorrect Riverside County Staff Report showing our area is vacant, ignore the San Diego side, and allude that there's nothing west of the site at public meetings, though at the same time attempting to get onto our property or into our drinking water. Suspicious behavior is not welcome on our property.

Granite informed us that noise at our rural home (which has been tested subsequently to be at 30 decibels) exceeds the county's threshold (45 decibels) and that's why Granite needs the "Noise Ordinance Exemption," not because Liberty Quarry would exceed the standard! Though Granite will raise the standard through rezoning (75 decibels) and a "Noise Ordinance Exemption" (allowing constant industrial noise), legalizing noise blight.

Silent noise blight. That's good schtick! Reminds me of the Jon Lovitz character on old "Saturday Night Live" episodes: "Yeah, that's the ticket!"

Thanks, "Good Neighbor."

Mike Jurkosky is a Temecula resident.

Time for Granite to move to San Diego
Barbara Helen Wilder, The Californian
Sat., Aug. 20

There comes a time in every battle when you should fold your tent and retreat gracefully. It's that time for Granite Construction to step away from its Liberty Quarry project, because to stay in the fight only further tarnishes its reputation.

Granite's badly flawed Environmental Impact Report, with omissions and holes large enough to drive even a "gravel truck" through, and the conclusion of Lilburn (the company hired to write this EIR) ---- that the concerns of the Pechanga over their sacred mountain and the spiritual importance of that area as their creation story to them and to the other Luiseno tribes were "less than significant" ---- is really shameful.

The Pechanga are rightfully angered and have now reached out to the Legislature in Sacramento with AB 742, sponsored by Assembly member Bonnie Lowenthal, to try and save this sacred site and the Santa Margarita River.

We know that Granite Construction has paid heavy fines over time for serious environmental infractions, in California, Oregon and Nevada, and they pay the fines as the "cost of doing business."

If this quarry is ever built, Granite can buy clean-air credits from nonpolluting companies to offset their pollution overages and continue to pollute our area. Yet, Granite touts at every opportunity their many "ethical" awards.

Granite continues to perpetuate foolish statements that the residents of Temecula and Rainbow will not "see, feel or hear the daily operation of this mine. Even Lilburn and the Riverside Planning Department had to admit that air pollution traffic and water considerations could not be mitigated below a level of concern.

Granite has trouble telling the truth about traffic, air pollution and noise. They've donated to every politician in this area in an attempt to win approval. Granite comes across as insensitive, ruthless, with a sense of entitlement as if we should be "blessed" to have their quarry here. How arrogant!

Tens of thousands of residents are up in arms, the Indian tribes of this area and in the entire state of California are against this project ---- 159 doctors have signed against Liberty Quarry, as have 500 local businesses.

The "handwriting is on the wall," but because there is so much of the "almighty Dollar" to be made from this project, Granite Construction and the people heading up this project for them are refusing to recognize that it's time to seek out an alternative for this quarry, which is in the wrong location and has become so divisive.

Granite already owns and operates Rosemary's Mountain quarry approximately 8 miles south of Temecula. This is the most obvious alternative. The access road is built, and it's into production.

Ask San Diego to approve the enlargement of this site so Granite can take out its magical number of 5 million tons of aggregate per year ---- if, as Granite claims, San Diego is where the aggregate is needed.

Granite, it's time to fold your tents and move on down the road.

Barbara Helen Wilder is Temecula resident.

It kind of depends on what "it" is
Phil Strickland, The Californian
Sun., Aug. 21

Decades ago, on the occasion of my first agreement to purchase real estate via a private mortgage, the seasoned investor stuck out his hand to shake on the as yet unwritten deal saying "My word is my bond."

And so it was. No clever verbiage snuck in to undercut the purchaser's position or cost or whatever.

That trait kept coming to mind even as the county planning commission Liberty Quarry meetings played out Monday in Temecula amid rancor over Granite Construction's use of an out-of-state non-Indian academic to explain to everyone her version of the Pechanga spirituality and sacred sites.

It was not Granite's finest moment.

But back to words. They are critical to understanding Granite's corporate culture.

Granite's clever use of semantics so as not to appear to say what they're saying or to disguise what it really is they want to do has been pointed out ad nauseum.

Mind you, as with the Granite/Lilburn connection, it's all by the rules. Honest. We swear by God and by law.

Take Rosemary's Mountain Quarry, for example.

Granite's Gary Johnson has told commissioners that "We have made no application to expand Rosemary's Mountain."

That appears to be true, because in the case of an existing quarry apparently you don't make an "application" to "expand," you make a "request" to "modify" as Granite has done at Rosemary's Mountain Quarry where they're seeking 3 modifications to their asphalt operations. The company wants to go from one shift to two, 5 days to 6 a week, and to be allowed to operate 24 hours if needed.

And all that aggregate?

Granite has not responded to San Diego County's June 20 letter asking if they want to expand, oops, modify, the mine's life by the 12 years necessary to excavate an additional 13 million tons (from 22 to 35 million), but a company document indicates that's exactly what they plan to do.

And that's on 96 acres.

Imagine the modifications possible with 414 acres.

Oh, and speaking of words, how can it be asked with a straight face why you'd choose 81 hillside houses (many with lots so steep you'd have to be a mountain goat to get home) for a neighbor over a pit mine a mile long, 1,000 feet deep with 1,600 diesel belcher/haulers in and out ever day, two asphalt batch plants, a concrete plant, a concrete recycling plant, a grinding facility all operating 20-24 hours a day, a minimum of 6 days a week for up to 75 or so years.

Day after day. Decade after decade.

At least the neighborhood truants grow up and leave.

To question why the Pechanga would prefer housing over a major industrial complex is testament to the Granite-supplied rose-colored glasses.

Give it a break already.

Quarry cost will climb for Granite
Phil Strickland, The Californian
Sat., Aug. 13

The Riverside County Planning commission meets Monday for what may be the last time in Temecula regarding Granite Construction's battle to desecrate everything downwind of its proposed enormous, gaping, raw hole that will be buzzed in and about daily by hundreds of heavy diesel haulers like bees at a hive.

The "meadow" of their desire is 414 acres of mountainous terrain that for any number of reasons ought to be left unmolested forever more.

In its unrelenting war on facts and reason, Granite has unleashed a torrent of misinformation, ignored troublesome realities and conspired to manipulate every entity involved to win approval for its proposed Liberty Quarry.

In the pursuit of its pot of gold in Rainbow, Granite has followed the official county guidelines to a "T."

First: Pick a consultant to write the county's environmental-impact report.

As per the guidelines, it chose a county-approved consultant---- one "independent," as sworn to by applicant and consultant, and approved by the director of planning.

That consultant is the Lilburn Corp. which until recently championed itself as the "Getting to Yes" operative when it comes to mine permits.

It was not a random choice. They've done business over the years, and once again Granite thought they were buying a blueprint (the Environmental Impact Report) for the county ---- to get to "yes" with the county.

Only problem is, the blueprint is so flawed with junk science, misconstrued facts and what many view as deliberate misrepresentations that it hardly can be called an "independent," or even a serious, assessment.

Even the county threw out the so-called traffic study. Still, that hasn't stopped Granite and Lilburn from using it to try to obscure reality.

Granite's hope is that the commission will ignore all reason and facts and recommend approval to the Board of Supervisors.

The supervisors can do whatever they want ---- it just gives them a degree of political cover.

As all this plays out, Granite whacks with growing impatience at the anti-quarry "moles" popping from the ground like a carnival game.

But these are very persistent moles. And they come from many different camps ---- already, some pessimists (realists?) are presuming county approval and talking legal defense funds for what would be a monumentally expensive battle.

What could make this one tougher for Granite, which recently recorded its first-ever net loss ---- more than $62 million for 2010 ---- in its 89-year history, is the number of fronts on which it must do its whirling dervish routine.

Let's see, there's the all-but-guaranteed lawsuit(s), either singly or by a coalition of quarry opponents; then there's Sacramento, where the battle is to be engaged legislatively; and one hears the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs may be engaged.

Those will end up costing Granite dearly.

Adequate water is big question for quarry
Scott Perry, The Californian, Sat., Aug. 6

The Riverside County Planning Department has shown serious concerns about the effect Liberty Quarry will have on future water supplies. The Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR), March 2011, states in Section 3.2: ". . . the County determined that given the uncertainties of future water supply . . . the proposed project's cumulative water supply impacts are cumulatively considerable and unavoidable."

Aaron Claverie of the Californian, wrote an article on Dec. 15, 2010, "Water district OKs supply for quarry," that said the Western Municipal Water District (WMWD) Board approved and guaranteed by a vote of 4-1 the Water Supply Assessment for Liberty Quarry's use of a maximum of 369 acre-feet of water a year for the first 20 years, of a 75-year project. The cumulative amount for the first 20 years would be 2,458,800,000 gallons of water.

Can we afford the water to put quarries so close to populations in wind tunnels where they have to use a great deal of water just to try to suppress dust (and pollution)? What a waste of precious water!

Bob Johnson, Temecula's assistant city manager, said at the June 22 County Planning Commission Hearing, "even though Governor Brown recently declared the end of the drought, there still remain significant water supply issues. Regulatory restrictions protect endangered fish and limit the timing and amount of Northern California water pumped from the delta."

Johnson also quoted Anthony Fellow, vice chairman of the huge Metropolitan Water District, as saying: "Water conservation isn't needed just in dry years (but) ... we're coming to the point in Southern California's life where there is no room for water waste, whether today, tomorrow or in the coming years ... We are running out of water, period."

Johnson said that Granite Construction has been downplaying the vast amount of water being consumed for this industrial project by emphasizing that the project will use raw or untreated water, not potable water, for operations.

He exclaimed: "Who are they kidding? The raw water proposed for the Liberty Quarry comes from the source of much of Temecula's drinking water (Skinner Lake)."

It is interesting that Granite is intending to filter/treat that same water on their site to make it drinkable for their employees. This was added to the Final EIR (Sec. 3.2).

WMWD supplies water to Rancho California Water District and would also supply Liberty Quarry.

Another consideration is the top ranking of our area's cities in a recent study, "America's (100) Drought-Riskiest Cities."

How many droughts will we have during the next 75 years?

During our recent drought, Temecula wineries had their water supply cut back 30 percent.

Do we need water for wine or a mine?

The Planning Commission's final hearing is at 9 a.m. Aug. 15 at Temecula's Rancho Community Church. This is the last day to get written information to the Planning Commission.

See you there.

Scott Perry is a Temecula resident.

 
August 2011 News Articles

Riverside County Planning Commissioners oppose open-pit mine near Temecula
SPCR.org, Wed., Aug. 31

After months of public hearings, Riverside County planning commissioners have voted Wednesday to oppose an open-pit mine near Temecula. Workers at Liberty Quarry would blast rock for use in cement and asphalt.

Opponents say the mine posed a host of environmental, public health and archeological risks.Supporters say the project would generate dozens of jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenue. That argument was not enough to sway planning commissioner John Roth. He said the environmental impact report, or EIR, told him what he needed to know about the project.

"I can’t support the surface mining permit or the exception to the noise ordinance. In addition, I recommend that the board of supervisors deny the change of zone," Roth said. "Finally, with respect to the EIR, I think it is adequate and I would have no problem certifying the EIR so my motion is to deny the project.”

The commission voted 4-1 against granting key permits needed for the project. Liberty Quarry officials are expected to appeal the decision to the Riverside County Board of Supervisors. It will have the final say over the proposed mine.

Liberty Quarry denied
Temecula.patch.com, Wed., Aug. 31

The Planning Commission voted 4-1 to deny the project planned for just south of Temecula
A plan to mine hills just south of Temecula was denied today.

The Riverside County Planning Commission voted 4-1 to deny mining permits and a sound ordinance exception for Liberty Quarry, a strip mining operation that was proposed for Temecula's southern border.

Commissioner James Porras cast the lone approving vote. patch

CA city, tribe, ecologists fight proposed quarry
signonsandiego.com, Tues., Aug. 30

TEMECULA, Calif. - Wine-tasting rooms and antique shops line the streets of Temecula's quaint downtown fashioned after the Old West. Tour vans wait to whisk visitors to scenic vineyards outside the city that are frequented by wine-lovers and hot air balloon enthusiasts who glide above the greenery.

It's a postcard image amid a series of desert towns in the inland region of Southern California - one that many residents fear is threatened by a proposal to build a quarry on a mountain overlooking the city.

Temecula residents say they are blessed by cool ocean breezes that sweep up through a gap between the mountains and bring fresh air to what would otherwise be another sweltering desert town. If the quarry is approved, those winds - also a blessing for optimum grape growing - would also bring bits of rock and dust blasted into the air from the quarry, residents say.

"There's literally a wall of smog and all of a sudden you're in this area where the air is clean," said Bob Johnson, assistant city manager for Temecula. "You put a mine right in the center of this and you change our quality of life and the whole reason people are here."

Hundreds of residents, ecologists and members of an Indian tribe have banded together to fight the plan by one of the country's largest construction material companies to mine the mix of sand and gravel from the nearby mountain.

The proposed 135-acre quarry has received unprecedented attention in the region. The Riverside County Planning Commission held five meetings to gather public comment. The longest dragged on 15 hours and the biggest drew 1,400 people.

Such classic battles between environmental stewards and industry have played out at quarry projects in places as far away as West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Granite Construction Co., based in Watsonville, is proposing to build the Liberty Quarry on the backside of an oak-covered mountain overlooking Temecula. They plan to dig 1,000 feet deep and annually churn out up to 5 million tons of aggregate - the sand and gravel used in building materials for everything from concrete to roads to dams.

In 2006, California was reported to need more than 13.5 billion tons of aggregate over the next 50 years, but permits had been issued for what amounted to a 16-year supply, according to the state Department of Conservation.

Company officials say the quarry will help meet the ever-growing demand for aggregate and avoid having loud, rumbling trucks haul the material across several states, which increases construction costs and pollutes the air.

"We should be spending our tax dollars wisely to build something, not truck something across a county," said Gary Johnson, Granite's aggregate resource manager. "It doesn't make sense to keep doing it the way we're doing it."

The 4,000-foot-long quarry and processing plants would be hidden from view from Temecula. But many residents of the city of 100,000 people located 60 miles north of San Diego and about 25 miles inland from the coast aren't convinced.

The Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians says the quarry would destroy the place where their ancestors were created. The tribe's claims have prompted a heated discussion about the protection of Native-American heritage and helped advance a bill in the state Senate to restrict mining near Native-American sacred sites.

The Riverside County Planning Commission is scheduled Wednesday to decide whether to grant a mining permit for the project, but Granite has asked for a delay to negotiate with the tribe.
"It is not an option to tell our future generations that their place of creation, the basis of their history and their very identity, used to be here," Tribal Chairman Mark Macarro said.

County planners recommend the project, noting the quarry would create 100 jobs. It would also be located next to Interstate 15, which would reduce truck trips throughout the region for construction.

Granite has promised to use water to spray down the dust and move rock via conveyer belts to enclosed processing plants to keep the air clear. The company has won some supporters, such as retired salesman Larry Lepley.

"I don't have a dog in the fight. I just look at things and try to apply common sense," Lepley, 72, said, adding that he trusts in the environmental studies conducted on the quarry. "The window of common sense tells me this is not a project that is going to hurt the area."

The many opponents include residents in nearby hamlets and those who work at the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve, a pristine area surrounding the quarry site that is used for international research on ecology and environmental science. The site is home to endangered species such as the Least Bell's Vireo, a small, gray songbird that has seen its ranks dwindle amid a loss of river habitat.

Deep in a riverbed laced with lime green moss, butterflies dart alongside the brush and water trickles over stones. A cluster of cameras snap shots of the Santa Margarita River for research overseen by San Diego State University.

"You can't get it back," said Pablo Bryant, the reserve's research technology manager. "We can't rebuild it. Does the need for aggregate outweigh the biodiversity, the conservation, the ecology? Are those short-term gains worth it?"

Some residents in nearby communities fear their hillside neighborhoods could be overtaken by noise, traffic and dust. Tourism, which generates roughly $600 million a year and 6,000 jobs, could also take a hit, some residents say.

A local association of wine growers - who are key contributors to the tourism industry - has largely stayed out of the fray to avoid upsetting county officials who need to sign off on upcoming vineyard projects at a time when the region is booming. Still, many growers are worried, said Bill Wilson, whose family owns a winery in the Temecula Valley.

On a recent weekday afternoon, tourists clinked glasses at the bar of the Wilson Creek Winery & Vineyard, which opened 11 years ago and now generates $15 million in revenue a year.

Standing in a cavernous storage room stocked with barrels from floor to ceiling, Wilson said the quarry now puts that at risk - whether it ends up harming the grapes or not. That's because wine drinkers' perception matters as much or more than whether dust from the quarry ever grazes the fruit, he said.

"If the consumer believes because we have a quarry, whether it's true or not, it will negatively affect the grapes, guess what? In their mind, it will negatively affect the grapes," Wilson said. "Perception is reality."

Commission will hear requests to delay Liberty Quarry vote
The Californian, Mon., Aug. 29


The county Planning Commission will meet Wednesday in Riverside to consider requests to postpone a decision on Granite Construction's Liberty Quarry project to allow more time for talks between the company and the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians.

The meeting is set for 3 p.m. at the Riverside County Administration Center, 4080 Lemon St., in Riverside.

Granite has asked the commission, which is close to wrapping up a review of the proposed rock quarry, to delay a vote until Sept. 21 to allow for negotiations with the Pechanga.

The tribe, meanwhile, has asked for a 90-day postponement to allow for the opportunity to "engage in a meaningful dialogue" with the company.

Granite's Liberty Quarry project, a mine capable of producing up to 5 million tons of aggregate at full production, is proposed for 400 acres of land on Temecula's southern border that the tribe considers sacred.

To protect the land, the tribe sponsored legislation that would allow it to prohibit rock quarries on a swath that includes the proposed mine site and the wellspring of the Santa Margarita River, land tied to the tribe's creation story.

At a recent state Senate hearing of the Committee on Natural Resources and Water, senators encouraged the tribe and the company to try to reach a settlement and the committee moved the bill,AB 742, to the senate's Rules Committee, where it is expected to remain through the end of the calendar year.

County spokesman Ray Smith said the decision on whether to postpone a vote will need to be made at Wednesday's meeting.

After the commission completes its review, the project will be considered by the county Board of Supervisors, which has the final say.

Granite spokeswoman Karie Reuther said Monday that she is aware of the tribe's request for a 90-day postponement, but that the company doesn't think that much time is needed.

"I think we can get it done in the next three weeks," she said.

In a letter sent Friday to commission Chairman John Roth, Pechanga Chairman Mark Macarro suggested a 90-day postponement because a three-week delay was not enough time to allow the two parties to engage in talks.

Macarro also said in the letter that the tribe believes that the commission has received more than ample evidence to deny the mine.

"Nevertheless, we remain interested in beginning a meaningful dialogue with Granite to find a mutually acceptable path forward that results in locating the quarry away from our creation area---- which includes the places where our ancestors were born, lived and died," he said.

Jim Brady, a member of the anti-quarry group Save Our Southwest Hills, said members will gather at Temecula's Ronald Reagan Sports Park, 30875 Rancho Vista Road, at 1:30 p.m. to carpool north to the meeting.

Brady said folks know the meeting could be brief if the commission decides to postpone a vote but he said people are still excited about making the trip.

"We're very enthusiastic, if nothing else just to show them that no matter where you are, we're going to be there," he said.

The commission has conducted five meetings on the project so far and they all have been held at a church in Temecula, a site picked to allow for area residents to weigh in.

Some residents and some union members came out in support of the project, saying it could be a boon for the local and regional economy.

The number of supporters was dwarfed by those opposed, a list that included the city of Temecula, the Pechanga, hundreds of people who live near the site and San Diego State University, which manages a research field station in the ecological reserve to the west.

The opponents criticized Granite for pursuing the project in the face of community opposition and they blasted the county Planning Department's environmental review of the project, which the opponents said didn't accurately detail how the mine will affect the area's air quality, the migration of animals, property values, water supply and traffic.

Proposed law sponsored by Pechangas could derail Temecula quarry
scpr.org, Mon., Aug. 29

Riverside County planning commissioners will consider postponing a decision Wednesday on whether to approve a contested quarry project near Temecula. Liberty Quarry would cut into the foothills a few miles south of the city. But the company behind the project is asking for a delay.

The company, Granite Construction, says it wants more time to meet with leaders of the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians. The tribe opposes the quarry over concerns that it would desecrate land sacred to the Pechanga people.

That prompted lawmakers to draft a state Senate bill to ban mining near any Indian land. Now, a state legislative committee is urging both sides to work out a compromise that might forestall a new law.

“We’re hoping with the encouragement of the Senate that they wanted to meet, that we could meet and come to some sort of agreement, says Granite spokeswoman Karrie Reuther.

Reuther says it’s not clear what such an agreement might look like. “I don’t think any ideas have really been put out on the table from either side. I think that’s what what we’re really hoping, if we have another meeting that we could actually start coming up with something really definitive.”

Pechanga tribal chairman Mark Macarro says his people support a meaningful dialogue with Granite Construation that can hopefully result in locating the quarry away from land that includes the places where the tribe’s ancestors were born, lived and died. Opponents also point to a host of environmental and public health concerns. The quarry site is adjacent to an ecological reserve. Supporters say the quarry will bolster the region’s economy by providing high-paying union jobs.

Riverside County planning commissioners will meet Wednesday and decide whether to grant a delay. If they ultimately endorse the quarry, the project will move on to county supervisors for another round of hearings and a final vote.

Pechanga: No need to delay quarry vote
Temecula.patch.com, Sun., Aug. 28

The tribe says the planning commission heard enough evidence to deny a quarry planned near Temecula.

Delaying the final vote on a proposed quarry near Temecula was unnecessary, according to Pechanga tribal leaders.

The Planning Commission heard enough evidence to deny mining permits and a sound ordinance exception for the planned Liberty Quarry, wrote Tribal Chairman Mark Macarro in a letter to John Roth, chairman of the commission.

"The Planning Commission, we believe, has received more than ample evidence to deny the mine at this time," Macarro wrote.

Granite to pay $1.1M of $4.6M settlement with government over minority contracts
Santa Cruz Sentinel, Fri., Aug. 26

WATSONVILLE -- Granite Construction will pay $1.1 million of a $4.6 million settlement involving government allegations that a joint venture led by Granite had submitted false claims relating to the hiring of minority contractors.

Granite will pay less than 25 percent of the total settlement even though it had 56.5 percent interest in the $330 million project to build a 12-mile light rail project from the Mall of America to Minneapolis.

The project was completed in 2004. Two years later, the Department of Justice initiated an investigation into allegations that the Minnesota Transit Constructors, the joint venture, had failed to comply with federal Disadvantaged Business Enterprise regulations on the Hiawatha Corridor Light Rail Project.

Granite and its joint-venture partners deny all allegations and admitted no fault or liability as part of the agreement. In a prepared statement, James Roberts, Granite president and chief executive officer, described the claims as disappointing and incorrect but said the settlement would avoid costly litigation.

"The project was a success in part because of our team's good-faith efforts and commitment to solicit and encourage DBE participation on the project," Roberts said. "We continue our commitment to the success of DBE businesses across the country and devote significant resources to ensure that DBE businesses have the greatest chance of success on our projects."

Granite's portion of the settlement is in company reserves, according to the company. There are no limitations on Granite or its joint-venture partners regarding future contracts with the federal government or the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

Sixth quarry hearing set in spite of postponement request
The Press-Enterprise, Fri., Aug. 26

Riverside County's Planning Commission is still scheduled to meet and vote on a proposed quarry near Temecula despite the developer's request to postpone the meeting so it can talk with an Indian tribe opposed to the project.

The five-member commission is expected to vote on a series of items related to Liberty Quarry at 3 p.m. Wednesday in the County Administrative Center, 4080 Lemon St. in Riverside. It will be the commission's sixth hearing on the open-pit mine sought for a 414-acre site between Temecula and San Diego County.

Even if the commission granted quarry developer Granite Construction's request to postpone the meeting until Sept. 21, commissioners would still have to convene Wednesday to officially postpone the matter, according to county spokesman Ray Smith. County offices were closed today.

In a letter dated Thursday to the commission, Granite asked for the postponement to meet with leadership from the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians to see if the two sides can reach common ground.

The tribe strongly opposes the quarry, saying it would desecrate a site vital to its story of creation. Pechanga is backing legislation in Sacramento that would block the quarry, but a Senate committee Tuesday effectively placed the bill in limbo and urged the tribe and Granite to make a deal.

Tribal Chairman Mark Macarro late Thursday indicated a willingness to meet "to find a mutually acceptable path forward that results in locating the quarry away from our Creation Area." But no meeting had been announced as of this afternoon and Granite's Gary Johnson said if one took place, "We would not make it public."

In a letter to commission Chairman John Roth dated today, Macarro wrote that the tribe neither supports nor opposes Granite's request.

However, if the commission does delay its vote, a three-week postponement "is not enough time to allow the parties to engage in a meaningful dialogue ...," Macarro wrote, adding that a 90-day postponement is preferable.

Macarro has said the tribe is willing to talk with Granite about moving its quarry away from its current site. The commission "has received more than ample evidence" to reject the quarry, he wrote to Roth.

Even if the two sides meet, planning Commissioner John Petty said as of right now, he sees no reason why the commission should delay its vote. Regardless of what happens, the county Board of Supervisors will have the final say on the quarry unless the state anti-quarry legislation passes.
"We've had five very lengthy, protracted hearings," said Petty, who represents Temecula. "For the tribe and Granite to meet, that's all well and good ... I just don't see what one has to do with the other."

Bills could bypass public debate on Gregory Canyon, Liberty Quarry
KPBS.org News, Thurs., Aug. 25

The Gregory Canyon landfill and the Liberty Quarry have something in common. Developers have spent more than a decade and millions of dollars to get approval, and both projects are now challenged by bills making their way through the state legislature, backed by Native American bands.

One bill, SB 833, by California Senator Juan Vargas, would prohibit construction of the landfill within 1,000 feet of the San Luis Rey River and Indian sacred sites. The bill has already passed the Senate and will go to the Assembly floor after passing a key vote this afternoon.
The second project is the Liberty Mine, a quarry planned just north of the San Diego County line on Interstate 15. It's proposed on a 400-acre site in Riverside near Temecula, but most of the aggregate from the mine would be used in San Diego.

Granite Construction, the company applying to develop the mine, chose to apply for permits in Riverside County after San Diego County supervisors took more than 20 years to approve a similar project.

The Pechanga Band is backing bill AB 742, which would ban the mine. The operation is proposed for land near the source of the Santa Margarita River where Indian legend has it the tribe was originally created.

Dozens of public hearings on the quarry have attracted up to 2,000 people. The Riverside Planning Commission will cast its final vote on that project next week.

If the state bills seeking to prevent the projects pass both houses, they would then go to Governor Jerry Brown for his signature. There is no indication what Brown would do if both embattled issues end up on his desk.

Council supports Pechanga anti-Liberty quarry bill
Tues., Aug. 23

The city of Temecula on Tuesday threw its weight behind legislation that would allow the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians to block the permitting of rock quarries on land it considers sacred.

In a 4-0 decision with Councilman Jeff Comerchero absent, the council voted to receive and file a letter of support for AB 742, a bill authored by Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach.

Earlier in the day, the bill was approved with a 7-0 vote by the state Senate's Committee on Natural Resources and Water and sent to the Senate's Rules Committee.

Councilwoman Maryann Edwards, in her remarks to the audience in the council chambers, called the Rules Committee both a "holding place" and a "discussion place" for legislation.

After a bill reaches the Rules Committee it could go directly to the Senate floor for a vote or it could stay in that committee for a very long time, she said.

Underlining the city's support for the tribe's efforts, Edwards called the bill a very important piece of legislation that would allow the tribe to protect its creation site, an area analogous to the Garden of Eden.

"It's very personal to them, very important to them," she said.

In the city's letter, the city details how Granite Construction's proposed Liberty Quarry would destroy the tribe's creation site and it argues for allowing the tribe to approve or deny mining on the Luiseno site of origin.

It also includes the economic and environmental arguments against the project that the city has brought up at recent meetings of the Riverside County Planning Commission, which is getting ready to wrap up its review of the mine on Aug. 31.

Granite has proposed operating a mine on a 400-acre site at the city's southern border, a swath of land just west of the tribe's reservation.

After the commission completes its review, the project will be considered by the county Board of Supervisors, which will have the final say.

To help thwart AB 742's chance of passage, Granite has been shining a spotlight on the people and organizations that have come out against the bill, a list that include some Southwest County politicians, labor unions and the California Chamber of Commerce.

According to Granite, the tribe's legislation is an eleventh-hour job killer that would make the state even more unfriendly for business.

Fred Bartz, a Temecula area resident who flew north for the Sacramento hearing, addressed the council during the public comments portion of Tuesday night's meeting, saying it is "beyond belief" why anyone would oppose a bill that provides protection from mining near the Santa Margarita River, the source of drinking water for Camp Pendleton's Marines, spouses and children.

After the council meeting, Edwards was asked if she thought the bill would be moved from the rules committee and considered by the full Senate in the near future.

She said it seemed as if the senators on the committee wanted to hold off until the project had been considered by the county. And she said there's a chance the bill could be amended.

Still, Edwards said the outcome of the hearing was "very positive" and that the city stands united with the tribe in its fight against the quarry.

"It passed, that's always a positive thing in Sacramento," she said.

 

Anti-Liberty Quarry bill in Sacramento limbo
The Californian, Tues., Aug. 23

The anti-Liberty Quarry bill sponsored by the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians was approved with a 7-0 vote Tuesday morning by the state Senate's Committee on Natural Resources and Water.

The approval, however, does not mean that the bill, which would allow the tribe to block the permitting of a rock quarry on a swath of land it considers sacred, will make it to the Senate floor for a vote anytime soon.

The action merely sends the bill, AB 742, to the Senate Rules committee, which is the gatekeeper for legislation. It is expected to be parked there for an unspecified amount of time.

To get the bill out of that committee, the Natural Resources and Water Committee could request a new hearing on the bill as written or call for amendments.

"It may come back in a few weeks, a few months, or in January," said committee Chairwoman Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Santa Monica.

In the meantime, the senators on the committee urged the Pechanga and Northern California-based Granite Construction to continue talking and reach an agreement.

Granite has proposed operating a rock mine on 400 acres of land that is just west of the tribe's reservation and south of the city of Temecula's border.

The tribe considers that land sacred, and it tried to protect the land via legislation after a review of the proposed quarry by the Riverside County Planning Department did not consider the land culturally significant.

The Riverside County Planning Commission is scheduled to wrap up its review of the project on Aug. 31, at which time it will make a recommendation to the county Board of Supervisors, which will have the ultimate say.

The bill's author, Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, told the committee at the start of Tuesday's hearing that she crafted the legislation to create an "area of protection" for land tied to the tribe's creation story.

"It uses fairly plain language to protect the setting for a story so detailed and important to the Luiseno people that to tell it properly takes three days," she said.

After the hearing, Lowenthal's spokesman Will Shuck said getting the bill out of the Rules Committee will be "particularly challenging."

"The senators were clear that they want everyone to continue to talk to each other, and that's not an unreasonable message," he said. "But that the bill is still alive and ready to move is a good thing."

The state has rules that cover the permitting of mining for metals on lands that a tribe considers sacred. Lowenthal's legislation would amend that state code to cover aggregate rock-mining operations on land that includes the wellspring of the Santa Margarita River and the Pechanga tribe's creation site.

Granite officials ---- spokesman Ed Manning and Liberty Quarry Project Manager Gary Johnson ---- told the committee that the tribe did not identify the quarry site as sacred six years ago, when the company was first considering the project.

They argued that to make that assertion now, at the eleventh hour, and use legislation to block the project would amount to an illegal taking. They also said it would be inappropriate for the state Legislature to take away land-use decisions from the county of Riverside.

Pechanga Tribal Chairman Mark Macarro said the tribe has long been on the record as being concerned about the proposed quarry.

"We trusted the environmental review process," he said. "But it's on a tragic trajectory for the Luiseno peoples."

Temecula Councilman Jeff Comerchero, addressing a question by Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, said there is a hole in state law when the code covers metals but not aggregate, which he said is a far more intense activity.

Some of the senators said it did seem as if some sort of legislation could patch that hole, but they seemed hesitant to support this particular bill at this stage of the county's review of the project.

Granite has spent close to $10 million on the project, Johnson said, and the county's Planning Commission has conducted five long hearings and meetings on it. After the commission is finished, the county Board of Supervisors will take up the project and there will probably be legal challenges.

"Has the local process failed? It seems to me it hasn't played itself out," said Sen. Jean Fuller, R-Bakersfield.

Sen. Doug La Malfa, R- Richvale, asked Macarro whether it was possible for the region's aggregate needs to be served by a mine in a different location, and he asked whether some sort of land swap might help both sides fulfill their goals.

"We're not anti-mine," Macarro said. "We're reasonable people, and we could consider some solution that could go outside the legislation."

Johnson said Granite also is interested in reopening talks.

"I hope when we walk out of here today, that would continue. Instead of taking up legislation, encourage us to go back and talk and work something out," he said.

On the larger issues triggered by the bill, Manning told the committee that the legislation could set a "troubling precedent" for the state if it is approved.

"There are in California 110 federally recognized tribes. Each of them has a different creation story and mythology," he said. "This bill will certainly send a signal that the Legislature is going to put itself in place in front of local government."

Last-minute legislation would help tribe in SoCal quarry fight
The Sacramento Bee, Mon., Aug. 22

Legislators will consider this week last-minute legislation that could give an influential Native American tribe the power to block a Southern California quarry project it opposes.

Assembly Bill 742, by Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, would require tribes to sign off on reclamation projects proposed within certain distances of a sacred site, reservation boundaries and the waterways connected to the Santa Margarita River -- specifications designed to meet the proposed Liberty Quarry project in Riverside County.

Deadlines for introducing and holding policy hearings on proposed legislation have long passed, but the measure surfaced last week in the form of amendments to a bill that had already cleared the Assembly. A special hearing of the Senate Natural Resources Committee on the so-called "gut-and-amend" legislation has been scheduled for Tuesday.

The legislative intervention comes as the local fight over the approval process has been heating up between the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians and Granite Construction, the firm pursuing the project. The tribe is seeking to derail the project on the grounds that the quarry, which is not on reservation land, would impact a sacred site for its people.

Lowenthal Chief of Staff Will Shuck said the Pechanga tribe brought the issue to the Long Beach Democrat's attention because it felt its cultural concerns were not being heard by local authorities involved in the project's approval.

"I think (the tribe) had been watching the local process in which they had been told pretty plainly that the decision makers down there were discounting the importance of this site of creation," Shuck said. "She agreed that that was worthy of assistance."

A fairly long list of legislators from both sides of the aisle have agreed, signing on as co-authors as the bill advances in the final weeks of the legislative session.

Granite Construction's Gary Johnson disagreed, saying the bill, which is opposed by a coalition of labor and business groups, "hijacks land use authority from local governments." He said the tribe has "been inconsistent in their position" that the quarry site encompasses sacred land, adding that the representatives did not raise such concerns in earlier meetings on the project and has supported other development plans for the area in the past.

Supporters of the quarry project, which was proposed in 2005 and has been undergoing mandatory environmental impact reviews, say it would create jobs and provide asphalt and concrete for Southern California projects. The Riverside County Planning Commission is set to vote on the project later this month.


Anti-Liberty Quarry bill set for committee hearing Tuesday
The Californian, Mon., Aug. 22

A bill that would prohibit rock quarries on land considered sacred by the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians will be taken up Tuesday by the state Senate's Natural Resources and Water Committee.

The meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. in Sacramento. Audio of the meeting will be streamed online through the committee's website:http://sntr.senate.ca.gov/agenda .

The urgency legislation, AB 742, was authored by Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, and is sponsored by the Pechanga tribe.

Granite Construction, a Northern California-based company, has blasted the legislation as an eleventh-hour job-killer that would move land-use decisions related to its Liberty Quarry project to Sacramento, where the tribe has spent millions in contributions.

Granite has been working for years to secure approval for a 400-acre aggregate mine near the western boundaries of the tribe's reservation and Temecula's southern border.

The Riverside County Planning Commission is expected to wrap up its review of the project next week and send its recommendations to the county Board of Supervisors.

The tribe has said that the project, which would produce up to 5 million tons of aggregate at peak production, would destroy a mountain sacred to its people. It sponsored the legislation after the county's environmental review deemed the land culturally "insignificant," tribal Chairman Mark Macarro said.

Gary Johnson, Granite project manager, and Karie Reuther, a company spokeswoman, said Tuesday that they will be attending the hearing. The city of Temecula is sending a contingent that includes council members Jeff Comerchero and Maryann Edwards.

Fred Bartz, a member of two anti-quarry groups, will be on hand as well to represent area residents who oppose the project.


Anti-quarry bill would protect tribe's creation-story landscape
The Californian, Wed., Aug. 17

An Assembly bill sponsored by the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians would prohibit the approval of a rock quarry if it sits on land that the tribe says is the setting of its creation story.

The bill, which is being opposed by both Northern California-based Granite Construction and some labor unions, is being fast-tracked by Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, because of Granite's Liberty Quarry project, a 400-acre aggregate rock mine proposed for land just west of the tribe's reservation.

The Riverside County Planning Commission is expected to wrap up its review of the mine at the end of the month and send its recommendation to the county Board of Supervisors, which will have the final say.

According to the text of the bill, AB 742, a local agency may not approve a reclamation plan for an aggregate quarry if the site is on or within 2,000 yards of the external boundaries of an Indian reservation, 5,000 yards of a site that is an American Indian sacred site, or 4,000 yards of the Santa Margarita River---- unless the tribe whose reservation is nearest the operation consents.

A reclamation plan, required for a quarry to be approved, details how a particular piece of land will be rehabilitated and returned to nature when a mine or quarry is exhausted.

The bill was introduced Tuesday. Will Shuck, Lowenthal's Sacramento-based spokesman, said it will be sent to the state Senate's Natural Resources Committee soon.

That could take a few weeks, but Shuck said that when the bill hits the committee, it will need to be acted upon, setting up a vote that will show how much support it has in the state Capitol.

If it clears the committee, Shuck said it will go to both the Assembly and the Senate for consideration. That would need to happen before the Legislature recesses in early September.

"There's a lot of work to be done in a short amount of time," he said.

Granite has decried the bill as an eleventh-hour maneuver by the tribe that would take land-use decision-making away from local politicians ---- in this case, the county Board of Supervisors ---- and give it to Sacramento.

Opponents of the project ---- a list that includes the tribe and the city of Temecula ---- have criticized the company as being hypocritical because it opposed the city's bid to annex the quarry site, which would have allowed the city to control the land's zoning.

In an effort to thwart passage of the bill, Granite has secured the support of both the California State Council of Laborers and the Bell Gardens-based Cement Masons' Local No. 600 in recent days.

Jose Mejia, director of the laborers union, said in an Aug. 15 letter to Assembly Majority Leader John Perez, D-Los Angeles, that the legislation would set a precedent that would negatively affect the Liberty Quarry project and cause other unintended consequences.

"This last minute attempt by the chairman of a sovereign government to circumvent local land use authority is inappropriate and this legislature should not agree," Mejia wrote.

Fred Bartz, a member of two anti-quarry groups, said Tuesday that one of the groups, Save Our Southwest Hills, planned to meet and consider mounting a lobbying offensive to counter Granite's moves.

"Granite's been busy," he said.

After the tribe announced two weeks ago that it was sponsoring the bill, Granite and its allies slammed the legislation as a jobs killer that would make the state even more unfriendly for businesses.

To help blunt some of that criticism, the legislation was tailored, Shuck said, to specifically cover the Santa Margarita River area, which means other quarry projects in the state won't be affected if it passes.

Members of the Pechanga have compared the area, especially the point where the Murrieta and Temecula creeks converge to form the river, to the Bible's Garden of Eden, which is considered by many faiths to be the wellspring of humanity.

Granite officials have said the quarry site is 1.7 miles away from the creation site, which is farther away than the tribe's golf course. They also have called the tribe hypocritical for supporting the city's attempt to annex the quarry, which would have allowed the construction of homes on the proposed quarry site.

Tribal officials have said that they supported annexation because they believed the city would not have approved the quarry.

In a statement issued Wednesday afternoon, tribe Chairman Mark Macarro said the tribe was forced to seek the legislation because county planners have deemed its place of creation as "insignificant."

"This bill is about protecting the one and only Place of Creation of the Pechanga and Luiseno People from the annihilation this massive mine would bring," he said.


 

Quarry hearing nears end of line
Temecula.Patch.com
Mon., Aug. 15

One final meeting will decide the fate of a mile-long proposed quarry adjacent to Temecula.

The Planning Commission held the fifth hearing for the project today at Rancho Community Church.

The meeting ran 11 hours -- an epic meeting by most standards, but shorter than the last quarry meeting, which ran more than 16 hours.

To read about that meeting, click here.

The commission closed the public comments and testimony sections of the hearing today, leaving only the deliberation section. This was scheduled for 3 p.m. on Aug. 31 at the County Administrative Center in Riverside.

The crowd dwindled significantly since the first politically and emotionally charged hearing. About 2,000 people were present for the first hearing. Only about 200 attended today.

To read about the first meeting, click here. To see a video of an impassioned outburst during the first meeting, click here.

Granite Construction rebutted many of the arguments made against the project during previous meetings. Also, the planning commissioners were able to grill a Granite representative on the project.

One of the most contentious issues was Pechanga's recent claim that the quarry is too close to a site sacred in their religion.

It is near the place where the world was created, which is the same place the first mortal man was cremated, said Paul Macarro.

To read about Pechanga and Granite's disagreement, click here.

Commissioners also interrogated Granite about why they chose to put the quarry just north of the San Diego County line despite saying 80 percent of the aggregate it mines will go to San Diego County.

Regardless of where the county line lies, the proposed quarry's site is only 10 minutes from the center of the company's target market, Gary Johnson, the company's aggregate manager, told the commissioners.

"If we moved the quarry 4,500 feet south, it would all be in San Diego County," Johnson said.

"I shouldn't say this," Commissioner John Roth retorted with a wry smile, "but could you do that?"

Another commissioner accused Granite of choosing a site in Riverside County because San Diego County officials avoid permitting quarries.

"I can't understand why you wouldn't look to San Diego," Commissioner John Snell said to Johnson.

The application process to build Granite's Rosemary's Quarry in San Diego County took 23 years to complete, Johnson said.

 

Tribe, Granite fight over sacred site
Temecula.Patch.com
Mon., Aug. 15

The site of a proposed quarry near Temecula is on holy ground, according to the Pechanga Tribe. A company planning to mine the site says that's a lie.

Representatives of the tribe and Granite Construction faced off today during a meeting at Rancho Community Church.

The meeting aims to let the Riverside County Planning Commission hear arguments for and against the planned Liberty Quarry and decide whether to approve permits that will allow a mile-long mine adjacent to Temecula's southern border.

To read more about the plan, click here.

The site of the quarry is near where the world was created, and where the first person ever to die was cremated, according to Pechanga leaders.

To see a video of a tribal chairman telling the creation story, click here.

The tribe authored legislation that would stop quarries from being developed near Native American sacred sites.

Click here to read about the tribe's plan. Click here to read about Granite Construction's reaction.

Representatives of the tribe and Granite laid out their positions on this proposed legislation today.

Commissioner Jim Porras asked Paul Macarro, the tribe's cultural coordinator, why Pechanga failed to object to a plan Temecula developed to annex the land. That plan would technically allow the city to put more than 80 houses on the site.

Granite officials accused the tribe of supporting a plan to build houses on the alleged sacred site in an emailed announcement today.

To read the announcement, click on the photo gallery above.

Planning commissioners grilled Macarro about this during the meeting.

"You're replacing one development with another,” Porras asked Macarro. “Why didn't you do something preemptive when you had the resources to do so?"

The tribe never took a stand against the annexation because the city would never permit the quarry, and because building houses on the site would be next to impossible, according to Jacob Mejia, the spokesperson for the tribe.

"Nobody would've imagined a development like that at this site," he said later in the meeting.

The area has no utilities or roads and is very mountainous, making it an impractical place for housing development, Mejia said.

The existing zoning laws do permit this use, though it's unlikely, according to a Planning Department staff report.

"Both city and county land use plans would technically allow for approximately 80 single-family units within the subject area. However, due to severe constraints on public service availability, access and site topography, it is unlikely that more than a few units, if that, will ever be built, regardless in which jurisdiction the property untimely lies," reads a Planning Department staff report.

Building houses would also contradict the plans the city announced at the time, which included turning it into a nature preserve.

“The goal of our attempted annexation was to preserve and protect the open space and rural character of the area, pure and simple,” said Councilmember Jeff Comerchero after the meeting in an emailed announcement. “Granite Construction’s assertion that Pechanga supported development at the project site is a gross misrepresentation of the facts."

To read Pechanga's announcment reacting to Granite's claims, click on the photo gallery above.

Regardless of the creation site's importance, the quarry would be far away from it, said Gary Johnson, aggregate manager for Granite.

“From the tribe's own maps, our project site lies outside the property identified as Pechanga’s creation site," he said via email. "Pechanga’s own golf course is closer to the tribe’s creation site than Liberty Quarry."

Inland bills in play in final weeks
The Press-Enterprise, Mon., Aug. 15

Bills to determine whether California blocks a Temecula-area quarry, licenses online gambling, or restores budget cuts to cities will be among the measures in the mix when lawmakers return today from summer recess and begin a busy four weeks of legislating.

Between now and when the regular session ends Sept. 9, lawmakers will act on hundreds of bills, including some that have yet to take shape. Other measures likely will be put off to 2012.

A bill strongly opposed by the insurance industry would require health plans to get state approval before they could raise rates. Another bill would tighten rules on red-light cameras.

And the Brown administration has said it wants to alter June budget legislation that imposes a $150 fire fee on properties in rural areas, including more than 100,000 in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, where the state has the main firefighting responsibility. Officials want to make it clear the money would go to the state.

Other legislation also has special significance for Inland Southern California.

For the third year in a row, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians in Cabazon will try to get lawmakers to make California the first state to legalize online poker.

The tribe and the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians near San Bernardino are the dominant members in a consortium of tribes and card clubs pushing the proposal. Former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown is among those making the case for the proposal.

Supporters say that license fees included in the bill, SB 40, would mean an immediate $250 million for the state general fund. But other tribes oppose the bill, arguing that it would undermine traditional casinos and give too much power to the consortium.

Late last week, it seemed that neither the bill backed by the Morongo tribe nor SB 45, a competing measure by state Sen. Rod Wright, D-Los Angeles, the chairman of the Senate committee that oversees tribal gambling, had enough support to pass.

Alicia Trost, a spokeswoman for Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, said it is "still unclear" if the Senate will take up the issue this year.

QUARRY BILL

Another tribe-related measure looks to be a major fight in the final weeks.

The Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians near Temecula is sponsoring legislation designed to block Granite Construction Inc.'s Liberty Quarry project near Temecula. The bill is expected to emerge this week.

Tribal leaders contend that the quarry would desecrate land that is sacred to the tribe and the source of their history. Officials at Watsonville-based Granite say they were blindsided by the tribe's objections.

The Pechanga tribe, a top political player in the Capitol, has recruited co-authors from both sides of the aisle. It also can count on the support of at least some other successful gaming tribes.

Granite also has significant influence in Sacramento, and its unionized workforce gives the company an inroad with labor-friendly Democrats. Construction unions are lining up against the measure.

State Sen. Bill Emmerson, R-Hemet, said he plans to meet with representatives of the tribe this week.

"I've certainly not heard anyone express such a level of opposition as we're seeing now," Emmerson said. "It seems like something has really changed in the discussion and I want to get to the bottom of it."

BUDGET CUTS

Cities and some law-enforcement groups, meanwhile, are trying to restore cuts in the $88.5 billion general fund budget passed in June.

The package shifted vehicle license-fee money for cities to grant programs for local law-enforcement agencies. All cities lost money, but none more so than four Riverside County cities that have incorporated since 2004: Wildomar, Eastvale, Jurupa Valley and Menifee.

Cutbacks have already begun in Eastvale, which stands to lose $3.4 million, or 38 percent of its annual general fund revenue this year.

The Eastvale City Council voted July 13 to slash $535,000 from its 2011-2012 general fund budget. The city will save an additional $450,000 by not hiring a professional firm to prepare a general plan, which the state requires of all new municipalities.

In addition, the city is opting to have city staff draft a general plan using Riverside County's general plan as a basis, said Robert Van Nort, Eastvale's interim city manager. Council members also voted to cut Planning Department hours from four days to two days a week. Eastvale's Planning Commission, which has been meeting twice a month, will now meet once a month.

Jason Gonsalves of Gonsalves & Son, a Sacramento lobbying firm hired by the cities, said he is hopeful of a legislative fix.

There are major hurdles to any solution, however. Revenue for July, the budget's first month, was $539 million below projections.

In addition, many of the Democrats who voted for the budget are unlikely to appreciate city efforts to block its shift of $1.7 billion in local redevelopment money to schools, relieving the state of the cost. The California Supreme Court took up the case last week.

There also is talk of trying to restore at least some of a temporary increase in people's vehicle license fees that was part of a February 2009 budget deal and expired July 1. Some of that money paid for the law-enforcement grants.

Republicans and Democrats failed to reach a deal to continue the fee. It's unclear if a second attempt would be any more successful.

Staff writer Sandra Stokley contributed to this report.

Sacredness of Temecula-area quarry site adds to fight
The Press-Enterprise, Sat., Aug. 13

Imagine having the Garden of Eden in your backyard and watching it disappear, one explosive blast at a time.

Leaders of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians say something similar will happen if a proposed Temecula-area quarry is approved in the area where they believe the world began.
"The origin of the Luiseño people is the single most important account in our culture," Tribal Chairman Mark Macarro said. "Our present-day practices, beliefs and social structure are directly related to our creation."

The tribe has gone before the Riverside County Planning Commission to fight Liberty Quarry, a proposed open-pit mine just over Interstate 15 from their reservation. Known for its casino, the tribe is backing legislation in Sacramento that would block the project by banning aggregate mining near American Indian reservations and sacred sites.

Not only would the quarry desecrate hallowed land for the 1,500-member tribe, its operations would be "blowing it up," said Paul Macarro, the tribe's cultural coordinator and Mark Macarro's brother.

Quarry developer Granite Construction contends that, for years, the tribe never said the quarry site was sacred. Company executives say the tribe's stance is inconsistent because it had no qualms about building a casino on its reservation, nor did it object in 2009 to zoning that could have put 81 homes on the quarry site.
Pechanga Chairman
Rodrigo Peña / Freelance Photographer

Pechanga Tribal Chairman Mark Macarro is trying for a legislative route to block the proposed Liberty Quarry from damaging this land.

"In our over 89 years of continuous operation in California, we have a strong history of working hand-in-hand with local tribes," Granite's Gary Johnson said in a news release. "So this latest development is appalling to us."

Part of an 8,500-page environmental study paid for by Granite and vetted by Riverside County planners in 2009 concluded the quarry would not harm "tribal archaeological resources" at the site. The tribe disagrees with the study and said county planners ignored their concerns.
Granite wants to build a quarry on at least 135 acres of a 414-acre site sandwiched between Temecula and San Diego County. At its deepest point, the quarry would extend 1,020 feet into the ground. The Empire State Building is 1,250 feet tall.

For 75 years, Granite would use explosives to blast away a projected 270 million tons of aggregate, tiny rocks used as building materials. Asphalt and concrete also would be made at the site. Most of the aggregate would be carried by truck into San Diego County.

Supporters say the quarry would support high-paying jobs, generate hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes and fees and solve an aggregate shortage that threatens to derail economic recovery efforts. Granite also said the quarry would be unnoticed from the outside and improve air quality because diesel-spewing trucks wouldn't have to travel as far for aggregate.
Critics say the quarry would worsen truck traffic; cause air, noise and light pollution; spoil a neighboring wilderness preserve; sever a crucial wildlife corridor and hurt tourism.

Unless the anti-quarry bill passes -- a vote could come before Sept. 9 -- the Riverside County Board of Supervisors will decide whether the quarry is approved. The Planning Commission's fifth hearing on the project is at 9 a.m. Monday at Rancho Community Church, 30300 Rancho Community Way, Temecula. The panel eventually will vote on a series of findings before supervisors take up the issue.

CREATION STORY

The tribe's history in the area pre-dates by far the city and surrounding area.

Archaeological records show the tribe, one of six bands of Luiseño Indians, has been in the Temecula Valley for at least 10,000 years. The word Luiseño is derived from Mission San Luis Rey de Francia, founded by Spanish missionaries in 1798. The mission established supporting ranchos in the region that used Indians as forced labor.

In 1875, a posse led by the San Diego County sheriff evicted the tribe from its village in what is now Temecula. Seven years later, President Chester A. Arthur established the Pechanga Indian Reservation, which today occupies roughly 6,800 acres just south of the city.

The tribe's customs and beliefs are deeply personal and until the quarry proposal, the tribe did not discuss its creation story in public, tribal officials said. The tribe fears its heritage could be distorted.

In the tribe's creation story, the world was born from the sky father and earth mother at "éxva Teméku" (Eck-vah tem-MEH-koo). This place, analogous to the Garden of Eden in the Bible, is roughly where two creeks combine to form the Santa Margarita River, which flows near the quarry site.
Sacred Site
The proposed Liberty Quarry site includes land that is central to the Pechanga tribe's beliefs about the creation of the world.

The first people, known as "Káamalam" (KAH-mah-lum), lived in "Káamalam Pomkí" (poam-KEY), which is in the hills above Temecula and includes the quarry site. Among the Káamalam was "Wuyóot" (We-YOUT).

Wuyóot was gifted with special knowledge and learned to make the first food to feed the Káamalam. But he was poisoned and died, marking the first time death ever visited the new world. The rocks cried in mourning.

Wuyóot was cremated at Káamalam Pomkí. Many tribal burial customs, including songs and the burning of clothes, arose from this funeral, Mark Macarro said.

After Wuyóot's death, the Káamalam gathered in a Grand Council at Káamalam Pomkí. It was decided then that some Káamalam would become stars, rocks and other parts of the natural world. After that, the first people dispersed from Temecula to all points of creation.

'ON THE FRONT END'

Tribal officials say they are battling the Liberty Quarry for an important reason.

They've already lost too much sacred land to development, including the exact spot where Wuyóot was poisoned -- now home to the Granite-run Rosemary's Mountain Quarry in the San Diego County community of Fallbrook.

"We're in a position where we got involved in this project on the front end, rather than decades behind," Mark Macarro said.

The permitting process for Rosemary's began 20 years ago and the tribe at the time "was not equipped as a tribe" to object, he said.

While the tribe struggled to get by for generations, that began to change with its first casino in 1995 and the modern casino/resort's opening in 2002. Members now receive annual payments, health insurance and other benefits.

The tribe also enjoys considerable political sway. In 2010 alone, the tribe contributed more than $875,000 to state and local political causes and candidates, state records show.

As to why the tribe had never before sought protection for what became the Liberty Quarry site, Mark Macarro pointed out that it lies outside the reservation boundaries imposed on the tribe in 1882.

Land far beyond the Temecula area once belonged to his people, Mark Macarro said. So many acres were taken from the tribe that it would be impossible to reclaim and protect them all, he said. Also, tribal officials added, they didn't move to preserve the sacred spot because no one ever envisioned a project like the quarry would be proposed there.

FIRST OBJECTIONS

When Granite pitched the quarry project in 2005, company officials met with the tribe, said Johnson , then Granite's Southern California resource manager. The tribe never mentioned the site was sacred until 2009, Johnson said.

Mark Macarro called the meeting an informal "meet-and-greet" session with the tribe at the behest of local lawmakers. Under state law, Riverside County, not Granite, is the proper authority with which to share sensitive cultural information, he said.

Tribal officials said they informed county officials and others about the site's importance and sacredness as early as August 2005 and again throughout the years. The environmental study, which found the quarry wouldn't harm cultural resources, ignores the tribe's concerns, they say.
County officials, in written responses to a letter from a lawyer representing the tribe, maintained the tribe was repeatedly consulted as the study was written and that quarry site surveys were done with tribal monitors present.

If the quarry is approved, Granite must have tribal and archeological monitors present during any grading or excavating, according to proposed conditions of the project. Other conditions include "cultural resource sensitivity" training for quarry employees prior to the project's construction and operation.

Granite also contends that when Temecula tried to annex the quarry site in 2009, it proposed zoning that would have allowed up to 81 homes there. The tribe supported the annexation, Granite spokeswoman Karie Reuther said.

Tribal public affairs representative Jacob Mejia said the site's existing zoning already permits housing. There was never a plan to build homes and there likely never will be due to the site's remote, hilltop location, tribal officials said.

'VERY EMOTIONAL'

Reuther and Johnson also question why the tribe would find it acceptable to build a 200,000-square-foot casino, 522-room hotel and 18-hole golf course on its land but oppose the quarry.
Paul Macarro said the tribe's development was planned to respect sacred or significant landmarks. There's a difference, tribal officials say, between culturally important sites and sacred land such as the proposed quarry site.

Mark Macarro said the tribe is not anti-development or even anti-mine.

"We are pro-balanced development," he said, calling the quarry the wrong project in the wrong location.

Tribal leaders said it's their duty to protect their culture now that they have the organization and resources to do so.

"This is on our watch that we may lose this most cornerstone aspect of our culture," Paul Macarro said. "It's very emotional."

CALTRANS NO LONGER LISTED AS QUARRY SUPPORTER
The Californian, Fri., Aug. 12

The director of the California Department of Transportation's District 8, a territory that includes Riverside and San Bernardino counties, is no longer listed as a supporter of Granite Construction's Liberty Quarry project.

The change was made by Granite after District 8 Director Ray Wolfe sent a letter July 28 that was copied to both Riverside County Supervisor Bob Buster and Anne Mayer, the executive director of the Riverside County Transportation Commission.

From the letter: "Caltrans is not taking a position on the Liberty Quarry project, and to the extent that our previous correspondence was viewed as such, we apologize for any confusion."

"Previous correspondence," according to the July 28 letter, includes a letter sent to the same officials July 13. That letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Californian, asks the officials to "keep in mind" the need for the project for supplying a critically needed resource as well as the environmental benefits of reducing truck traffic through Riverside County and reducing associated mobile source emissions.

"It will benefit Riverside County and local taxpayers in the long run," Wolfe wrote.

Northern California-based Granite has proposed operating the mine within a 400-acre property between the San Diego County line and Temecula's southern border. At full capacity, the 135-acre quarry is expected to generate 5 million tons of aggregate rock per year.

After the Planning Commission completes its review of the project, its recommendations will be sent to the county Board of Supervisors, which will have the final say. The commission meets again to discuss the project at 9 a.m. Monday at Rancho Community Church in Temecula.

Gary Johnson, the project manager for the quarry, explained Granite's decision to remove Caltrans from the list of supporters on promotional materials.

"Since they didn't mention Liberty Quarry by name, we thought we would remove it," he said.

Numerous state agencies including Caltrans have noted the benefits of more local aggregate facilities, he said.

"Obviously, Liberty Quarry is one of those," he said.

In addition, Johnson said detailed studies show that Liberty Quarry would reduce truck traffic in Riverside County by up to 16.5 million truck miles per year.

Opponents of the proposed quarry, a list that includes the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians and grass-roots groups such as Save Our Southwest Hills, applauded the decision to remove Caltrans as a supporter.

"That letter (July 28) only reconfirms what were told by the former head of Caltrans (Randy Iwasaki) back in 2010," said Fred Bartz, a member of both SOS Hills and Clean Air Temecula, another anti-quarry group. "A state agency is not supposed to support a private project."

Bartz and some other anti-quarry folks met with Iwasaki after Wolfe appeared during a Local Agency Formation Commission hearing in Riverside in 2009 to consider Temecula's request to annex land on its southern borders that included the quarry property.

At the time, Bartz and others felt it was inappropriate for Wolfe to appear and discuss the need for aggregate, especially because the topic wasn't even being considered by the county boundary-setting agency.

As for why Wolfe felt it was necessary to apologize for any confusion sparked by his July 13 letter, Wolfe did not respond to multiple messages. When pressed late last week, his office released a "no comment" as his official response.

Responding to multiple calls Wednesday to state Caltrans officials in Sacramento, a department spokeswoman, Irene Coyazo, issued a statement Thursday.

"Caltrans sent the letter confirming our intention to provide factual information on the importance of aggregate for state transportation projects, rather than to support any specific project," she said.

New front opens in land use war over divisive Liberty Quarry Plan
Tim O'Leary, The Valley News
Fri., Aug. 12, 2011

TEMECULA – A Temecula-based Indian tribe has opened a new front in a years-long land use war over plans to develop a mine wedged between its reservation, the city and a sprawling ecological reserve.

The Pechanga tribe has announced it is seeking state legislation that would block the development of Liberty Quarry. The legislation, Assembly Bill 742, would extend Indian sacred site protections to lands near that quarry and others proposed throughout California. The mine, according to Pechanga’s spokesman and tribal chairman, would threaten "the very birthplace of creation for Pechanga and other Luiseno tribes."

As expected, the tribe’s push for a bill has drawn sharp criticism from Granite Construction Co., the mine’s developer.

"Granite is extremely disappointed to learn about this last minute end run around the local and state land use process," said Gary Johnson, Granite’s resource manager for Southern California. "In our over 89 years of continuous operation in California we have a strong history of working hand-in-hand with local tribes, so this latest development is appalling to us."

The shift from a regional to a statewide stage comes as Riverside County planning commissioners prepare for a fifth hearing on one of the most contentious, drawn-out reviews in that panel’s history. The hearing is set to begin at 9 a.m. Monday at Rancho Community Church, one of the Temecula area’s largest venues.

The legislation, which is expected to be formally introduced soon and would have a short window period in the current session, is the latest twist in a 6-year-old controversy. It has played out during a costly land annexation by the city, dozens of public hearings and numerous rallies by foes of Granite’s plan to extract 270 million tons of sand and gravel over a 75-year period from the site in the hills at Temecula’s southern boundary.

The 414-acre mine site is nestled behind a bluff overlooking a California Highway Patrol truck inspection and weigh station west of Interstate 15 near the San Diego County border. A development alternative favored by county planners would allow Granite to mine aggregate from a 135-acre portion of the site. Nine acres of the site would be used for a service road, and much of the remaining land would be set aside as open space.

If approved, the mine project could include a concrete plant, a pair of asphalt batch plants, offices, a truck scale, runoff settling ponds and truck and equipment storage areas.

The mine site flanks a sensitive San Diego State University nature reserve and research station that is split by the Santa Margarita River, which forms at the confluence of several creeks in the Temecula area and flows 27 miles to the ocean.

Project proponents cite jobs and tax revenues as benefits of the quarry. Mine foes have raised concerns over health risks, lower property values and lost tourism.

Pechanga Chairman Mark Macarro and other tribal leaders and lawyers made a dramatic public entry into the controversy during a June commission hearing. About eight tribal representatives, including several Tribal Council members, criticized Granite, the quarry plan and the environmental review process. Macarro and some of the other leaders began their remarks with greetings in their native Luiseno language.

Several Pechanga leaders detailed the tribe’s creation story, much of which centers around the lofty perch where the mine would be located. They said that mountain is sacred to the tribe, and allowing mining there would be similar to desecrating a cathedral, temple or other holy site.

Macarro and the tribe have continued to press that claim with their request to Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach.

Lowenthal said she shares the tribe’s concerns over sacred sites.

"I believe respecting another’s religious beliefs is key to a healthy society," Lowenthal said in a news release. "And there’s probably no better place to demonstrate this than on a mountain where some believe life itself began."

The release states that more than 30 legislators support the bill, which must be passed by Sept. 9 or else it would need to be reintroduced next year. If passed, the bill would prohibit aggregate mining within 5,000 yards of an Indian reservation or native historic site. The Pechanga reservation is about 500 yards away from the mine site, and much of a former Luiseno village anchors the western boundary of the adjacent Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve.

It is possible that the county review process could spill over into next year. The Planning Commission, which has been reviewing the project since April, is charged with making a recommendation to county supervisors on whether Liberty quarry should be approved or denied.

As they have on other key points, Granite and Pechanga differ over when the tribe first raised the sacred site issue.

"We have been engaged with the Pechanga leadership, Tribal Council and tribal membership since we first introduced our project in 2005," Johnson said. "It was almost four years after we first briefed the Tribal Council before we heard any indication that they may have issue with this (quarry) site."

Macarro countered that the tribe became concerned after it reviewed the project’s draft environmental impact report. That prompted the tribe to give the county information that spotlighted the area’s cultural significance, Macarro said. He said some of Granite’s experts acknowledged that connection in a May 2009 report, yet county planners identified the level of cultural concern as "less than significant."

That finding angered the tribe and triggered the push for legislation, Macarro said.

"Because county planners have failed to honor the spirit of the law designed to protect such areas, we are forced to seek additional legislation to protect our place of creation from destruction."

Mixed reviews of quarry planner
The Press-Enterprise, Sat., Aug. 6

Granite Construction, which wants to build Liberty Quarry near Temecula, prides itself on character, something it says drives everything it does.

Its quarry plan, however, faces strong opposition as it slugs through daylong public hearings attended by thousands. Project foes, who say the quarry would ruin the environment, point to Granite's history of fines and citations as proof the company can't be trusted to safely run the operation. Meanwhile, some cities and business groups back the project as an economic boon, and those who have worked with Granite say the company is top-notch and professional.

Such opposing viewpoints paint a complex portrait of the 89-year-old corporation with interests far beyond southwest Riverside County. Headquartered in Watsonville, about an hour south of San Jose, Granite works in 18 states and makes most of its money building highways, bridges, airports and dams.

Granite has more than 40 active open-pit quarries in the western United States, including one in the Riverside County desert city of Indio and a quarry in the San Diego County community of Fallbrook. Granite is one of the top five or 10 aggregate producers in California, said Gary Hambly, president and CEO of the California Construction and Industrial Materials Association.

The company has won awards for its ethics, workplace atmosphere and commitment to quality. Granite paved the first roads in Yosemite National Park, has worked in Las Vegas and built California freeways.

Yet Granite also has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars -- perhaps more -- for violating regulations. This year, for example, it settled a lawsuit for $400,000 and paid $21,300 to settle a penalty stemming from a workplace fatality.

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Gary Johnson, Granite's public face on Liberty Quarry matters, said the company does its best to follow the rules.

"We make mistakes and we correct them as soon as we are aware of it," Johnson said. "You try and stop them all."

Granite wants to build a quarry on a hilly, 414-acre site between Temecula and San Diego County. Over 75 years, Granite expects to blast away 270 million tons of aggregate, tiny rocks used in construction. The quarry also would produce asphalt and concrete.

Quarry supporters contend the project will support more than 200 jobs, generate $300 million in sales tax revenue and solve a regional aggregate shortage. It also would improve air quality because diesel trucks wouldn't have to go as far to haul aggregate, quarry backers say.

Critics say the quarry would cause noise and light pollution, overwhelm roads with trucks, hurt a $600 million tourism industry and spoil an adjacent ecological reserve. Diesel truck exhaust -- and microscopic silica dust from quarry operations -- would pose a regional health risk, opponents argue.

The Riverside County Planning Commission's fifth hearing on the quarry -- one lasted for 15 hours -- is set for Aug. 15 in Temecula, but would still go before the county Board of Supervisors.

A new bill coming before the state Legislature aims to kill the quarry. The legislation would ban aggregate mining within 2,000 yards of an Indian reservation and 5,000 yards of a tribal sacred site. The Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians contends the quarry is 500 yards from its reservation.

BIG MONEY, PROJECTS

Granite's roots date to 1922, when it began as an offshoot of Granite Rock Co. One of Granite Construction's earliest contracts was to build the first paved roads in Yosemite National Park. The company earned $245,000 in revenue in its first year.

Granite went public in 1990 and is listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Last year, it took in nearly $1.8 billion in revenue, more than 85 percent of which came from construction, according to its 2010 annual report. Construction materials, such as aggregate, accounted for roughly 13 percent.

Granite posted a net loss of $62.4 million in 2010, the first time the company ever lost money, according to Johnson, Granite's aggregate resource development manager. Between 2006 and 2009, Granite's average annual profit was $118.3 million.

Most of Granite's business comes from government contracts. The company helped build an extension of the Las Vegas monorail system and is in a partnership to build a transportation/rail hub on part of the World Trade Center site.

In the Inland area, Granite helped construct the Diamond Valley Lake reservoir near Hemet and is now working on an Interstate 10 interchange in the Coachella Valley and an Interstate 15 exit in Murrieta. It also built a bridge on Pechanga Parkway in Temecula.

Liberty Quarry's products would be sold to outside parties and used by Granite on its projects, Johnson said. He said the quarry is "very important" to Granite as it seeks to grow its presence in western Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

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company chart

AWARDS

Johnson, who has been with Granite 8½ years, said the company's ethical backbone attracted him. Granite makes employees sign a code of conduct committing them to being honest, fair, law-abiding and accountable.

This year and last, Granite was recognized as one of the world's most ethical companies by the Ethisphere Institute, a New York-based think tank dedicated to advancing corporate social responsibility, business ethics and a corruption-free culture. From 2004 to 2008, Fortune magazine named Granite one of the top 100 companies to work for in America.

Former Palm Desert councilman Buford Crites said he's dealt with Granite in various capacities for 25 years. "In their case, I would give them an A-plus," he said. "When they've said it, they've done it."

Granite has won dozens of awards from various state agencies and trade groups for its environmental stewardship, quality of construction and community involvement. Spokeswoman Karie Reuther has said Granite donated about $425,000 to Inland charities in recent years.

In Utah, Granite takes part in Clean Utah, a voluntary, state-run program that holds participants to higher environmental standards. Companies in the program must have no major violations for at least three years, Clean Utah administrator Paul Harding said.

Washington and Utah officials said they had no record of violations by Granite. California's Mining and Geology Board also reports no violations, and Granite only has a "very minor" infraction with the state Office of Mine Reclamation, spokesman Don Drysdale wrote in an email.

AIR QUALITY

Still, Granite's track record isn't as stellar with other agencies, especially those dealing with air quality.

From 1993 to 2009, the Nevada Environmental Commission imposed almost $89,000 in fines on Granite. The penalties are for eight incidents in which Granite's operations exceeded emission standards or failed to control airborne dust, records state.

In 1993, Granite paid $22,500 to settle a case in which Arizona officials accused the company of having too many particles in emissions from an asphalt plant, records show.

From 1997 to this year, the San Joaquin Air Pollution Control District has fined Granite more than $80,000 for almost 40 violations, according to records. Penalties included not keeping proper paperwork, lacking a dust-control plan and visible dust emissions.

District spokeswoman Jaime Holt said that, while it's difficult to compare Granite's record with the district's other permit holders, "Granite by no means jumps out as having a ton of violations."

The South Coast Air Quality Management District, which covers Riverside County, fined Granite $20,700 for seven violations involving airborne dust or visible emissions between May 2001 and December 2002, according to records. Granite has had no violations since then, records show.

Johnson said two violations stemmed from high winds at a construction project in La Quinta. Two others came at the Granite asphalt plant in Indio, but Granite replaced $1.5 million worth of components to prevent future problems, Johnson said.

Granite maintains that Liberty Quarry would have 78 measures to stop air pollution. All trucks using the quarry would have to meet modern clean-air rules and emissions would be closely monitored, according to Granite.

AGENCY FINES

In 2007, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality fined Granite $240,000 for water quality violations stemming from stormwater runoff from a highway project into a river. The department "expressed serious concerns about Granite Construction's failure" to consider water quality when it cleared 160 acres of steep terrain, a department news release stated.

In a 2008 letter to Liberty Quarry supporters, Johnson wrote that record rainfall caused the runoff. As part of its penalty, Granite spent $192,000 to enhance fish habitat in the area, he wrote. The company also changed management on the project.

Granite's quarries have been repeatedly fined by the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration, which regulates mine safety. While most fees were less than $1,000, Granite faced a $60,000 penalty after a worker at a Santa Cruz County quarry was killed in 2007 when a trench wall collapsed.

Investigators concluded that Granite's "management policies and procedures were inadequate and failed to ensure that persons could work safely at the reclamation site."

Granite appealed to the federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission, and the fine was reduced to $21,300. Granite officials say the worker who died ignored safety procedures and left his work area to enter an open excavation.

In April, Granite settled a lawsuit by the city of San Diego alleging it overcharged the city for wildlife debris cleanup. Granite paid $400,000 but admitted no wrongdoing. Granite has said the dispute arose from a misunderstanding over billing. Johnson said Granite settled because going to court would have cost the company at least $400,000.

Granite's compliance with regulations has improved, Johnson said. It regularly has days when work halts so workers can get extra training on safety and protecting the environment, he said.

Hambly, head of the constructional materials trade group, said mining is such a heavily regulated activity that companies such as Granite will invariably slip up.

"As long as you got human beings complying with a very complex regulatory environment, from time to time you're going to have a violation," he said.

Jerri Arganda, a member of the anti-quarry group Save Our Southwest Hills, said she's as concerned about Granite as she is about the quarry.

"I do not trust Granite Construction as far as I can throw them," she said. "I don't think that they care in any way about the residents that are going to be close to this project. ... It's just money to them."

Temecula Councilman Jeff Comerchero said Granite's history of fines speaks for itself.

"It goes to a style of doing business which essentially says, 'Say or do anything to get approved and if we violate our conditions, we'll just pay the fine,' " he said.

Johnson said Temecula's council has not taken the time to talk with Granite officials.

"You should try to get to know people doing business in the area instead of making bold statements," he said.

REGION: Anti-Liberty Quarry legislation being written
By AARON CLAVERIE aclaverie@californian.com
North County Times | Posted: Saturday, August 6, 2011 4:15 pm



The state's rules regarding mining for gold, copper, silver or other metallic minerals near a site sacred to American Indians are pretty clear-cut.

If the site is within one mile of the proposed mine, a lead agency cannot approve a reclamation plan for the project unless it meets certain criteria, with the most important being that the land will be returned to its "original contours."

On Thursday, the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians announced that it is sponsoring legislation that would amend the state's Public Resources Code to include aggregate operations on the list of mining activities that are restricted near sacred sites.

The legislation, anticipated to be introduced Aug. 15 by Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, is being pushed by the tribe because of Granite Construction's proposed Liberty Quarry. The company is requesting permission to dig the aggregate mine near the tribe's reservation.

Granite project manager Gary Johnson hasn't seen the legislation or an outline yet, but Friday afternoon he said he doesn't know how it would be possible to amend the code so that aggregate would be covered in the same manner as metallic minerals.

Those types of minerals make up a very small percentage of the material removed from a mine, he said, making returning the land to its "original contours" feasible.

Backfilling an aggregate facility, on the other hand, is "economically and environmentally a dumb idea," he said.

Will Shuck, a spokesman for Lowenthal, said Friday that numerous details of the legislation haven't been hammered out.

"We're still working it," he said, adding that the work probably will stretch through the weekend.
Offering a broad outline, he said the legislation would add "aggregate product operation" to the code and prescribe conditions or prohibitions that would be triggered by a mine being located within a certain distance of a site.

"We are trying to make it as site-specific as possible, so that it protects this site," he said.
When news of the proposed legislation broke last week, Granite quickly denounced the idea as a "job-killer," and Johnson said Friday that the company plans to mount an aggressive lobbying effort.

"We're going to fight it by putting the facts in front of people," he said. "It takes land use permitting authority away from a county and cities, and gives it to the Legislature in Sacramento."
Granite spokeswoman Karie Reuther also joined in, saying the legislation could affect quarries across the state and hinder development.

As part of its initial lobbying effort against the legislation, Granite released a chronology last week detailing its interactions with the tribe dating back to 2005.

"It is unbelieveable that Pechanga would now, six years into a process, try to take decision-making away from local government," Johnson said.

The tribe responded by saying that it has been on the record with the county ---- the lead agency ---- since August 2005 with specific cultural concerns about the project. Representatives said tribal leaders have said, repeatedly, that information regarding its sacred sites was not widely disseminated earlier to protect the highly sensitive locations.

Shuck said that the goal for Lowenthal's office is to have the legislation moved quickly so that it can be put to a vote before the early September recess.

Quarry supporter Adele Harrison, a Temecula area homeowner who lives near the Liberty Quarry site and the reservation's borders, Friday blasted the proposed Lowenthal legislation as "insane."
"Do we not have enough environmental regulations which don't allow us to dig, drill or build in this state?" she asked.

Harrison also questioned the timing of the tribe's announcement, saying that it's convenient for them to say it's a site of creation now that they want to keep the quarry out.

Quarry foes, meanwhile, were ecstatic when they received the news that the tribe was putting its weight and resources behind the legislation.

"They have the power and the prestige," said Jerri Arganda, a resident of Rainbow who serves as one of the opposition's leaders.

As for the timing, Arganda said the tribe stepped up years ago during a hearing held to consider Temecula's application to annex land that included the quarry site.

At the hearing, Arganda recalled, tribal Chairman Mark Macarro detailed the tribe's creation story and the mountain's role in that story.

"It was awesome," she said. "They don't open themselves up and tell the private things about their life and their people and the land."

Macarro and other tribal officials have since repeated the story at the Riverside County Planning Commission meetings on the project as they have worked to underscore the importance of the mountain to the Pechanga people. The next meeting is set for Aug. 15.

As to Granite's claim that the legislation would remove counties and cities from land use decisions, tribal representative Jacob Mejia brought up Granite's opposition to Temecula's bid to annex the quarry site, which, city officials argued, was a matter of "local control."

"For Granite to argue this circumvents the local process is highly insincere," he said.

Pechanga tribe fights proposed quarry
Temecula.Patch.com, Sat., Aug. 6

Pechanga Indians are fighting to protect what they consider to be the birthplace of their tribe.

The Pechanga band of Luiseno Indians recently announced it is sponsoring a bipartisan bill with more than 30 co-authors in the state Legislature.

The goal is to protect the mountain that is considered the birthplace of creation for Pechanga and other Luiseno tribes, tribal spokesperson Jacob Mejia said.

After reviewing Liberty Quarry’s Draft Environmental Impact Report, the Pechanga Band determined the 414-acre mine would damage the land.

“Our tribe participated in the environmental review process and took extraordinary and unprecedented steps to provide Riverside County with ethnographic and other evidence detailing the significance of this area to Pechanga,” tribal Chairman Mark Macarro said.

Despite Granite Construction's own ethnographic experts acknowledging the site as significant to the tribe, the county disagreed with the May 2009 study, which states that county supervisors “disagree with the Tribe's characterization of the area in and around the proposed project site.” The county found the cultural impacts to be “less than significant” under the California Enviromental Quality Act.

Macarro is incensed that county planners deemed their tribe's place of creation insignificant.

“That county planners deemed our tribe’s place of creation ‘insignificant’ under CEQA despite overwhelming and independent evidence to the contrary is disgraceful,” Macarro said.

“Because county planners have failed to honor the spirit of the law designed to protect such areas, we are forced to seek additional legislation to protect our place of creation from destruction,” he added.

Democratic assembly member Bonnie Lowenthal authrored the bill, AB 742. This bill would amend the Public Resources Code to include aggregate operations on the list of mining activities restricted near Native American sacred sites.

“I believe respecting one another’s religious beliefs is key to a healthy society,” said Lowenthal. “And there’s probably no better place to demonstrate this than on a mountain where some believe life itself began,” she said.

The controversial Liberty Quarry is also opposed by the City of Temecula, the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve that is immediately adjacent to the proposed area, thousands of residents, hundreds of businesses, more than 150 physicians that live and work in the Temecula Valley, Southern California Indian Tribes, and every federally recognized Luiseño Tribe, Mejia explained.

The Rose Institute of State and Local Government at Claremont Mckenna College analyzed Granite Construction's EIR.

Calculating all of the benefits and the costs associated with the proposed Liberty Quarry, the Rose Institute estimates that “the quarry will reduce property values by $540 million and cost the region an additional $80 million per year,” with an “estimated total cumulative net negative impact of $3.6 billion to the region.”

Traffic, cultural issues up next in quarry series
The Californian, Fri., Aug. 5

The Riverside County Planning Commission has covered a lot of ground so far during its review of Granite Construction's Liberty Quarry project.

Its members have listened to hundreds of speakers, quizzed experts on technical issues such as the hydrogeology of the proposed mine site and studied the mine's potential effect on the area's air quality.

But there are some large issues left to tackle.

When the commission reconvenes Aug. 15 for the fifth meeting on the proposed quarry, commissioners will discuss the traffic the project would generate and the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians' claim that the mine would destroy a site sacred to its people.

Karie Reuther, a Granite spokeswoman, said the company will be providing information on both of those topics.

In addition, she said Granite will be talking about the supply-and-demand issues that the company has argued make the mine important on a regional basis.

The company also will present new data to counter claims made by quarry opponents at the last hearing, Reuther said.

"We're going to rebut some of the rebuttals," she said.

Granite has proposed operating the mine within a 400-acre property between the San Diego County line and Temecula's southern border. At full capacity, the 135-acre quarry is expected to generate 5 million tons of aggregate rock per year.

After the Planning Commission completes its review of the project, the commission's recommendations will be sent to the county Board of Supervisors, which will have the final say.

A different format

On July 18, Granite presented rebuttals to criticism heaped upon the project and the county's environmental impact report at the June meeting.

The commissioners frequently interrupted the presentations to ask questions of the speaker. They also asked questions of representatives and experts called in by the city of Temecula, the Pechanga tribe and San Diego State University, which runs a field station in the ecological reserve to the west of the project site.

At times, multiple experts were standing together at the lectern, arguing their respective positions.

Reuther said the format, which the commission has indicated it will continue to employ, was unfair to the speakers and unusual as a matter of practice.

"It's common courtesy to allow them to do the whole thing," she said, referring to the more common process of allowing the speaker to talk without being interrupted by questions.

Setting the stage for the traffic discussion, the studies that were used by the county to estimate how traffic in Temecula and throughout the region would be affected by the quarry were picked apart by both a city of Temecula representative and Ray Johnson, an environmental law attorney.

During a telephone interview, Johnson said he's not sure it will be possible for Granite to rebut the criticisms, which included questions about the age of the studies ---- they were done during the height of the recent building boom ---- and the methodology.

"It's just indefensible," he said.

Traffic studies

Traffic has long been one of the selling points used by Granite while pitching the project. A study by Urban Crossroads indicated the quarry would significantly reduce the number of miles that trucks are driven on the region's roads because most of the aggregate produced by Liberty Quarry would be headed south to San Diego.

With Liberty Quarry in place, the trucks that had been streaming down from Corona and other quarries north of Temecula wouldn't be needed and truck traffic would be reduced by 16 million miles annually, according to the study.

Using more recent data from 2009, Johnson said, the 16 million figure is tossed on its head.

According to Johnson, the quarry would add 850,000 miles a year to local roads.

"That's kind of a significant difference," he said.

Other quarry foes have seized on the traffic studies in the county's environmental reports, noting what they consider to be errors and commissioning rival studies that show Liberty Quarry would not stop projects in San Diego from buying from Corona or Lake Elsinore-area quarries.

Tribal concerns

On cultural issues, Pechanga leaders and the tribe's legal counsel have said the quarry property, on land west of the reservation, is a sacred site tied to the tribe's creation story.

They have compared the mountain to the "holy sites" revered by various religions, and they are sponsoring legislation that would prohibit aggregate operations such as Liberty Quarry from being near sacred sites.

The measure is expected to be introduced Aug. 15, when the state Legislature reconvenes.

Reuther said Granite will make a presentation on that issue and the county's archaeologist has told the commission that no tangible tribal artifacts were found on the site.

Tribal members have said in response that the lack of artifacts only serves to underscore the sacred nature of the site to its people.

Asked if it would be possible for Granite to rebut the tribe's testimony, Pechanga Chairman Mark Macarro released a statement that said, "They have manipulated the rest of the independent science and data to try to justify their mega-mine, so we fully anticipate they will make a futile but likely offensive attempt at rewriting Pechanga's history.

"Pechanga has submitted an unprecedented amount of ethnographic and other evidence to the County supporting the fact that the area is the place of Creation and Origin for the Pechanga and Luiseno People. There is simply no disputing that truth."


Bill aims to kill Liberty Quarry
The Press-Enterprise, Thurs., Aug. 4

An influential Temecula-area tribe is pushing state legislation that could quash the proposed Liberty Quarry project in an effort to protect land it considers sacred.

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have signed on to the measure by Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach.

Lowenthal plans to insert the proposal into an existing bill after lawmakers return from their summer recess on Aug. 15. The bill already has more than 30 co-sponsors, according to the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, which back the legislation.

"A sacred site is exactly what the name implies. It is special and set aside from ordinary use, and you certainly don't blow it up and sell it in little pieces," Lowenthal said Thursday. "Respecting one another's religious beliefs is at the core of a free society. That's what needs to happen in this case."

Karie Reuther, a spokeswoman for quarry developer Granite Construction, said the company was "shocked" to hear of the bill, especially since it met with tribal officials a week ago.

"We were thinking we were trying to work through this," she said. "We're upset that they would go up to Sacramento and create a last-minute bill to circumvent the local process."

As drafted, the legislation would expand a law that restricts gold and silver mining near American Indian reservation and sacred sites.

The new proposal would make it illegal for a local agency to approve an aggregate operation -- which the quarry would be -- within 2,000 yards of an American Indian reservation and 5,000 yards of an American Indian sacred site. The tribe's reservation is 500 yards from the quarry, according to Pechanga.

Support for Bill

Lowenthal's bill already has significant bipartisan backers.

Co-authors include Assembly members Wilmer Amina Carter, D-Rialto, and Paul Cook, R-Yucca Valley.

Cook was not immediately available for comment Thursday afternoon.

Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries, whose district includes the reservation and the proposed quarry site, has not taken a position on the quarry project or the measure, he said.

"It's a real touchy situation to have any legislator or the Legislature as a whole dictating to local governments the decision that needs to be made at the local level," said Jeffries, R-Lake Elsinore. "This one has some unique considerations for guys like me who like to keep local control at local level."

Granite wants to build the open-pit quarry on a 414-acre site between Temecula and San Diego County. Riverside County currently has jurisdiction over the site, and a fifth county Planning Commission hearing on the project is set for 9 a.m. Aug. 15 at Rancho Community Church, 31300 Rancho Community Way in Temecula.

While Granite contends the quarry will provide an eco-friendly economic boost to the region, opponents say it could bring air pollution and ruin neighbors' quality of life.

Sacred Spot

The tribe contends the open-pit quarry would desecrate a site that, to Pechanga, is analogous to the Garden of Eden, Jerusalem's Wailing Wall or the Sistine Chapel.

In a statement, Tribal Chairman Mark Macarro said: "It is not an option to tell our future generations that their place of creation, the basis of their history and their very identity, used to be here.

"As any other people would, we will bring to bear all of the resources at our disposal to protect this sacred area from the permanent destruction this massive mine would cause."

An 8,500-page environmental study of the quarry concluded its effect on cultural resources would be "less than significant," a finding Macarro called "disgraceful."

"Because county planners have failed to honor the spirit of the law designed to protect such areas, we are forced to seek additional legislation to protect our place of creation from destruction," he said in the tribe's statement.

In an interview with The Press-Enterprise editorial board Thursday, Granite executive Gary Johnson said the tribe never told Granite the site was sacred when tribal officials met with company representatives in May 2005, when the quarry was in the early stages of planning.
Examination of the quarry site found three possible artifacts that tribal monitors agreed were not significant, if they were artifacts at all, Johnson said. He added that much of the site is granite rock and it's unlikely anything is buried there.

In a mailer to state lawmakers, the tribe contended it raised "significant cultural concerns" about the project in August 2005.

The May 2005 meeting came "when the project was far from a certainty and still at a nascent stage ... It is highly unusual for a federally recognized tribal government to divulge private spiritual information when presented only with a project concept."

The measure is the latest legislative fight over limiting activities near land deemed sacred by American Indians.

Legislation to prohibit development near sacred land passed in 2004 after earlier bills stalled because of strong opposition from builders and other business interests.

Meanwhile, a tribe-backed bill pending in the Assembly would block development of the Gregory Canyon Landfill in San Diego County.

 

Pechanga sponsors anti-Liberty Quarry legislation
The Californian, Thurs., Aug. 4

Taking on Granite Construction's Liberty Quarry project via Sacramento, the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians is sponsoring legislation that would amend the Public Resources Code to include aggregate operations on the list of mining activities restricted near American Indian sacred sites.

Northern California-based Granite has proposed operating an aggregate mine on a Riverside County mountain just west of the Pechanga reservation that the tribe has said is sacred and part of its creation story.

"It is not an option to tell our future generations that their place of creation, the basis of their history and their very identity, used to be here," tribal Chairman Mark Macarro said in a statement issued Thursday evening.

The quarry, which is being studied by the Riverside County Planning Commission, is opposed by the tribe, thousands of residents of surrounding cities and communities, the city of Temecula and San Diego State University, which operates a research field station on an ecological reserve west of the project site.

It is defended by people who point to the jobs it will create, the construction materials it will generate for local projects and the effect it could have on the area's traffic patterns, which supporters argue will include removing some pollution-emitting trucks from Riverside County freeways.

Will Shuck, spokesman for Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, said the legislation has bipartisan support from a mix of 30 state senators and Assembly members. He said the bill will be introduced when the Legislature reconvenes Aug. 15.

July 2011 Letters to the Editor

Interesting quarry information revealed

The Californian, Fri., July 29

Very interesting information was revealed at the last Planning Commission meeting on Granite Construction's intended quarry at Temecula's southern boundary. According to experts who spoke at the hearing, the company Granite hired to deliver the air quality impact data used the wrong standards in their study, resulting in dramatically reduced projected air quality impacts.

Another company, hired to study water resource impacts, chose to drill all their test holes in areas away from known water-conducting fault lines and cracks. Not surprisingly, their findings also showed significantly diminished impacts. This is what happens when unscrupulous companies like Granite pay big bucks to get the data they desire. Once their foot is in the door, they elect to pay the fees for damages and legal appeals, rather than the greater expense of providing legitimate mitigation measures. How many oil disasters must we witness before learning that lesson?

Temecula residents who value their health more than the bait of 99 jobs know the proposed quarry is ill-advised. The Warner Springs fire sent us a smoky reminder (July 23) of how foolhardy a quarry in the very same air stream would be.

The next meeting is Aug. 15 at Rancho Community Church. Speak up, Temecula!

Sandra Markarian, Temecula

Granite and the Old West
To me, it seems like the Old West.

The Californian, Tues., July 19

"Come one, come all. Yessiree, we've got your genuine Granite's Magic Potion right here. It will fix all ailments that befall you. It is truly a miracle elixir. Folks can take it, even your young 'uns. All your troubles will be over." As history has it, after folks got sick, they'd tar and feather the snake oil salesmen and run them out of town.

"Howdy, pardner, come, take a look at this," the man would say as he pulled a planted gold nugget out of a barren stream. "This stream is laden with gold. You and your family will be rich in no time. I'll tell you what I'll do, good neighbor, just sign on the dotted line and it's yours, but under several conditions."

"You homesteaders are getting in the way of our cattle. You'll force us to tear your fences down. You better not stand in our way. Or my boys will attend to it, right quick."

"Stick em up! Hand over all your personal belongings (quality of life). And remember, this road belongs to the Granite gang."

Some things never change.

Mike Jurkosky, Temecula

Temecula doesn't want a quarry
The Californian, Tues., July 19

Granite Construction's Liberty Quarry and a pit bull dog are similar in that they both are persistent in a fight to the end. They just do not give up.

Not withstanding all the "expert" testimonies pro and con for the quarry, the fact remains that the majority of people in Temecula do not want the quarry. Just because it is "good" does not mean that you want it or should have it.

There are many reasons, both personal and collective, for the people of Temecula to not want a quarry in this area, and no explanation is necessary.

The county Planning Commission and the County Board of Supervisors should respect the desire of great majority of citizens of Temecula and reject the quarry.

Temecula does not want a quarry. Period.

Gilbert Marrero, Temecula

 

Quarry poses a risk for air pollution

The Californian, Sun., July 17

There was high drama shortly before midnight at the last Riverside County Planning Commission Hearing on June 22. For years, we had been listening to Granite tell us that Liberty Quarry will improve air quality. Finally, after waiting all day to speak, Dr. Daniel Robbins, a spokesman for the 159 physicians against the quarry, read a rare letter from the American Lung Association in California.

It stated that state-level experts had diligently reviewed the environmental impact report and decided that there were increased health risks to the community. Concerns were expressed about key air-quality issues, including that the EIR had stated that the air-quality impacts will be significant and unavoidable. The letter pointed out that the Air Quality Management District had commented that the air quality and health impacts are likely to have been underestimated in the EIR.

Because Liberty Quarry would operate up to 75 years, they mentioned the long-range health impacts on multiple generations in the Temecula area. The danger of air pollution for everyone was important, but specifically for people with lung disease, the elderly and children.

The last hearing will be at Temecula's Rancho Community Church at 9 a.m. July 18.

Marelle Dorsey, Temecula

 
July 2011 Opinions/Forums

Quarry will indeed be an eyesore
Barbara Wilder, The Californian
Thurs., July 28

During the recent Planning Commission hearings regarding Liberty Quarry, there was little mention of the mile-long switchback road that will have to be carved out of the existing mountainside from the freeway level to the mine site.

The face of that mountain will be denuded of all vegetation to build this road.

Granite's PR machine insists that: "We will not see, feel or hear" this mining operation. How ludicrous to believe that this deforestation and the access road, with 800 trucks crawling daily up and down, will not be seen from the I-15 both north and south by the approximately 130,000 cars (Caltrans figure) that travel this freeway daily?

Granite's Environmental Impact Report states in their Mitigation Measure (AL-2e ): "The applicant will construct a guard rail/or screen to a minimum of four feet in height along the outside of the road where the natural cut is less than four feet in height. The screen will be colored to blend into the hillside ..."

Who are they kidding? Their trucks are much taller than 4 feet and will be seen during the day as well as truck headlights at night. Other mitigation measures would include "staining of rocks and minimal re-vegetation of the cut slopes of the access road to visually integrate those severe cuts into the hillside ... reducing the overall effect to less than significant." How could this unbelievable conclusion have been reached?

In the EIR figure 3.1-11 titled "Typical Conceptual Truck Light Screen," Lilburn Corporation, Granite's chosen author of the EIR, mentions painting California K-rail (used on the outside of the roadway) a color to match the natural rock surface. Could anything be more visually offensive?
The effect of this visual cut is a terrible eyesore, and Granite's mitigation measures have the potential to look like some bizarre entrance to a futuristic mining operation that we've all seen in sci-fi movies. The destruction of this mountain and the ugly effect it will create is way beyond any possible mitigation measures. After the potential quarry is built (and for 50-75 years down the road), Granite says, they will hydroseed the ruined face of this mountain. Anyone who drives the I-15 knows that the old cuts to build the freeway are still mostly raw earth and rock.

This stretch of freeway is the southern entrance to the Temecula Valley, our Wine Country, our city of Temecula, our golf courses and the Pechanga Resort and Casino.

The face of this mountain will be destroyed and we, the residents, and our visitors will have to suffer the daily effects for 75 years. This aesthetic abomination should be reason enough to deny Granite Construction a permit to build this quarry.

Nature and beauty matter. There are better alternatives where this mega mine can be built that have less obvious access roads. Granite owns Rosemary's Mountain Quarry, eight miles south of Temecula, with a completely functioning access road. Since 70 percent of the aggregate trucks will go to San Diego, why not enlarge this quarry?

Barbara Wilder is a Temecula resident.

Companies digging a legal hole?
Phil Strickland, The Californian
Tues., July 19

The Valley Myth has been that somewhere, someone uttered or wrote something to the effect that "Granite Construction got special dispensation at the last minute as a concession to add Lilburn Corp. to the list of approved, independent consultants for the Liberty Quarry project."

It just can't be found.

That's because it probably doesn't exist. There is no concession to be found here. Unless you count the system.

County policy explicitly allows the applicant to pick an approved, "independent" consultant to do a "complete and independent" EIR and Lilburn has longstanding approval.

"Independent" in this case is based on no due diligence on the part of anyone about the process of examining actual, potential or latent conflicts of interest other than the words of the companies as sworn to under penalty of perjury in the 3 1/2-page, double-spaced Memorandum Of Understanding.

Thing is, that Granite is a significant client of the San Bernardino-based Lilburn is not in question. No consultant blows off billion-dollar clients.

How that relationship has affected Lilburn's much-criticized EIR is another matter.

The relationship between Granite and Lilburn is that Lilburn will get Granite to "yes" on Liberty Quarry, not that Lilburn will write an EIR fully revealing all the negatives and their extents.

In fact a report by Temecula's consultants on Granite's EIR finds expectedly, but more important, correctly, that the whole EIR appears to have been contrived somewhere in fairyland.

Even the county planning department threw out the bogus traffic study that involves 1,600 diesels in and out every day for 50 or more years.

So it appears the "complete" part is toast, too.

What's more, Lilburn has additional incentive to win approval of Liberty Quarry because it also provides after-service with, among its specialties, working through those gosh-darn regulatory violations and problems and stuff.

As pointed out by Granite's well-publicized collisions elsewhere with the rules, if Lilburn gets them to "yes" as it is sworn corporately to do, it likely will end up making a more than tidy sum in fees for the next 100 years (it "massages" reclamation "problems," too.)

Conflicts of interest? Piffle.

Remember, county policy bars such scheming.

And remember, it specifically calls for a "complete and independent" EIR which is repeated in Section II subsection (c) of that MOU signed by Granite Construction and Lilburn Corp. under penalty of perjury and approved, after "review" (that's it, that's all it says), by the director of planning.

As one friend commented: "How can you allow me to hire my dog to keep me away from the goods? I buy that dog's food and own the cans it comes in. And Fido knows it."

Clearly, the EIR is neither "complete" nor "independent."

Editorial: Time to redo report
The Californian, July 17

On Monday, the Riverside County Planning Commission will hold its fourth, and perhaps final, hearing on a contentious quarry proposed for the granite-laden hills southwest of Temecula.

The first three hearings have been marathon sessions filled with anger, and conflicting statistics and claims.

This week's hearing is for the quarry's would-be operator, Granite Construction, and the company that prepared its environmental study to defend their assessment that the quarry not only wouldn't harm the local environment, but would be a benefit.

They have their work cut out for them.

A host of technical experts has come forward in the previous meetings to dispute one claim or another, from the methodology behind the assertion that truck miles will be reduced, to the effect that a quarry will (or won't) have on property values, winemaking, tourism, scientific study and Indian artifacts.

Speakers claimed the studies omitted information that would have been damaging to Granite's application, including some about sites sacred to the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, and that they manipulated the air-quality data. A recent study commissioned by the city of Temecula ---- which opposes the quarry ---- even disputed an earlier report hailing the quarry's economic benefits.

The hearings have also underscored a systemic flaw in the state's environmental review process, a Catch-22 of sorts: State law requires exhaustive ---- and costly ---- studies of a project's effect on the environment. And while it's certainly not fair that taxpayers be forced to pay for these studies, having the project's proponent pay for them invariably raises cries of collusion. After all, the argument goes, would a company find conclusions that run against the interests of the company writing it the checks?

In this case, though, Riverside County officials gave opponents extra ammunition by allowing Granite to hand-pick the company doing the report ---- San Bernardino-based Lilburn Corp.

It's hard to believe that an 8,600-page report could be missing much of anything, but in our view, there are still simply too many questions and inconsistencies surrounding this report for commissioners to give it their blessing.

We are not yet persuaded that the quarry would be as detrimental as opponents say, but neither do we have the confidence in the study to say it should be approved.

Ideally, the commission would send it back to the drawing board and have the report redone from the ground up, by a company of the county's choosing ---- with input from Temecula ---- not Granite's.

It's the only way the public can have any semblance of confidence in the result


 
July 2011 News Articles

Merits of Quarry Debated
Stephanie D. Schulte, Tues., July 19

A sea of people ready to voice their opinions against the quarry wore orange shirts in solidarity and filled Rancho Community Church Monday, which held the fourth planning commission meeting regarding the proposed quarry.

Topics being dicussed were mainly geological in nature and featured a range of speakers and conflicting reports.

The lengthy geology talks took up most of the morning and the meeting did not finish, despite lasting well into the evening.

The engineering firm Kleinfelder hired geologists to run tests on the proposed site to ensure the mine will not adversely affect water sources, vegetation or create earthquakes.

Audience members rumbled and applauded during the discussions while analysts stood at the podium and offered different explanations to questions posed by commission members.

The proposed quarry has been a hot button issue because residents are worried that the effects the mine would produce would be devastating to the health of Temecula citizens, air quality and property values. To read more, click here.

“I live in Vail Ranch and the quarry would be in my direct view from my front yard. I look up now and see the Rainbow Gap and feel the breezes everyday,” citizen Eric Filsinger said.

A geologist hired by Kleinfelder explained that testing done on the geology around the proposed site indicates that water does not travel through the rock system, there is limited ground water at the site and the blasting would not create an earthquake hazard.

“Evidence from the site investigation shows an insufficient fracture system to transmit water. Furthermore the investigation demonstrated limited groundwater at the site,” Russ Keenan explained.

“Also, the United States Geological Survey stated that operating a mine and blasting events do not cause earthquakes,” Keenan said.

A nearby resident and hydrology specialist was called up to respond to the engineering spokesmen claims.

“I spoke to an arborist who is an expert on live oaks. That area is full of oak trees. Oak trees need anywhere from 200 to 700 gallons of water a day,” Howard Omdahl explained.

"The fact that there are Oak trees everywhere on that mountain indicates connectivity and that there certainly is water there,” Omdahl added.

Another expert said he debunked Granite Constructions claims, calling into question the timing of their water testing.

“The test only took place in mid-summer over a two-week period,” Dr. Kerry Cato said.

“They never attempted long-term in ground water level and activity and they force fitted the program to do what they wanted it to do,” Cato added. “I would have re-done the entire test.”

Local resident Kathleen Katz echoed those sentiments.

“These people aren’t local. When your are local you are in tune with the subtle things about the environment. We all know water flows up there and in the oddest places.”

“Many Temeculan’s moved here for the breeze that comes into our valley by way of the Rainbow Gap. That is right where the mine will be,” Katz said. “We moved here for the good air.”

The meeting ended without a resolution and a fifth meeting is scheduled for August 15 at 9 a.m. at the same location, Rancho Community Church.

Impact to ecological reserve is top concern for Temecula quarry opponents
Steven Cuevas, KPCC
July 18

 

santa margarita river
Steven Cuevas/KPCC
Santa Margarita River flows through heart of the 4,600-acre Ecological Reserve near Temecula
July 18, 2011
smer monitoring
Steven Cuevas/KPCC
Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve near Temecula
Another big crowd will pack the Rancho Community Church in Temecula Monday morning for another long hearing on the proposed Liberty Quarry. The quarry could be a significant source of jobs and tax revenue for Riverside County, but there are environmental risks.

The question for the county planning commission is whether those risks can be reduced, or eliminated. Biologists that work at a nearby ecological reserve don't think so.

San Diego State University biologist Matt Rahn stands on a windswept bluff overlooking the Santa Margarita River, Southern California's last freeflowing river from the mountains to the ocean. Surrounding it is a 4,600-acre ecological reserve that's also the last inland-to-the-coast corridor for migrating wildlife.

"As Southern California grew up around us, we sort of became the last in a lot of things," Rahn says. "And that's part of what draws a lot of researchers to this property. Because it's this sort of window into the past. We have a lot of researchers come here to use it as reference site for what natural conditions in Southern California should look like."

Rahn directs the Santa Margarita Reserve field station - a living laboratory for climate change research, ozone monitoring, seismic study and more. He says it's a bad idea to carve a 135-acre, 1,000-foot deep open-pit mine within a few hundred feet of the reserve.

Liberty Quarry would use explosives to blast rock loose for cement and asphalt. Processing plants would run 20 hours a day.

"In a lot of respects, you really couldn't really have picked a worse place environmentally," he says. "We're concerned across all the major environmental issues, seismic issues, the noise, the lighting, removal of groundwater from the mountain, of course, the wildlife movement corridor. So it's just another additional loss on a region that's already lost so much."

At Granite Construction's Rosemary Mountain quarry in San Diego County, project manager Gary Johnson touts the benefits of a new quarry: a steady supply of building material to a growing region, dozens of good-paying jobs and millions in annual tax revenue. Johnson says the quarry and the Santa Margarita Reserve can coexist.

"We designed the project to limit impact so they're not significant," says Johnson. "The county has reduced the hours we can mine, reduced the hours of operation, added a lot of buffer around the site and we'll be doing air monitoring and vibration monitoring to make sure there's no impact."

Johnson says Granite Construction supports the reserve's mission. He's toured the area and met with biologist Matt Rahn and other San Diego State representatives.
"There's actually a number of researchers from the reserve who have sent letters to the county saying not only would we not impact their research, but they see us putting the quarry where it is as additional research opportunity for them," Johnson says.

But when asked, the company couldn't say who sent letters in support of the quarry. San Diego State's Matt Rahn says they weren't researchers, but private contractors the university hired to install monitoring gear at the reserve field station. He says they aren't doing scientific research.
"One of them had actually provided us with equipment for a research project on wildfire sensors," Rahn says. But Granite Construction has welcomed San Diego State scientists to conduct research at the proposed quarry site.

San Diego State earth scientist Gary Girty does field research at the Santa Margarita Reserve. He's looking at how earthquake energy affects rock structure. He says the quarry could be a valuable resource for seismic research. He used research from one of the sites in a recent research paper.

"They're gonna dig a deep hole, and if you can follow the hole down, characterize what's going on with the rocks as you get deeper and deeper, it might give you some really neat clues as to what goes during rupturing events along the Elsinore fault," says Girty.

Girty says he understands why people living near the proposed quarry, and colleagues like biologist Matt Rahn, have concerns. But in a battle where emotions run high, Girty says both sides have good points. "And somehow or another, there must be some mid-range here that can satisfy all these different views, and I just don't know what that is," Girty says.

That's for Riverside County Planning commissioners to figure out. As they have at other marathon hearings, they'll listen Monday as Liberty Quarry officials and their advocates make their case. If commissioners OK the project, it moves to the Riverside County Board for final approval.

TEMECULA: 'Dueling experts' at fourth quarry hearing By AARON CLAVERIE aclaverie@californian.com North County Times | Posted: Monday, July 18, 2011 3:00 pm

Engineers, geologists and scientists clashed Monday during the Riverside County Planning Commission's meeting on Granite Construction's Liberty Quarry project, a mine proposed for land south of Temecula.

The session was the fourth in an ongoing series that has been followed by thousands of area residents.

In many cases, the testimony provided Monday by the various different subject authorities was contradictory ---- with one person saying everything has been studied according to the proper guidelines and another person contending that statement was false or misleading.

And there also were moments when someone defending their work was caught off guard by a speaker who brought new information to the forefront.

Commission Chairman John Roth summed up the process, which sparked multiple digressions by commission members on the wisdom of the format, as "dueling experts."

So who won the duel?

"It's up to the commission to sort through that and find out the correct answer," Roth said.

When that might be remains to be seen. The commission wrapped up Monday's meeting at 7:45 p.m. without reaching a decision.

Roth said there would be another meeting ---- the fifth in the series ---- on Aug. 15 at 9 a.m. in the same venue, the Rancho Community Church in Temecula.

Granite has proposed operating the mine within a 400-acre property that sits between the San Diego County line and Temecula's southern border. At full capacity, the 135-acre quarry is expected to generate 5 million tons of aggregate rock per year at the site.

After the Planning Commission is finished reviewing the project, the commission's recommendations will be sent to the county Board of Supervisors, which will have the final say.

One of the sharper exchanges Monday occurred after the lunch break when Matt Rahn, manager of San Diego State University's scientific field station located to the west of the quarry site, and Granite Project Manager Gary Johnson debated the effects vibration from blasting would have on animals in the area.

Johnson said he has not heard anyone affiliated with SDSU say exactly how much vibration is harmful to the area's wildlife.

Absent that, Johnson said, "I have a hard time believing anyone can credibly say it's going to harm biology or research" in the field station.

"Well, I just did," replied Rahn, who earlier had said that SDSU provided stacks of literature to the county about how various species are affected by increased levels of noise and light.

Before the lunch break, Johnson told Roth that the format of having speakers clash with the consultants providing rebuttal testimony was more than a little unusual.

At the previous meeting in June, Johnson and the consultants who worked on the environmental impact report took notes as speakers, the vast majority of them quarry critics, took their turns bashing both the project and the county's environmental report on it.

Granite officials said they had planned to provide a rebuttal to that information at Monday's hearing. And though that was accomplished in part, there was new information presented by critics who were being prompted by questions posed by the commissioners.

This put Granite in the position of rebutting a new slate of information, a stance that its legal counsel warned could create a "rebuttal loop" that would have no end.

The commission's counsel, however, said the commission members have the right to ask questions of anyone at any time and the commission proceeded for the entire meeting Monday following that direction.

Another topic that sparked a spirited debate during the meeting was air quality.

An engineer with Sage Environmental, Paul Weir, said the effects blasting at the mine would have on the area's air quality were vastly underestimated because the firm that worked on the study, Kleinfelder, used a formula suited for coal and not hard rock.

Coal is much more of a wet substance, making the use of that formula misleading, Weir said, adding that the actual effects on the area could be 250 times higher than the Kleinfelder findings.

Kleinfelder's air quality expert, Russ Erbes, said the claim made by Weir, if his argument was correct, wouldn't amount to any large difference in the findings because blasting accounts for a small amount of the total air pollution the project is expected to generate.

Weir disagreed, saying it could tip the scales and push the project's projected air pollution totals above the state's strict standards.

At the beginning of the hearing, Kleinfelder's geologists were put on the spot and forced to defend their findings that the project wouldn't sap the area surrounding the mine of life-sustaining water for vegetation or cause earthquakes.

An expert on earthquake faults said Kleinfelder did not investigate possible faults in the area and a geologist commissioned by the city said the methodology used by Kleinfelder was not extensive enough to determine how much water is stored in the mountain and how it moves.

The Kleinfelder representatives, Russ Keenan and James Finegan, defended their work, arguing that the methodology and findings were sound.

June 2011 Letters to the Editor
 

The Californian, Sun., June 26, 2011
Approval of quarry would be shameful

Attendees at the public hearing on June 22 in Temecula were privy to an incredible experience.

Paul Macarro, Pechanga cultural coordinator, shared the fascinating story of his people's home, where many of us live. His Power Point presentation visually identified sacred sites interspersed throughout Temecula, many desecrated by development. I was moved by the comprehensive, compelling significance of his information. This was passionate and amazing.

One of the most sensitive sites to Pechanga heritage, the majestic mountain at the Southwest edge of our valley, also happens to be the location proposed for the mammoth pit. One rendering displayed a view of the mountain from above after excavation ---- another potentially desecrated site of native significance and American history.

I implore every resident of this valley and educators sharing knowledge with our children to dedicate 10 minutes from your schedule to view the video, found on the county of Riverside website. Mr. Macarro's presentation was early in the last session.

A recommendation for approval by any Commissioner would be disgusting and unconscionable. Proponents of Granite's plans must see this presentation. If you then still support moving forward with this project in this location, shame on you. I am ashamed of you.

Dave Wilson, Temecula


The Californian, Sat., June 18, 2011
Keep it 'Wine Country' not 'Mine Country'

As a Realtor since 1980, I have thoroughly analyzed the effects that Liberty Quarry would have on the realty market. These are some reasons why hundreds of agents have agreed with me that both sales and prices would be depressed:

-- Buyers are required to disclose all potential environmental hazards and problems.

-- 1,600 truck trips a day on Interstate 15, from 4 a.m. to 10 p.m., will not please commuters who will also see the project.

-- Huge, loud blasts six days a week, an asphalt plant and 24 hour operations could continue for 50 to 75 years.

-- The area is known for great air quality becouse of the prevailing ocean winds. According to the environmental impact report, the quarry would cause pollution.

-- 159 local doctors are against the project for health reasons.

-- The vineyard and tourism industries support about 7,000 jobs. Air concerns would put jobs at risk.

-- Local biotech companies employ thousands. They need clean air to operate. ... Potential lost jobs would far outweigh the 99 estimated quarry jobs.

-- Our environment, including the ecological reserve on the quarry border, with the last wild river in Southern California, will be harmed.

As Realtors, we want to advertise "Wine Country," not "Mine Country."

Marelle Dorsey, Temecula

 

The Californian, Sun., June 12, 2011
NIMBYism and the quarry

For Rick Kellogg (June 3) and others who may have missed the whole point of my last letter (May 26), I will try again:

There must be a good reason why the people of San Diego have said "no" to any more gravel pits within their county, and it can't be for a lack of granite in their soil. Could it be that San Diego County is just fed up with the dust, the noise and the smells, all of which can be associated with quarries?

It seems that San Diego County, in spite of its needs, would just as soon let another county live with the ill effects associated with a massive quarry. One has to wonder why the people of Riverside County and its neighbors, Rainbow and Fallbrook, communities located in the far-flung reaches of their own county and well represented in the opposition to Liberty Quarry, should be expected to feel any differently.

Each county pushing what is undesirable to its border cities and towns is unacceptable, especially when it affects such a large population center as the Temecula Valley. When each county is forced to evaluate its need for gravel against its willingness to mine its own resources, perhaps better decisions will be made for the location of gravel pits.

Pam Grender, Temecula

The Californian, Thurs., June 9
The public will know it's there

"You won't even know it's there." This could be about anything, but of late it is about the proposed Liberty Quarry. I have heard it so often that it brought to mind the saying, "If you repeat a lie often enough, it will eventually be accepted as truth."

About five years back, I decided to learn about this proposed project. I attended presentations put forth by Granite Construction, including an open house at Temeku Hills and a tour of the proposed site. Each time, I heard at least once, "You won't even know it's there." As my curiosity rose, I began checking into some of the "facts."

Using numbers supplied by Granite, I learned there would be around 1,500 more truck trips on Interstate 15 daily. I might notice that. The quarry folks said they would be blasting up to 10,000 pounds of explosives up to six times per week. I live about two miles from the site; I think I might notice that. A few other things came up ---- invisible silica dust, stadium lights at night, the probable elimination of the adjacent ecological reserve and more.

Judge for yourself. Lie? Or truth. "You won't even know it's there."

Fred Hayes, Temecula

The Californian, Tues., June 7
Are we hypnotized yet?

For some reason, everyone has been hypnotized into forgetting three major health detriments of living downwind of three other major toxic features imbedded in the Liberty Quarry:

1. A large asphalt plant will be at Liberty Quarry. It will stink and poison the neighborhood. Read the the article, "The Troubles in Milford Hills," by David France, Jan. 2006 (www.davidfrance.com) about a little North Carolina town downwind of an asphalt plant. A high suicide rate from noxious asphalt chemical fumes was traced to a nearby asphalt plant. Human brain neurological function was affected.

2. A large cement plant will be at Liberty Quarry. Read the widely reported anecdotal reports on the Internet about the adverse effects cement plants have on neighboring communities (Google "adverse effects of cement plants on neighborhoods").

3. Ammonium nitrate, used in the daily blasting, is poisonous in the air and nearby river and well drinking water. Camp Pendleton Marines' drinking water downstream could be poisoned. The swarms of belching trucks and fractured microscopic airborne crystalline silica slivers from rock blasting are by no means the only plagues of Liberty Quarry. But for some reason, it's all that Granite, Riverside County officials, politicians and the press are willing to discuss.

True, both are ample reasons enough for nixing the quarry in our still lovely town.

Nick Biddle, Temecula

THE CALIFORNIAN   Sun., June 5, 2011
Laughing out loud

I laughed out loud when I read the headline for the Community Forum, "Quarry EIR tells more of real story," June 1. One thing I've noticed about environmental impact reports is that they always concur with the party that's paying for them.

It reminds me of the story about the engineer, mathematician and real estate appraiser, who were asked, "What does two plus two equal?" The engineer answered "Four." The mathematician answered, "Well, it could be negative four, zero or positive four." The real estate appraiser leaned over and whispered, "What do you want it to be?"

Dan Collins, Temecula

CALIFORNIAN   Saturday, June 04, 2011
No confusion here

Re: "An exercise in obfuscation," May 20, by Daniel Scott: Reduction in truck traffic? Are trucks going to magically appear in Rainbow and Temecula to load up on aggregate? The trucks are coming from somewhere, driving on our roads. I am sure trucks are not just coming from San Diego and then returning to San Diego. Where are all the trucks coming from?

We do not want 1,600 truck trips daily spewing toxic fumes, not to mention a traffic nightmare on Interstate 15. We do not want hundreds of chemicals contaminating the air. What about the pollution of the Santa Margarita River, a drinking water source for Camp Pendleton? There will be up to 20,000 gallons of diesel fuel and up to 5,000 gallons of gasoline stored onsite in above-ground tanks. This presents a very high fire danger.

Air pollution, noise, blasting, truck traffic, crystalline silica, fire hazard, water waste, etc., for a quarry (nearly) one mile long and 1,000 feet deep. No, we do not want this quarry, or any other quarry, in our area. It is beautiful here in Temecula, Rainbow and Fallbrook. Let's keep it that way, because we are the ones who will ultimately suffer.

Carol Saenz, Temecula

June 2011 Opinions/Forums

The Californian, Thurs., June 30
Forum: Quarry truck mileage study flawed
Fred Bartz

Granite Construction's advertisements speak of 16.5 million truck miles reduced if Liberty Quarry is approved. Their flawed study attempts to back this up; however, it greatly overstates the miles reduced.

As was pointed out by multiple speakers at the recent Riverside County Planning Commission hearing, the study incorrectly assumes that all trucks traveling south were full and all trucks traveling north were empty.

A truck count done in 2009, which included the tracking of trucks and their loads, verified that nearly a quarter of the trucks were, in fact, not empty or not full, different from what the Granite study assumed. This means more than 4 million of the 16.5 million miles would not be saved.

The study claimed the miles for aggregate trucks as if they were coming from San Bernardino County, while the trucks were actually coming from Lake Elsinore or Temescal Valley, thus further overstating any potential miles saved by Liberty Quarry.

The study concluded that 1,217 trucks would be taken off of the road at Lake Elsinore; however, the Draft Environmental Impact Report states that only 370 trucks would be hauling aggregate from Liberty Quarry. Even if you include the concrete and asphalt trucks from Liberty Quarry (which haul less aggregate than regular hauling trucks), you would only have 731 trucks, according to the DEIR.

Simply put, you cannot replace 1,217 trucks with less than the same number of trucks.

Not included are the miles from trucks traveling great distances, which are needed to transport materials to Liberty Quarry such as: diesel fuel, gasoline, propane, cement powder, fly ash, asphalt oil, and explosives. These miles, which were not included in Granite's study, resulted in hundreds of thousands of additional road miles, which must be subtracted from any potential miles saved.

Also not included in the Granite study are miles associated with Granite's plan to recycle up to 500,000 tons of material annually.

The EIR documents state: "Materials generated from construction demolition sites for recycling would be trucked to the Site and stockpiled adjacent to the recycle plant." One truck type would bring in material to be recycled, and another truck type to take out the material in the form of aggregate. This would result in the doubling of truck miles associated with recycling. Assuming an average hauling distance for recycle material is 15 miles, based on a maximum of 25 tons per truck, this would add 1,200,000 miles annually, and related additional diesel truck emissions, concentrated in the operating area of Liberty Quarry.

As the speakers at the hearing said, the conclusion that Liberty Quarry will save 16,500,000 miles is totally flawed.

The major, and perhaps only, reason that the Liberty Quarry project was found to be the "Environmentally Superior Alternative" to no quarry, was that it would significantly reduce truck miles. Without the study's conclusion, there is no substantive basis for Liberty Quarry to be the "Environmentally Superior Alternative," versus not doing the project.

Simply put, Liberty Quarry is not the environmentally superior alternative, and therefore should not be approved.

The Californian, Tues., June 28
Forum: Experts highlight Granite's EIR flaws
Barbara Wilder

On June 22, I attended the most extraordinary Riverside County Planning Commission hearing on Granite Construction's environmental impact report on the proposed Liberty Quarry.

Anyone who sat through the 15-hour marathon hearing could not come away without the firm conclusion that Granite's EIR is seriously flawed and that it is an attempt by a mega corporation to "put one over on" the residents of the Temecula Valley.

Powerful presentations by the experts of city of Temecula, the Pechanga Tribe, the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve (SDSU's ecological reserve), various lawyers representing groups and amazingly well-informed public testimony opposed this terrible project.

The city presented testimony from a highly accredited geologist, a traffic consultant, an air quality expert and a nationally respected economist. Those testimonies debunked Granite's claim that they would take millions of miles off the roads and produce cleaner air. Serious water concerns were presented and Granite's consultant's (Liliburn) methodology was shown to be inadequate. They didn't even really look at alternatives.

It became apparent that when a fact didn't come to the conclusion Granite wanted, it was omitted from the EIR and necessary areas of concern simply not looked at. There were so many holes poked in the EIR that it forced the commissioners to question their planners over and over on why this had not been looked at or considered. The planners who vetted this EIR had reached the conclusion before the hearings began that it was "better to build Liberty Quarry than not build it." They had reached this conclusion because of Granite's statements that they would take trucks off the road and bring cleaner air. All these conclusions were shown to be incorrect and overinflated by the city's experts.

One of Granite's mantras is that we are "running out of aggregate." Aggregate specialists refuted this claim and stated that Riverside County has plenty of aggregate and Granite's market would not be here in Riverside.

Representatives of the Pechanga Tribe were absolutely brilliant in their presentations. They clearly showed that the planners had ignored their sacred mountain's spiritual and religious significance to the tribe and had followed a narrow California Environmental Quality Act guideline about artifacts on the property. As their tribal chairman, Mark Macarro, so eloquently stated, Plymouth Rock has no artifacts on it or anything to designate its historical importance nor does Gethsemane. Historical knowledge passed down makes these places valuable, important and spiritual.

Granite wants to take down this sacred mountain and turn it into a gravel pit to earn the company billions of dollars ---- how absolutely unconscionable and truly evil.

Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve experts spoke on how their outdoor ecological classroom is irreplaceable. It is the last of its kind and cannot be moved. A critically important wildlife corridor will be severed by the mine. Granite's response: The animals will get used to the noise and lights and eventually cross through the quarry. The experts forcefully disagreed.

What a day! Everyone opposed to this awful project has been continually maligned by Granite's minions in the press. It felt marvelous to be so thoroughly vindicated.


The Californian, Tues., June 28, 2011
Granite's practices tell it all
Phil Strickland

When you think about it, the whole Granite/Liberty Quarry thing is not unlike an unwanted suitor.

Granite Construction hopes it will be the frog-into-a-prince fairytale where the Fair Maiden that is Temecula Valley needs but to kiss that slimy creature and her Man Charming will appear and take her to bliss.

Only thing is, the maiden ain't buying.

And, if you watch what one correspondent calls the kabuki theater playing out before the county Planning Commission, the suitor's courtin' duds are beginning to look like the emperor's new clothes.

The Emperor, that would be Granite Construction, swears they're all there. Why, they were purchased at Lilburn, and Lilburn, as everyone knows, is the suitor's "Getting To Yes" clothier. And it has been doing quite a successful job for years aiding its client in successful, um, "courtships."

It must be the cloth, must be. It can't be the tailors. Why, this cloth, as soon as you look at it, vanishes before your eyes, taking with it all the "facts" printed so nicely upon it.

Then ---- boy, this suitor has no luck ---- news of a past dalliance gone bad (or is it turned good?) just a bit down the road from the current object of the Emperor's attention, has reached Fair Maiden's ears ---- and everyone else's too.

Seems there were some problems in the relationship. And as with all relationship problems, there's someone, thank the Lord, who wants to talk about it.

That someone is Norman Lambe, a claims adjuster who had to deal with Granite on charges for debris removal after the 2007 wildfires ---- charges he says were "nothing less than extreme."

Lambe cites a case where Granite's estimate to clean up one home site was $83,000; his company paid someone else $15,000 for the same work.

By the way, if Lambe had gone with Granite, the feds had money waiting to be handed out.

Lambe's experience, which he recounts in a Los Angeles Examiner piece at http://www.examiner.com/home-and-business-in-los-angeles/the-true-price-of-granite, was followed by a 2008 San Diego Union- Tribune investigation that said Granite was being accused of removing questionable quantities of debris; overcharging for materials; billing for work not performed; and providing receipts that did not back up its charges.

The Emperor ended up recently paying the city of San Diego $400,000 to make it all go away.

As a condition, the Emperor admitted no wrongdoing. Of course not; it was just a peck on the cheek.

Let that be a lesson, Fair Maiden: The Emperor will say or do anything to get where he wants to be.

Oh yeah, and he'll still love you in the morning.

Ask San Diego.

 

The Californian, Wed., June 22, 2011
Temecula Manager has a Firm Hand
Phil Strickland

When the Planning Commission returns Wednesday morning to Temecula Community Church for the third in its series of meetings regarding the proposed Liberty Quarry, City Manager Shawn Nelson will be entering the last half-year of his 21-year tenure with the city.

In my four decades working around this country ---- OK, council raggers, get ready ---- never has it been my pleasure to live in a city or town where its leaders are as goal-oriented and driven to back it up as they are in Temecula.

And, if one can judge the man by the city (and seeing how he was city manager the last 12 years, that seems a fair enough standard), we'll be saying goodbye to a talented, dedicated public servant who has remained content to work behind the scenes to make the city run like a fine Swiss clock.

It's not that his tenure has been a stroll down Daisy Lane.

When you run city that is growing by leaps and bounds, there's no time for strolling, but amid all the hustle to keep up with exploding growth and the companion issues and challenges you also have to run it right. Watch those nickels and dimes and get the most bang out of them you can.

And he's done that by constantly looking at the future and what needs to happen to stay solvent.

When the economy was starting to collapse, Nelson led his staff in looking at the budget and cutting where possible without harming services. And though the city only recently pared the smallish retirement increase of 2008, his leadership has been marked by thrift.

And he has come up with balanced budgets at the same time he has maintained a $20 million reserve fund and helped to craft a favorable financing arrangement for the construction of the $73 million civic center/city hall/parking garage and town square complex and still get a bonding upgrade.

All this amid the crumbling economy.

In fact, look around at the commerce, the parks ---- he had a quiet, firm hand in all of it.

Now, it wasn't just him. Obviously the city staff is top-shelf and dedicated. But he set the standard. And it is a standard almost without parallel.

It's sad that he leaves at a time when the city and region are threatened with the extinction of that which makes Temecula and the region what it is ---- at the hands of Granite Construction/Liberty Quarry and its 1,600 diesel gravel, concrete and asphalt haulers a day for the next half-century or so.

How appropriate it would be for the planners and supervisors to recognize the value of the city, and by means of that, the region he helped create; and reject the odious quarry proposal that would dishonor the dedication, and trash the work, of so many people.


examiner.com, Sun., June 19, 2011
The true price of granite

By Norman Lambe


Granite Construction Company of Watsonville California is being reviewed by the Riverside County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors.  The reason for the review is to determine if Granite Construction can build and operate the proposed Liberty Quarry which is to be constructed just outside the City of Temecula, California.  The Liberty Quarry is touted as a new industry that will provide jobs for local residents and quality granite for construction projects currently in the planning stage.

During the clean up after the wildfires of 2007, I was one of the many claims adjusters that was sent estimates from Granite Construction Company for the clean up and hauling away of fire-damaged debris from the homes destroyed in the Rancho Bernardo area.  The charges by Granite Construction for their proposed work were nothing less than extreme.  I specifically recall viewing an estimate for $83,000 for debris removal from one home located in a Rancho Bernardo development; we eventually paid $15,000 for the same work.  The plan per Granite Construction was to sign a contract with the homeowner and whatever the insurance company did not reimburse, Granite was going to bill the Federal Government for.  The Federal Government had made available millions of dollars for repair and rebuilding of the fire-damaged areas.  For this particular article I am quoting myself as being the source.  I reviewed estimates from Granite Construction and then had to tell homeowners the insurance company will be paying $50,000-$60,000 less than the amount of the estimate from Granite.

The wildfire situation recently led to Granite Construction paying the City of San Diego $400,000 to settle a lawsuit filed against them for overcharging.  The terms of the lawsuit was accepted and paid by Granite as they admitted no wrong doing.  The spotlight on the unusual operational procedures of Granite Construction are not new.  In August of 2008, the San Diego Union reported in their article, Tons of Questions by Dana Wilkie, Brooke Williams and Danielle Cervantesw, www.signonsandiego.com that Granite Construction was being accused of the following: 1.) removing questionable quantities of debris, 2.) overcharging for materials, 3.) billing for work then did not perform and 4.) providing receipts that did not back up their charges.

In addition to the above facts, a lawsuit was filed in regards to Granite Construction's actions concerning their open-pit quarry located very close to the Russian river, see www.russianriverkeeper.org.  The company also faced two Department of Justice investigations; one is concerning excessive run-off from one of their quarries located in Oregon.  The run-off apparently spoiled streams and killed fish.  The second investigation dealt with poor human resource hiring practices in of their Minnesota operations.

I ask the Riverside County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors to think twice about a business relationship with Granite Construction.

The Californian, Wed., June 15
Forum: Where's the need for so much mischief?
Kenneth W. Johnson

As reported in The Californian (June 12), Granite Construction has agreed to pay $400,000 to San Diego to quash that city's intent to take Granite to court for alleged "gouging" overcharges for its role in debris removal in the tragic wildfires of 2007.

Arguably, Granite did not want this to go to trial on the charge of "filing false claims" to avoid jeopardizing their bidding rights on future public works projects.

Both Granite and Diani Company of Santa Maria were accused of overcharging in their debris-removing billings in the Rancho Bernardo wildfires.

Investigations revealed that Granite and Diani had allegedly removed questionable quantities of debris, overcharged for materials, billed for work they didn't perform, provided receipts that didn't back up their charges, and cost the city millions more than stated in their contracts. A total of $900,000 in settlement fees from the two companies headed off litigation that might have cost the two parties far more.

Residents of our valley are aware of Granite's frequent citations for environmental infractions.

In Oregon, a Granite subsidiary was charged with polluting the salmon-run Yaquina River system with failure to install proper erosion controls in its road-building contract. Apparently Granite was chosen for its services by a state agency, even though it had lower technical competence scores than the other bidders. The agency imposed a $240,000 penalty against Granite (State of Oregon Dept. of Environmental Quality news release of Sept. 4, 2007).

Temecula residents remember, too, the history of endless citations received by Granite over the years in Nevada. Granite seemed willing to pay the puny citation penalties, but continue the infractions to the point that the Nevada Environmental commissioners seemed to regard Granite as the most prolific offender with which they had to deal (Dave Downey, The Californian, Oct. 2, 2005).

Our county neighbors can be restless with the impacts that quarries bring to their communities.

Broken windshields, potholes and gravel-truck traffic are common complaints. Granite goes from community to community with its "regional issue," preying on this fact, generating resolutions in various city councils with no input from our valley's side, calling for solving this problem by compacting all the traffic and pollution effects they so deplore, in spades, on their Southwest County neighbor.

Granite ignores the true way this problem will be solved.

To its credit, San Diego has always been cautious about permitting new quarries in "sensitive areas." The Temecula Valley is just such a sensitive area. San Diego is taking steps to meet its own aggregate needs, with the Polaris project and Rosemary's Mountain, both of which Granite conveniently dismisses.

The San Diego Region Aggregate Supply Study (January, 2011), backed up by the state Department of Transportation, suggests that San Diego's needs can be met with local sources already in place as well as "sea importation."

So where's the justification to compact so much mischief in the Temecula Valley, solely to meet Granite's bottom line?

The Californian, Thurs., June 9
Forum: Let's Stop the Quarry Together
Jerri Arganda

In April, Ken Johnson wrote a letter about, "Quarry company pits neighbor against neighbor."

Well, it seems to be happening again, only this time it is county against county.
I am seeing something happening that will be, in my opinion, like "slow poison" and will destroy the strong bond that has held together all the opponents in both counties. I thought there was no county line where this issue was concerned.

This needs to stop, now!

It troubles me when a friend makes a statement like, "It's obvious our neighboring county is expecting Temecula to pay the price of dirtier air and more traffic so it can benefit from our resources" ("Ordinary people trying to protect their community" May 26).

If by "resource" we are talking about the (proposed) Liberty quarry, the "San Diego Region Aggregate Supply Study," released in January 2011 and conducted in cooperation with Cal Trans, states that San Diego's needs can be met with regional sources already in place as well as "sea importation" from Vancouver Island, B.C. The proposed Liberty quarry was not considered in their findings.

Granite's statement, "All trucks will be going south," is another fabrication to prove their first lie that they will be "taking trucks off the road." Use your head! The trucks will go where the need is. The Riverside area is where the growth is predicted.

Rainbow and Fallbrook are "ordinary people" too, trying to protect our community and we have been doing this for six years right by your side. Have you forgotten?

Statements I have heard uttered such as, "San Diego wants to dump on Temecula" don't fit here! There are thousands of people in Rainbow and Fallbrook fighting this battle and it would never occur to any of them to even think "dump on Temecula!"
What is going on here? It needs to stop now!

If anyone needs someone to put blame on, blame the politicians.

Blame Granite's wily PR firm, which twists and overstates their words and phrases until people begin to accept them as truths.

Blame Supervisor Bill Horn, who has refused to stand up for all the people who live in his district and voted him in.

If anyone is going to "suffer" the consequences of having a mine at that location, it will first be Rainbow.

Please ---- think about the "words" before you say them. We are all in this together until we drive this project away once and for all. Don't drive a wedge between communities that have the same goal ---- it is not "US" and "THEM."

This is what Granite has been doing with other cities and Temecula ---- pitting them against each other. This unravels the bond; this makes people distrustful. Let's not do this to ourselves.

Margaret Mead said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

Let's be that change, together.

The Californian, Wed., June 8
Granite's "SOC it to me" ploy
Phil Strickland

It was Balloon & Wine Festival time this weekend.

Happens every year. Brings scores of thousands of visitors to Lake Skinner and the region.

The festival is here because just east of the city, in Wine Country, vintners are crafting some of the country's premier wines and they're available for tasting year-round; aloft, in balloons, if you prefer.

It's not unlike the two weekends annually when thousands converge on Old Town Temecula to see some of the coolest cars you'll ever lay eyes on.

Same for the music festivals, film festival, Old West weekend, the quilters and the street-painting festivals or Old Town's collection of antique shops and restaurant/tasting rooms. Or the farmers market.

In other words, our valley is a destination and contributes millions upon millions of dollars to the county coffer annually ---- dollars that an enormous industrial complex such as Liberty Quarry would endanger.

To say such a complex (remember, it's not just a monster rock-crushing operation, there would be cement and asphalt production plants, too) can be "hidden" behind a hill a stone's throw from a freeway curve where it "won't be noticed" asks for an unparalleled suspension of disbelief.

That's 800 heavy diesel trucks in and 800 out, day and night. Every day.

Even if you buy their fake science regarding air quality or Southern California's last free-flowing river or the water Camp Pendleton's troops and families drink or the wildlife and the only Southern California inland link to the ocean, or the desecration of sacred lands, even if you buy all that, you can't get away from 800 trucks in and 800 trucks out daily.

In a 20-hour day, that's a truck on or off the I-15 every 45 seconds; growling down to a safe exit speed or straining to freeway speed so as not to be a hazard.

Every day. For at least 50 years.

And regardless of what Granite or Lilburn Corp., their "independent consultant," and their made-to-order environmental impact report say, you can bet more than 30 percent will go north to the I-215 development corridor.

You'd think a seriously flawed EIR, probable severe damage to county receipts and local economies, and overwhelming community opposition would sink this odious proposal.

Even if the commissioners vote no, the supervisors can approve it. It's just more "convenient" to have planning on board and that "priceless" Statement of Overriding Considerations (wherein they make all bad stuff go poof) in hand.

One wag calls it the "SOC it to me" ploy. Guess who writes it.

If you said Lilburn ---- that same "independent" consultant added at the last minute by the planning department to the list of approved consultants as a favor to Granite ---- you win a trial inhaler.

They're about as independent of Granite as Lenny Bruce was of smack.

The Californian, Wed., June 8
Forum: A Leap of Bad Faith
Norman H. Block


Granite Construction Company wants permission to develop Liberty Quarry, which would be one of the nation's largest hard rock granite quarries, here in Riverside County, right at the border of San Diego County.

They state that 70 percent of the aggregate mined will be for use in projects in San Diego County. They claimed that Liberty Quarry will eliminate "millions of miles" of dump-truck travel annually along Riverside County roads because San Diego County will no longer have to buy aggregate from mines in Corona and other points north. The trucks would pick up their loads at the county line in Temecula.

This, they assert, will reduce diesel pollution along the Riverside corridor, and therefore reach the conclusion that Liberty Quarry will be good for the environment. Wow!

As the executives at Granite surely know, this is a leap of bad faith. Let's examine the rest of the story.

The mines that currently deliver aggregate to San Diego County don't own the dump trucks that deliver the aggregate to the final worksites. These very expensive trucks are owner-operated or run by local trucking companies.

Now for the big question ---- where will Granite find the 632 dump trucks that they claim they will need daily to deliver the aggregate from Liberty Quarry? Will a large independent fleet owner suddenly open up a huge truck terminal in Temecula and spend over $75 million to purchase 632 new dump trucks to serve Liberty Quarry?

That is extremely unlikely. If this were the case, Granite certainly would have boasted about a new truck terminal and all the additional jobs that would be created in the local economy.

So, if Liberty Quarry is permitted, the trucks that are currently garaged up north near the mine sites that they serve will no longer be needed to deliver aggregate south because Liberty Quarry will take away the aggregate business of the smaller local mines. Therefore, there will not be work for these very expensive purpose-built vehicles.

Surely, rather than go out of business or incur the gigantic expense of acquiring property and moving their operations south, the current truck owners will simply deadhead their vehicles each day along the Riverside corridor to Liberty Quarry to pick up their loads. Sure, I realize that a laden truck burns more fuel than one not, but that is not what Granite is pitching in their public presentations nor their website.

They want to win their "clean air" argument using a strong emotional appeal based on millions of miles saved, whether it's factual or not.

June 2011 News Articles
 
 

The Californian, Tues., June 28
Fourth Quarry meeting set for July 18

The Riverside County Planning Commission is scheduled to hold another meeting on Granite Construction's Liberty Quarry project on July 18.

The meeting, the fourth in an ongoing series that included a marathon 15-hour session on June 22, will be held at 9 a.m. at Rancho Community Church, 31300 Rancho Community Way, according to county spokesman Ray Smith.

Public testimony was closed at the June 22 meeting.

Commission Chairman John Roth has said much of the fourth meeting will be devoted to rebuttal testimony from Granite Construction and the consultants who put together the county's environmental report on the project.

That report was ripped apart at last week's hearing by an array of speakers, including scientists with San Diego State University, technical consultants hired by the city of Temecula, area residents, Pechanga tribal leaders, doctors and others.

Granite, a Northern California-based company, has proposed operating the mine within a 400-acre property that sits between the San Diego County line and Temecula's southern border. At full capacity, the 135-acre quarry is expected to generate 5 million tons of aggregate rock per year at the site.

According to Granite's projections, about 70 percent of the aggregate generated at Liberty Quarry would be headed south to San Diego County.

That projection has been used by the Riverside County Planning Department to state that the project is "environmentally superior" to not digging a mine, in part, because trucks that had been streaming through Southwest Riverside County from quarries in Corona and other points north of Temecula will be removed from the region's roads, improving regional air quality.

San Diego State University runs a research field station west of the quarry site in the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve; the city borders the quarry site to the north and the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians reservation sits to the east.

The county Planning Department has defended its environmental report as consistent with state law and supporters of the project have touted both the jobs it will create and the trickle-down economic benefit that will accrue via a large, local supply of aggregate material.

CORRECTION: No public comments at next quarry meeting

There will be no public comments accepted at the next county Planning Commission meeting on Granite Construction's Liberty Quarry project July 18. The original version of this article did not include that information. We apologize.

The Californian, Wed., June 22
Opponents criticize quarry's environmental report

Technical experts employed by the city of Temecula, scientists with San Diego State University and Pechanga tribal officials criticized Riverside County's environmental review of Granite Construction's Liberty Quarry project during a hearing conducted Wednesday by the county Planning Commission.

San Diego State University runs a research field station west of the quarry site in the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve; the city borders the quarry site to the north and the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians reservation sits to the east.

The hearing, held at Rancho Community Church in Temecula, was the third in a series of hearings being conducted on the project. If needed, a fourth meeting, which will allow Granite to provide a rebuttal and its own expert testimony, will be held June 29.

The audience for Wednesday's hearing appeared to number 500 to 600 people, many of whom were wearing orange T-shirts or hats denoting opposition to the quarry. After a dinner break, the commission took more comments from Pechanga representatives and members of the public who had signed up to speak.

As of 10:30 p.m., the commission still had about 30 requests to speak remaining.

According to the representatives of the three potential neighbors of the proposed project, the county did not meet the state's legal requirements for review of the quarry. In some cases, the speakers said, the engineers who put together the studies that were used in the review omitted information about Pechanga sacred sites and the migratory paths of animals, manipulated air quality data to help meet state and federal standards, and failed to use industry standards during the assembly of other types of data.

"A textbook case for how not to do an EIR (environmental impact report)," said Courtney Coyle, an attorney representing the Pechanga tribe.

County planning officials defended their work and the report repeatedly Wednesday, saying it was completed in accordance with all rules and regulations.

Granite, a Northern California-based company, has proposed operating the mine within a 400-acre property that sits between the San Diego County line and Temecula's southern border. At full capacity, the 135-acre quarry is expected to generate 5 million tons of aggregate rock per year at the site.

According to Granite's projections, about 70 percent of the aggregate generated at Liberty Quarry would be headed south to San Diego County.

That projection has been used by the Riverside County Planning Department to state that the project is "environmentally superior" to not digging a mine, in part, because trucks that had been streaming through Southwest Riverside County from quarries in Corona and other points north of Temecula will be removed from the region's roads, improving regional air quality.

Opponents speak

Other tribal representatives said the county ignored the significance of their sacred sites, which includes the potential quarry site, as a "historical resource."

Responding to a question posed by Commissioner John Petty, county archaeologist Leslie Mouriquand said there were no tangible artifacts found on the site, which is part of the Pechanga creation story.

Noting that there are maps, field notes and recorded oral histories that back up the importance of the land to the Pechanga, Petty asked, "Are we that linear that we have to go find something on the site?" The crowd, which included numerous tribe members, applauded him vigorously.

Tribal officials are scheduled to meet Thursday with county officials in Riverside to continue discussing this issue.

During SDSU's presentation, Matt Rahn, director of the reserve's field station program, underscored the uniqueness and importance of the reserve and how it can't be reproduced or replaced.

"The quarry is incompatible with the existing sensitive uses in the station," he said.

Answering questions from the commissioners on exactly how the quarry might affect the station's science and the environment inside the reserve, Rahn said there's no way to know without actually digging a quarry to study those effects.

Half-jokingly, he said that if the quarry were approved, the station might be used for just that purpose.

Researchers' concerns

Kelcey Stricker and John Graham, researchers at the reserve, later explained how the quarry's noise, light and proposed location would affect their work, which involves tracking the migration of mountain lions and other animals and studying the behavior and specific vocal signatures of birds.

In response to a question from Commissioner James Porras about whether animals that live near the quarry site would adapt to live with the project, Stricker said some species, especially mountain lions, will leave the area instead of adapting or learning to live with the noise and light.

The firsthand experiences of Stricker and Graham prompted numerous questions from Petty, who wanted to know how the mine would affect the animals' behavior.

Petty asked, "Have the impacts been adequately addressed?"

Stricker's reply was succinct: "Uh, no."

Temecula's roster of speakers included an economist, a geologist, an air quality expert, a traffic engineer, City Manager Shawn Nelson and attorneys who said the county's environmental report falls short of the state's legal requirements for environmental review, which mandate that any findings in a review need to be backed up by facts.

"There are substantial gaps in the most elementary analysis of the evidence," said Peter Thorson, Temecula's city attorney.

On the claim of reduced truck traffic, which is one of the main benefits of the project that supporters cite, traffic engineer Chris Gray of Fehr & Peers of Walnut Creek said the traffic counts conducted by Granite and Urban Crossroads did not adequately explain where the trucks were coming from and where they were going. He added that the numbers, and the extrapolation that shows a reduction in 16 million truck miles, were based on assumptions made in 2005 that do not match up with more recent counts taken in 2009.

Traffic concerns

According to Granite and Urban Crossroads, 1,200 trucks were projected to be rolling through the Temecula area each day on Interstate 15 in the mid-2000s, a figure that was arrived at by making an estimate based on counts taken in 2004 and 2005.

Gray said a count taken in 2009 shows only 449 trucks per day, and he said that the data included in the environmental report should not be relied upon or cited.

"Instead of collecting new data along the way, they simply relied on assumptions," Gray said. "If this issue was so important, why was it not studied in detail? Why didn't the study compare the Liberty Quarry site against other sites in San Diego County? Instead, they just adjusted the count upward when new counts could have been taken."

Heidi Rous, an air quality expert, followed Gray. She called the idea that the project would be "environmentally superior" to not digging a quarry "patently untrue."

"It is illogical," she said.

Earlier in her presentation, she said the engineer who put together the studies that show pollution levels wouldn't exceed state and federal levels manipulated the data. She said the engineer used information to measure the background air pollution from a monitoring station that routinely registers better air quality than that shown by neighboring stations.

Economic concerns

During other parts of the morning session, an economist countered a study that was prepared for Granite by showing that the costs to the area ---- lower property values and a decline in tourism ---- would far outweigh, by millions of dollars, the benefits: payment of fees and royalties, sales tax, jobs created, etc.

The geologist, Kerry Cato, said there is no shortage of aggregate rock in Riverside County, and that it would be more efficient to consider sites closer to the targeted market area, since most of the aggregate is expected to be shipped to San Diego County.

Cato also criticized the way Riverside County reviewed how the project could affect the area's groundwater. As summarized by Commissioner Petty, "They're saying it's a rock bowl that's not going to leak. You're saying there is all sorts of potential for leaking."

Cato agreed and said additional studies were needed to determine how the project could affect the area's water supply. He said there should be some discussion about the possibility of a quarry lake sitting just west of the freeway.

Kicking off Temecula's presentation, City Manager Nelson provided a preview of the city's bullet points, a collection of criticism that, he said, points to a fundamental flaw in how the project has been pitched by Granite.

"What they have done can be defined in one word: deception," he said.

Roth said Granite is tentatively slated to be allowed to present rebuttal testimony at the next hearing, which will be held, if needed, on June 29.

City Attorney Thorson said Granite might claim that Temecula's criticism amounts to "nit-picking," and that a disagreement among experts is not a reason to invalidate the environmental impact report.

"Not true," he said. "These impacts are not theoretical."


The Press-Enterprise, Sat., June 18
Riverside County Supervisors: Donations won't impact quarry vote


 
By JEFF HORSEMAN
The Press-Enterprise

Since 2001, the company proposing a quarry near Temecula has donated more than $59,000 to political candidates in Riverside County -- including at least $38,000 to county supervisors who will decide if the project gets built.

Campaign finance records show that Granite Construction gave to all five supervisors and local lawmakers, including state assemblymen and city council members outside Temecula. One donation went to a Moreno Valley councilwoman who serves as Supervisor Marion Ashley's chief of staff.

 

As plans for Liberty Quarry get closer to consideration by the supervisors -- a vote on the 6-year-old proposal could come by year's end -- Granite has directed a greater share of its contributions to county politicians. Granite didn't give to anyone in the county in 2000, but by 2010, one of every four Granite campaign dollars was donated locally.

Supervisors said Granite's donations would not influence their vote on the quarry being sought for a 414-acre site between Temecula and San Diego County. Some said they also take donations from quarry opponents. For example, Ashley said those opposed to the quarry gave him nearly quadruple what he's received from Granite.

"Regardless of how I vote on this project, some of my supporters will not be happy, but that goes with the job," Ashley wrote in an email.

In an emailed statement, Granite spokeswoman Karie Reuther wrote that, "One of Granite's core values is citizenship, and that includes being engaged members of the communities where we live and work."

She noted that besides the quarry, Granite is working on 15 construction projects in the county. Granite also runs a quarry in Indio.

Bob Stern, president of the Los Angeles-based, nonpartisan Center for Governmental Studies, said Granite's actions are typical for a large corporation.

"It's building goodwill," Stern said. "Certainly the supervisors will return their phone calls, and the supervisors will be very polite to them."

A multibillion-dollar corporation based in Central California, Granite needs the county's permission to build the open-pit quarry. Plans call for using explosives to blast away 270 million tons of aggregate, a common building material, over a 75-year period. The quarry also would contain facilities to make concrete and asphalt.

Granite and its supporters, including business groups and trade unions, say the quarry would provide an economic boost, support hundreds of jobs and generate millions of tax dollars. They contend it would reduce truck trips in the county and improve air quality because diesel trucks wouldn't have to drive as far to get aggregate.

Opponents, including the city of Temecula and a grassroots citizens' network, argue that the quarry would boost truck traffic in their communities while harming the public health by sending microscopic silicate dust particles into the air.

They say the quarry would hurt local tourism, spoil a neighboring ecological reserve and desecrate a sacred site for the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians.

MERIT, NOT MONEY

Story continues below

Since 2001, Granite has donated at least $38,316 to supervisors Ashley, John Benoit, Bob Buster, John Tavaglione and Jeff Stone, according to the California secretary of state's online campaign finance records. The money includes contributions to Benoit's state assembly campaign fund and Stone's unsuccessful state Senate run.

Supervisors stressed that Granite's dollars won't influence their votes. Buster, whose district includes the quarry site, said he objected to a plan in the 1990s that would have restricted non-toll lanes on Highway 91. Granite stood to benefit from that plan, he said.

While he declined to say how he'd vote on the quarry, Buster in 2009 called the quarry the "introduction of a huge new use in one of the most fragile areas we've got."

At the time, Buster served on a boundary-setting panel that denied Temecula's attempt to annex the quarry site. Buster and Tavaglione voted in favor of the city's proposal.

Benoit, who came to the board in 2009 after his time in Sacramento, received $11,406 in Granite money from 2001 to 2010, according to records. Benoit's supervisorial district includes Granite's Indio quarry.

"Part of the reason they gave to me is they knew me as a responsible member of the community," Benoit said. "It has nothing to do with the quarry."

Granite also contributed $200 to the campaign of Benoit's son, Ben, who won a seat last November on the Wildomar City Council.

Altogether, the donations represent a tiny fraction of what supervisors raise annually. Ashley, for example, raised a little more than $155,000 in 2010 alone, according to his campaign statement filed with the county clerk.

In his email, Ashley wrote that, as always, his vote would be based on the project's merits and residents' best interests. "Sometimes that means I vote with supporters and sometimes that means I vote against them," he wrote.

Ashley wrote he has taken in $51,000 from anti-quarry interests, including the Pechanga tribe and The Rancon Group, a Murrieta-based collection of development-related companies whose founder, Dan Stephenson, opposes the quarry.

Verne Lauritzen, Stone's chief of staff, said Stone wants to hear what people have to say during public hearings on the quarry. Stone's district includes Temecula.

Tavaglione did not respond to a request for comment.

Temecula City Councilman Jeff Comerchero, who is on the council's Liberty Quarry subcommittee, said the donations to supervisors don't surprise him.

CITY TO CITY

Since 2000, Granite has donated more than $3 million to candidates and ballot measures throughout California. Recipients include former governors Gray Davis and Arnold Schwarzenegger and current Gov. Jerry Brown.

None of Granite's dollars were contributed in Riverside County in 2000. But in 2009 and 2010, more than $27,000 -- 23.85 percent of Granite's total California donations -- were donated in the county.

In her email, Reuther of Granite wrote her company's presence in the county has grown in the past 20 years.

Today, Granite employs more than 250 people in the county, she wrote, adding that besides political donations, Granite has donated roughly $425,000 to local groups such as the Boy Scouts and Habitat for Humanity.

Granite also has given thousands to city council members with no jurisdiction over the quarry. These include Lake Elsinore council members Melissa Melendez ($500) and Bob Magee ($1,000); Menifee Councilman John Denver ($250); Wildomar Mayor Marsha Swanson ($200); Corona Councilmen Eugene Montanez ($198) and Steve Nolan ($500) and Riverside Mayor Ron Loveridge ($125).

Other local recipients are Assemblymen Kevin Jeffries, R-Lake Elsinore, ($2,000) and Jeff Miller, R-Corona, ($1,000).

No donations went to Temecula council members.

MORENO MONEY

A $250 donation went to Moreno Valley Councilwoman Robin Hastings, who is Ashley's chief of staff. In May, Moreno Valley joined councils in Eastvale, Banning and Beaumont in passing a pro-quarry resolution. Hastings was quoted in a Granite news release praising the project.

Hastings did not make or second the resolution, which passed unanimously, according to the Moreno Valley city clerk's office. In an email, Hastings wrote that she assumed the contribution was "because they support me in my position as an elected official."

Hastings added she hasn't spoken to Ashley about the quarry.

Comerchero, the Temecula councilman, said he's confident the county board won't be swayed by Granite's money.

"(The supervisors) are capable of taking campaign contributions and looking objectively at any project," he said.

 

The Californian, Sun., June 12
Granite pays $400,000 settlement

Although the company has admitted no wrongdoing, Northern California-based Granite Construction paid a $400,000 settlement last month to have a civil lawsuit filed against the company by the city of San Diego dismissed.

The action by Granite, which was sued by San Diego in 2008 for allegedly overcharging the city for debris removal after the 2007 wildfires in the Rancho Bernardo area, has been seized upon by critics of Granite's proposed Liberty Quarry project, who say there is now a question about whether the company can be trusted to follow through on its promises regarding the quarry.

"Why would any company be willing to pay $400,000 to settle a lawsuit if they were truly innocent?" asked Fred Bartz, a member of two groups that have been vocal in opposition to the quarry project.

Granite representatives have pledged, both in written documents and public appearances, that the proposed quarry, slated for 400 acres of land in Riverside County near the community of Rainbow, would improve the area's quality of life by removing pollution-belching trucks from Riverside County freeways and providing "high-quality" jobs. The Riverside County Planning Department has concurred, saying in its environmental report on the mine project that the mine is "environmentally superior" to not digging a quarry, in part because of the anticipated reduction in truck trips on county roads.

Opponents, however, have said the mine, which would produce 5 million tons of aggregate per year when operating at maximum capacity, will degrade the area's air quality, pollute the water table, destroy a site sacred to the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians and contribute to traffic congestion in the Temecula area.

And they have said repeatedly that Granite, as a publicly owned company that is focused on profits, would act on its economic interests at the expense of the welfare of area residents, a group that includes people in the San Diego County communities of Fallbrook and Rainbow, the Pechanga Indian Reservation and the Temecula and De Luz area.

The Riverside County Planning Commission is studying the mine proposal. The third hearing ---- in what has turned into a series of high-profile meetings attended by hundreds of local residents ---- is scheduled for June 22 at Rancho Community Church in Temecula.

After the commission's review and recommendation, the project will be considered by the county Board of Supervisors, which will make the final decision.

The city of San Diego sued Granite and a Santa Maria-based construction company in 2008 after Rancho Bernardo homeowners raised questions about the bills being issued by the two companies.

According to the suit, which asked $2 million in damages, the companies "overestimated, overstated and overcharged costs to the city of San Diego and its taxpayers."

Instead of fighting the suit, Granite and Santa Maria's A.J. Diani Construction paid $400,000 and $500,000, respectively, in settlements last month.

Granite spokeswoman Karie Reuther said the suit was the product of a contractual disagreement between the city and the company regarding the scope of work ordered by the city.

"Due to the change in the scope of work, there was a disagreement over some of the contract quantities and under what line item they should be charged," she said.

Reuther said there wasn't any wrongdoing by Granite.

"It shows that we're an ethical business, and we work through any issues that occur," she said.

RB United's Valerie Brown, director of the nonprofit that advocated on behalf of Rancho Bernardo homeowners, said she was very pleased with the settlement, adding that the city of San Diego could have dropped the issue or let it slip through the cracks.

"It could have not been a priority, but for our fire families, it was a big deal," she said.

To qualify for federal money, the San Diego mayor's office created a special fire debris removal program after the 2007 wildfires and contracted with Granite and A.J. Diani. Some Rancho Bernardo residents took advantage of the program; others used local contractors.

As the bills charged by all of the contractors started to come in, people noticed wide differences in charges for the debris removal from homes in the same neighborhood. Brown said RB United helped flag some of these discrepancies and bring them to the attention of authorities.

"It was a fabulous idea," she said of the mayor's program. "But the city of San Diego had never done one of those contracts, and they (the companies that paid the settlement) took advantage of it."

With the settlement paid and taxpayers receiving at least a portion of the money that the city says it was overcharged, Brown said there is a sense of closure for residents.

"The message is clear: You're not going to take advantage of our residents and citizens. It's nice to feel your city government has got your back on that."

Fallbrook Village News    June 9, 2011  Issue 23

Fallbrook Community Planning Group formally asks Riverside County Planning Department to reject adoption of a Statement of Overriding Considerations

FALLBROOK - On May 16, the Fallbrook Community Planning Group and Fallbrook Design Review Board formally asked the Riverside County Planning Department to reject adoption of a Statement of Overriding Consideration for the Liberty Quarry project in the Rainbow area. In a letter sent to David L. Jones, the Fallbrook group cited numerous reasons for their opposition to the proposed project.

The letter, provided to the Village News by FCPG Chairman Jim Russell, reads as follows:

"The Fallbrook Planning Group was authorized to review the Liberty Quarry Draft Environmental Impact Report (Draft EIR) by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors in 2006. We commented on that report with a letter on September 2, 2009. Recently the County of Riverside published their responses to the comments received on the Draft EIR. The Fallbrook Planning Group reviewed these responses as well as the comments submitted to the County of Riverside by other groups and individuals and the County's responses to their comments as well. This letter is the result of the May 16th meeting of the Fallbrook Planning Group when all the responses and comments related to the Draft EIR were discussed.

"The following motion was passed: "The Fallbrook Planning Group joins with the City of Temecula, the Rainbow Planning Group, Friends of Santa Margarita River, Endangered Habitats League and the Nature Conservancy in opposing this project on the grounds of the negative aesthetics of the project on the surrounding communities and the project's risks to public health and safety."

"Some of the major points felt to still be outstanding in light of the responses are:

1) The most impressive list of comments was provided by the City of Temecula. They not only had applied professionals within their agency focus on the report in their fields of expertise, but also had private sector professionals respond to the report as well. While lengthy responses were provided, there appears to be a clear difference of view on the completeness of the report and its ability to withstand professional scrutiny. The Fallbrook Planning Group agrees with the City of Temecula in requesting that the reports in the EIR be modified and re-circulated prior to presenting it to the Riverside Board of Supervisors.

2) The Group felt that the response to our concern about the sound studies not addressing the effects on animals was not adequate. Noise generated in rock mining is created by multifaceted processes in the production of various types of construction materials required for residential and commercial purposes. These components consist of blasting, crushing, filtering, and hauling of the finished product to the final destination. Blasting, although often considered as a major noise component of the rock mining operation contributes a small amount of noise do to the "bored hole" blasting techniques universally applied in rock mining. The major components of non indigenous noise are generated by sustained operations to reduce large rock components to usable portions of rock and the hauling of the finished material to the construction site. This "crushing" and "hauling" operation generates "noise" components far above the human audible spectrum but not that of the indigenous wildlife in the surrounding area. Since the noise sensors were located only on I-15 and the conclusion only states that the noise level increase is not significant relative to I-15 traffic, how is that relevant to the rest of the surrounding area and the wildlife that resides there? Since the wildlife audible spectrum is higher in frequency than the human spectrum, and since wildlife does not usually reside next to I-15, we continue to maintain that the "noise" studies are flawed and do not truly represent the impact on the wildlife indigenous to the area. Without additional noise studies with wide frequency spectrum capability, it is not possible to conclude that "the noise impact is not significant."

3) The importance of the wildlife corridor which provides a linkage between the Palomar Mountain Range and the Santa Ana Mountains has not been sufficiently addressed. This corridor is essential to the future of the Mountain Lion, top of the Ecosystem. Since the Liberty Quarry project extends beyond the Special Linkage Area designated in the Riverside County MSHCP, its operations will inhibit the free movement of wildlife. San Diego County has designed their Habitat Conservation Plan to provide connectivity to the Riverside County plan for this necessary linkage, and we urge Riverside County to do the same. The limited mitigation measures listed in the FEIR cannot adequately or reliably provide safe passage for these large predators.
As a more adequate mitigation measure, Liberty Quarry should support and promote the "Potential Bridge" indicated in the DEIR. This could be funded, as suggested by the Liberty Quarry representative at public meetings, by a per-truck fee which would provide funding for the bridge while partnering with Environmental Agencies.

4) In the comments from the County of San Diego Department of Planning and Land Use, the requirements of the I-15 Corridor Design Guidelines are mentioned. The response to this comment was to outline the project answer to the guidelines. But we maintain that the proposed cuts and fills for the access road to the project will exceed the slope grading and the ridgeline grading limits contained in the I-15 Corridor Design Guidelines. These guidelines will not be met as long as the access road climbs the steep slope adjacent to the weigh station.

5) The biggest problems, however, continue to be the overall Air Quality, Biological Resource, Traffic/Transportation and Utility impacts of this project. The Draft EIR admits that these are significant and unavoidable impacts that cannot be mitigated. The response simply concludes that a statement of overriding concern must be adopted by the Riverside Board of Supervisors. The Fallbrook Planning Group, after reviewing all of the comments and responses on these topics, can find no clear evidence that warrants a statement of overriding concern (required by CEQA). Such a statement essentially requires that the aesthetics of the surrounding communities and the public health and safety of the residents be compromised in order to permit a project like this in this location.

"The Fallbrook Community Planning Group, with sincere thought and consideration of the many issues involved and the serious potential impacts for the residents of northern San Diego County, urges the County of Riverside to reject the adoption of a Statement of Overriding Consideration for this project."

May 2011 Letters to the Editor

CALIFORNIAN   May 29, 2011
Clean trucks, but who is paying?


Granite Construction recently announced its commitment to allow only clean trucks to use the proposed Liberty Quarry site. While the commitment would address PM10 particulates from heavy-duty trucks, it effectively does nothing to address PM2.5 particulates, which are considered an even greater health impact.

Further, it does not address nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and other quarry-related pollutants. The quarry would also generate nearly 90 percent of its electricity on-site using natural gas-powered generators, adding pollution, instead of purchasing from local electrical utilities. Crystalline silica is also still an issue.

According to Liberty Quarry's environmental impact report, of the 800 trucks expected to visit the quarry daily, only 164 would be Granite-operated asphalt trucks. The remaining 636 trucks would be owned by others, and it would be their (not Granite's) responsibility to pay for any upgrades.

Also interesting is that San Diego County recently announced it would pay up to $45,000 per truck for clean truck upgrades. So if those small truck fleet operators need to have help upgrading their trucks, they will look to San Diego County, which means the taxpayers could be paying up to $45,000 for each of the 636 trucks to meet Granite's Clean Truck Program. Thanks, Granite.

Fred Bartz, Temecula

The Californian
May 26
Ordinary people trying to protect their community

Those of us who have objected to the building of Liberty Quarry in our pristine hills have been called many things by those who disagree with us. We've been called reactionaries, elitists, panic-struck extremists, extreme environmentalists, and of course, the catch-all label of NIMBYs.

Recently, I read in a Community Forum written by someone who lives in Fallbrook that we can add "self-centered" to our list of titles ("You can kiss paradise goodbye," May 23). Hmmm — interesting, if not downright hilarious.

Excuse me, but isn't it San Diego County that has decided against building quarries in its own backyard? Since a hefty 70 percent of the gravel from Liberty Quarry is projected to go to San Diego, it's obvious our neighboring county is expecting Temecula to pay the price of dirtier air and more truck traffic on our freeways so it can benefit from our resources.

Those of us who have taken time out of our busy lives to protest this threat to our community are ordinary people: parents, grandparents, young people and senior citizens. We love our city. We know we're not perfect, but we have a good thing going here. We will do what we can to protect it. By the way, we expect you to do the same for your own community.

Pam Grender, Temecula

Fallbrook/Bonsall Village News

Re: Open letter to Supervisor Bill Horn [Letter, Village News, 5/12/11]

Thursday, May 26th, 2011


Regarding Supervisor Horn's reply to my recent letter, he "presumed" I was writing "on behalf of the Rainbow Community Planning Group (RCPG)." Let me assure him, my thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.

I was sorry to hear that the letter from RCPG (which, I am aware, asked for his support for Rainbow and Fallbrook to address negative impacts to our communities) was supposedly not received.
This letter, I understand, was copied to all the San Diego County supervisors. Perhaps, he could borrow one of theirs to read.

In his letter to me, Mr. Horn stated (regarding Liberty quarry): "The site is outside our boundaries. I would be out of line telling Riverside how to vote."

I did not ask him to "tell them how to vote."

Mr. Horn, the access road from the quarry where 1,800 truck trips will enter I-15 each day is in San Diego County. The physical address of the quarry is Rainbow Valley Blvd (92028). The pollution from the diesel trucks and the dust pollution will be blown into our communities on the (now clean) daily winds through Rainbow Gap.

Any accidents or fires resulting from this quarry will be responded to by Rainbow Volunteer Fire Dept. You have the nerve to claim San Diego County is not affected? Your refusal to take a stand takes one.

We need a "champion," and obviously, you are not it.

It would seem to me that the people who put you in that office can vote you out.

We won't forget.

Jerri Arganda

Temecula.patch.com

Editor's note: This letter was written by Dennis A. Sanford, chair of the Rainbow Community Planning Group, and submitted by a member of SOS-Hills, a group opposing a proposed quarry just south of Temecula. It responds to a letter Bill Horn sent them in response to a letter asking him for help. Read the letter by clicking here.

Dear Supervisor Mr. Horn,

I read your open letter that was published in the Village News on April 28, 2011 wherein you mentioned that your office did not receive a letter sent by the Rainbow Community Planning Group. You also imply that Ms. Arganda represented the Rainbow Community Planning Group.

In regards to Ms. Arganda, please note that any official correspondence sent to you, your office or published in the media by the Rainbow Community Planning Group will be authorized by the governing committee and signed by the Chairperson or Co-Chairperson of the RCPG. Ms. Arganda, although very active within the Rainbow community, does not officially represent the views or positions of the RCPG.

Any comments or opinions stated by Ms. Arganda or others in the Village News or other media outlets are personal positions and viewpoints that may or may not concur with that of the RCPG.

The initial letter that you state was not received by your office was unanimously approved by the governing body of the RCPG and sent to all of the San Diego Board of Supervisors from the RCPG on or about February 15, 2011.

Mr. Paul Gerogantas, then the Chairperson of the Rainbow Community Planning Group, was the signer. The approval and authorization of Mr. Gerogantas actions is reflected in the official minutes on January 2011 of the RCPG which are on file with San Diego County.

It is unfortunate your office does not have a record of the letter sent by the RCPG requesting your support and intervention relative to the Liberty Quarry. The Liberty Quarry project is not limited to Riverside County. In fact, the project boundaries extend into San Diego County and specifically the community of Rainbow. The access point to the quarry is fully within San Diego County and will require all quarry vehicular traffic to travel through the local streets of Rainbow. In addition, the first responders to any emergency at the Liberty Quarry will most likely be our local volunteer fire department.

Both of these items will place an undue amount of stress on the local infrastructure, all of which will directly impact San Diego County. It is also worthy of note that the address of the quarry will be Rainbow Valley Blvd West, Rainbow, CA 92028.

Furthermore, the project is not part of the San Diego County General Plan, either current or proposed. Our letter simply requested that you and the Board of Supervisors intervene with Riverside County on behalf of your constituents and stress the importance of keeping the quarry project totally within Riverside County.

Along those lines, the Rainbow Community Planning Group has asked Riverside County to require Liberty Quarry to build dedicated quarry access roads within Riverside County, thereby relieving Rainbow of the traffic nightmare that is sure to develop at the numerous intersections in I-15 and the Rainbow Valley Blvd area, all of which are within San Diego County’s jurisdiction.

Our letter requested, and we are asking again, for your support in making this happen.

Thank you for your consideration and please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Chairperson Dennis A. Sanford

Californian  May 17, 2011
Granite should cut its losses

Hurray for Boyd Roberts' Community Forum ("Go home, Granite Construction," May 15). ... It is clear that the majority of our citizens do not want a pit gravel mine in our vicinity, and all arguments for or against are irrelevant.

No one would argue that Disneyland is not a great thing, but a community might not want one in their town. Granite Construction should respect our resolve to not have the gravel mine in our area and cut its losses and forget about this community-killing quarry.

This company is only interested in this ideal site as a real "gold mine" (no pun intended), and it is well demonstrated by their vigorous and persistent quest.

Gilbert Marrero, Temecula

The Californian, Wed., May 11, 2011

Granite cannot be trusted

 

I find disturbing it that quarry proponents seem to believe everything Granite Construction says, while finding no substance whatsoever in any objections by opponents. The dubious environmental impact report was paid for by Granite with the sole purpose of getting the project approved. The ridiculous assertion that the quarry will improve air quality should have been a hint.

Equally absurd is the notion that the quarry will reduce truck traffic. It is disappointing that the city of Murrieta has not weighed in on these critical issues. Could it be because Granite is currently under contract for construction in the city? Murrietans enjoy the same ocean breezes as Temecula and will suffer the same ill effects as well.

Residents of the Southwest Riverside county must maintain their resolve in fighting this monumental and unnecessary boondoggle. Unfortunately, politicians tend to be more easily influenced by money, of which Granite seems to have plenty. The fact that Granite is intentionally underusing and rarely ever mentioning their Rosemary Quarry in San Diego County illustrates their deceptive tactics.

Corporations such as Granite simply cannot be trusted. In the end, the debate is quite similar to religion: Either you believe them or you don't.

Chris Dejan, Murrieta

 

The Californian, Sun., May 8, 2011

Tell the state your problems with mines

Let's see. Granite Construction and the guys spoke as if we are in the Old West during the meeting. Mining began in these parts in the 1800s, the silica will make our air better, there won't be any noise, blah, blah, blah (just like any 3-year-old would say).

One of the best things anyone concerned about Liberty Quarry can do is to attend the State Mining and Geology Board Hearing in Lake Elsinore. Get to know the people in charge of mining at the state level and the laws. The meeting is at 9:30 a.m. May 12 at the Lake Elsinore Cultural Arts Center (downtown).

Everyone who has experienced excessive noise all night long, silica dust, bright lights, odors, health issues, etc. should attend this meeting.

The California Department of Conservations' State Mining and Geology Board wants to hear what everyone has to say. This meeting will be your only opportunity to tell the state your problems with the mines and the city's lack of response to your complaints. We need as many people as possible to come to this meeting (children are welcome).

Paulie Tehrani and Sharon Gallina, Lake Elsinore

 

The Californian, Sat., May 7, 2011

The kings of misinformation

A recent joint Community Forum by Rick Kellogg and Gerald Summers regarding Liberty Quarry quotes part of a sentence from a letter from the South Coast Air Quality Management District ("Don't be fooled by misinformation on Liberty Quarry," May 5). Their partial quote is: "this project could become a leader in the industry for its commitment to reducing air quality and health impacts." If they had included the entire sentence, you would have read: "With the inclusions of these measures, this project could become a leader in the industry for its commitment to reducing air quality and health impacts."

The measures not mentioned are: a requirement that all (not just some) heavy-duty trucks serving the facility will comply with a more stringent on-road emission standard, and the use of non-fossil-fuel-based power generation such as solar panels instead of on-site natural gas-fired generators — neither measure of which Granite Construction has agreed to implement.

The Forum also doesn't talk about SCAQMD's reference to "health impacts." Quarry supporters have said there are no health impacts. Apparently, SCAQMD does not agree with that assessment.

It is amazing how the omission of just six words changes the entire meaning of the sentence. So gentlemen: "Tell the truth, and nothing but the truth."

Linda Bartz, Temecula

 

The Californian, Fri., May 6, 2011

Trust, but verify (with penalties)

There are lots of issues and benefits raised about Liberty Quarry with differing opinions about them, such as dust/particulates, noise, truck traffic, etc. Suggestions to obtain more agreement are:

— Determine with Granite Construction and those opposing the quarry the things important to monitor by an independent agency, and agree to "not to exceed" standards.

— Granite Construction should agree to immediately shut down operations if limits are exceeded until the problem is fixed.

— Granite Construction should fund this monitoring in a manner in which they have no control over monitoring, such as putting money into a trust for Riverside County to hire an independent agency to do the monitoring. Monitoring should be done an agreed-to-minimum number of times a month, and at random.

— Granite Construction should agree to use trucks that are state of the art in minimizing pollution and environmental effects.

— Granite Construction should agree to put the area back into a predefined state at the end of quarry work, with funding for this put in a trust by Granite Construction.

Maybe then we can move on to other important issues.

Dennis Uhlken, Wildomar

 

Granite doesn't care

The pursuit by Granite Construction to acquire permission to destroy a nearby mountaintop has been a revealing process.

They know about the nature research that has been done on adjacent property for years, and yet they have no problem in destroying that effort. They know about one of the last wildlife corridors that goes nearby, and yet they don't seem to care.

They have participated in a sham effort to try to convince area residents that the airborne output from their blasting would put less particulates in the air than the trucks driving down Interstate 15 with gravel from another area.

During a time of high unemployment, they are now trying to play the "jobs" card. Huh? I am confident that quarry work is probably somewhat specialized and requires experience. So how many new jobs would be created for unemployed Temecula residents?

And now we find out that the mountain that they want to rape, pillage and plunder is sacred to our neighbors at Pechanga. The location has a place name in their history and culture, and yet Granite Construction is bound and determined to destroy that also.

Once again, we are seeing a company that doesn't seem to care. All of this speaks volumes about the moral, ethical and cultural character of this company.

Richard Fox, Temecula

The Californian, Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Quarry won't be good for anyone

The quarry hearing April 26 drew more than 1,000 people. A great majority of people oppose the quarry. Many reasons were given; however, it was also clear that the commissioners, appointed by the Board of Supervisors, Riverside County, are pragmatic for the rules, laws, procedures, and think only about the question of air quality, traffic and noise and nothing else.

Liberty Quarry for the past five years has tried to "razzle-dazzle" everyone into believing that it would benefit us all. Their Powerpoint presentation at this hearing was very clever and creative, but irrelevant. It was a car salesman trying to convince and sell you a Cadillac with all of its qualities, but you only want to buy a Ford. That pitch has no relationship.

The citizens do not want a open-pit quarry in their midst. Litigators and judges understand that opposite experts considering equal facts can come up with different conclusions, so this argument about air quality, traffic, noise, etc., is like "barking up the wrong tree."

The real issue when boiled down in the minds of our citizens is aesthetics. We do not want a quarry end of story. Do you think anybody in his right mind will build mansions or a dream home, vintners will build wineries or gentleman farmers to grow their groves? Developers who consider Temecula a place to locate their business will reconsider with a large, ugly open gravel pit in their midst.

The reason Temecula Valley is the prime, most desirable place to live and develop in Riverside County is because it is. Let us not spoil our future. Fight the commission and their possible recommendations to the Board of Supervisors to vote for the quarry.

It is my feeling that they will consider the arguments mostly about air quality, traffic, noise etc. and not about the desire of our citizens. It may take legal action to stop this.

Gilbert Marrero, M.D

 

Follow the money

The Californian (May 1) front page tells us that Planning Commissioner and teacher James Porras may have a conflict of interest in a quarry vote because of Granite Construction's promise to fund the Teachers Retirement fund with several hundred millions of dollars. Conflict? You bet it is.

The Teachers Union alone can bring terrific pressure to bear on the supervisors' vote. But the moral and ethical fiber of politicians in America is so badly torn that nobody seems to recognize right from wrong anymore.

I think we as citizens should demand an accounting from all Riverside officials and our supervisors' campaign contributions to see exactly how far Granite Construction's nose is protruding into the tent; and whoever's palm has been greased should recuse themselves from voting on the Liberty Quarry issue.

Nicholas Waln, Temecula

 

The Californian, May 1, 2011

Comments on educational dignity and the quarry, too


I attended the first two hours of the Riverside Planning Commissioners meeting regarding Liberty Quarry on 4/26/11. During these hours, Gary Johnson of Granite Construction pointed out the pros to having the Lliberty Quarry in Temecula. The key bonus, according to Mr. Johnson, was fewer trucks on the roads, resulting in cleaner air quality. I wonder how on earth there will be fewer trucks? What about the trucks coming and going from the quarry? Why would there be fewer trucks?

The quarry people showed a slide of a badly damaged section of a road in Hemet, pointing out that this was caused by heavily loaded trucks. Doesn't this mean that the roads in Temecula will suffer the same fate? Are the trucks from the quarry going to be lighter? The quarry is going to be "enclosed." The only things that won't be "enclosed" are two large trucks and a large shovel. Won't the shovel and the trucks be the cause of most of the dust? This was my first time at a Planning Commission hearing.

The Commission chairman spent much too much time berating the rude people who made noise. Granted, the meeting did need someone enforcing decorum; however, the arrogant manner used by Chairman Roth seemed intended to agitate the crowd.
I am opposed to the quarry. The area is much too populated. Although I am not a scientist nor am I a genius, it doesn't take either to see that our air quality will be affected.

My husband is a lung cancer survivor with just one lung. Adding more particles to the air can only hurt him. Traffic on Interstate 15 through Temecula and Murrieta is already a nightmare. Adding gravel trucks to the fray will only make it worse, not to mention the damage that these heavily loaded trucks will do to our roads (as proved by Granite Construction).

Last, I have already had to replace my windshield twice in four years, thanks to rocks thrown from gravel trucks when I drive on I-15 and I-91 through Corona, where there is a gravel quarry. Try calling the police with the offending truck's license number and other identifying information. They'll tell you that there's nothing that they can do about it.

Liz Chandler, Murrieta

 

 

May 2011 Opinions/Forums
The Californian
Quarry EIR tells more of real story

To prove that Granite Construction has been deceitful about their project improving air quality, refer to the Riverside County Planning Department website. Select Liberty Quarry EIR, scroll to Air Quality. Page numbers below refer to that section.
On page 69, in the first paragraph, you will see their highly disputed mileage savings, followed by the words, "IF ALL the potential truck traffic displacement occurs.........emissions will be reduced to less than existing levels..(for).regional air...."
This is their "out".

Granite can exaggerate and promise anything but can not be held accountable.
Menifee's City Council, the only one to hear from both sides, voted to oppose the project.

Now let's examine the pollution Liberty Quarry will cause. Page 89 of the EIR shows that 1600 truck trips a day at the project site will increase cancer and chronic illness for residents.

On page 51, six dangerous pollutants are listed. For around 75 years the huge quarry would emit these with almost daily blasting, and other operations, such as an asphalt plant. The six pollutants show a range of up to seven times the threshold levels that are allowable.

However, even after purchasing the maximum ERC pollution offset credits, the EIR states that the excessive amounts would require Granite to purchase remits. This is only allowed when new projects are absolutely necessary to a community!

Why isn't Granite forced to go to one of the alternative sites in San Diego County?
Granite claims 70 percent of their product will be going there! Why is that county against quarries?

Pollution caused by the project would travel with the prevailing southwest to northeast ocean winds. However, page 9 shows how poor the Granite data is on wind speed and atmospheric stability. The EIR states these affect air quality. The only nearby data used was from 2004 and taken from the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve, more than 600 feet below the site. The top of the page states that mountains and valleys affect wind patterns!

A portable meteorological station should have been placed on the project mountain site.

Before a wind turbine is permitted in Palm Springs, this type of MET station must be "on site" for a year, just to protect birds. Isn't protecting the health of people equally important?

Apparently, Granite wanted to downplay the strong force of our prevailing winds that blow daily into our valley, over the vineyards, and through the county. So many of our trees are seen bending toward the northeast, testaments to the consistent wind pattern.

Microscopic crystalline silica, other particulates, and pollutants will be blown into the lungs of young and old, year after year. That is why 155 local medical doctors are on record against the quarry.

The next county Planning Commission hearing will be on Wednesday, June 22, at 9 a.m., at the Rancho Community Church on Temecula Parkway.

Wear some orange and get to the hearing as soon as you can. You can speak, donate your two minutes of allotted time, or just sign a card. All written statements can be put on the record. Be counted!

The Californian
Quarry fever won't go away

By Phil Strickland 


 If the Riverside County planning commissioners were hoping against all hope that the public would become a little less engaged in the Liberty Quarry hearings after the month long recess, if my email and the intensity of online comments are any indication, they're going to be disappointed.
And in their heart of hearts, they must have known that.

Temecula doesn't have a reputation as a "roll-over" kind of place. Neither do its residents.
In fact, quite the opposite. It's more like "Can do" (or as is this case, "Can't do"), although it's true some folks prefer "Don't tread on me."

Already in emails, there are those who think that in the end, the Planning Commission will recommend the project to the Board of Supervisors for approval accompanied by a Statement of Overriding Concerns as it must be in this case because the environmental damages can't be fixed.
Even using Granite's questionable numbers and contrived "logic," the damage can't be fixed.
In the emails, the dominant questions are: Will the city sue? After all, there are plenty of grounds sprinkled throughout the process. And, where do I contribute?

The city, as with many among the opposition, is relying on real science and exposing the company's environmental impact report for the sham it is to defeat the proposal.

Heading to court is costly, and the city would just as soon win this case on its obvious merits.
If Granite's official fakery isn't enough to scuttle the quarry, perhaps the company's continuing contorted spinning of "facts" by itself and Lilburn Corp., its bought-and-paid-for consultant (you remember, the "Getting to Yes" folks), in Granite's "electioneering" for approval will be enough to make our public servants gag and vomit.

Equally as reprehensible as Granite's numeric nonsense is its callous practice of setting neighbor against neighbor to bring pressure to bear on Temecula ---- by going city by city and repeating its same story to residents and electeds in order to corral support for the quarry.

To my knowledge, only Menifee has voted to stand with Temecula in its fight to exercise local control over its future.

Banning, Beaumont, Corona, Cathedral City, Desert Hot Springs, Eastvale, Lake Elsinore, Indio, Moreno Valley, Palm Springs, Perris and Wildomar have sent letters or passed resolutions supporting the quarry.

FYI to those cities: If you were told it would reduce truck traffic and air pollution in the county, you'll want to know that Granite's own numbers show that to be false.

In fact, nowhere in the county will the truck traffic or air pollution be reduced, so says their study.
In fact, that same EIR states they will be increased.

Those are the facts they like to ignore, oops, sorry, "forget."

Californian   May 17, 2011
Granite's numbers racket

By Phil Strickland
Granite Construction representatives, the folks who want to bring you Liberty Quarry, are digging a hole in which they may bury themselves. Who knows why, but they’ve committed to an environmental impact report that demonstrably is based on conjecture and fake “science.”
It is so flawed as to be meaningless.

Meaningless.

According to Betsy Lowrey, the Temecula city planner who scrutinized both the draft and final environmental reports regarding traffic numbers — she knows them every other which way — they’re bunk.

The county agrees, as is evidenced by its throwing out the traffic studies, known as Appendix K1, from the impact report.

To quote from her email on the subject:
A Granite employee “raw count of 1385 trucks (including many types) was followed by the consultant count which was 1113 trucks — but only 931 aggregate trucks. Granite used the consultant’s count ... . I see nothing to indicate any count was cut in half.”
“... the original report dated April 5, 2005 (that did not make it into the EIR and attaches the raw truck counts) assumes that “if development occurs at a maximum extraction, the project” could result in a savings of 9.36 million truck miles per year.
“It appears Granite nearly doubled their assumption” in a later report to 16.5 million truck miles per year.
“What should be (understood),” she writes, is that the data — Appendix K1 — and Granite’s many assumptions of and references to reduced truck miles thereafter — were not found acceptable by the traffic section of the report, which concluded truck traffic will get worse, not better, in the county.
So, when it comes to traffic stuff, everyone rejects Appendix K1, right?

Wrong.

Granite EIR consultants do one of two things:
One: “Forget” about the traffic section’s determination and use the discredited data; or,
Two: Resort to weasel words because they can’t admit the Traffic Section determined the “science” was hokum and the impacts could not be mitigated.

In short: “No reduction in traffic or trucks anywhere in the county,” concludes Lowrey.
Unfazed and undeterred, Granite continues to lie to the commission, valley and county residents, and the supervisors by using baseless — meaningless, really — numbers to support specious arguments regarding the quarry’s true impact on the viability of the quarry and the resultant impact on the county’s economy.

Let no one go away from these hearings believing the numbers, conclusions and real impacts of the proposed quarry — on everything that breathes and sucks up sunshine — are in any way reflected in Granite’s environmental impact report.

It’s an insult.

Regarding Granite’s veracity, Councilmember Maryann Edwards said in an email: The opponents’ closing arguments will be brought to you by the word “Deceit.”

Californian  May 15, 2011
Go home, Granite Construction

"Not in my backyard."
It might sound selfish. It might sound unscientific. It might not sound economic. It might sound "environmental." But let me be clear ---- because we live here and because we are united ---- Liberty Quarry will never happen.

Granite Construction needs to cut its losses now and forget about this community-killing quarry. Get out before you lose more money. We will not stand for it. Go home, Granite Construction!

"Not in my backyard" is a powerful social phenomenon. United communities can prevail over politically well-connected and powerful business interests. I have seen it before.
Prior to moving to the Temecula Valley in 2002, I witnessed firsthand how a united South Orange County fought and defeated North Orange County in the epic El Toro airport battle.

Newport Beach and other North Orange County elites wanted to cram a major international airport into the middle of a thriving suburban area. Through it all, South Orange County remained united. They remained undeterred through two devastating and narrowly lost county measures. They won a third measure, but it was overturned in the courts. The Orange County Board of Supervisors opposed them at every turn for 10 years. But in the end, it just took one victory to slay the Goliath Newport Beach elites.

In 2002, voters passed a fourth initiative, Measure W ---- called the Orange County Central Park and Nature Preserve Initiative ---- and the El Toro airport was defeated.
To defeat this quarry, we must stand united and not be discouraged by setbacks. We must be prepared to take the fight to the Board of Supervisors. We must be prepared to sponsor ballot initiatives. And we must be prepared to fight in the courts.

I think that it is time to organize and draft a county measure on the zoning of the site. The measure would be short, well-written, and possibly would say that the zoning of the site shall be rural residential, or that the Liberty Quarry site shall not be zoned for mining. Activities to put the measure on the ballot would be postponed until after a loss at the Supervisory level.

I think there would be both short- and intermediate-term advantages to drafting a measure at this time. I agree with others that this will also go to the courts, but I do think that the quarry opponents will remain more vibrant and intact if they have a county measure to rally together behind, now.

It may tip the balance of any uncertain supervisors who are undecided as to how they are going to vote. And importantly ---- if on the ballot in June 2012 ---- with the new local-centric political boundaries, the quarry could easily become a litmus test for local candidates.

If the planning commission and the Board of Supervisors approve the quarry, we could be in for a long battle. But because we are united and will not give up, in the end, we will prevail. Liberty Quarry will fail.

Boyd Roberts is a French Valley resident.

The Californian,   Wed., May 03, 2011

Quarry Supporters -- from 'unfair' to outrageous
By Fred Bartz


A May 3 article in The Californian regarding the second Planning Commission hearing quoted Granite Construction's Gary Johnson. The article states: "Johnson said he hopes the commission works to make sure that people aren't allowed to double up and speak twice. 'That wouldn't be fair to everyone,' he said."

With the second Planning Commission hearing now over, it was interesting to note that the only speakers to "double up and speak twice" were Liberty Quarry supporters. None of the opposition speakers spoke more than once; in fact, numerous opposition speakers did not even get a chance to speak because of the quarry supporters who were speaking for a second time.

What was also of interest was a Granite Construction paid consultant who spoke, stating that if Liberty Quarry is approved, that it would not impact either the Temecula Valley's tourism or Wine Country. He referenced the quarries in Napa.

After checking the U.S. government's Mine Safety and Health Administration website, it lists only one sand and gravel quarry ---- not multiple quarries ---- in Napa County. The consultant referenced a quarry, stating that it is larger than the proposed Liberty Quarry. Also, the administration's website includes the work hours as reported by the quarry operator. Over the last 10 years, this quarry has reported an average of 33 workers. So this larger-than-Liberty quarry has only 33 workers ---- interesting! Not at least 99 workers?

Of all the Liberty Quarry supporters who spoke last Tuesday, none of them referenced impacts to the SDSU Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve. Let's be absolutely clear. The quarry site directly touches the border of the reserve on both the north and west side of the quarry. This reserve is a major university outdoor educational laboratory. While alternative quarry sites are numerous (the EIR spoke of 25 sites), there is one, and only one, Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve. Where else will you find 4,500-plus acres of virtually untouched wilderness?

What also was very interesting from the recent hearing was testimony from a city of Temecula expert, and also a real estate agent who stated that he is normally pro-business. Both explained that the blasting and excavating of the mountain would result in the de-watering of the mountain and surrounding properties. One example was that when the de-watering occurs, virtually all of the surface vegetation dies, causing the barren topsoil to be exposed, and both plant life and wildlife lose their life-sustaining water.

Perhaps the lowest moment of the hearing was a Liberty Quarry supporter who used her time to make a personal attack against a local pediatrician who has worked to bring the local doctors together to oppose this quarry location. It was truly outrageous and shameful that she would attack a medical doctor who only wants to protect his vulnerable young patients from the quarry's potential health impacts. The hearing was supposed to be about the project, and not a personal attack.

For me, this person crossed the line.

Fred Bartz is a Temecula resident.

 

The Californian,   Tues., May 03, 2011
This pulpit isn't one for bullies
By: Phil Strickland


This is pitiful.

Granite Construction operative/Murrieta realtor Olden "OB" Johnson assaulted a 70-year-old Liberty Quarry opponent, says a source known to me as honest and straightforward.

And he, former columnist and quarry opponent Paul Jacobs, has e-mailed that he is willing to so testify if charges are filed.

Mr. Jacobs ought to know. He was sitting next to Nicholas Biddle on Tuesday night when Johnson confronted Biddle, reportedly knocking off his glasses, after Biddle snapped a picture ---- perfectly allowable at public meetings ----of him leaving the podium after his presentation.

Biddle, who is recovering from hip-replacement surgery and uses a cane, was seen angrily hobbling away after police "escorted" Johnson from the meeting.

Some of these guys ---- think of them as the corporate equivalent of union thugs ---- can be very unpleasant.

And Johnson has that sort of reputation among quarry opponents.

No wonder he doesn't want people to recognize him.

This, my friends, is the sorry state at which we've arrived in Granite Construction vs. the people of Temecula, and by extension the rest of the residents in our region ---- one increasingly renowned for its grape growing, wine-crafting, antiquing and open countryside.

Oh yeah, and lining the county coffer with tourist dollars.

Aside from the stupidity exhibited by Johnson, Granite's local fellow traveler at Friends of Liberty ---- the quarry you know ---- during Tuesday's Riverside County Planning Commission meeting ---- yes, the same meeting where the chairman warned applauding and laughing residents they could undermine their case ---- there were some serious arguments for and against the quarry.

Unfortunately for Granite, their arguments after six years of citizen discovery and revelation largely look like moldy Swiss cheese.

And, the county's decision to allow Lilburn Corp. ---- the "Getting to Yes" people ---- to craft (and, yes, craft is the appropriate word for all the necessary weaseling) the environmental report so blatantly taints the document that it cannot be taken seriously.

Except that apparently it is by the people who count ---- and that's not you and me.
Namely, it's Granite, which desires bigger profits, and ravenous politicians slobbering for cash.

And what that means is: Too bad, Temecula Valley, there's plundering to done.
Actually, Chairman John Roth runs a good meeting ---- especially if you like order, and this longtime observer does ---- but, come on, how can one not appreciate applause and chiding laughter by good hard-working engaged residents.

Well, it does waste time, but frankly it's like a real celebration of liberty.
It sure beats the heck out of the other disruptions.

The meeting continues at 4 p.m. Tuesday at Rancho Community Church off Temecula Parkway in Temecula.

PHIL STRICKLAND lives in Temecula. Contact him at philipestrickland@yahoo.com.

The Californian, Mon., May 2, 2011
The "Cool It" raspberry


Bundles of thorns to the two men who couldn't maintain a sense of decorum at the first hearing Tuesday on the proposed Liberty Quarry before the Riverside County Planning Commission at Rancho Community Church in Temecula.

In their passion to voice their opposition, each got carried away ---- and appropriately, both got escorted out of the meeting.

One man shouted his objection to the way commission Chairman John Roth was handling the meeting. Roth was attempting to keep the crowd of more than 1,300 under control by cautioning the audience not to clap or otherwise disrupt proceedings.
Another man had to be removed by officers after he interrupted a quarry supporter's comments by shouting how the quarry will "destroy us."

The quarry is an emotional issue with convictions held strongly by each side.
However, debate ---- not verbal abuse ---- is key to democratic discourse.

In their passion to voice their opposition, each got carried away ---- and appropriately, both got escorted out of the meeting.

One man shouted his objection to the way commission Chairman John Roth was handling the meeting. Roth was attempting to keep the crowd of more than 1,300 under control by cautioning the audience not to clap or otherwise disrupt proceedings.
Another man had to be removed by officers after he interrupted a quarry supporter's comments by shouting how the quarry will "destroy us."

The quarry is an emotional issue with convictions held strongly by each side.

However, debate ---- not verbal abuse ---- is key to democratic discourse.

 

 

May 2011 News Articles

Watchdog Institute

Contractors settle lawsuit over high charges to haul debris in Rancho Bernardo after the 2007 wildfires Brooke Williams

Published May 27, 2011

By Brooke Williams

Two contractors will pay $900,000 to settle a lawsuit accusing them of overcharging to haul away the charred remains of 112 Rancho Bernardo homes after wildfires in 2007.

A.J. Diani Construction Co. of Santa Maria and Watsonville-based Granite Construction Co. agreed to the settlement with the city of San Diego without admitting any wrongdoing. In its suit, the city alleged the companies owed more than $2 million of the $9.4 million they billed.

The city will turn over most of the money to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which reimbursed for the bulk of the removal costs.

“I want this to send a message that contractors are going to be held accountable, and we are going to be watching carefully,” said Councilman Carl DeMaio, whose district includes Rancho Bernardo. He has been involved in the case and attended the settlement hearing in March.

In a prepared statement, James Roberts, Granite’s president and chief executive officer said, “Although we remain confident that these allegations were without legal or factual merit, we are pleased to be able to put this matter behind us.”

Diani company officials did not respond to a request for an interview.

The San Diego Union-Tribune investigated the debris removal program in mid-2008 and found that Diani and Granite removed questionable quantities of debris, overcharged for materials, billed for work they didn’t perform, provided receipts that didn’t back up their charges and cost the city millions more than stated in their contracts.

The companies charged the city by the ton, and the newspaper’s investigation showed they billed to haul away hundreds of tons more than privately retained contractors did from nearly identical lots.

For example, Diani charged $224,506 to remove 897 tons from the remains of a 5,000-square-foot home while a private company billed $77,693 to haul 575 tons from the remains of a 7,000-square-foot home. Both burned to the ground.

Dick Semerdjian, one of two San Diego attorneys who handled the city’s case, said the newspaper’s investigation “essentially provided a roadmap” for the case.

“We read what you wrote and then we corroborated it through a private investigator,” he said.

In the most expensive taxpayer-funded cleanup, Diani charged $435,463 to clear the remains of Jack Beren’s home on Angosto Way in The Trails, a Rancho Bernardo community with large view lots.

“I’m happy it’s over with,” Beren said about the settlement. “I’ve moved on, and it’s time for the city to move on.”

The Office of the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security conducted a criminal investigation into possible fraud and misuse of taxpayer money. That investigation closed in last year, and no charges were filed.

Diani will pay $500,000, and Granite will pay $400,000, according to the settlements, which were signed in March. The City Council approved the settlement in April, and it was approved in court this month.

DeMaio said the city almost didn’t pursue a lawsuit because it was going to be so costly and because the money recouped would be turned over to FEMA. Ultimately, the City Council hired outside counsel that fronted the costs and will be paid out of settlement proceeds.

Semerdjian said if the case had gone to court instead of a mediator, the fire victims might have been called to testify and would have been forced to relive the disaster. Plus, he said, the case was expensive and “there was going to be some difficulty in establishing that they intentionally, knowingly were submitting fraudulent weight tickets.”

“It was really an effective way to have everybody buy their peace and just move on,” he said.

Brooke Williams was an investigative reporter for the Union-Tribune before joining the Institute. She was the lead reporter investigating the billing discrepancies in debris hauling after the wildfires in 2007.

Friday, May 20, 2011
TEMECULA: No quarry conflict for commissioners

By AARON CLAVERIE aclaverie@californian.com  

The Fair Political Practices Commission has determined that neither James Porras nor John Snell, members of the Riverside County Planning Commission, has a conflict of interest that would prevent either of them from ruling on Granite Construction's Liberty Quarry project.

The two men ---- Porras is a teacher and Snell is married to a teacher ---- did not attend the May 3 hearing on the project because of conflict questions raised after the first hearing in April.

"There was no conflict," Roman Porter, the commission's executive director, said Friday. He added that the commission notified the county of its findings in a letter sent last week.

During the the first hearing in April, Granite officials said the company would pay millions of dollars in royalties that would end up flowing to the state's teacher retirement fund if the project eventually is approved.

That information was news to Porras, and both he and Snell recused themselves while the county's legal counsel asked for the guidance of the state commission.
Granite, a Northern California-based company, has proposed operating the mine within a 400-acre property between the San Diego County line and Temecula's southern border. At full capacity, the 135-acre quarry is expected to generate 5 million tons of aggregate per year at the site, which is just east of the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve.

That May 3 hearing was the second in what has turned into an ongoing series of commission meetings. The next hearing is scheduled for June 22.

After the commission makes a recommendation on the project, which has been a lightning rod for controversy in Southwest County, it will be debated by the county Board of Supervisors.

Temecula Mayor Ron Roberts said he didn't have any strong feelings on whether Porras and Snell had conflicts, but he said he's disappointed that the full commission didn't get a chance to hear  testimony from the public at the May 3 hearing.
"It almost seems like they should go back and try it again," he said.

Roberts also said he's concerned that the long delay between the May 3 hearing and the June 22 hearing has dampened people's enthusiasm about fighting the quarry.
"I'm disappointed about the whole thing," he said. "Everyone was ready to get this on and take care of it ... now it's going off in the middle of June."

Jim Mitchell of the Santa Margarita Sierra Club, one of the groups that opposes the quarry project, said he never thought there was a clear case of conflict of interest, and he said he would have preferred having the pair at the May hearing."There was pretty dramatic things that were shared," he said.

Even if the commissioners watched a recording of the meeting to get themselves caught up, Mitchell said there were nuances that wouldn't come through in a video, and the commissioners weren't able to interact with the public or ask questions.
Granite Construction Project Manager Gary Johnson said he didn't see a conflict to begin with, and he said the company's preference is to have all five commissioners hear testimony and be a part of the decision.

"If they had a conflict, every taxpayer in Riverside County would have a conflict because of the economic benefits of the project," he said.

Experts interviewed by The Californian after the first hearing expressed mixed opinions on whether the pair have a conflict of interest, but a couple of the experts said that there is an appearance of a conflict because of the royalty payments.
The royalties that Granite could end up paying into the fund would not affect how much money Porras or Snell's wife would receive in benefits, but there are widespread concerns about the solvency of the fund, which right now is propped up by the state's general fund when returns are lower than expected.

However, the amount of money that might be paid into the fund ---- between $100 million and $300 million, according to Granite officials ---- would be a relative drop in the bucket for the $130 billion fund.

For the commission, the question of a conflict hinged in part on whether the benefits that will be paid to Porras and Snell's wife constituted income or salary, which is carved out as separate from incomes. "Pension benefits" fall under the definition of "salary."

From the commission's letter: "Because the pension benefits are not 'income,' and you have not identified any other potential income interests that may create a conflict of interest, under the facts presented, there is nothing to indicate that either Commissioner Porras or Commissioner Snell has a conflict of interest under the Act."

The Press-Enterprise, Fri., May 6, 2011
Temecula tries to fix relationship with Pechanga tribe

By JEFF HORSEMAN

Temecula's City Council reached out this week to the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians in hopes of repairing a relationship damaged by its recent lawsuit against the tribe.

In an interview Thursday, Mayor Ron Roberts said that at the council's direction he and Councilman Chuck Washington personally delivered a letter to the Pechanga Tribal Council in hopes of re-establishing cordial ties with the sovereign tribe, which runs a casino, hotel and golf course on a reservation bordering the city.

"The Temecula City Council is committed to working diligently to rebuild a strong, cooperative working relationship with the Pechanga Tribal Council and its members," Roberts wrote in the letter dated Tuesday.

A federal judge last month dismissed a city lawsuit against the tribe. At issue was how much the tribe should pay for the effects the Pechanga Resort & Casino has on city infrastructure and services.

Roberts said Thursday that tribal officials accepted the city's apology and both sides are moving forward.

In an emailed statement, Tribal Chairman Mark Macarro said while the tribe appreciates the city's desire to rebuild the relationship, "a reality that must be overcome is that had the lawsuit been successful, it could have jeopardized the economic engine that has provided many opportunities for our tribe and thousands of community members."

"Nevertheless, we are mindful of the mutual successes our governments have achieved through collaboration, which is why we stand willing to find ways to work with the city to repair the relationship for the benefit of the broader and shared community."

NO APPEAL

In his letter, Roberts wrote the lawsuit was based on a "different legal interpretation" of the city's rights under the tribe's 2008 compact with California.

"It was never our intention to personally harm the Pechanga Tribe or any of its members, but rather, to protect what we thought were our legal rights until the tribal-state compact," Roberts wrote. He added the city would not appeal the lawsuit's dismissal.

Roberts, who said he has been the city's tribal liaison for 16 years, wrote that the city is willing to work with Pechanga to revise a city/tribal agreement negotiated over two years and ratified by Temecula's council in March 2010.

The 21-year agreement called for the tribe to pay Temecula $2 million annually, with the amount rising after six years to account for inflation. City officials expected Temecula could have received as much as $65 million through the agreement.

The tribe also agreed to pay $10 million or secure federal dollars in the same amount for improvements to the Interstate 15/Highway 79 South interchange, which frequently is used by casino-goers.

PATH TO COURT

Problems arose last summer after city officials said the tribe missed a deadline for the first payment. The tribe maintained the agreement could not be finalized until Pechanga concluded talks with Riverside County over the casino's effect on county services.

The city responded by suing. At the time, Macarro blasted the lawsuit as "absurd" and needlessly confrontational. Judge Dale S. Fischer on April 11 ruled that the city needed specific permission from the state/tribal compact to sue.

After the ruling, Macarro said "little to no desire exists to hand over millions of dollars to a City Council that would seek to cause our tribe, our employees, our business partners, and the charitable causes which we support such harm."

"As a result of (the lawsuit), there was hard feelings -- not from us but from them and rightfully so," Roberts said Thursday. "Legally, our city attorney thought that we could win. We pretty much decided after (the dismissal), there's no more appeals, we lost and let's get the relationship back if we can."

There have been signs of improved city/tribal relations in recent days. On Monday, the tribe guided the allocation of $4.2 million from a statewide gaming fund to Temecula, including $4 million for the Interstate 15/79 South interchange and money for additional police patrols. Macarro's statement Tuesday indicated the tribe was working to secure the money for Temecula even while its lawsuit was pending.

Tribal and city leaders also are united against the proposed Liberty Quarry between Temecula and San Diego County. Macarro and City Council members spoke against the quarry at an April 26 Riverside County Planning Commission hearing, and the tribe and city want to offer further testimony from experts to refute the technical studies supporting the open-pit mine.

Reach Jeff Horseman at 951-375-3727 or jhorseman@PE.com

The Press-Enterprise, Wed., May 4
Next quarry hearing set for June 22

By JEFF HORSEMAN

The third meeting on Liberty Quarry is set for next month, giving Riverside County officials time to answer a key ethics question and get a handle on the complicated review process for the proposed open-pit mine.

County Planning Commission Chairman John Roth announced Tuesday the next quarry hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. June 22 at Temecula's Rancho Community Church.

The five-member commission has held two public hearings on the quarry. Each hearing drew scores of people, lasted 7 hours and featured impassioned testimony from quarry supporters and opponents.

Quarry developer Granite Construction and its supporters say the project will be an economic boost and not harm the environment. Critics say the quarry will cause air pollution and ruin the region's quality of life.

By holding the next hearing in June, officials hope to get a response from the state Fair Political Practices Commission on whether commissioners John Snell and Jim Porras can review the quarry. Snell's wife and Porras are teachers, and the state teachers' retirement fund stands to gain from the quarry because Granite has to pay mineral royalty rights to California.

Another issue concerns whether the city of Temecula, the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians and San Diego State University will have time set aside to present experts to challenge Granite's quarry studies. The groups asked for such time in an April 28 letter to the commission.

Commissioner John Petty supports the idea. The opposition's experts need a pre-scheduled block of time to offer in-depth testimony, he said.

Roth and Deputy County Counsel Shellie Clack disagreed. They maintain the commission's current practice of allowing speakers to collect donations of time from others -- speakers are initially limited to two minutes each, but can get up to 10 minutes with donations -- is sufficient and the fairest for everyone involved.

Petty and Roth also asked Clack to look into whether the commission could limit the volume of public testimony without infringing on free speech rights. Dozens of people remain signed up to speak and it's unclear when the commission will be able to make a recommendation on the quarry to the county Board of Supervisors.

Reach Jeff Horseman at 951-375-3727or jhorseman@PE.com.

The Press-Enterprise, Wed., May 4, 2011
Quarry crowd smaller, not as rowdy

By JEFF HORSEMAN

Tuesday's public hearing on the Liberty Quarry featured a smaller audience than round one, but the same intensity of emotional comments from friends and foes of the proposed open-pit mine.

Compared to the first hearing April 26, when police had to physically remove someone from the audience, the Riverside County Planning Commission proceedings inside Temecula's Rancho Community Church were calmer, but not lifeless.

Occasionally, pro-quarry remarks were met with clapping from supporters or jeers and laughter from opponents, who often applauded anti-quarry testimony. "It would behoove us all if we could just let the people testify and move on," commission Chairman John Roth said.

More hearings will be needed as the five-member commission reviews the project and makes recommendations to the county Board of Supervisors, which has the final say on whether the quarry gets built.

More than 70 speaker slips remain for those who signed up to speak against the quarry, Roth said.

The Riverside County Planning Commission has tentatively scheduled the next meeting on Liberty Quarry for 9 a.m. June 22 at Rancho Community Church in Temecula.

Toward the end of the meeting. a rift had developed over whether the commission should grant special time for Temecula officials, the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians and San Diego State University to offer expert testimony to oppose Liberty Quarry.

Commissioner John Petty suggested the idea. Given the complexity of the quarry, he said the commission should bend it's rules to allow for a special presentation by the city, tribe and university, which runs the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve next to the quarry site. The three entities, which all oppose the quarry, asked for their own set-aside time to offer the commission an expert critique of the project.

"We need an organized approach," Petty said.

But Roth disagreed with Petty.

"We don't need to sponsor this type of an operation," he said, adding that commissioners can always ask questions of the city's and tribe's experts.

Deputy county counsel recommended the commission stick with it's normal policy of allowing speakers to collect up to 8 minutes of donated time; each speaker gets 2 minutes to start out. Doing so would keep the hearing fair for everyone, she said.

Last week's hearing was packed, but when Tuesday's hearing started a little after 4 p.m., there were rows of empty seats -- but still hundreds in the church. Once again, opponents wore orange t-shirts and hats, and supporters -- fewer in number by comparison -- wore green.

Roth read information from county planners indicating 415 people signed forms showing they opposed the quarry, and 27 signed forms in support.

Pro-quarry speakers kicked off hours of public testimony. Leading off was William Smith of Laborers' International Union of North America Local 1184.

Smith said roughly 500 of his union's 4,000 members were out of work. "The only thing that's going to revitalize this economy is private sector jobs," he said.

Jessica Vulovic of Temecula said she supported the quarry after her son's best friend was struck and killed by a truck carrying aggregate, the building material to be produced by the quarry. Quarry developer Granite Construction says the quarry will take trucks off the road since it will be a local aggregate source, although critics say more truck traffic would be created.

Opponents who spoke included Cynthia Myers, who said she lives near the quarry site. She urged commissioners not to "allow a giant corporation to inflict this noisy and obnoxious scar on our communities. Please give us liberty from this quarry."

The quarry would be in the foothills between Temecula and San Diego County. Granite maintains the quarry, which would operate for 75 years and occupy at least 135 acres of a 414-acre site off Interstate 15. The company says the quarry would provide the region with about 100 high-paying jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in sales tax revenue while not being seen or heard by surrounding areas.

Critics say Granite's technical studies are flawed and deceptive. They say the quarry will lead to silica dust entering people's lungs and endangering their health.

The quarry will lower property values, damage local tourism and a neighboring ecological reserve and cause noise and light pollution, opponents say. The Temecula City Council and the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians are among the groups against the project.

Commissioners Jim Porras and John Snell were absent Tuesday. County Deputy Counsel Shellie Clack said they chose not to take part pending an opinion by the state Fair Political Practices Commission.

The FPPC was asked by the county to determine whether Snell and Porras have a conflict of interest because Snell's wife and Porras are teachers. Due to state mineral rights, California's teachers' retirement fund stands to benefit financially if the quarry is approved.

Reach Jeff Horseman at 951-375-3727or jhorseman@PE.com.

The Californian, Tues., May 3, 2011
Public continues sparring over quarry

By AARON CLAVERIE - aclaverie@californian.com North County Times - The Californian

'Common ground was in short supply Tuesday during the second Riverside County Planning Commission hearing on Granite Construction's Liberty Quarry.

Supporters touted the economic benefits of the project, a list, they said, that included new jobs and trickle-down benefits that would accrue from a new source of aggregate material in Southwest County. They also said health fears about dust and silica from the proposed open-pit mine were overblown.

"The truth is, the quarry will not harm us," said Laura Bruno, a former project opponent and Redhawk resident who lives in the southern part of Temecula.

Opponents, however, said particulates from the mine, kicked up during blasting operations, could lead to lung disease and other health problems. And they criticized supporters of the project for skewing what they said were a stack of negatives about the project.

"Why are home sales already falling out of escrow? ... How many people will lose their jobs? How many jobs will be lost in the Temecula Wine Country?" asked Cynthia Myers, a project opponent decked out in orange hat and T-shirt. "Please give us liberty from this quarry."

Granite, a Northern California-based company, has proposed operating the mine within a 400-acre property that sits between the San Diego County line and Temecula's southern border. At full capacity, the 135-acre quarry is expected to generate 5 million tons of aggregate rock per year at the site, which is just east of the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve.

According to Granite's projections, about 70 percent of the aggregate generated at Liberty Quarry would be headed south to San Diego County.

On April 26, the Riverside County Planning Commission conducted the first of a series of hearings on the quarry. The project has been hotly debated in Southwest County, as well as Fallbrook and Rainbow in San Diego County, because of concerns that include the negative effects it could have on air quality, traffic and the migratory paths of animals.

The quarry is supported by people who point to the jobs it will produce and the tax revenue it will generate.

The county has determined that the project is "environmentally superior" to not digging a quarry, in part because of the air-quality benefits from reduced truck traffic.

The county's environmental documentation predicts that, if Granite's projections are accurate, the quarry will eliminate millions of miles of truck travel on Riverside County roads because developers in San Diego County no longer would buy aggregate from quarries in the Corona area and other points north of the county line.

The first hearing was attended by more than 1,400 people, but the audience for Tuesday's session, held at Rancho Community Church, was far smaller: roughly 500 to 750 people.

Before the start of the hearing, county counsel said two commissioners, James Porras and John Snell, were absent because they are waiting to hear back from the state Fair Political Practices Commission about whether it will OK for them to consider Granite's application.

If the quarry is eventually approved, Granite will pay royalties into the state teacher retirement fund that could total between $100 million and $300 million. Porras and Snell's wives are teachers, and there have been questions about whether the pair have a conflict of interest.

After that announcement, commission Chairman John Roth issued a plea to the "diminished" audience, asking them to refrain from acting as if they were at a "sporting event." At the last hearing, there were boos, clapping and comments from the audience. A few people who stood up to shout at either a speaker or the commission were removed from the worship center.

The behavior Tuesday night was better, with no one removed and only a few reprimands issued by Roth.

After Roth's announcement, the commission started taking public comments from the more than 100 people who had signed up to speak about the project. The first two hours of this portion was given to supporters to praise the project and, after a dinner break, opponents were allowed to speak.

Opponents were still speaking late into the evening.

Supporters, a group that wore green T-shirts or hats, said Granite, a company they hailed as both ethical and professional, will make sure that the mine, if approved, would be operated so that no one in the Temecula Valley would see it, hear it or know it was there.

There also were reports presented by a consultant who looked at the tourism industries in the Napa and Coachella valleys and mining industry reps. who underlined the need for aggregate in Southern California.

According to the tourism consultant, Bob Marra of La Quinta, tourists do not shy away from either Northern California's Napa Valley or Southern California's Coachella Valley because of the quarries located near the popular destinations.

"I'm not saying it helps tourism, but it's not harming," he said, adding that, based on his research, property values have not been negatively affected either.

The industry reps said the aggregate produced at the quarry will help satisfy a huge shortage of aggregate material in Southern California, a market, they noted, that is making it very difficult to approve new quarries to handle the demand.

"If we turn them away, they won't be coming back," said Max Miller of Murrieta, a supporter who said he was confident Granite would operate a quarry in a manner that would pass state muster and shield the company from lawsuits.

Before hearing from the opponents, Roth tallied the speaker slips that had been turned in, saying that he received 415 from opponents and 27 in support of the project.

Opponents ---- including residents of Temecula, Rainbow, Fallbrook and surrounding areas ---- then took to the microphone, saying the alleged benefits of the project were a mirage. They also asked the commission to take note of the overwhelming number of people who spoke out against the project.

John Moramarco, a man who has been called the patron saint of Temecula Wine Country, told the commission that the wind that rushes through the Santa Margarita gap turned the valley into a place hospitable for the wineries that eventually took root. And he said that relatively young industry could be harmed if the quarry is approved.

"It's up to you to determine whether you want Wine Country here or the quarry here," he said.

Howard Omdahl, a local real estate developer, said he has purchased aggregate in different forms over the years and he is staunchly in favor of jobs and development.

Though that background might lead someone to think he's in favor of the project, Omdahl told the commission and the audience he is opposed.

"I do not believe this project benefits anyone except Granite," he said.

Continuing, using time donated by other speakers, he sketched out a grim future if the quarry is approved. He warned of a "black dust storm" kicked up in future years when the quarry site, which would be turned into a "dead mountain," is "dewatered." And he said that though the price for aggregate from Liberty Quarry might be low in the beginning, he claimed that Granite would jack up the prices and create a monopoly.

The Californian   Mon., May 02, 2011
Round two of quarry hearing Tuesday night

More than 100 people have yet to speak on Granite's proposed mine

By AARON CLAVERIE - aclaverie@californian.com The Riverside County Planning Commission is scheduled to reopen the public hearing on Granite Construction's Liberty Quarry project on Tuesday night, the second in what is expected to be a series of meetings on the proposed open-pit mine. The first meeting, a seven-hour-plus discussion last week, was attended by a sometimes rowdy crowd of more than 1,400 people.

Once again, the hearing is set to begicren at 4 p.m. and it will be held in the worship center at Rancho Community Church, 31300 Rancho Community Way in Temecula.
More than 100 people who signed up to speak last week have yet to address the commission. That testimony, which is expected to be dominated by residents opposed to the project, should take hours to complete, because each speaker will be given two minutes to speak. The number of speakers also could swell if people who weren't able to make last week's meeting sign up Tuesday to address the panel.

John Roth, the chairman of the commission, said last week that many of the people who have yet to speak noted on their speaker slips that they are opposed to the project. He also said that because of this imbalance, he plans to allow the comparatively small group of project supporters to speak first.

Granite, a Northern California-based company, has proposed operating the mine within a 400-acre property between the San Diego County line and Temecula's southern border. At full capacity, the 135-acre quarry is expected to generate 5 million tons of aggregate rock per year at the site, which is just east of the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve.

After the commission completes its project review ---- a series of hearings that could end up numbering three or more ---- it will issue a recommendation to the Riverside County Board of Supervisors, which will have the final say on the project.

After public comments have been received, the commissioners have talked about allowing Granite Construction to present a rebuttal to the opponents' critiques of the project and the county's review.

Late last week, the city of Temecula, San Diego State University and the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians sent the county a letter asking for a set amount of time to address the commission as well as to answer any questions the members might have.
SDSU manages the reserve as a field station for scientific research.

From the letter, signed by Pechanga Chairman Mark Macarro, Temecula Mayor Ron Roberts and Matt Rahn, director of the reserve's field stations program: "In these times of substantial budgetary constraints, it is extremely wasteful for the county to require other government entities to use scarce public resources to pay their employees and consultants to sit through hours of testimony ---- potentially across several hearing dates ---- without any certainty as to when they may afforded an opportunity to speak."

Smith said Monday the letter was addressed to the commission and Roth, an appointee who was named to the five-member board by Supervisor Bob Buster, and any response to the letter would have to be handled during a public meeting.
In preparation for the rebuttal, Granite project manager Gary Johnson said his company will have experts on hand to answer questions posed by the commission.
On the format, Johnson said he hopes the commission works to make sure that people aren't allowed to double up and speak twice. "That wouldn't be fair to everyone," he said.

Call staff writer Aaron Claverie at 951-676-4315, ext. 2624.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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