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.

View latest In the News here

View May & June 2011 here

April 2011 Letters     Opinions/Forums    News Articles

March 2011 Letters     Opinions/Forums    News Articles

February 2011 Letters     Opinions/Forums    News Articles

January 2011Letters     Opinions/Forums    News Articles

April 2011 Letters to the Editor

The Californian, Sun., Apr. 24
Visualize our area with Granite Construction

While traveling to the Bay Area on Interstate 5 two weeks ago, we saw firsthand a Granite Quarry site. It was approximately one-fourth of a mile from the I-5 freeway and a very unsightly complex.

A large orange water container with the lettering "Granite" caught our attention first, as it protruded perhaps 200 feet upwards. Heavy machinery, equipment, conveyors and huge piles of granite were visible. We passed this sight again en route home to Temecula, observing the large open spaces surrounding the site. One home was visible on the opposite side of the freeway, probably a mile away.

As you observe this site, then visualize Granite Quarry coming to our area on pristine land. There seems to be little doubt that Granite should go elsewhere. It is difficult to understand why our city government and citizens would allow this type of business to come to our area, not to mention pollution and traffic congestion.

Doris Elder, Temecula

The Californian, Wed., Apr. 20
One Temecula elitist

I've heard someone label Temecula residents who oppose Liberty Quarry as elitists. I guess I'm one.

We're the closest resident west of the quarry site. We live in a 50-year old clapboard house with mismatched windows. It is a property that you need to scrape the mud off your shoes after it rains. The roof is problematic during heavy rains and the electricity goes out with thunderstorms. Up until the digital television transition, our home had only five television stations. We have no dishwasher or washing machine in order to protect the sweetness of our well water.

But we have no regrets. Country living makes up for it. Yes, we are elitists — where quiet, simple existence is preferred over racket and corporate hustle. Living with clean air and solitude, the opposite of Los Angeles living.

Of the 50 years our family has owned the property, we never took anyone's quality of life. We've never pulled a neighbor down into a hole so we could climb out above them. We've never requested a "noise ordinance exemption" to legally impose ourselves onto our neighbors' lives.

Who are the true elitists? Please attend the Planning Commission hearing at 4 p.m. April 26 at the Rancho Community Church in Temecula.

Mike Jurkosky, Temecula

A risky endeavor

According to the April 16 article, "County recommends Liberty Quarry approval," county planners have basically said they'd rather have silica dust than smog currently created by Granite's trucks traveling on the Temecula/Murrieta corridor. Rainbow is only three miles south of Temecula. Smog is not immobile. Smog travels.

If the quarry is passed, the trucks traveling on the 15 south from Rainbow will create smog that will later be blown into the Temecula Valley. If the quarry is passed, Temecula Valley will then have to deal with silica dust and smog blown in from Granite Construction trucks traveling from Rainbow.

Also, I am aware that Riverside County has great plans for Temecula wineries. If the quarry is passed, there is a risk that wine industry tourism will be negatively affected. Local wineries are the main draw to Temecula. If they fail, imagine what would happen to the area. Tax revenues from the hospitality and service industries would dramatically decrease. Is this really a risk worth taking?

Pamela Chaput, Murrieta

The Californian, Tues., Apr. 19
Not in their backyard

It finally becomes crystal clear to me why Rick Kellogg and some others of his ilk are so adamant about the quarry being built in Temecula. The article in The Californian on April 8 states that there will be three meetings conducted by the project manager, Gary Johnson — one in Temecula, one in Corona and one in Hemet ("Three quarry info sessions scheduled next week").

The article also states Corona and Hemet were chosen "to explain to residents in those parts of the county how truck traffic will be reduced in their neighborhoods if Liberty Quarry is approved."

No wonder people who live further north and east like Mr. Kellogg and a few others are all eager to have the quarry built here. We are the ones who will suffer the consequences of dust, traffic, air pollution, noise, health problems. Tourism, the Wine Country and real estate will most likely also be affected, not to mention the Santa Margarita Ecological Research facility, the last free-running river and the last wild animal crossing from the coast to the Palomar Mountains.

Erika Hornisch, Temecula

The Californian, Sun., Apr. 17
Opposing the quarry

I just finished mailing five letters opposing the Liberty Quarry to our five county supervisors. If you do not know who they are, here are their names: Bob Buster, District 1; John Tavaglione, District 2; Jeff Stone, District 3; John Benoit, District 4, and Marion Ashley, District 5.

If you want our surrounding area to stay clean and safe, write/e-mail all of the Riverside County supervisors and let them know we do not want a quarry at all. Make sure you are at the public hearing at 4 p.m. Tuesday, April 26 and Tuesday, May 3 at the Rancho Community Church at 31330 Rancho Community Way, Temecula. See you there.

Carol Saenz, Temecula

What's driving Granite Construction

Granite Construction did not chose the Liberty Quarry site because they wanted to help Riverside County. They chose the site because it contains enough natural resources to satisfy their projected needs for the next 75 years.

The poor economy has hit Granite hard. Skyrocketing operating costs, diminishing returns from existing sites and new materials being developed that reduce the need for aggregate are what's driving Granite Construction. Not the desire to bring 200 jobs into Riverside County.

If you support the Liberty Quarry project because you are hoping to land one of these jobs with Granite Construction, perhaps you should ask yourself, "Am I qualified to drive an 18-wheeler, light a stick of dynamite, or run high-tech mining machinery?" If the answer is no, you're probably going to be out of luck. If the answer is yes, think for a minute. Is Granite Construction really going to fill these jobs with new trainees, or will they simply transfer experienced employees from other quarry sites where operations are winding down?

No company is that altruistic. Not even Granite Construction.

Anne Pelej, Temecula

Mine or wine

I live seven miles east of "mine" mountain, with somewhat of an unobstructed view from my backyard.

1. A 14 miles per hour breeze may be able to deliver silica particles to my home in Wine Country in 30 minutes, 24 hours a day.

2. The explosions from Camp Pendleton rattle our windows about once a month. Will the detonations from the mine, half the distance away, equal the percussion level of Camp Pendleton?

3. Will the mine detonations occur 10 times more often (30 days vs. 3 days)?

Five County Supervisors may end the mine/wine debate. In this case, we may get our money's worth. Currently, a supervisor makes about $150,000, plus benefits. This is far better than a $100,000 congressman. If they vote for the mine, or take a riskier approach to dismiss themselves if any one of them feel a conflict of interest, there could be a public outcry.

After future elections, we may be looking at a few new faces. A position of $150,000, plus benefits, could evaporate into a much lower-paying job. Make "mine" "wine."

Cecil Stralow, Temecula

The Californian, Sat., Apr. 16
Two more points regarding the quarry

Regarding the Liberty Quarry: A letter to the editor by Pete Friederich (April 12) discussed the "hidden costs" to the area downwind from the quarry. Mr. Friederich had many good points and I would like support what he had to say and add two other points.

First, the incessant pounding noise caused by blasting. People in Temecula are well aware of the faint pounding we hear/feel occasionally when there is shelling practice at Camp Pendleton. The Marine base is about 30 miles from us, whereas the quarry is only about three miles away. And they will be blasting granite for 75 years. Given the above, the prospect of attracting new, clean industry into our area will virtually disappear. I'm afraid that the only new business will be gravel-related and that would be grim.

Second, regarding truck traffic on Interstate 15: I travel between Winchester Road and Route 78 several times a week. I have seen more gravel trucks on the road in the last week than in the previous several months. These trucks are empty (in both directions) and have no owner or company names on them. I suspect that these are Liberty decoys — not actual working trucks.

But, if and when the gravel pit opens, there will be hundreds of trucks lumbering up and down the hills. Lord help the daily commuters.

Patricia Hall, Temecula


Quarry means unemployed truck drivers

A Liberty Quarry supporter writes that the quarry "will be removing more than 1,200 commercial trucks annually from the local freeway" ("Area will be better off with Liberty Quarry," April 7). So it appears he thinks the "area will be better off with Liberty Quarry," based on his Community Forum's headline.

However, we are told that only 99 quarry jobs are to be added, and in the process, to use his words, remove "more than 1,200 commercial trucks." This translates into putting 1,200 truck drivers out of work. Apparently, the writer thinks that approving Liberty Quarry, even if it means putting 1,200 truck drivers out of work, plus an unknown number of support staff, is a good idea.

Taxpayers end up paying for the unemployment costs of 1,200 unemployed truck drivers and support staff, while Granite Construction makes mega-profits from the quarry.

This letter does not cover other job impacts, like jobs lost in high tech and bio-medicine, and jobs not locating here because of expected pollution from the gigantic open pit mega-mine. Not addressed is the mine's obvious impact on regional agriculture and tourism. Who will want to sit at an outdoor restaurant while pollution floats in the air from the gentle breeze Temecula Valley wineries enjoy daily?

Jim Willis, Temecula

The Californian, Fri., Apr. 15
Quarry will increase pollution

The argument that Liberty Quarry will allow less traffic on the freeways does not address what it will mean in Rainbow.

The road to the quarry is in Rainbow and less than a mile from our grade school. We already have two truck weigh stations in Rainbow and this will greatly increase the air pollution that the children will be exposed to.

I have no idea if the Environmental Protection Agency included Rainbow in its calculations, but I doubt it. How about Bill Horn speaking up for our children? Isn't that his job?

Patricia Baker, Rainbow

The Californian, Tues., Apr. 12
How beautiful was my valley — no Liberty Quarry

Will Liberty Quarry be the death of beautiful Temecula Valley as we know it and think its future to be? Should Liberty Quarry be established, would it cause Southwest Riverside County to follow the downward spiral of mining towns across America?

I have seen depressed mining areas/towns all over the U.S., as in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, throughout Appalachia, New Mexico, Montana and the Midwest like Cairo, Ill., and Duluth, Minn. These mining locations have never recovered from their depressed economic situations. As mining towns lose their desirability as places to live because of pollution from mining operations, the towns' businesses and non-mining jobs decline, young people move away and leave only those residents associated with mining. Over time, the health of the residents deteriorates due to air pollution from mining operations. Medical studies have concluded that residents of mining towns frequently die prematurely from pollution associated with the mining.

To our distinguished county supervisors: Please don't let this happen to Southwest Riverside County. Remember the future health, welfare and lives of the hundreds of thousands of people already here in Southwest Riverside County. Protect all of our Riverside County and the future of "all" its residents.

Armondo Lopez, Temecula

Caution: the high hidden costs of Temecula quarry

The Liberty Quarry marketing machine has been working on their arguments for years. However, they've yet to make a plausible case to those living in and around Temecula Valley as to why they should compromise the health and quality of life for their children, friends and neighbors to increase the profits of a billion-dollar multinational corporation.

While ignoring the "significant and unavoidable impacts" cited in their own studies, quarry representatives continue to repeat the "jobs" mantra, as if hoping to hypnotize us into believing that what would be bad for us won't be.

OK, let's talk jobs. How many prospective technology-based and service-related companies will expand elsewhere to prevent their employees from living and working downwind of a massive quarry? Which current businesses will relocate elsewhere for the same reason? How will further reductions in home equity prevent scores of local residents from starting businesses, employing local residents and pursuing their own American dream?

Note: We haven't even touched on losses to agriculture and tourism employment previously addressed. Add just some of these negative job offsets together and multiply them for the next several decades, and you'll soon realize that potential job losses could be staggering.

Pete Friederich, Temecula


Dust will most assuredly happen
The Californian, Sun., Apr. 10

Be assured, Mother Nature will blow far and wide the dust and pollutants from Liberty Quarry into Temecula Valley, Rainbow and Fallbrook. Last Feb. 18, San Joaquin Valley, just north of the Grapevine, had a major dust storm. I was coming home from San Francisco down Interstate 5 when the California Department of Transportation posted alert signs that warned of severe dust storms ahead.

As we got closer, we decided to get off I-5 and stop at a McDonald's. What we saw was unforgettable. People were running to the restaurant, trying to open the door that the power of the wind was keeping from opening. We and others covered our heads, eyes, noses and mouths with jackets, or whatever we had for protection from the dust. Three people fell trying to get out of the storm. We all got watery eyes, dust in our nostrils and mouths and found it hard to breathe.

Have no doubts, Mother Nature will blow dust and other pollutants into Temecula Valley, Rainbow and Fallbrook. For the environmental impact report and others to say dust won't come from the open-pit mine is ludicrous.

Jacquelyn Lopez, Temecula

Opposed to illegal aggregate mining
The Californian, Sun., Apr. 10

Have the mining operations on Lake Street and/or Nichols Canyon Road caused you problems with your house, dust, noise, health issues, blasting, etc.? Then you must attend the State Mining and Geology Board hearing meeting, which has been rescheduled to 9:30 a.m. May 12 at the Lake Elsinore Cultural Arts Center, 183 N. Main St.

The state is concerned about the health and safety of the public and Lake Elsinore's lack of response to our complaints. The California Department of Conservation's 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, the city's lack of response and all your complaints.

We need as many people as possible to come to this meeting (children are welcome). We encourage you to talk to the board; they are here to help us.

Paulie Tehrani and Sharon Gallina, Lake Elsinore

Keep the quarry out of here
The Californian, Sat., Apr. 9

For the past several months, I have read on the Community Voices page about the good, the bad and the ugly concerning the Liberty Quarry in our midst. But I think the real issue, not mentioned, is aesthetics, period.

Do you think that if the quarry was here 25 years ago, a place called Temecula would attract people to come and build their mansions and dream homes? Would people construct beautiful communities here?

Our valley — Temecula, Murrieta and surrounding areas like Rainow, De Luz, La Cresta and the 79 south — and our far-visionary City Council will make this place the prime and most desirable place to live in Riverside County. Keep the quarry out of here, if for no other reason than the aesthetics and the appreciation of the beauty of nature that outweigh other considerations.

Gilbert Marrero, Temecula

Stop wasting time, money on quarry discussion
The Californian, Fri., Apr. 8

I've read the environmental impact report commissioned by Granite Construction for Liberty Quarry, and while there are many negative aspects of this project, the most universal is the impact on traffic and transportation.

The facts: The report states the project has a "potentially significant" and "unavoidable" impact on traffic, even after all mitigation efforts. Granite Construction is not required to pay for all road improvements, only their "fair share." (Who pays the rest? Taxpayers?) Riverside County does not have the authority to make the road improvements. CalTrans, the city of Temecula and San Diego County must also agree or they don't get done.

The Liberty Quarry project will increase the cost of living for all residents in Riverside County. With 1,400 more trucks a day on the road, it doesn't matter if they're going north or south –– at $4 a gallon for gasoline, can anyone afford to idle longer?

I call upon the Riverside County Board of Supervisors to stop wasting their time and our tax dollars on discussion of this project and move on to improving the quality of life in the county for the voters who live here.

Anne Pelej, Temecula

Skirting the question
The Californian, Thurs., Apr. 7

In my letter to the Californian of March 11, I asked one question of Mr. Kellogg — to explain to me how 1,600 trucks, or how many more or less there will be, would reduce traffic on Interstate 15.

He very adroitly skirted the question (March 23).

He has not explained how more will be less. Whether trucks go north or south is irrelevant; the fact remains they are on I-15, and all the people going south will have to contend with this increase in traffic, and I am one of the people going south most of the time. Also, will there be a guarantee that none of these trucks will be going north? I think not.

If, as stated, the materials are supposed to go south to San Diego County, then put a quarry there and leave this, one of the last exquisitely pristine areas, alone.

Just to inform Mr. Kellogg, I am not swayed by anyone. I read, I research and I visited the Santa Margarita Ecological Research Center. This place is awesome, and anything that would put it in jeopardy would be against anything that environmentalists stand for, and I am not one of them.

Erika Hornisch, Temecula

If no noise, why a noise exemption?
The Californian, Wed., Apr. 6

Two recent letters (April 3) from Liberty Quarry supporters both stated that the public will not see, hear or feel the proposed Liberty Quarry. Apparently, they must not be aware that Granite Construction has requested a "noise ordinance exception" from the county for Liberty Quarry.

In the recently released final environmental impact report, it states that the quarry is requesting to operate "from 4 a.m. to 12 a.m. (midnight), six days per week, 52 weeks per year." Additionally, the EIR states: "Maintenance would occur on a continual basis, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, 52 weeks per year." Further, the EIR states: "The quarry would periodically ship materials 24 hours per day, up to seven days per week for limited periods."

This means we would have continual noise seven days a week, 24 hours per day, for the next 50-75 years from Liberty Quarry, if approved by the county. Add noise from daily blasting, and how could anyone really believe that we will not hear the noise?

I hope all those outspoken quarry supporters who say that we will not hear Liberty Quarry will go back and ask Granite Construction why Granite is requesting a noise ordinance exception.

Linda Bartz, Temecula

Quarry dust will be plentiful
The Californian, Tues., Apr. 5

I think we are all familiar with everyday dust. We see it on the furniture in the home, or on the car in the driveway, but do we ever wonder how it got there? We keep the doors and windows closed, but somehow it still invades our homes, and thankfully it doesn't do us any harm.

But think what this proposed quarry could do, sitting more than 100 feet above the valley floor, in an ever-open environment, with breezes blowing continually. They will be blasting, cutting and shoveling rock, which contains silica, all day long — and yet some people seem to think there won't be any dust.

Think again, people. There will be plenty. Attend the meeting on April 26 and voice your opinion.

Don Swift, Temecula

Conservatives needed to conserve

Conservatives of Southwest County: Their title implies that they don't relish change and wish instead to conserve those things we should all cherish. They may be pro-business and want badly to buy the mythical promises they're being sold by Granite Construction and its apologists, but they're not going to like the changes Liberty Quarry will bring to the lifestyle they may want to conserve.

If this monstrosity is installed, they will breathe the same silica dust and diesel exhaust, sit in the same stalled traffic, repair their cracked windshields, hear the same distant booms and watch their property values decline with as much frequency as their liberal, wacko-environmentalist, tree-hugging neighbors.

So conservatives need to attend the Planning Commission hearing on April 26 at Rancho Community Church and make their desire to conserve known to the small number of individuals who will determine the quality of life for them and the future generations who live here.

Joe Pelej, Temecula

Help save our local values and lifestyle
The Californian, Sun. Apr. 3

Would you want your property values to plummet? Our clean air to be filled with silicate dust and daily noise pollution? The water in the pure Santa Margarita River to be contaminated by chemicals? The extinction of wildlife species that need to cross to the Palomar Mountains? San Diego State University giving up its research at the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve? Our tourism industry coming to an end because what attracted tourists no longer exists? Fourteen hundred more truck trips on our Highway 15 at the Rainbow exit every day, spewing out toxic diesel and asphalt fumes?

All of this will happen and will go on for 50 to 75 years unless we make our voices heard now. Granite Construction is a very wealthy, unrelenting company that wants to develop Liberty Quarry right at the San Diego/Riverside county line on the west side of Highway 15, because it is easy access to the highway and will bring them megabucks, but at huge costs to us who live here.

You must let your opposition be heard by attending the Riverside County Planning Commission meeting at 4 p.m. April 26 at the Rancho Community Church, 31300 Rancho Community Way, in Temecula. We need you there.

Marilee Ragland, Fallbrook

March 2011 Letters to the Editor

Why doesn't Horn take a stand on quarry?
The Californian, Wed., Mar. 30

If you want to see a community stand together, look at Rainbow. The Rainbow Community Planning Group sent Bill Horn a letter over a month ago, asking him to stand up for us and to support us. I believe they asked him to take a stand regarding the proposed Liberty Quarry project. Why didn't he answer this plea? He just ignored us.

We have no "voice" in the decisions the Riverside County supervisors make. Rainbow will be most affected by this quarry — air pollution, traffic, strain on our emergency response ("first alert") volunteer fire department. This community, as we know it, will be history. Horn knows that. He was elected to represent and protect us. He is not.

Our elementary school is the closest school to the site. Does that bother Horn? We all know this is a San Diego issue. To say otherwise is ludicrous. There is injustice here. We need someone with courage to stand up for us. Our future is not with a gravel quarry. Is Horn's?

Always remember that Granite Construction is not constrained by the truth. Is Horn? He may not care about us, but we will never forget him.

Jerri Arganda, Rainbow

Keeping our clean air
The Californian, Wed., Mar. 30

We are blessed to have the Pacific air stream maintaining fresh skies for us in the Temecula Valley. Surely, most of you have experienced this when you set out from Temecula to destinations in Los Angeles County and hit into the smog belt. I often experience a definite jolt to my respiration as I cope to adjust.

Our clean skies are to be coveted and protected. For six years, we have been battling against a real threat to our clean air in the Liberty Quarry proposal. I would not want to spend the next 50 years relying on air monitoring stations and elusive air quality regulation to ensure the continuance of the favorable situation we already have, especially not given the record of regulation experienced in the sub-prime and Enron debacles and the recent hexavalent chromium pollution scandal in Riverside.

At the hearing on this latter matter, one air quality official opined that regulation wasn't working. Tell me about it! So my good neighbors, civic duty calls. Democracy is not a spectator sport. If the market's in San Diego, locate the quarry there. Seize the moment, April 26, at our local Rancho Community Church. Let's get one for the kids.

Kenneth Johnson, Temecula

A dangerous game
The Californian, Wed., Mar. 30

It is time that the Riverside County Board of Supervisors realizes it is playing a dangerous game with the locals. The majority of Temecula residents want the quarry under no circumstances, regardless of recommendations to alter the original project footprint downward.

The axiom that all politics is local is painfully true now, because Riverside County needs the economic might of "Southwest" more than ever. If the project is given final approval, Southwest residents may decide we are better off in our own county, where we can control for ourselves the quality of air and life for our residents.

Edward Sibby, Temecula

Keep politics local
The Californian, Sun., Mar. 27

Rich Loomis of Hemet (March 16) opines how privileged the city of Temecula is because we were granted a hearing on the proposed Liberty Quarry here in our own town.

I have to ask, why does a man who doesn't even live here protest so much? The aggregate that is to be mined in the protected hills above our city, on sacred Indian land next to a sensitive wildlife corridor, isn't even to benefit his city — or ours. It will be mined at our expense, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for 75 years, with accompanying blasting and air pollution, mostly for the benefit of San Diego County.

So I ask: Why does Mr. Loomis care what happens in Temecula? He neither lives here nor will the quarry affect him. Perhaps he should consider what it would be like to have a filthy, noisy, polluting mine located in his city? Perhaps then he'd have something to say on the issue.

Let's keep politics local and people like Mr. Loomis' busybody opinions out of it. Unless of course, he'd like to invite Granite Construction to build their mine in Hemet? Preferably next door to his house.

Kim Wilder, Temecula

Concern for children's health
The Californian, Sat., Mar. 26

The public hearing before the Planning Commission for the open pit mine called Liberty Quarry run by Granite Construction is 4 p.m. April 26 at Rancho Community Church. If you had not heard, the environmental impact report found that there will be unavoidable impacts on air quality for our area. Daily explosions are part of the mining process and thousands of trucks will be entering and leaving the site off Highway 15.

Over a hundred doctors in our town have formed a group opposing the location of this quarry so close to a residential population. As scientific literature firmly supports, poor air quality leads to increases in asthma and other breathing problems, increases in school absences and increases in emergency room visits. The open pit mine will be adjacent to the Santa Margarita River and Ecological Reserve and one of the last wildlife corridors in the region.

The Planning Commission and the Riverside County Board of Supervisors will decide whether or not to let the mine be permitted. You do not get to vote on it, so write them and tell them you are concerned about your child's health. Every letter counts. And please come to the hearing. Protecting our children's health and environment matters.

Kristi Rutz-Robbins, Temecula

Quarry not good for future of Southwest Riverside County
The Californian, Sat., Mar. 26

We do not need the image of Riverside County to be "the mining capital of the west," which the proposed Liberty Quarry would create. How can this image be avoided when trucks are daily crossing the Rainbow overpass and trucks merging into Interstate 15 and blocking slowing traffic? This image will deter any location of new industries/companies that require "a quality clean environment" for its operations.

Our Riverside County desperately needs non-mining types of industries for a balanced growth economy, and our Southwest region is a logical extension to San Diego that has an acceptable clean environment needed by high-tech and bio-med firms, which are the economic future of our country.

The Granite Construction company should abandon its plans for its proposed gigantic open pit mine at this site. The Riverside County Supervisors are asked to remember the interests of the majority of the residents of Southwest Riverside County and vote against the proposed open-pit mine with all its unmitigated negative environmental affects. The residents will be watching.

Jacquelyn Lopez, Temecula

Applauds Temecula's fight to protect area
The Californian, Thurs., Mar. 24

In Rich Loomis' letter of March 16, Mr. Loomis, in what is undeniably green-eyed jealousy, is complaining about Temecula and the fact that the city and supervisors whose districts are where the proposed Liberty Quarry falls, went to bat for their constituents to have the planning department hearing held locally. The hearing is on April 26 at the Rancho Community Church, rather than forcing the residents to drive to Riverside.

This certainly does not fall under the heading of "privilege" for Temecula, but rather consideration for the extreme inconvenience for residents of Murrieta, Temecula, Rainbow and Fallbrook who would have to drive north for a 4 p.m. meeting and return in the dark, certainly keeping many seniors and parents with school-age children from participating in this process.

Further, Mr. Loomis' letter references "the high and mighty Temecula" because the Planning Commission hearing is being held in Temecula; however, if you look back at previous hearings, they have also been held in places such as Perris, La Quinta and yes, Mr. Loomis, even Hemet and the Coachella Valley. So is Mr. Loomis then saying those towns are also "high and mighty"? We applaud Temecula's fight to protect this area.

Barbara Wilder, Temecula

Comments on quarry were self-serving
The Californian, Wed., Mar. 23

Rich Loomis (March 16) of Hemet needs to get his facts straight. First, Temecula isn't beholden to "Banning, Moreno Valley, Hemet, Corona and the Coachella Valley." Mr. Loomis feels that Temecula should allow the Liberty Quarry and calls those who oppose it "extreme environmentalists and Temecula elitists." I don't live in Temecula and am certainly not "elitist," but I do respect the city's right to allow or disallow businesses and projects that will have a negative impact on the environment and the way of life.

The area in question is one of the last remaining wildlife corridors in the area. Maybe wildlife is less important to Mr. Loomis than aggregate, but some of us moved out this way because of the clean air, wildlife and quiet atmosphere. None of that will co-exist with Liberty Quarry.

What does he care, when it's not in his backyard? There are multiple granite quarries in Corona, two in Lake Elsinore within minutes, Perris and various other sites around the county. Why do we need another? The impact will affect Temecula, not Hemet.

Mr. Loomis is negative and his comments are self-serving. As far as not being a "sustainable way to operate a city," it seems that Temecula is sustaining itself just fine.

Tina Tyra, Wildomar

Reject proposed Liberty Quarry
The Californian, Wed., Mar. 23

After reading statements for and against the proposed Liberty Quarry, Granite Construction's plan for a massive open pit mine at the Southwest entrance of Riverside County should be rejected. The unmitigated negatives of the project far outweigh its limited gains, including estimated new jobs and revenues as described in the draft environmental impact report. After asking many Southwest Riverside County residents, including businesses, about the proposed gigantic open pit mine, the vast majority do not want the project at this site, or the pollution, traffic and related health problems it will create.

I find it unconscionable that Granite Construction Company would disrespect and discount the interests of the region's residents, and at any cost, sacrifice, abuse and degrade Riverside County for its own profit motives. Granite Construction Company, under the disguise of creating jobs, is only truly interested in making profits at any cost over the well-being of county residents.

Armondo Lopez, Temecula

Silicosis victim knows dangers of nearby quarry
The Californian, Sun. Mar. 20


"Conservation-hating environmentalists," as per Jim Welker, or falsehoods to scare people, as per Rick Kellogg or the "extreme environmentalists," as quoted by Rich Loomis are all extremely harmful and hurtful to me because I am none of the above titles mentioned by these three individuals.

I am, instead, a victim of the the dangerous disease of silicosis, coming from living within about 15 miles of another quarry as a child right here in Southern California, in Los Angeles County. I know for a fact it is dangerous to live downwind of a quarry as a child or for anyone with a respiratory problem. This is among the same problems that the victims of the Alberhill Ranch community have. I'm talking about the incidents of asthma and other respiratory problems caused by the silica dust all day and night long, especially when the noon breeze picks up every day.

The problem is so bad there that now that the Department of Conservation's State Mining and Geology Board is going to Lake Elsinore for a meeting at the Cultural Center on Main Street at 9:30 a.m. April 14, to which everyone, including those from Temecula and Murrieta, are invited.

Ron Glusac, French Valley

Don't support quarry
The Press-Enterprise, Wed., Mar. 16

Those who want the Liberty Quarry don't see the full picture.

The quarry would cause great problems in the Temecula Valley with its pollution, not to mention loss of real estate value.

If a supporter went house-hunting and found a beautiful home, only to find out that the local quarry would ruin his property value, would he buy it?

We need clean companies that can provide jobs and not ruin our community.

Mary Jean Gordon, Temecula

Let them build a quarry in San Diego
The Californian, Fri., Mar. 11

I live in Temecula, and I am out around town on a daily basis, and I have yet to see a truck hauling granite or any other quarry materials. So the conclusion would be that these trucks are all driving up and down Interstate 15.

Here is where I have my problem. I would like Mr. Rick Kellogg to explain to me how 1,600 daily truck trips from the infamous Liberty Quarry would reduce truck traffic. I guess I am too dense to understand this kind of reasoning, so Mr. Kellogg, please enlighten me.

And these trucks would be going north and south. If all these materials from the quarry are going to San Diego, as stated in numerous letters to the editor, then let them build a quarry in San Diego where the harm caused by it would be minimal and would not have such a horrific impact on the area.

Erika Hornisch, Temecula

Bury quarry idea
The Press-Enterprise, Wed., Mar. 9

I am responding to the different people who have written in support the proposed Liberty Quarry.

Cindy Roth, in her op-ed, writes that the quarry would add 99 direct jobs ("OK quarry; it will bring jobs, tax revenue," Feb. 26). We have at least 300,000 residents in the local area, and those 99 jobs would provide 0.03 percent of those 300,000 individuals with work. That's one job for every 3,000 residents.

That won't provide much of an impact, let alone the "huge boost" Olden Johnson predicts ("Approve Liberty Quarry," Your Views, March 7).

And what about the destruction of the air quality and how it will affect the quality of life in the surrounding area? In the long run we will be devaluing local real estate by polluting the air with silica dust. Be prepared to spend plenty on respiratory disease.
Let's be honest: The company behind the proposal is interested in investing first and foremost in its own economy.

Yes, we need to seek opportunities for economic improvement, but not when there are serious built-in problems.

With the presence of daily winds from west to east coming directly through the local area, the proposed location could not be a worse choice.

Patricia D'Angelo. Temecula

Attend meeting to discuss quarries
The Californian, Sat., Mar. 5

We live in Alberhill Ranch and have many problems living on an active mining site. Our homes are built upon unreclaimed mining land, (that's) what's under our houses.

We have experienced noise (all hours of the day and night, e.g., 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.), which disturbs our sleep, silica dust and many more problems. Our situation is so serious with mining that the Department of Conservation's State Mining and Geology Board is coming to Lake Elsinore for a meeting at 9:30 a.m. April 14. The meeting will be held at the Cultural Center on Main Street in Lake Elsinore.

We hope everyone who is against quarries in Lake Elsinore and Temecula will attend and speak on the issue to the Board.

Paulie Tehrani and Sharon Gallina, Lake Elsinore

Keep out quarry
The Press-Enterprise, Wed., Mar. 2

In response to Cindy Roth's opinion on the proposed Liberty Quarry ("OK quarry; it will bring jobs, tax revenue," Feb. 26), she seems to have overreached her position as president and CEO of the Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce. She dismisses the health and environmental issues by not even mentioning them.

I wonder if she understands the health issues posed by airborne fine-aggregate granite particulates, which are jagged, and once inhaled cannot be exhaled? Also at issue is the contamination and disruption of the Santa Margarita River, the air pollution disrupting meteorological reports by San Diego State University at the Santa Rosa Plateau and the destruction of the wildlife corridor at Interstate 15.

Contrary to Roth's opinion, the proposed quarry will not improve our economy without cost to the taxpayer, nor will it create a significant number of jobs.

Virginia Sage, Murrieta

Saving Rainbow
The Californian, Wed., March 2

Granite Construction wants to put a dirty, polluting, noisy industrial complex in our communities. We will not stand for it.

Rainbow is the closest community to the proposed site. We will be most affected by the negative impacts. The traffic will be horrendous: 1,600 truck trips added to Interstate 15 at Rainbow Valley Boulevard, bringing the effects of dangerous diesel exhaust pollution. Our air quality will be exchanged for polluted, dirty air carrying invisible crystalline silica particulates far and wide on the winds that blow through Rainbow Gap.

Living in San Diego County, we have no voice. We have no control over decisions made by Riverside County. Rainbow Planning Group wrote an outstanding letter to the San Diego County Board of Supervisors asking that they "become our advisory, stand up for us, get involved." This is a San Diego issue. The letter was sent. There was no reply. To view this entire letter, see www.rainbowcommunity.blogspot.com.

We have to save Rainbow. Everyone write the San Diego County supervisors. Tell them how we feel about being ignored. If our own supervisor won't stand up for us, maybe another will. E-mail jaarganda13@msn.com and I'll send you contact information.

Jerri Arganda, Rainbow

OK quarry? Seriously?
The Press-Enterprise, Tues., Mar. 1

I read the op-ed from Cindy Roth ("OK quarry; it will bring jobs, tax revenue," Feb. 24), recommending approval of the Liberty Quarry project, and her opinion that this proposed quarry would help us by "improving the quality of life for local residents."

Is she joking? Is she being sarcastic? If not, perhaps she can explain how having a mile-long pit blasted into the ground just up the road from my quiet country home over the next 75 years will improve my quality of life?

Would she like to reimburse me for the loss of property value I will experience, or would she like to buy my home now before it becomes unsaleable so she, too, can enjoy the blasting and the dust and the diesel exhaust and the glare of lighting and the traffic?

Give me a break.

Cynthia Myers, Fallbrook


April 2011 Opinions/Forums
CALIFORNIAN   April 27, 2011
HUNNEMAN: The old razzle dazzle

By JOHN HUNNEMAN - hunneman@californian.com 

From where I sat ... which for part of the evening was in the last row of seats at Rancho Community Church in Temecula and the rest was at home in front of my laptop.

Funny, they didn't all look like misinformed wackos, NIMBYs and environmental extremists.
Most of the 1,500 or so people who gathered Tuesday for the first of two Riverside County Planning Commission meetings on the proposed Liberty Quarry seemed like neighbors and family folks, the kind of people you'd run into at Costco or a Little League game.

Nearly everyone who packed the church and sat in the overflow area outside was there to oppose the controversial quarry, proposed to be blasted into a hill just south of Temecula on the Riverside/San Diego County line.

Credit the organizers of the opposition for bringing out a sizeable crowd ---- the largest I've seen assembled either in support or opposition of anything in 20 years of covering news here ---- on a Tuesday afternoon.

Inside the packed sanctuary, the audience was generally well-behaved. Planning Commission Chairman John Roth had the tough job of maintaining order in the emotionally charged room. However, he probably exacerbated the situation by continuing to chastise the audience when they applauded or jeered.

The couple of yahoos who chose to yell at the commission did nothing to help their cause.
Credit also should go to the five members of Temecula's City Council who, in an era of political correctness, minced no words in their disdain for what they said were quarry owner Granite Construction's flawed studies and attempts by the company's public relations team to give Southwest County residents the old "razzle dazzle" for five years.

That brought to mind an incident in December 2006 when Granite's public relations team descended on The Californian's office, swept into our newsroom and started putting wrapped Christmas presents on the desks of reporters and editors.

"Here's one for you, Wayne," said one who put a gift on my desk thinking I was Wayne Halberg, our editor at the time.

When I realized what was happening I walked over to Halberg's desk and said either he should remove the Granite folks from our newsroom or I would ---- and that I did not intend to ask them nicely.

Halberg, who would have never allowed such a blatant ethical violation had he realized initially what was going on, got the PR folks out of the office. The gifts were donated to charity.

On Tuesday, Granite's supporters again stated their strip mine ---- which would desecrate sacred grounds of the Pechanga Indians and be directly in the path of afternoon ocean breezes that make Temecula's Wine Country possible ---- would be good for Southwest County.

Razzle dazzle, indeed.

Contact columnist John Hunneman at hunneman@californian.com.

Don't take Granite's sucker bet
By Phil Strickland
North County Times - The Californian | Tuesday, April 26, 2011

And so it begins.

Today at 4 p.m. the Riverside County Planning Commission will hold the first of two public meetings in Temecula at the Rancho Community Church to determine whether to recommend to the county Board of Supervisors that it approve the proposed Liberty Quarry in the hills just west of I-15 and adjacent to the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve.

It is imperative that residents of Temecula and others worried about the dire ramifications of the project show up in force to impress upon the commissioners the depth of the opposition to this ill-sited and ill-suited violation of our environment and economy.

Proponents claim it's all good, and that, among other things, we will wallow in prosperity and that we will fill our lungs with clean air.


Should the commissioners recommend and the supervisors approve this filthy, loud, intrusive project, it will put at risk a burgeoning, respected wine industry that has made Southwest County a destination.

Is risking the tens of millions of dollars wine and tourism bring annually to the county coffers for the projected $3 million annually from the mine worth it?

Of course not.

With the county in dire financial straits, it would be absurd to risk that income on a wager to get a couple of million dollars more.

The commissioners should vote to recommend the supervisors reject this fool's proposition so that the continued viability of the region's economy is protected.

That the Granite Construction people doggedly pursue this defiling of the countryside and our way of life in the face of overwhelming opposition from citizens and businesses alike gives lie to their claim they want to be a good neighbor.

If they want to be a good neighbor, they should be a good neighbor in San Diego County, where they say 70 percent of the proposed mine's aggregate would be trucked.

Thing is, they know that can't happen, because the San Diego supervisors won't allow it.

And if you believe only 30 percent of the aggregate will go north to the I-215 business corridor and other projects, then you really need to check your grip on reality.

Look, this isn't about lessening truck trips, or cleaning up the air, or providing a paltry 100 jobs that probably won't go to valley residents. It's about increasing Granite's bottom line.

They don't care if you get a lung disease. They don't care if your property values plunge even further.
They don't care if the wine and tourism industries collapse. They don't care if the county loses millions in revenue.

They don't care you or the county, for that matter.

All they care about is their bottom line.

Hopefully, the commissioners and supervisors will see through this carefully crafted ruse and won't take this sucker's bet.

PHIL STRICKLAND is a resident of Temecula. Contact him at philipestrickland@yahoo.com.

FORUM: Quarry company pits neighbor against neighbor
By Kenneth W. Johnson
North County Times - The Californian | Posted: Friday, April 22, 2011 12:00 am

Having failed to enchant the Temecula Valley with its proposed Liberty Quarry project, Granite Construction is now going down the tawdry road of pitting neighbor against neighbor in Riverside County. This should offend our residents and cause them to report en masse to the upcoming hearing on the quarry issue on April 26 at Rancho Community Church in Temecula. 

Granite is now engaged in framing the Liberty Quarry issue as a "regional" rather than "local" issue. We could wish we were in Ventura County, where the major communities have won the right to vote on controversial development projects in their backyards. The best we could do was submit to the county our unique survey of 2006 of Temecula's largest community, county-created Redhawk, showing 95 percent disapproval of the quarry proposal.

Menifee recently voted to oppose the Liberty Quarry with a 3-1 vote in a stormy meeting that was quite revealing. To date, Save Our Southwest Hills has had near unanimous support when the Liberty Quarry issue is debated in a forum that hosts inputs from both sides. There have been forums, however, that have taken votes against our valley when only the Granite side is heard. Such a practice is reprehensible for good neighbors.

Apparently, Menifee City Councilman John Denver had held a Granite "regional issue" meeting in his home. Luckily, the Menifee mayor, Wallace Edgerton, was present. At the later council meeting, when Denver alleged "shenanigans" by Edgerton, the mayor replied: "At least I'm not paid for my shenanigans." What are we to make of this? Thankfully, there were Save Our Southwest Hills members at this Menifee council meeting who spoke against the quarry, and they prevailed, as has always been the case when they are allowed to present their concerns.

There seems to be no length Granite won't go in order to get what it wants. It can purchase unused polllution credits from all over the country to dump on us, it can attempt to turn neighbor against neighbor across our county, it can tune out any troublesome issues we may raise by simply ignoring them. It can even ignore findings of its own environmental impact report that are inconvenient to its purposes.

Granite keeps reiterating that the quarry won't be heard, seen, or felt by the residents, while at the same time it asks in the EIR for a noise exception. Confusing, but not amusing. Won't be seen? Are there presently 800 gravel trucks chugging up and down Rainbow's hills daily? I don't see them, but we will if Liberty Quarry goes in. As for "felt," won't the twice daily blastings shake our shingles, just as more distant Pedleton does a mercifully few times a year?

Does the "golden rule" still rule when writers distant from Temecula invariably close their pro-quarry treatises with their lament about gravel trucks in their backyards?
Public health trumps aggregate in a sane world. Regulation's largely myth ... in this age.

No quarry April 26!

KENNETH W. JOHNSON is a resident of Temecula.

STRICKLAND: Of the fox and its quarry
By PHIL STRICKLAND - For The Californian
North County Times - The Californian | Posted: Wednesday, April 20, 2011 12:00 am

The fox, as the cliche goes, is guarding the henhouse ---- a development, laments one correspondent, that has gone virtually unreported.

The fox, Granite Construction and hired gun Lilburn Corp., are designated by Riverside County as the arbiters of all that affects Temecula Valley and environs as a consequence of the proposed Liberty Quarry.

The kabuki dance, as another correspondent calls the sordid affair, begins in earnest in a week when the county Planning Commission and Lilburn consultants meet in Temecula to answer questions from a very worried public about the Big Hole's impact as enumerated in the company's ---- oops, the county's ---- environmental impact report on the health and well being of all who live and breathe hereabout.

Perhaps the overriding question should be: Who in the planning department ---- if the decision was made at that level ---- decided that a "consultant" bought and paid for by Granite is a proper and unbiased decider of what is good and not good?

Can anyone with even a modicum of sense believe that a company whose motto is "Getting to Yes" will issue a report that says, "Hell no, this project will cause irreparable harm to the region's people and its predominant industry (wine/tourism). It will foul the water and air. It will assault the lives of residents and visitors alike day in and out with explosions and rumbling, fume-spewing rock haulers. It will, in short, reduce a once-thriving, prosperous destination to just another soiled collection of bedrooms lying alongside the highway to progress and prosperity."

The purported "benefits" to the county of the sprawling open-pit mine will be more than offset by the loss in tax dollars that will result from the decimation of the valley's wine and tourism industries.

There needs to be an inquiry into who decided that an obviously biased corporation that touts its effectiveness at persuading local governments to accede to its clients' wishes would be the best choice to determine the impact of those wishes on the voting and tax-paying residents.

On its face it is ridiculous to the point of being unbelievable that no skullduggery is involved.

Once that has been determined, the violator(s) of the public trust should be fired or recalled.

Look, this process has been tainted from the start, when it was discovered that Russell Kitahara, then chairman of the Local Agency Formation Commission, was found to have met secretly at an out-of-the-way eatery with Granite functionary Gary Johnson.

Poor guy couldn't even remember the nature of the conversation. Oh well, perhaps clever chefs could take advantage of the airborne silica with menu additions such as a subtle garnir granite (pronounced gar-NAY grah-NEET).

"Would madam care for a spot of emphysema with her wine?"

PHIL STRICKLAND is a resident of Temecula. Contact him at philipestrickland@yahoo.com.

FORUM: San Diego should share the quarrying burden
North County Times - The Californian | Posted: Wednesday, April 20, 2011 12:00 am

We should all feel fightin' mad! Granite Construction's environmental impact report on the proposed Liberty Quarry is out, and the same hocus-pocus, faulty reasoning of the draft report is still flagrantly apparent.

Granite wants to convince the Riverside County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors that its quarry, located just east of Interstate 15 and just north of the San Diego County line, is a Riverside County "regional issue." Since 70 percent of the mined aggregate is scheduled for San Diego County's future needs, doesn't it stand to reason that the "regional issue" is a San Diego County issue, not a Riverside County issue?

The San Diego Association of Governments has made it clear in past reports that aggregate is plentiful in San Diego County ---- but, unfortunately in areas too sensitive to be mined. But it is OK to harm Southwest Riverside's sensitive areas, such as the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve, and to destroy an entire mountain sacred to the Pechanga Indian tribe.

SANDAG doesn't care. It is pleased to see this enormous mine situated in Riverside County, so Riverside residents have all the pollution problems and San Diego County gets its aggregate free and clear. This elitist attitude is incredibly galling, considering the fact that Riverside County has 35 mine and sand operations (more than any other county in California), and San Diego County has only 14. Why isn't San Diego County willing to share the burden?

Granite Construction is suggesting that it is going to give Temecula area clean air by taking other gravel trucks off our roads. This self-serving reasoning can only be predicated upon the erroneous assumption that all other quarries in Riverside County would shut down and only Liberty Quarry and Granite's Rosemary's Mountain Quarry in San Diego County would be in operation, making Granite the sole distributor of aggregate to the south.

Why would this happen? There are many active quarries in Riverside County, operating for many years and servicing customers in Temecula and San Diego. Their gravel trucks will continue to travel our roads, and Liberty Quarry will add an additional 800 trucks (1,600 truck trips daily) exuding harmful diesel fumes, damaging our freeways and ruining our windshields with flying rocks ---- centered right here next to Temecula, Murrieta, Rainbow and Fallbrook.

Southwest Riverside County has the cleanest air in the county. How on God's green earth is Granite going to make our air cleaner with diesel fumes, blasting five times per week and up to 10 times per week, crushing all that rock ---- not to mention the asphalt and concrete plant fumes?

The company also says it will capture all the dust. What is Granite Construction thinking ---- that we’re all stupid and cannot understand when we are being bamboozled? This is about billions of dollars for Granite.

BARBARA WILDER is a resident of Temecula.


FORUM: Liberty Quarry concerns: logistics and semantics
By Nancy Austin
North County Times - The Californian | Posted: Sunday, April 17, 2011 12:00 am

I am a Temecula resident residing in Redhawk. I have been following the comments published in The Californian and Press-Enterprise regarding Liberty Quarry, and I would like to offer the following perspective.

Most points made about Liberty Quarry operating in the Temecula Valley seem to evolve from two things: logistics and semantics.

-- Employment: Liberty Quarry will generate 99 "high-paying" jobs. Keep in mind that employees laid off by the developer, Granite Construction, will most likely be rehired first for these jobs, with no guarantees that any remaining jobs will go to local people. And the "high-paying" tag, it's all about semantics.

-- Tax revenues: Liberty Quarry will create additional tax revenues. Competition between Liberty Quarry and other quarries in the county will simply shift business from one quarry to another, thereby shifting ---- not increasing ---- these tax revenues around the county. It's all about logistics.

-- Traffic: Liberty Quarry will reduce traffic. This reduced traffic is actually shifting traffic from one part of the county to another ---- logistics ---- which will continue to evolve as development moves to the next preferred area. Eventually everyone is affected for a period of time.

-- Aggregate: Liberty Quarry will fill the demand for more aggregate. The need for aggregate also changes with the face of development according to supply and demand. When build-out is complete in one area, it will simply shift to another ---- again, logistics.

-- Liberty Quarry affecting air quality and environment: Regardless of any safeguards or preventive measures or monitoring devices, the air and the environment will change if the quarry is developed. Spin this and you get more semantics. Simple fact: You turn the earth with a shovel and things change; you stick a firecracker in a hole and things change. The means obviously will vary according to the desired results.

There have been many studies, many experts and many opinions involved in this discussion. There have been good points, bad points, emotional points and just plain stupid points, with propaganda running amok. Perhaps it is time to rely on some old-fashioned individual common sense.

The fact is that this valley offers the only sizable attraction of its kind in Southern California: Temecula Valley Wine Country. Add all the vibrant components that thrive along with Wine Country ---- Old Town Temecula, Pechanga Resort & Casino, The Promenade mall to name a few ---- and Liberty Quarry does not fit the theme.

Common sense alone should tell you that nothing about the quarry is reasonable for the planned long-term growth and prosperity of the Temecula Valley. My common sense says no to Liberty Quarry.

NANCY AUSTIN is a resident of Temecula.

McINTOSH: Raise your voice in quarry opposition
By Andy Mcintosh - For The Californian
North County Times - The Californian | Posted: Sunday, April 10, 2011 12:00 am

I spoke to a gravel truck owner/driver the other day about the proposed Liberty Quarry in southwest Riverside County. "Will this be good for you?" I asked. His answer surprised me.

"This will be a great deal for Granite, but not for me and not for a lot of truckers," he replied. "I'm from Menifee and, like a lot of us, I'll be deadheading it much longer to Rainbow," referring to the miles an empty (non-revenue-generating) truck travels to pick up a load.

I pondered the rest of our conversation as my travels that day took me past the Rainbow Road exit and I envisioned hundreds of trucks, stacked up like planes over LAX, idling and waiting to load their trucks with rock. The diesel exhaust, the noise, the health risks, yikes ---- my windshield, the destruction to our landscape ---- coming soon!

Local Indian lore says Temecula got its name from Naxachish (nah-ha-chish), a spiritual Indian wanderer, who, while gazing down from the Rainbow Gap ---- with a coastal marine layer to the west ---- saw a valley "where the sun shines through the mist" or "Temeeku" in the Luiseno Indian language.

As I drove, I wondered how "where the silica dust and diesel exhaust fumes rain down" translates in the Luiseno language, and I am surprised that Pechanga Resort & Casino has appeared almost a bit player in this unfolding drama. After all, this open pit mine will be in its backyard, too.

Then I saw "the billboard." Sponsored by "Save Our Southwest Hills," the sign screams "NoGravelQuarry.com" and invites people to attend the April 26 public meeting, starting at 4 p.m. at Rancho Community Church in south Temecula.

Kathleen Hamilton, SOS-Hills' tireless president, hopes (according to its website) "the billboard will help us get ---- not hundreds, but thousands ---- (to the meeting) to convince the supervisors that this quarry is absolutely unacceptable."

But the battle is much more basic than that. The real issue is as simple as "Not in My Back Yard." Of this there can be no question; no 48-inch thick EIR can possibly negate ---- let alone mitigate ---- the environmental trauma over the next 75 years from a 1,000-foot-deep, mile-long open pit mine cut smack dab into the middle of an agricultural region and ecological reserve.

So why are employees in the Riverside County Planning Department seemingly so favorable to this project? Will there be traffic and noise problems? Yes, but not in commission members' backyards. Will there be pollution and health concerns? Yes, but not in their backyards. The negatives are well known, but none of this matters to quarry supporters.

This is what matters: Show up at the April 26 public meeting and tell the commissioners, "Not in my backyard!"

Visit www.NoGravelQuarry.com for more information about the public meeting and what you can do to fight this Goliath.

ANDY McINTOSH is a resident of Temecula. Contact him at SoCalMcIntosh@aol.com.

Phil Strickland: Coming Soon: Temecula's Big Boom
The Californian, Wed., Apr. 6

Ran into Fred Bartz at the "unveiling" of the anti-Liberty Quarry billboard at the south end of Old Town Temecula off the 15 the other day.

We were admiring the latest effort by Save Our Southwest Hills to encourage residents to attend the county planning meeting in Temecula on April 26 to oppose Granite Construction's proposed Big Hole and hopefully prove this desecration of our countryside, livelihood and lifestyle is a very bad idea.

When I asked if he had finished the 8,500-page environmental impact report, he said no, only about a third of it. But he's already noted inconsistencies in Granite's Bought-and-Paid-For Report (my words, not Fred's) as regards to proposed operations. The report is by Lilburn Corp., under contract to Granite. It's county-approved specifically for this project, you know.

The report finds everything will be ducky. Even if, as Granite acknowledges, it isn't. Mostly, unless you live or visit ---- and breathe ---- in the region, it'll be fine.

Residents, particularly kids and the elderly, will be pictures of health.

Tourism will continue to boom, despite the quarry's negative impact on the wine industry.

GraniteTours' bus excursions of one of the largest (about a mile long and 1,000 feet deep) open-pit, blasting-and-crushing granite mines in the country will be hugely successful.

For the more adventurous visitor, the Roundtrip Extended Freeway Dump Truck Ride and Personalized Trip Through the Big Hole (REFDTRaPTTtBH) can be had for just a few dollars more. If you can afford it, the top shelf experience is the Big Boom ---- the REFDTRaPTTtBH plus an actual explosion. It's a real blast.

Plus you get complimentary earmuffs.

Imagine, people actually feared the 1,600 daily diesel truck trips, the blasting, all-night lights and the ever-present finely crushed silica borne regularly on breezes through the pass from the ocean would be our ruination.


Laurenn Barker: Quarry a bad deal for both sides of the county
The Californian, Sun., Apr. 3

As a Fallbrook resident and a grower in Riverside's De Luz Valley, I oppose Granite Construction's proposed Liberty Quarry.

The mountaintop quarry, at 1,300 feet elevation, would be in Riverside County, but the approximately mile-long quarry access road would be blasted up the mountainside at the Rainbow exit in San Diego County.

The quarry's negative impacts would be felt in both counties: quarry blasting; seismic shuddering in the Elsinore Fault damage zone; carcinogens from the aggregate-crushing, asphalt, concrete batch and recycle plants; and double-bottom aggregate trucks making 800 trips up and down the mountain 20 hours a day, six days a week.

The dust and diesel emissions on the brightly lit quarry access road would be substantial, and the road's "flyrock" above Interstate 15 could not be completely contained. The fire potential from quarry-blasting explosives would be a danger, particularly in the Santa Ana winds. The Santa Margarita River could be ruined by mining pollutants from runoff in rains such as the recent ones, and area underground wells could be penetrated. Scientific research at the adjacent Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve would be negatively impacted.

The area's clean air and environment draw families with young children, retirees and many on physician recommendation. Visitor numbers are also growing. The area has thriving businesses in areas such as agriculture, tourism and medical research. We do not need a huge, blasting quarry, and experience has shown that if one quarry is approved, others will follow.

Paul Wenger, president of the California Farm Bureau Federation, states that California has maintained itself as the fifth largest agricultural economy in the world and the largest in the U.S.: "An incredible number of people benefit from the jobs created, from packaging to processing to marketing to shipping."

The Riverside County Agricultural Commissioner's 2009 report states that every dollar received by agriculturists in the county has the financial impact of 3 1/2 times that amount. The total value of agriculture ---- $1,015,733,500 ---- represents a financial impact of more than $3,555,067,200 to the county.

The De Luz Valley is home to groves of avocados, citrus and exotic flowers. The Temecula Valley has vineyards. All are vulnerable. "Agricultural crops can be injured when exposed to high concentrations of various air pollutants. Injury ranges from visible markings on the foliage, to reduced growth and yield, to premature death of the plant" (http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/crops/facts/01-015.htm).

Riverside already has more quarries than any other county in California. These quarries can be re-permitted for many more years. The Liberty Quarry would benefit no one but Granite Construction, and it would conflict with what we on both sides of the San Diego-Riverside county line all value in the area today.

LAURENN BARKER is a resident of Fallbrook.

March 2011 Opinions/Forums

Please note: The version of the letter below this original copy is what the Press Enterprise used for publication. We thought you may be interested in comparing the two.


Liberty Quarry; Quality Sound vs. Noise

Our home is within the newly annexed area of Temecula, part of the wildlife corridor and sadly, is one of the closest homes west of the proposed Liberty Quarry site.

Our property is as pristine as it was when my family bought it half a century ago. Our home is tucked within groves of grand oak trees with their leaves rustling in the breeze. Pastoral meadowland, with seasonal streams that cascade from the hills with the winter rains and babble during the springtime. Chirping birds compete with the drone of bees, with the occasional caw of a crow. Nighttime brings with it a chorus of croaking frogs filling the night air. Quiet and peaceful, it’s been a relaxing sanctuary from industrial urban blight and it’s racket for

I myself, aren’t musically inclined, I'm from a different cut, but my Wife is a classically trained pianist and with that I’ve been blessed with two very musically talented son’s. One evening, as my youngest son practiced a piece for the San Diego Youth Symphony, an errant baby coyote, with ears too large for it’s head, sat outside in the moonlight directly below my son’s window, seemingly listening. When the music stopped, the pup wandered off into the brush line.

Another day, as my oldest son played a piece by Mozart at the opposite side of the house, just outside his window, sat the pup listening intently, looking off towards the meadow. When the music ceased, again the pup walked off. One morning, a pair of adult coyotes ambled down our dirt road towards our house. The little pup, very submissively, tried to pack up
with the pair , but they wouldn’t have anything to do with him and sent the young pup hiding under a bush.

A few days later we found the pup back beneath a window, listening to the music emanating from inside our home. This spectacle occurred on and off for several weeks, the pup growing ever larger. We saw less and less of him as he grew into adolescence. That young pup was attracted to melodic sound. You couldn’t convince me otherwise. Such is the quality of life and sound on our property. It’s horse country. Beautiful, quiet, untamed land, with clean air and solitude. A good environment to raise kids. Our personal American dream.

Replacing our quality of sound with 800 roaring trucks with their jake brakes ghrrrring through the canyon, thunderous blasting , metal crushing rock with constant industrial noise will bastardize our country living. It will be a rude finale to the quality of life for families of the Royal Oak Draw area.

If the County grants Granite Construction’s request for a “Noise Ordinance Exception” near this family of perfect pitch, is as much an aberration as allowing a rock quarry next to a wildlife reserve.

Throughout my life I’ve met people who’ve had lifelong dreams , such as myself, of moving to serene countryside, I’ve yet to meet anyone who had the lifelong dream of moving next to a active rock quarry.

Mike Jurkosky: Quarry will destroy place of solitude
The Press Enterprise, Fri., Mar. 18

Our home is within the newly annexed area of Temecula, part of the wildlife corridor, and sadly, is one of the closest homes west of the proposed Liberty Quarry site.
The land is as pristine as it was when my family bought it half a century ago. Our home is tucked within groves of grand oak trees, pastoral meadowland and seasonal streams that cascade from the surrounding hills.

Quiet and peaceful, it's been a relaxing sanctuary from industrial urban blight and its racket for generations.

I have fond memories such as the time my youngest son practiced piano for a piece he was playing with the San Diego Youth Symphony, and an errant baby coyote, with ears too large for it's head, sat outside in the moonlight directly below my son's window, seemingly listening. When the music stopped, the pup wandered off into the brush line.

This spectacle occurred on and off a good while, him leaving each time the music stopped. As he grew into adolescence, we saw less and less of him.
I am convinced the pup was attracted to the melodic sound. You couldn't convince me otherwise.

Such is the quality of life on our property. It's horse country. It's beautiful, quiet, untamed land, with clean air and solitude.

It's also a good environment to raise kids. This is our personal American dream.
But, this could all go away if 800 roaring trucks rumble through the canyon and thunderous blasts emanate from the mine along with all the other industrial noises that will go along with it.

It will be a rude finale to the quality of life for the families of the Royal Oak Draw area. If the county grants the proposed mine operator a request for a noise-ordinance exception in this beautiful area, it will be a shame.

Throughout my life I've met people who've had lifelong dreams like myself of moving to serene countryside.

I've yet to meet anyone who had the lifelong dream of moving next to an active rock quarry.

MIKE JURKOSKY is a resident of Temecula.

Fred Bartz: Keep harmful Liberty Quarry out of region
The Press Enterprise, Tues., Mar. 8

With all due respect to Cindy Roth, there is absolutely no shortage of aggregate resources ("OK quarry; it will bring jobs, tax revenue," Feb. 26). Southern California is full of aggregate, though it may not be permitted to be mined as of yet.

Furthermore, she states Liberty Quarry "will add 99 direct jobs," but she also says that Liberty Quarry, proposed by Granite Construction, "will eliminate more than 1,000 truck trips daily." If you accept that 1,000 truck trips daily will be eliminated, then how many hundreds of truck driver will lose their jobs as a result? Certainly more truck driver jobs will be lost than the 99 direct jobs the quarry will add, plus those related indirect jobs which will be lost.

Roth also states the "Liberty Quarry will generate more than $300 million in new sales tax revenue over the life of the project." However, to generate this "new revenue," which of our current 36 quarries in Riverside County, or 26 quarries in San Bernardino County, will suffer a loss of sales and a loss of jobs to the proposed Liberty Quarry? Riverside and San Bernardino counties combined already have more than 20 percent of the state's quarries.

What Roth fails to mention is:

There will be 1,600 truck trips daily on I-15 to and from the quarry summit. While 1,000 truck trips daily might be eliminated in northern Riverside County, 1,600 truck-trips daily would be added to the Temecula Valley area. In addition, because of the significant difference in elevation between the I-15 and the quarry summit, there would be concentrated diesel truck pollution.

The quarry site is directly on the border of the San Diego State University Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve. The reserve is a 4,500-plus acre outdoor laboratory where students can study a wide variety of subjects including wildfires, earthquakes and California habitat. This outdoor laboratory has operated there for more than 45 years and would be impacted since it's on the border of the proposed quarry.

The proposed Liberty Quarry would blast up to 10 times per week. For those who have heard people make comparisons to Granite Construction's Indio quarry, the comparison is not valid. There is no blasting done at Indio. Blasting also generates a dust which contains crystalline silica, and is known for causing asthma and bronchitis.

The quarry would be located in the Santa Margarita River Watershed -- from which people living in Camp Pendleton get much of their water.

That there would be increased pollution and greenhouse gases in the Temecula Valley area, and that the county planning department has already stated "the proposed project would result in significant and unavoidable impacts to air quality and traffic/transportation, which cannot be mitigated to below a level of significance."

Roth says people will not hear noise from the proposed quarry. If this is the case, then why is Granite Construction requesting a noise ordinance exception for the proposed project?

Also, the proposed improvements to the Rainbow interchange are to accommodate the 1,600 truck trips and more than 200 employee/visitor trips to the quarry site, not for the benefit of local residents.

Sorry, Roth, this project will not improve the quality of life for local residents. Simply put, Liberty Quarry is the wrong project in the wrong location.

Fred Bartz, a resident of Temecula, leads Clean Air Temecula.


Phil Strickland: Big Hole is good for us, si? Right....
The Californian, Wed., March 2

Here's a surprise: The Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce has endorsed Liberty Quarry.

The CEO, Cindy Roth, makes the usual half-true (if that) arguments and ignores the negatives at her convenience in a recent opinion piece published elsewhere to try to convince us that Granite Construction's Big Hole is a godsend for Riverside County.


Consider: "We cannot afford to ... wait for things to get better ... we must take action." From that point she extols the tax, job and environmental "benefits" of a gaping, milelong, 1,000-foot-deep crater blasted into the pristine wilderness just upwind of Temecula, Fallbrook and environs.

She's right: We must take action, but not that which would destroy our quality of life with particulates polluting our lungs and water, and earth-shattering blasts hard by an already steadily deteriorating fault line. Rather, we should look at Sacramento and the state's wasteful spending on illegal immigrants.

Forcing an end to that alone would save state taxpayers and their counties and cities at least a thousand times more annually than the paltry $11 million dollars she says the quarry will produce annually in sales tax and royalties.

She also says it will produce 99 direct jobs and 178 indirect jobs. Eliminating support for illegals, thus forcing self-repatriation, no doubt will open more jobs than that in the construction industry alone in our county.

Oh, yeah, and to those bloggers and e-mailers who conveniently ignore the modifier "illegal" in front of immigrants: Please, don't show your ignorance. It embarrasses even me.

And another "oh, yeah." The cost of illegal immigration outstrips its benefits ---- namely cheap labor for chamber members ---- by 20 to one. Look it up.

Continuing with her disingenuous defense of the Big Hole, Roth points to the fiction that it will reduce freeway truck traffic.


When the Big Hole was first proposed, the company line was that all the traffic would go south. When pressed, Granite finally admitted that up to 30 percent probably would go north.

North? You mean like to the I-215 project. Hey, Murrieta, Menifee and Sun City, enjoy.

And with that majorly major project up there, do you really think it will be only 30 percent?

And that brings us to the laughable statement: "Liberty Quarry's ideal location will keep it from being seen, felt or heard by Temecula residents and its direct access to the freeway will keep trucks out of local neighborhoods."

Local neighborhoods?

She obviously means we won't even notice the 1,600 truck trips in and out of the site on the new road at Fallbrook that will be blasted into the hills adjacent to and visible from I-15.

We won't see them, hear them, deal with them downshifting and rumbling on the freeways or smell them.


Phil Strickland is a resident of Temecula. Contact him at philipestrickland@yahoo.com.


March 2011 News Articles

The Californian, Fri., Mar. 25
Councilman pushing for changes to quarry hearing format

Temecula city officials have said they hope thousands of people turn out for the upcoming county hearing on Granite Construction's Liberty Quarry project to speak out against the proposed mine.

But Councilman Mike Naggar said it would be cruel to force the large crowd ---- the county has scheduled at least two hearings because of the intense local interest in the project ---- to listen to hours of "eye-bleeding" details before getting a chance to speak.

His idea, which he floated at a recent City Council meeting is for the Riverside County Planning Commission to conduct two hearings: one for technical reports and the miscellaneous details included in the thousands of pages that make up the environmental review of the project, and another that would be devoted to public comments.

"The way it's set up now," he said Wednesday during a phone interview, "your average citizen ---- Grandma, student or teacher ---- is not going to be able to sit through six hours of staff reports in order to talk for three minutes."

And he said there's a chance that people might end up waiting all that time and still not be allowed to speak because of time constraints.

"It's not conducive to encouraging citizen participation," he said, adding that he's asked city staff members to discuss his plan with county officials, but that he hasn't yet heard whether it's being considered.

Granite, a Northern California-based company, has proposed operating an open-pit mine on 400 acres of Riverside County land between the San Diego County line and Temecula's southern border. Once it's running 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.

On April 26, the county commission will conduct the first of two scheduled hearings on the project ---- a flashpoint for controversy in Southwest County as well as Fallbrook and Rainbow, 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 high-paying jobs it will produce and the tax revenue it will generate. Supporters also note that the county's Planning Department has said digging a quarry on land next to Interstate 15 on the southern edge of the Riverside County will remove exhaust-spewing big rigs from the stretch of Interstate 15 that runs through the Temecula/Murrieta corridor.

The April 26 hearing, and any subsequent hearings, will be conducted at Rancho Community Church in Temecula because of the large crowd expected and its proximity to the proposed mine site. The church seats 1,200 people, and there might be space for overflow seating if the seating arrangement meets fire department muster, said Temecula Councilwoman Maryann Edwards, who helped secure the venue.

County spokesman Ray Smith, after discussing the tentative hearing format that was sketched out by planning department staff members, said the plan, right now, is for the five-member commission to hear a presentation from staff members on the project at the start of the hearing.

The hearing has been scheduled to start at 4 p.m. at the church, 31300 Rancho Community Way, to give people who work a chance to attend.

That presentation might run about 45 minutes, Smith said. Then Granite will make a presentation. After questions from the commissioners and responses by either staff members or Granite, Smith said, the plan is to take a dinner break around 6 p.m.

After the break, the commission will reconvene, and at some point, start taking public comments, Smith said, adding that the plan is still tentative as of this week.

"We won't know exactly how things are going to unfold until after the meeting begins," he said.

As for how long the county plans to allow for public comments that first night, Smith said commissioners will make that decision.

"It's important to give people the opportunity to speak," he said.

And if that means adding a third meeting?

"We have two set up now; if that becomes an issue, we'll address that," he said.

The second meeting is scheduled for 4 p.m. May 3.

Granite spokeswoman Karie Reuther said in a statement that the company trusts that the county will conduct the hearing in a manner that will allow everyone a chance to both speak and hear the testimony.

At a 2009 county hearing held in Riverside to consider the city of Temecula's request to annex the potential quarry site, hundreds of residents drove north to watch the proceedings and make public comments.

Because of space constraints at the County Administrative Center, some of those who had made the trip were unable to find seats. They drove back home without participating in what ended up being a 10-hour meeting that was capped by the Local Agency Formation Commission voting to reject the city's annexation attempt.

The city later filed a fresh application to annex 4,500 acres of land on its southern borders, a swath dominated by the ecological reserve and excluding the land for the quarry, and that bid was approved.

The city's borders now abut the proposed quarry site on the north and the west. The southern border of the quarry site is the Riverside County border with San Diego County, and the eastern boundary is Interstate 15.

Call staff writer Aaron Claverie at 951-676-4315, ext. 2624.

The Californian, Fri., Mar. 25
Final report on quarry details new air quality, traffic measures

The final environmental report on Granite Construction's Liberty Quarry project released this week proposes new regulations related to air quality and traffic that were added to the planning document in response to concerns about the project.

The Northern California-based company has proposed operating an open-pit mine on 400 acres between the San Diego County line and Temecula's southern border. Once running at full capacity, the 135-acre quarry is expected to generate 5 million tons of aggregate at the site, which is just east of the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve.

If the quarry is eventually approved by the county, those proposed regulations will force Granite to install air quality monitoring stations near the quarry and share their data with the public. Granite has offered to put the stations in at Temecula City Hall, on the reserve and at a location chosen by the school district.

The company also will be required to build new on- and offramps at the Interstate 15-Rainbow Valley Boulevard interchange to accommodate the trucks that will be chugging back and forth to the site.

Other new regulations, added after the county received more than 200 comments on the draft version of the environmental report, include:

-- Requiring Granite to create a vibration-monitoring program to ensure vibrations resulting from blasts at the site do not exceed certain thresholds.

-- Using only non-drinkable water for quarry operations, a requirement tacked on by Western Municipal Water District.

The 8,500-page report, a document that will be used by county officials who will determine whether the project should be approved, was released Thursday.

'Superior' option

Just as the draft report did, the final report says reducing the footprint of the quarry from 155 acres to 135 acres is the most "environmentally superior alternative."

The county has determined that digging a quarry is better for the environment than not digging one, because if the quarry is in operation, big rigs that deliver aggregate material to San Diego County using Interstate 15, traveling through the Murrieta/Temecula corridor, will be removed from the roads.

Granite has said about two-thirds of the aggregate it expects to produce at the quarry is bound for San Diego County.

The report was uploaded to the county's website about 30 days before the Planning Commission's April 26 hearing on the project, according to a county planner, to give the public more time to digest and pore over the information: technical studies and reports on subjects such as the quarry's potential effects on air quality, traffic, noise, animal migration patterns and water quality.

That hearing, which will be held at Rancho Community Church in Temecula, is the first of two the commission has scheduled to review the project. The second is scheduled for May 3. The decision to hold two hearings was made because of intense local interest in the quarry.

The project, which has been working its way through the county's planning pipeline for years, is opposed by a coalition that includes the city of Temecula, the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, residents of the San Diego County community of Rainbow and a group of Temecula-area residents called Save Our Southwest Hills.

Supporters say it will provide 99 high-paying jobs and generate $300 million in new tax revenue for the county over the course of its 50-year lifespan. Opponents say it will threaten the area's allure as a tourist destination ---- with attractions including the Pechanga casino and the area's Wine Country ---- and end up harming the county's economy. They're also worried about the dust, traffic snarls and noise the project could generate.

Granite reaction

Discussing the new regulations proposed in the final report, Granite project manager Gary Johnson said Friday that they are similar to the rules in place at Granite's Rosemary's Mountain Quarry, but not typical requirements for quarry projects.

Regarding the air quality-monitoring program, Johnson said Granite would collect the information and provide it to the community so they can be assured that the company is tracking the emissions ---- primarily dust from the quarry operations and exhaust from trucks ---- that the quarry is generating.

"It should give them a huge level of comfort that this stuff is being monitored," he said.

In a section of the report that addresses the greenhouse gases the quarry might produce, included as part of the state's efforts to monitor the environmental effects of large developments, the new total is listed at 80,000 tons per year.

That total, according to the county, will not hinder or delay the state's efforts to reduce its production of greenhouse gases.

That 80,000-ton figure does not include the emissions that would be reduced ---- 50,000 tons per year ---- if the quarry's operation results in trucks being removed from county roads.

The report states that although there are regional benefits to air quality from the proposed project, the county took a conservative approach that called "significant" any new source of pollution that contributes to a net increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

"As such, the proposed project's air quality impacts related to criteria pollutants and greenhouse gases are cumulatively considerable, significant and unavoidable," the report states.

Johnson said the terms "significant" and "unavoidable" are being used in this context because air quality in the area is already bad, based on the low thresholds that are used as part of the environmental review of new projects.

Projects, including the hospital proposed for land near the corner of Temecula Parkway and Margarita Road in Temecula, also create similar "unavoidable" impacts.

Need for aggregate

Another section of the report addresses how the quarry will help satisfy the need for aggregate in Southern California.

"As of 2005, the San Diego and western Riverside County area had less than 25 percent of the permitted aggregate reserves needed to meet the projected 50-year demand," the report states.

According to a California Geological Survey report published in 2006, San Diego County construction-aggregate production in 2005 was approximately 10 million tons, and construction aggregate demand exceeded 16.5 million tons.

Since 2005 and 2006, the economy has been hammered and the demand for aggregate has declined.

Fred Bartz ---- a member of two organizations that are opposing the quarry project, Save Our Southwest Hills and Clean Air Temecula ---- said a lot of things have changed since 2005, especially the demand for aggregate.

"The building boom is gone," he said, adding that the county's use of that old information is troubling.

Although Bartz and other quarry opponents haven't yet had time to fully dissect the new report, he did say that based on an initial review, it appears that the consultant who worked to address the comments made on the draft report may not have fully understood a number of the public's concerns.

"We are disappointed in some of the consultant's responses," he said, adding that he was pleased the county released the document early to allow for a more thorough review.

A full copy of the environmental report is available at: www.tlma.co.riverside.ca.us/planning/content/temp/liberty_quarry.html.

Call staff writer Aaron Claverie at 951-676-4315, ext. 2624.


The Press-Enterprise, Sat., Mar. 26
Report on Temecula-area quarry details monitoring programs

Programs to monitor air quality and vibrations from explosives blasting at a proposed quarry bordering Temecula are two additions to the final version of a mammoth environmental study of the project.

Riverside County and the South Coast Air Quality Management District would supervise air monitoring at Liberty Quarry, an open-pit aggregate mine planned for a 414-acre site just west of Interstate 15. The program would check air quality and report results to the county and the public each quarter.

Also, county planners, as well as county fire and sheriff's officials, would have to sign off on a plan to monitor blasting vibrations.

If the measurements were to exceed certain thresholds, all blasting would cease and quarry developer Granite Construction would have to file a report showing how it would fix the problem and "reduce vibration intensity to below control limits," according to the final draft of the environmental impact report.

The county on Thursday afternoon released the 6,800-page report, more than a month before the county Planning Commission hosts the first of two hearings on the quarry, the most divisive land-use issue in the recent Temecula Valley history.

Gary Johnson, Granite aggregate resource development manager, said the monitoring programs are similar to what's in place at Rosemary's Mountain Quarry, a Granite-run quarry in Fallbrook.

By state law, the final report had to come out at least 10 days before the first hearing, which is scheduled for 4 p.m. April 26 at Temecula's Rancho Community Church. The second hearing is set for 4 p.m. May 3 at the church. Thousands could turn out for both.

Granite wants to extract aggregate -- a key building material used in concrete and asphalt -- by blasting away rock at the site. Concrete and asphalt also would be made at the quarry, which would be active for 75 years.

Granite officials say the quarry will provide high-paying jobs, millions annually in tax revenue and a sorely needed local aggregate source. In a news release, Granite said the final report proves the quarry would be environmentally friendly and improve air quality by taking diesel-spewing trucks off local roads.

lots of comments

Quarry opponents maintain the project will harm Temecula and surrounding areas by sending microscopic, unhealthy dust particles into the air. They said the quarry would lead to more truck traffic, noise and light pollution and ruin a neighboring ecological reserve.

On March 8, the Temecula City Council passed a resolution opposing the quarry. The resolution also slammed the draft environmental study as misleading, incomplete and a piece of pro-quarry propaganda.

The state Environmental Quality Act guided the report's creation. Granite paid a San Bernardino-based consultant to assemble the report, which was reviewed by county planners. The draft came out in 2009.

The county received 232 pieces of correspondence on the draft report from local, state and federal agencies as well as from individuals, groups and businesses.

Johnson of Granite said the monitoring programs are two of the most significant additions to the final report. Others, he said, include a Western Municipal Water District requirement that non-potable water be used at the quarry and a Caltrans request for additional improvements to the Rainbow Valley Boulevard interchange on Interstate 15.

'be engaged'

While making no judgment on the quarry, the report concludes the project will have "significant and unavoidable" effects on traffic and air quality.

But those two areas also would be affected if the quarry is never built, since diesel trucks will still have to travel long distances to haul aggregate, the report found. Johnson said the term "significant and unavoidable" is misunderstood, since the region already has levels of traffic and air pollution considered to be too high.

"A finding of significance means that a certain planning level has been exceeded and therefore mitigation is required," he wrote in an email. "It does not necessarily mean that the project will adversely impact or be noticed by residents."

Johnson added that "significant and unavoidable" was used to describe environmental effects of Temecula's recent 4,510-acre annexation, which includes land adjacent to the quarry site. Nearly all of the annexed land is undeveloped.

Temecula Councilwoman Maryann Edwards, who sits on the council's Liberty Quarry subcommittee, said Friday she hadn't had time to review the final report, though city officials are poring over it.

"I don't know if there are any suggestions to mitigate the impacts of a project of that magnitude," she said. "Clearly since they haven't changed the final (report), they aren't able to mitigate any of those negative impacts to Temecula and points east."

She said the city is encouraging people to attend the county Planning Commission hearings.

"We certainly hope that the residents of Temecula will show up and be engaged," Edwards said.

Reach Jeff Horseman at 951-375-3727or jhorseman@PE.com

The Press-Enterprise, Thurs., Mar. 24
Final Liberty Quarry environmental study released

The final version of a massive environmental study of the proposed Liberty Quarry makes no major changes to a draft of the report slammed by quarry critics.

Riverside County officials Thursday released the final environmental impact report on the quarry sought for a 414-acre site in Temecula's foothills.

The county Planning Commission will review the project during public hearings on April 26 and May 3 in Temecula.

The Temecula City Council has joined opponents of the quarry, who fear the project will ruin the environment. Quarry developer Granite Construction maintains the quarry will provide an economic boost.

Vetted by county planners, the report of more than 6,000 pages was put together by a private consultant paid by Granite. The draft was released in 2009 and county officials have spent the past two years responding to hundreds of public comments on the document.

The draft study concluded the quarry would have "significant and unavoidable" effects on air quality and traffic -- but so would not building the project.

In a resolution, Temecula's council blasted that report as misleading and pro-quarry propaganda.

The final report concludes that the public comments "did not require additional evaluation or changes to the conclusions reached" in the draft.

"All the information added to the final (report) clarifies, amplifies, or makes insignificant modifications in the draft (report)."

Reach Jeff Horseman at 951-375-3727 or jhorseman@PE.com

Temecula Valley News, Fri., Mar. 11 

Tim O'Leary, Valley News Staff

Jack Roripaugh, a third-generation Temecula farmer, voices his support for an anti-quarry resolution at a Temecula City Council meeting, Tuesday, March 8, 2011.
Jack Roripaugh, a third-generation Temecula farmer, voices his support for an anti-quarry resolution at a Temecula City Council meeting, Tuesday, March 8

Temecula council opposes quarry, preps for county planning hearings

The Temecula City Council drew a line in the sand Tuesday night by formally opposing plans to mine granite within the city's newly-expanded boundary.

In a session that held few surprises, council members voted unanimously to oppose the Liberty Quarry project in a prolonged hearing process set to begin next month on the city's own turf.
"We're going to be ready for it," Councilman Jeff Comerchero said Tuesday night. "We are ready. We've spent a lot of time on this. We've spent a lot of money on this."

The council also urged residents to attend the April 26 meeting of the Riverside County Planning Commission, which will conduct the first round of public hearings at Rancho Community Church in Temecula. The 414-acre Liberty Quarry site is west of Interstate 15 in the rugged hills that overlook Temecula and Rainbow.

"We're all going to fight this together," Mayor Ron Roberts told the 45-member audience as Tuesday's council session ended.

Earlier in the meeting, the council voted to move its second regular meeting in April ahead one week so that it would not conflict with the April 26 county planning hearing.

No representatives of the mine developer, Granite Construction Co., defended the proposal or the environmental analysis that city staff described as incomplete and "fundamentally misleading." None of Granite's top local leaders appeared to have attended the nearly one-hour discussion and vote Tuesday night.

The outcome was not a surprise because individual council members have criticized the proposed quarry during regular meetings, anti-mine events or community gatherings. But it was the first council vote on the land use plan that has been in the works for years and spurred city efforts to annex the quarry site and the granite strewn hills around it.

In November, a countywide agency finalized the city's push to add 7-square-mile swath to Temecula's southern boundary, a move that boosted the city's size to about 35 square miles. But directors of that agency refused to include the quarry site in the annexed area.

Because several Temecula council members had stated their opposition to the mine project, Granite opposed city efforts to annex the Liberty Quarry site. Each side spent more than $300,000 on environmental reports, staff time, legal fees and other costs as the annexation request was considered by the county Local Agency Formation Commission.

Comerchero said Tuesday night that the council could not formally take a stand on the quarry project while the annexation process was unfolding. That was because the quarry project could have come before the council for review if the site was added to the city.

Removal of the quarry site from the annexation area left the mine plan in the county's hands for processing and a decision on whether it can operate.

Eleven local residents - including two who were identified by a council member as area "pioneers" - spoke out against the mine plan Tuesday night. No one spoke in favor of it.

John Moramarco told of the importance of the ocean breezes to the wine country that he helped launch east of Temecula in the late 1960s. The "cool, clean air" that is funneled through the Santa Margarita River canyon risks being contaminated by airborne dust and grit if the quarry is built, he told the council.

The river, which is formed by the merger of several creeks in southwest Temecula, flows about 27 miles to the coast. The river passes through a sprawling ecological reserve and Camp Pendleton before it reaches the ocean.

Jack Roripaugh, whose family farm was sold for a development project in the city's northeast corner, showed a series of photos taken decades ago that included a thick plume of dust from a previous mining and blasting operation in the region. "Thousands of kids deserve to breathe fresh air," Roripaugh said.

Clif Hewlett told the council that he and other leaders of a grassroots environmental group hope to crowd the April 26 hearing, which is slated to begin at 4 p.m.

"We want to have, hopefully, thousands of people there," said Hewlett, who noted that Save Our Southwest Hills has opposed the Liberty Quarry since word of the project surfaced publicly.

Granite hopes to win county approval to extract 270 million tons of sand, gravel and other materials over a 75-year period from a 155-acre portion of the mine site.

Another nine acres would be used for a service road that would wind its way to the top of a rock-strewn bluff behind a California Highway Patrol truck inspection and weigh station near the San Diego County border.

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 river. Concerns over the future of the reserve - as well as the potential traffic, noise and air and water quality impacts - have fueled criticism of the mine plan.

Granite officials have countered that an array of environmental studies show Liberty Quarry could operate with minimal impacts on the environment.

Those studies, which would need to be approved by the county if the mine is to operate, were repeatedly criticized during Tuesday's council meeting. Comerchero paraphrased a newspaper column that contended the project's draft environmental impact report "reads like a press release for the quarry."

The quarry, which has been in the planning stages for years, has emerged as one of the region's most contentious land use plans. Opponents have staged numerous protest rallies and hired buses to travel to Riverside for an array of planning and annexation hearings. The April 26 hearing will be a rare instance in which country planning commissioners have reviewed the plan at a Temecula location.

Because of the amount of anticipated public testimony, the commission could require two sessions to complete its review of the mine plan. A May 4 hearing is also expected to be scheduled. The commission will eventually make a recommendation to county supervisors, a five-member board that must make the final decision on the mine.

Granite prevailed during the most recent high-profile skirmish with its critics. In December, mine foes failed to block a future flow of water to the controversial project. At that time, Western Municipal Water District directors voted 4-1 to serve the project if it becomes operational.

The Riverside-based agency was tapped to serve the project because the district sells treated water to a tiny pocket of about 50 retail customers near the San Diego County line.

Western officials prepared a 44-page report that examined service and supply issues that could surface as the quarry's water consumption would increase over a 10-year period. In that time frame, water demand at the mine would grow from 205 acre feet annually to 369 feet, according to the report. An acre-foot of water, about 326,000 gallons, covers an acre to a depth of one foot. It is typically enough water to serve 1½ families for one year.

The service report calls for Granite to pay the costs to install a connection to an underground aqueduct that transports untreated water to San Diego County. Granite would also be required to pay for a pump station, pipelines and other improvements.

Southwest Riverside News Network, Thurs., Mar. 10

Temecula City Council comes out against proposed mining quarry

On Tuesday night, Council members unanimously approved to file an opposition against Liberty Quarry because of concerns about the sound and health concerns tied to the project.

By Rocky SalmonSWRNN

The Temecula City Council finally took a formal stand against a proposed mining quarry at the city's southern border.

On Tuesday night, Council members unanimously approved to file an opposition against Liberty Quarry because of concerns about the sound and health concerns tied to the project.

Granite Construction has proposed building a mine at the Riverside-San Diego county line. The project has been with Riverside County for years and is finally moving toward environmental hearings. The commission will host two environmental hearings.
The city staff report stated the environmental report issued for the project is biased and misleads with facts and is full of errors.

Speakers implored the City Council to take a stand against Liberty Quarry.

Temecula resident Wayne Hall said all residents will feel the blasting and suffer from the dust coming from the quarry. "I am so adamantly against this rock quarry. For every inch you move you have to blast," Hall said.

Read more...http://www.swrnn.com/southwest-riverside/2011-03-10/environment/temecula-city-council-comes-out-against-proposed-mining-quarry

The Californian, Wed., Mar. 9

City approves resolution opposing Liberty Quarry

By AARON CLAVERIE - aclaverie@californian.com

The Temecula City Council took a formal stand Tuesday night against Granite Construction's Liberty Quarry project.

After hearing from area residents who fear the project could bring air pollution and sap Southwest County's economic vitality, the council voted 5-0 to approve a resolution opposing the quarry.

Councilman Jeff Comerchero, addressing why the council had not weighed in until this point, said it would have been premature to oppose the project before the environmental documentation had been completed.

In January, the Riverside County Planning Department decided, against the city's recommendation, to not conduct additional study of the project, a decision that triggered the council's action.

"Granite has said that 70 percent of their aggregate will be going to San Diego County," Comerchero said, pausing for effect. "Put it in San Diego."

That line and the council's vote were greeted with applause by the residents who had spoken against the quarry.

Granite has proposed digging an open-pit mine on hundreds of acres of Riverside County land near the San Diego County community of Rainbow and Temecula's southern boundary. The project has been working its way through the county's planning pipeline for years and next month the county's Planning Commission is staging in Temecula the first of two meetings to review the quarry's environmental documentation.

That documentation, a huge environmental impact report that has been pored over by supporters and foes of the project, was criticized by the council as incomplete and a "press release" in favor of the quarry.

"EIRs are not supposed to be partisan," Comerchero said. "That's clearly not the case here."

Other council members also weighed in, saying the location ---- land near an huge ecological reserve to the west ---- was terrible.

Granite, in a statement, said that it was disappointed that the city would consider a resolution that is not supported by the facts.

"The county's draft EIR shows the city residents will not be impacted by the operation of Liberty Quarry. There is also overwhelming evidence showing there are large economic and environmental benefits to the city and the region if Liberty Quarry is developed. Regardless of the city passing this resolution, Granite remains committed to meeting with the city in an effort to address their concerns and find common ground," wrote Granite spokeswoman Karie Reuther in an e-mail to The Californian.
Before the council's vote, area residents took the podium in the Civic Center's council chambers to blast the quarry as a "filthy project" that would put into jeopardy the area's reputation as a vacation destination, create air pollution and drive away businesses.

Temecula resident Wayne Hall said that the vibrations from blasting at the quarry would be strong enough to shake lights miles away and that silica dust would be kicked up and sent into the valley could cause health issues. "It's not as bad as asbestos but it's still bad," he said.

Another speaker, Edward Monroe, urged residents to think about ways every day to "drive Granite nuts." He also questioned the weight of a resolution, saying stronger measures were needed. "Get Granite in court and get them out of here," he said.

Other speakers said they were worried about the dust from the quarry negatively affecting the health of local children and the wine industry.

Fred Bartz, a member of a group that has opposed the quarry, read from a letter that was sent to him by a Temecula business owner. If the quarry is eventually approved, Bartz said, the business owner has vowed to move out of the area in response because of issues the company had when it was near a quarry in the past.

Call staff writer Aaron Claverie at 951-676-4315, ext. 2624.


April 2011 News Articles

The Californian, Saturday, April 30, 2011

REGION: Experts divided on quarry conflict-of-interest question

Temecula mine would pump millions into teachers' retirement, and one planning commissioner is a teacher
By DAVE DOWNEY - ddowney@californian.com  The Californian | 

Questions are being raised about whether Riverside County Planning Commissioner James Porras should recuse himself from the discussion and vote on the proposed Liberty Quarry due to a potential conflict of interest.

Legal and political experts expressed mixed opinions last week about whether a Riverside County planning commissioner would have a conflict of interest if he were to vote on a controversial quarry south of Temecula.

During Tuesday's lengthy commission hearing on the proposed Liberty Quarry, Granite Construction project manager Gary Johnson said the company would pay hundreds of millions ---- between $100 million and $300 million ---- in royalties into the California State Teachers' Retirement System over the projected 50-year life of the rock mine.

If the quarry is approved, the company would open negotiations on a deal with the State Lands Commission for those payments, because the state owns mineral rights on lands throughout California, including a portion of the Granite site. According to state law, such payments are to be made into the teachers' retirement fund.
After Johnson pointed that out, Commissioner James Porras announced he was a teacher, a revelation that elicited some laughter from the crowd.

Porras is a teacher and head swim coach at Coachella Valley High School in Thermal.
Although Porras' pension is guaranteed and wouldn't be boosted if there was a new infusion of money into the retirement system, questions are being raised about whether his job poses a conflict that should prohibit him from voting on the project because he eventually will receive money from the fund.

There appears to be no clear-cut answer. But one expert on the topic does not believe that voting on the quarry would cause Porras to run afoul of the law.
Bob Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies in Los Angeles, said, "It doesn't appear to me that there is a legal conflict of interest under the Political Reform Act."

Stern, who was one of the chief authors of the 1974 state law, said that is because the retirement account benefits hundreds of thousands of teachers throughout California and the payments Granite would make would be dwarfed by the size of the fund. "It literally is one drop in a swimming pool," Stern said.

According to the retirement system's website, the fund was valued at $130 billion as of June 30, 2010. The system administers pensions for 848,000 teachers and their families from the state's 1,400 school districts.

Even if Granite ultimately were to contribute $300 million, that would represent less than 0.25 percent of the fund's current value.

But not everyone agrees with the notion that because Porras would be one of numerous beneficiaries, his voting on the project would not constitute a conflict.
"It's a conflict of interest because no public official can stand to gain a benefit from the exercise of his official duties," said Jeff Joseph, associate dean and general counsel for the Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego. Joseph was a government lawyer for 30 years.

"The fact of the matter is, if that money is contributed to the teachers' retirement fund, it's going to keep the fund more solvent ... particularly at a time when a lot of pensions are on shaky grounds," he said.

Joseph said he would be surprised, under the circumstances, if Porras were to vote on the matter.

Porras could not be reached for comment Thursday or Friday.

Supervisor John Benoit, who hails from the 4th District that Porras represents on the Planning Commission, said he doesn't think the teacher would have a conflict because the benefit Porras would receive from the quarry's contributions would be minute.

But Benoit said he would leave the decision on whether Porras should weigh in on the quarry up to him.

"I trust Jim," Benoit said. "I have the highest confidence in his thoughtfulness and his integrity."

At least two, and possibly four, more commission hearings are expected on the project to allow time for all those who want to comment on it to have their say. At the conclusion of those sessions, the five-member commission is expected to vote on whether to recommend the county approve or deny Granite's application for the quarry.

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors ultimately will have the final say on the matter.

Bruce Cain, a UC Berkeley professor of political science, said it doesn't appear that Porras' voting on the quarry would cross the legal line for a conflict-of-interest violation. But Cain said it wouldn't seem right.

"I think ethically he's probably in more troubled waters, because it does undermine the perception that he is making the decision on the merits," Cain said. "If it's a close vote, then that's going to put more scrutiny on his decision. Conflict of interest is all about appearances."

Peter Scheer, executive director for the First Amendment Coalition in San Francisco, said that as far as he is concerned, it doesn't matter how many other people would benefit from Granite Construction's contributions to the teachers' retirement fund.
"He stands to reap a personal financial benefit from any votes that would facilitate the successful commercial development of this quarry," Scheer said.

Call staff writer Dave Downey at 951-676-4315, ext. 2623.

Commission considers more quarry hearings
The Californian, Wednesday, April 27, 2011

TEMECULA: Commission considers more quarry hearings
By AARON CLAVERIE - aclaverie@californian.com

At least two more hearings seem to be a given, and there's a chance the county Planning Commission's review of Granite Construction's Liberty Quarry proposal could stretch into four or more sessions.

Nothing is set in stone yet. But based on commissioners' comments, the panel will be taking public comments on the hotly debated project from everyone who signed up to speak Tuesday, the night of the first hearing, as well as others who sign up at future hearings.

After that, the commissioners would like to dive into detailed discussions on environmental issues related to the proposed quarry, such as air quality, traffic and noise.

"First, we have to do the heavy lifting," said Commissioner John Snell, a Jurupa-based civil engineer appointed to the five-member body in 1995.

Snell was referring to the panel continuing to listen to public comments on the project, a part of the process that will take hours to complete because of the hundreds of residents who are strongly opposed to the proposed open-pit mine.

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.

After the commission completes its project review, it will issue a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors on how to proceed.

The county's Planning Department has determined that the project is "environmentally superior" to not digging a quarry, in part because of the air quality benefits from an anticipated drop in truck traffic along I-15 in Southwest County.

Granite has said that companies in San Diego ---- the target market for the quarry's output ---- would buy from Liberty Quarry instead of buying from quarries in Corona and other points north. If that is the case, the quarry's operation would remove trucks from I-15 and other feeder roads in Riverside County.

When commissioners wrapped up Tuesday night's hearing ---- the first of two scheduled for the project ---- more than 100 people who had signed up to speak had not yet been given their two minutes before the commission.

Any of those people who come to the second hearing on May 3, Riverside County spokesman Ray Smith said, will be allowed to address the commission. He added that anyone who wasn't able to make the first hearing will be allowed to sign up and speak as well.

There also is a group of quarry supporters who have not yet addressed the commission, and Commission Chairman John Roth, an appointee seated on the board by Supervisor Bob Buster, said they will lead off the next hearing ---- set for 4 p.m. Tuesday at Temecula's Rancho Community Church.

During the first hearing, which ran from 4 to 11 p.m., Temecula city leaders and area residents criticized the project's environmental report, saying air pollution from trucks and the dust and diesel emissions from the quarry's operation will worsen the area's air quality, potentially harming the health of people who live nearby as well as the area's tourism industry.

Supporters urged the county commission to dismiss those concerns, dubbed "myths" by Granite and its supporters, and to follow the recommendations of county planning staff. They also touted the project as an economic slump-buster that would provide high-paying jobs and help the area grow without having to import aggregate rock from surrounding areas.

During a phone interview Wednesday, Smith said the commission is tentatively looking at conducting a third hearing May 9, but added that date isn't locked down yet.

"We're working today (Wednesday) to verify venue and times," he said.
Commissioner John Petty, in his comments Tuesday night, said he envisions the quarry hearings playing out in a similar manner to how the county reviewed the Eagle Mountain landfill project, a dump slated for land near Joshua Tree National Park.
That project, which has been tied up in the courts for years, was approved by the Riverside County Board of Supervisors in 1997 after a series of hearings by the commission and board.

"I bet we had no fewer than five, maybe closer to seven hearings before it was all said and done," Petty said Wednesday during a phone interview.

Petty, the commissioner who represents Wine Country, said Eagle Mountain and Liberty Quarry are similar in that they are both controversial projects that are opposed by a grass-roots organization.

As for how he'd like to proceed with the quarry review, Petty said he envisions the commission taking all the public testimony and then breaking down the individual environmental concerns, with his top three being air quality, traffic and noise.
He said that process ---- which he noted was just his plan, and not one that has been adopted by the full commission ---- could produce at least five hearings.
"I could see us spending half a day just on the air quality issue," he said.

Petty also would like to see the city of Temecula or the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians brought in to offer a rebuttal to the information Granite will present on the environmental issues, but that idea wasn't embraced by his colleagues on Tuesday night.

"Given the scope and importance of this case, the commission should look at their rules and amend the rules. I'm hoping I can convince the commission to think outside the box," he said.

Petty and the commission eventually voted to approve the Eagle Mountain plans, and the project was approved with a 4-1 vote by the Board of Supervisors. Supervisor Bob Buster, who has publicly criticized the Liberty Quarry project, cast the dissenting vote.

But Petty said quarry opponents shouldn't consider the Liberty Quarry hearings to be a formality.

"I hear that 'This is a done deal' and we're just 'going through the motions,'" he said. "That is absolutely not the case."

Call staff writer Aaron Claverie at 951-676-4315, ext. 2624.

Quarry Meeting Packs Mega church    April 27, 2011
The county planning commission heard the pros and cons of a proposed quarry near Temecula during a seven-hour-long meeting.
By Peter Surowski | Email the author |Peter.Surowski@patch.com 

An estimated 2,000 people turned out for the first of two meetings that will determine the fate of a proposed quarry near Temecula.

The meeting lasted for seven hours at Rancho Community Church, 31300 Rancho Community Way.

The bright orange hats and shirts of the anti-quarry group "SOS-Hills" filled the crowd, along with the occasional green buttons, shirts and hats of the pro-quarry group "Friends of Liberty Quarry."

Spectators filled nearly all the seats, milled in the halls and listened to the meeting outside through mounted speakers.

Watsonville-based Granite Construction applied for surface mining permits, a change of zone and various other permissions with the Riverside County Planning Department. It's scheduled to vote on the plan at a meeting next Tuesday.
The planning commission, seated at a portable dais on the church's stage, listened to a presentation from Granite, then a presentation from the county's planning department staff, which recommends approving the quarry.

Then, dozens of members of the public went before the commission to share their feelings on the quarry.

The report produced by the county relied on faulty data and showed the project would harm Temecula residents, said Temecula Mayor Pro-Tem Chuck Washington.
"The air quality impacts are so horrendous, they cannot be adequately mitigated," he said.

The Temecula City Council passed a resolution earlier this year opposing the quarry. The city also tried to annex the land the quarry is planning to mine in an effort to bring it into its jurisdiction, though the plan fell short of its goal.

Some at the meeting felt the benefits the project would outweigh the harm.
"There will be a significant public benefit in terms of lower taxes to build things like schools and other infrastructure," said Kenneth Dickson, a Murrieta school board member.

"The quarry will move us a step forward to a more sustainable quality (of life) than we had in a long time," said Richard Loomis, a Hemet resident.

Several times during the meeting, audience members stood up and started yelling. One man stood up, pointed at the planning commission, shouted they were arrogant, and stormed out of the room. Another time, a man went to the front of the crowd and shouted a stream of complaints.  "Look at the size of it, the size of it is huge," he shouted as a deputy pulled him from the room by his arm. "The silica dust, the animals," he yelled.

For the Pechanga tribe, the question is more than an issue of cost versus benefit. The hill is a holy place, and the quarry to them would be like mining the Holy Sepulcher, said Mark Macarro, tribal chairman of the Pechanga band of Luiseno Indians.

"That's the birthplace, literally, of the world," said Mark Macarro, the tribal chairman of the Pechanga band of Luiseno Indians. "The first funeral took place on top of that mountain, and this mine would propose to absolutely and utterly destroy it."

The project will have some unavoidable side-effects, including noise and air pollution, but these can be mitigated by stopping trucks from idling, using alternative fuels and buying offsets - which means paying another company to produce less pollution to make up for the mining company going over the county's limit, according to a report by the planning department.

For some residents, that's not good enough.

"Unless they cap it with a dome like a nuclear power plant, they can't control the damage," said George Dilao of Temecula. "As for Hemet and another town who think this is a great idea for our backyard, they're welcome to put it in their backyard."

The next hearing will run from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday at Rancho Community Church. The meeting is free and open to the public.

Valley News
Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Early Version Story -
Estimated 2000 turn out for meeting to discuss planned mining operation

TEMECULA (Wire Service) - An estimated 2,000 people turned out today for the first of two public meetings on a 414-acre surface mining operation south of Temecula that opponents call a threat to the environment and supporters laud for its potential economic benefits.

The proposed Liberty Quarry project is undergoing a review by the Riverside County Planning Commission, which is considering Watsonville-based Granite Construction's request for permits, paving the way to operations at the site.

A final environmental impact report issued in March found that noise, air, traffic and land-use problems arising from the quarry could be mitigated.

Planning commissioners held the first public hearing on the quarry this afternoon at Rancho Community Church, 31300 Rancho Community Way. Another hearing is scheduled at the church on May 3 at 4 p.m.

Opponents showed up in red shirts, with supporters of the project wearing blue, each side waiting for a turn to address the Planning Commission.

"As time goes on, the (community and the quarry) are just not compatible," Temecula resident Kathleen Hamilton told ABC7. "Grinding away 18 hours a day is not compatible with growing grapes and having a tourist industry."

Julie Gilbart, a quarry supporter, told Channel 7 that allegations about the project's impact had been overblown. "All assertions made about noise and all that is based on supposition," she said.

The quarry, which has been in the works for more than four years, would involve extracting rocks from hillsides at a site just off Interstate 15, near Rainbow Valley Boulevard, slightly north of the Riverside-San Diego County lines.

Granite Construction is seeking a 75-year operating window, during which an estimated five million tons of construction-grade aggregate -- gravel and sand -- would be mined annually.

Around 100 jobs would be created by the project, with salaries and benefits per position averaging $100,000 a year, according to Granite. The company said the quarry would add about $41 million annually to local government coffers.

The aggregate produced at the site would provide asphalt and concrete for roads, homes and other infrastructure projects, Granite officials said. A report attached to the EIR indicated the mine would cut down on how far trucks have to transport aggregate for projects in northern San Diego County and southwest Riverside County, reducing pollutants, roadway use and traffic congestion.
The Greater Riverside, Lake Elsinore and Wildomar chambers of commerce have endorsed the project. The Friends of the Santa Margarita River, the Endangered Habitats League and the Rainbow Planning Group have condemned it.

In 2009, the mine was part of a territory sought by Temecula for annexat

ion. The county's Local Agency Formation Commission eventually approved the annexation plan, ceding 4,500 acres to the city, including a nature preserve -- but not the quarry.

Opponents of the project believe air quality will suffer, water tables will drop and traffic congestion will surge if mining is permitted.

The Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians have opposed the mine because of its proximity to tribal landmarks. A map supplement showed the quarry would be about a mile from tribal land.

QUARRY: Pechanga chairman opposes Liberty project

PressEnterprise News on April 26, 2011 7:56 PM

The tribal chairman of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians pleaded with Riverside County Planning commissioners tonight to block the proposed Liberty Quarry, which he said would destroy one of the tribes most sacred sites.

Mark Macarro said the quarry, which would be just east of Pechanga's land, would hollow out a mountain that was central to his tribe' creation story. The mountain is analogous to Christians' Church of the Holy Sepulchre or the Dome of the Rock for Muslims, he said.

"And this mine would literally destroy it, change it forever," Macarro said.
Macarro's speech drew rousing applause from the audience of more than 1,000 - most of whom appear to oppose the project. - JOHN F. HILL

Valley News
Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

Tim O'Leary

Special to the Valley News

Chaos, confrontation and uncertainty marked the start on Tuesday of a spate of formal land use hearings on a controversial plan to operate a granite mine south of Temecula.

The Riverside County Planning Commission hearing attracted an estimated 1,700 people at the start and featured aerial photography flyovers, children's activities, audience member sniping and at least three people escorted out of the session by sheriff's deputies.

The hearing, which was held at one of Temecula's largest public venues, began amid a crowded, sun-splashed rally-type setting. It ended seven hours later with about 100 audience members, many of them Temecula city employees, listening intently in the dimly-lit hall as commissioners pondered how many more hearings will be needed before the panel can make its recommendation to the county Board of Supervisors.
The hearing turnout was one of the commission's largest in recent years, said Ray Smith, a county spokesman. He said the location, Rancho Community Church, was picked because of its ability to handle a large audience. About 1,300 people nearly filled the meeting hall at the start of the session, and about 400 others chatted outside, signed petitions or sat in a cavernous tent and listened to the hearing broadcast over loudspeakers.

Conversely, the Riverside chambers that typically houses county commission and board meetings can seat about 300 people, Smith said.

About 200 people submitted slips indicating they wanted to speak during Tuesday's hearing. About 60 people did so, with mine foes outnumbering project supporters. That has left the remainder to decide whether to return to a future session to have their say.

Some audience members traveled from Riverside, Fallbrook, Poway and other distant communities to speak on the project.

The event took on a carnival-like flavor at times. Project foes wearing their trademark orange T-shirts and caps were urged to jam a grassy area outside the church for a series of three flyovers by a helicopter and an airplane. Pictures taken by the volunteer crews would be used to show planning commissioners the spillover from the meeting room.

The vastly outnumbered project supporters wore green T-shirts and caps with wording on the back that read: "New jobs. Less traffic. Cleaner air."

Many people sat outside the building or in church alcoves as they ate picnic lunches from coolers during a one-hour dinner break. City officials and Granite representatives dined in separate parts of the building on sandwiches, pizza and other food that they had delivered.

The fight over Liberty Quarry began more than six years ago, almost immediately after word seeped out that Watsonville-based Granite Construction Co. would seek approval to mine aggregate in the hills between Temecula and Rainbow.

It could take many more years for the review process to unfold, as at least one speaker Tuesday night warned that a lawsuit might be filed if the mine wins the approvals needed to operate.

A series of earlier skirmishes occurred when Temecula launched a costly and unsuccessful bid to annex the 414-acre quarry site. Oversight of the project has remained in the county's hands despite stiff city opposition. A regional grassroots group has challenged Granite at every turn.

The mine plan has pitted Temecula leaders against colleagues from an array of cities and government agencies throughout the region. A one-inch "briefing binder" that Granite distributed to reporters on Tuesday included letters or resolutions in support of the project from leaders or elected panels in Banning, Beaumont, Corona, Cathedral City, Desert Hot Springs, Eastvale, Lake Elsinore, Hemet, Indio, Menifee, Moreno Valley, Palm Springs, Perris and Wildomar. Several leaders who wrote letters identified themselves as members of the county Transportation Commission. Key business groups and chambers of commerce also penned letters of support for the mine plan. The president of the Riverside County Medical Association wrote a letter stating the group "is of the opinion that the proposed Liberty Quarry project does not pose a health risk to workers or resident in the region."

The weeks leading to the hearing were punctuated by events and other steps aimed at garnering public attention or galvanizing support for one side or another.

Mine foes held a gathering early this month at the base of an Old Town Temecula billboard that they rented for $5,000 to urge area residents to attend Tuesday night's hearing.

On April 15, Granite issued a press release that noted county staff had recommended that the commission endorse the quarry development plan. The company later announced that tours would be offered of solar power equipment that has been put in place at its approximately 700-acre mining operation in Indio.
An April 20 press conference was held by representatives of 146 area physicians who have cited health concerns over the proposed quarry.

Granite initially sought to win county approval to extract 270 million tons of sand, gravel and other materials over a 75-year period from a 155-acre portion of the mine site. Another nine acres would be used for a service road that would wind its way to the top of a bluff behind a California Highway Patrol truck inspection and weigh station west of Interstate 15 near the San Diego County border.

A smaller, 135-acre portion of the mine site has been identified by county planners as a favored development alternative.

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. Concerns over the future of the river and the reserve have helped to fuel criticism of the mine plan.

Much of Tuesday night's debate centered on the findings of environmental documents and whether Granite or its foes are accurately portraying the project's potential traffic, noise, air quality and health impacts.

"The bottom line is, facts do matter," Gary Johnson, Granite's lead representative on the project, told the commission. Part of his presentation focused on the "myths" circulated by project foes. He contends the project would improve area air quality by reducing the number of miles traveled by trucks that deliver sand, gravel and other materials to road and construction projects.

His assertions were challenged, however, as the five Temecula council members took turns at the lectern. About a dozen Temecula workers, including the city attorney and numerous department heads, attended the hearing.

Mayor Ron Roberts complained about Granite's "relentless and irresponsible" assertions. Councilman Chuck Washington said Temecula is "troubled" and "deeply concerned" about what he termed Granite's misinformation campaign.

Councilman Jeff Comerchero said Granite has churned reams out of "propaganda" that have "twisted and turned" environmental, traffic and health findings. Councilman Mike Naggar attacked Granite's contention that the Inland Empire could run out of construction aggregate in two decades unless new supplies are approved.

"There's no shortage of aggregate resources," Naggar said in his remarks. "That is a myth. That is a lie."

Moments later, Pechanga Tribal Chairman Mark Macarro detailed portions of his tribe's creation story to underscore the mine site's sacred status. Comparing the hilltop setting to cathedrals, temples, mosques or shrines in other faiths, Macarro described the project location as "one of our most critically important sacred sites."
The hearing was also punctuated by catcalls and outbursts. At least seven sheriff's deputies and a plainclothes supervisor were assigned to the hearing, and some of them were busy at times. The loud remarks and verbal confrontations prompted commission Chairman John Roth to repeatedly warn that the hearing could be recessed if needed to restore order.

"That's not going to help your cause," Roth grumbled at one point. He responded to another outburst by warning: "Calm it down."

A pair of deputies hustled a man with long hair out a side door after he shouted about the potential destruction of wildlife and groundwater while he approached the elevated stage where the planning commissioners were seated.

Deputies then separated and alternately escorted two other people out of the building after a mine critic accused a project supporter of bullying.

That confrontation came after O.B. Johnson, a Murrieta resident and chairman of the Friends of Liberty Quarry group, spoke to the commission. Johnson touted the project's jobs, tax revenues and other potential benefits.

"It will not be seen, felt or heard by Temecula residents," Johnson said in his remarks. Johnson somehow drew the ire of a quarry foe as he returned to his seat.

A deputy accompanied Johnson into the foyer for a brief interview before escorting him to the parking lot. The mine foe shook his cane and grumbled as he was escorted out another door.

The hearing wound down with the commission discussing how to proceed. A previously-scheduled second hearing will begin at the church at 4 p.m. next Tuesday. That session is also expected to last until 11 p.m. Commission members said they might also seek to reserve the church on May 9 for a third session.

County spokesman Smith said it is difficult to predict how many meetings will be needed for the commission to reach a decision. Scores of audience members might line up to speak at the next session, and commissioners questions and debate over traffic, air quality and other potential impacts would devour additional time, he said.
"It all depends," he said.

PRESS ENTERPRISE    April 26, 2011

QUARRY: Hearing fuels cheers and jeers

Six years of debate and emotion over a proposed open-pit mine just south of Temecula fueled applause, cheers, boos and sarcastic laughter that annoyed Riverside County planning commissioners during seven hours of testimony in a public hearing Wednesday that drew more than 1,000 people.

The audience packed Temecula's Rancho Community Church for the first of two scheduled hearings on Liberty Quarry by the five-member commission. T-shirts and hats marked the battle lines -- quarry supporters wore green ones and the opponents wore orange. Most inside the church appeared to oppose the quarry. More than 30 people spoke against it.

More than 150 people signed up to speak against the quarry, and only about 30 spoke on Tuesday night. Proponents of the quarry spoke for about an hour-and-a-half until none was left in the building.Wednesday's hearing started at 4 and wrapped up just before 11 p.m.

Commissioner John Petty said the county would have to schedule at least two more hearings to get through all the resident and expert testimony expected.

The next hearing is set for 4 p.m. May 3 at the church, at 31300 Rancho Community Way.

Commissioners said they would try to have the future meetings at Rancho Community Church in Temecula, where Tuesday's meeting was held. It was unclear when the church would be available.
Libery Quarry
Frank Bellino/The Press-Enterprise

Hundreds of people pack the Riverside County Planning Commission hearing on the proposed Liberty Quarry project that is slated near Temecula.

As the hearing began, Roth warned the audience against any outbursts
"This is not a sporting event," he said. "This is a public hearing."

Throughout the evening, Roth admonished quarry opponents for applauding, groaning, laughing and jeering -- once as a traffic consultant described how the quarry would reduce truck traffic and again during a presentation by Gary Johnson of Granite Construction, the quarry's developer.

At one point, Roth threatened to call a recess. The outbursts "are not going to help your cause," he said. "Don't threaten us!" a man in the audience shouted.

Another stood up and blasted Roth as arrogant; police walked out with him. Late in the evening, sheriff's deputies removed a man who screamed about environmental ruin after a quarry proponent spoke.

"Are we going to have a hearing where people can get respect on both sides, or are we going to have a demonstration," Commissioner John Snell asked in frustration.

Members of Temecula's City Council railed against the quarry and what they described as Granite's slick public relations machine that is at odds with the truth.
Councilman Chuck Washington said Granite was misleading southwest Riverside County residents by claiming the quarry would reduce air pollution by lessening the number of trucks on local highways.

Most of the quarry's material would go to San Diego County. Councilman Mike Naggar said that county has more than 50,000 acres that could be mined. "San Diego would rather dump its aggregate needs in Riverside County to preserve its open space," he said.

Mayor Ron Roberts said the quarry would interfere with ocean breezes that are vital to the region's many wineries. He said Granite was putting forward "relentless and irresponsible information."

Mark Macarro, tribal chairman of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, said the quarry would hollow out a mountain that was central to his tribe's creation story. The mountain is analogous to the Christians' Church of the Holy Sepulchre or the Dome of the Rock for Muslims, he said. "And this mine would literally destroy it, change it forever," Macarro said.

Jean Powell, a nurse who lives in Temecula, said she loves the Temecula Valley's clear, smog-free air and fears the quarry would ruin it. "I am sick at the idea of an open-pit gravel mine coming in here and destroying the quality of life that we love," Powell said. "The people and the animals in this area do not deserve to be treated this way."

Kerry Bartels, also of Temecula, said it made no sense to allow a large open-pit mine so close to existing homes and neighborhoods. "Like many things in America today, a select, tiny group of people will make ungodly amounts of money, and the rest of us in this room will pay the price," Bartels said.

Granite's Johnson told the commission the quarry would create jobs and provide the region with much-needed aggregate, the building material the mine would produce. He said it would not hurt public health, could not be seen from Temecula and would take trucks off the interstates by reducing the need to import aggregate.

"The bottom line of this is facts really do matter, the (environmental report) concluded we're better off with Liberty Quarry than without it," Johnson said.

Johnson created a buzz when he said the state teachers retirement fund will benefit from the quarry through the payment of mineral royalties to California.

Those supporting the quarry included Rick Shirey, of Fallbrook. Shirey, who said he worked at an open-pit mine more than 20 years, said Granite "cares about the community and the people ... They will be a good neighbor for all of us."
Liberty Quarry
Frank Bellino/The Press-Enterprise

Jim Jensen,42, of Temecula, holds a sign protesting the proposed Liberty Quarry project earlier today.

Rancho church, one of Temecula's largest, has inside seating for 1,400; virtually every seat was filled when the hearing began. Overflow seating was set up in tents outside with audio of the proceedings.

The commission is reviewing requests for a surface mining permit and noise ordinance exemption for the quarry, planned for the foothills just south of Temecula. Also before the commission is the quarry's environmental study and a recommendation on whether the Board of Supervisors should change the quarry site's zoning.

County supervisors eventually will decide whether the quarry gets built. Temecula has no jurisdiction over it, since it is outside the city limits.

The quarry would reach a maximum depth of 1,020 feet and occupy at least 135 acres of a vacant, 414-acre site bordered by Interstate 15 on the east, Temecula on the north and west and San Diego County on the south.

Using explosive blasts, Granite would extract 270 million tons of aggregate over 75 years. Asphalt and concrete would be made at the quarry, which would be returned to open space once its lifespan is over.

County planning staff has recommended that the commission approve the quarry. A report to commissioners said the quarry would bring "many benefits to the county" that outweigh possible impacts.

Commissioner John Petty noted that the commission isn't bound by the recommendation.

TEMECULA: More than 1,000 turn out for quarry hearing

By AARON CLAVERIE - aclaverie@californian.com
North County Times - The Californian | Posted: Tuesday, April 26, 2011 10:43 pm

Providing a show of opposition in front of television cameras, anti-quarry folks rally during a one-hour break in the Planning Commission hearing Tuesday, during which commissioners are hearing about Granite Construction's proposed Liberty Quarry project. (Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle - Staff photographer)

Temecula city leaders and the chairman of the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, combatants in court earlier this year, were united Tuesday in opposition to Granite Construction's Liberty Quarry project, the focus of a county Planning Commission hearing at Rancho Community Church in Temecula that was attended by more than 1,000 people.

But there also were supporters of the project who addressed the commission, pointing to the jobs and economic stimulus it would provide.

During their allotted time before the commission, Temecula Mayor Ron Roberts and his four colleagues on the City Council worked to pick apart the traffic studies that contend the project would remove trucks from the county's stretch of Interstate 15. They also criticized Granite's public relations efforts on behalf of the project, equating their marketing materials with the smooth-talking lawyer from the musical "Chicago." Pechanga Chairman Mark Macarro, followed, saying the project would destroy a sacred site for his people, an affront similar to the razing of a site sacred for the religions of Judaism, Christianity or Islam.

"These places define who we are," he said, garnering a standing ovation from many members of the audience.

There also were supporters of the project, some of the 150-plus people who signed up to speak, who addressed the commission Tuesday, saying the quarry will help boost the area's economy.

"Liberty Quarry will move us a step forward to more sustainable quality than we've had in a long time," said Richard Loomis of Hemet, a city that, he said, has been negatively affected by truck traffic.

Julio Marroquin of Riverside said there are not many companies that would be willing to put up the money and build a project of this scale, and he said people should be happy about the high-paying jobs that it will produce, jobs that will allow families to buy homes and send their children to college.

"The project will be a great benefit to the entire region and the state of California," he said.

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.

After the commission completes its review of the project, it will issue a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors on how to proceed.

The county has determined that the project is "environmentally superior" to not digging a quarry, in part because of the air quality benefits from an anticipated reduction in truck traffic along I-15 in Southwest County.

Instead of buying from quarries in Corona and other points north, Granite has said companies in San Diego ---- the target market for the quarry's output ---- will buy from Liberty Quarry. If that is the case, it would remove trucks from I-15 and other feeder roads in Riverside County.

"How do they know that?" asked Roberts, saying the traffic studies conducted as part of the project review did not include any information as to the origin of the trucks that were counted in 2004 and 2005. "They simply parked on the side of the road and counted trucks."

Council members Chuck Washington, Mike Naggar and Maryann Edwards followed Roberts, blasting the air quality findings touted by Granite and the alleged demand for aggregate that would be satisfied by Liberty Quarry.

Quoting from a San Diego County governmental report, Naggar said San Diego County has ample sources of the necessary rock types to meet the anticipated market demand.

What the county didn't have, he said, was the desire to allow new quarries, making Riverside County the more politically expedient choice.

"They want to dump its dump in Riverside County," he said.

Councilman Jeff Comerchero tackled what he called the misinformation that has been released by Granite and he compared the company to Billy Flynn in the musical "Chicago." "Razzle dazzle them and they'll never catch wise," he said, quoting from the musical.

Many of the other project opponents focused on health issues, saying the quarry would sap their vitality and that of their neighbors.

Michael Callahan, a Temecula resident with experience in the trucking industry, said his young daughter has asthma and he envisioned a future for her that featured idling trucks pumping air pollution into the valley's air.

"She has trouble breathing; I don't need it to be worse," he said.

Supporters of the project followed the opponents, urging the commission to reject the hysteria of the opponents and look at the facts.

Ray Bennett, a Temecula resident, said it was irresponsible to not consider the positive environmental effects of the quarry, which he noted could end up becoming a reservoir in the future.

"Let us rise from our self-centeredness and our self-interests," he said.

Bennett's presentation set off a person who was standing near the dais. As Bennett walked back to his seat, the man in the red-and-black checked shirt screamed "You will destroy it!" and a host of other similar comments.

Commission Chairman John Roth had the man removed.

"I guess the clapping wasn't so bad after all," he deadpanned.

Explaining the project's environmental effects during the early part of the hearing, David Jones, the chief county geologist, said most of the issues studied by the county would not result in significant effects. But he said there were issues related to air quality, traffic, biology and utilities that were significant and he provided the commission with details about each.

On air quality, Jones cited studies that determined the dust and pollution generated by the quarry, while they would exceed the low thresholds in place for new development, would "not have a significant impact on human health." His comment was greeted with laughter from orange-clad quarry opponents. The opponents, a group that includes a coalition of local doctors, have said the dust and silica produced by the quarry could exacerbate asthma conditions for nearby residents and increase the risk of cancer and silicosis, a respiratory disease caused by the inhalation of crystalline silica.

Highlighting the anticipated benefits of the project, Jones said it is projected to create shorter hauls for trucks hauling aggregate and lower the costs for that material, a building block for public works and general construction projects.

Wrapping up his report, Jones said the Planning Department was recommending tentative certification of the county's environmental report on the project, tentative approval of a change of zone for a portion of the land from residential to mining, tentative approval of a noise ordinance exception and tentative approval of a surface mining permit.

A consultant with Urban Crossroads, Carlton Waters, told the commission that much of the aggregate, 65 percent, from Liberty Quarry will be headed south to San Diego County.

This will reduce truck traffic in Temecula, he said, by 449 trucks per day. In Murrieta, the number would reach 1,063 a day and in Lake Elsinore it was projected to be 1,217 fewer per day.

His comments were met with laughter and jeers by the audience members, who were scolded by Roth.

"Knock it off; let the man continue. You don't have to agree with him," he said.

Later Roth tangled again with people in the audience, saying their comments weren't helping their cause.

"Don't threaten us," came a comment from the audience.

"I'm not threatening you," Roth assured.

Opponents of the project have frequently criticized the traffic study at the heart of the county's review of the project,and did so again on Tuesday night, saying the assumptions that were used to calculate figures such as a potential reduction in the number of trucks or truck trip miles are basically guesses or, at worst, manipulated by Granite to skew the project's anticipated effects on air quality.

Although the county has claimed the project could end up reducing truck traffic, it is requiring Granite to pay millions to upgrade interchanges in Riverside and San Diego counties. But that money is not targeted to be given directly to the city of Temecula.

'Myths' and 'facts'

Granite project manager Gary Johnson then took to the microphone, detailing what he said were the myths and facts associated with the project.

Two of his "facts" that generated the largest negative response from the crowd were "You won't even know it is there" and there would be a "net benefit to air quality." Addressing the demand for aggregate, Johnson said 13 of the 19 quarries in the county are set to close by 2030, making a quarry such as Liberty needed even more.

Using slides to cover the concerns about air quality, Johnson pointed to studies that showed the worst-case scenarios for the quarry would not exceed state standards. And he said an association representing more than 900 physicians has said the project would not negatively affect public health.

He also said the project would pay royalties that would benefit the California State Teachers' Retirement System. This was greeted with laughter from the audience.

At that point, Commissioner James Porras announced that he was a teacher, sparking another bit of laughter from the crowd.

During the dinner break, Johnson said the total of the potential payment to the retirement fund hasn't yet been negotiated, but added it could end up between $100 million and $300 million over the expected lifespan of the quarry.

Johnson was asked by Roth if Granite paid for the studies that were part of the county's review, a standard practice for projects reviewed by the county.

"We tried to get away without paying, but they wouldn't have it," Johnson joked, eliciting an audible groan from the crowd.

After Johnson's presentation, economist John Husing broke down the projected economic benefits of the quarry, saying it would pump millions into the local economy through direct and indirect channels and create more than 250 jobs.

The jobs benefit has been debated by some who have said Liberty Quarry will end up shifting jobs south instead of creating new jobs, but Husing said demand for both truck drivers and aggregate would make that a non-issue.

He also said there would be no impact on the tourism industry ---- another point brought up by opponents ---- citing the presence of multiple quarries in Coachella Valley, home of tourism magnets such as Palm Desert and Palm Springs.

County officials were scheduled to wrap up the hearing for the night about 11 p.m. The hearing is scheduled to resume at 4 p.m. May 3 in the church's worship center.

Call staff writer Aaron Claverie at 951-676-4315, ext. 2624.

TEMECULA: County officials prepare for large crowd at quarry hearing
By AARON CLAVERIE - aclaverie@californian.com
North County Times - The Californian | Posted: Sunday, April 24, 2011 7:50 pm

Riverside County officials are getting ready to host what's expected to be a large audience Tuesday for the county Planning Commission hearing on Granite Construction's Liberty Quarry project, the first of two that have been scheduled for the proposed mine.

The 4 p.m. hearing will be conducted at Rancho Community Church, 31300 Rancho Community Way, a large church off Temecula Parkway that can accommodate about 1,200 people.

If there is an overflow crowd, seating will be available in tents set up in the parking lot that will feature an audio feed of the hearing, said Ray Smith, a county spokesman. In addition, the county plans to stream the meeting online.

"Given the magnitude of the meeting, we're trying to come up with plans that best accommodate the largest number of people," he said.

Granite, a Northern California company, has proposed operating an open-pit mine on 400 acres of Riverside County land 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.

According to the environmental documentation prepared by the county, the Planning Department received more than 2,000 comments from hundreds of people opposed to the project for a variety of reasons, including increased health risks from air pollution, increased truck traffic on nearby roads, noise from blasting and other environmental issues.

Also opposing the mine are the city of Temecula, the Pechanga Band of San Luiseno Indians, groups in Fallbrook and Rainbow in San Diego County, environmental groups, a coalition of local doctors and SOS Hills, a local residents group.

Riverside County received 11 comments from those in favor of or neutral about the project, which has been touted by some conservative leaders and economists as a potentially significant source of jobs and aggregate rock that would provide a boost for the local economy.

Smith said the first part of Tuesday's hearing will feature a staff presentation on the project and a presentation by Granite. Those presentations are expected to take about two hours. A one-hour dinner break tentatively is scheduled from 6 to 7 p.m.

The commission is being asked to consider three items: a surface mining permit filed by Granite, a noise ordinance exemption and a zoning change for part of the land that is now zoned as residential.

After the dinner break, the county will begin taking public comments, starting with the project's opponents.

Smith said each speaker will have two minutes to speak, with a total of two hours set aside for them. After that, the microphone will be handed over to supporters, who also will receive two minutes ---- and a collective two hours ---- to speak.

At 11 p.m., the hearing is scheduled to be wrapped up for the night. It will reopen May 3 at the church for the commission to continue receiving public comments.

After the commission reviews the project, it will issue a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors on how to proceed. The Board of Supervisors is tasked with making the final decision.

Arrival time

Although people might want to reserve a seat well before 4 p.m. Tuesday, Smith said the county is asking people not to arrive at the church until at least 2:30 p.m.

"We don't want to disrupt the church's operations," he said.

Smith also said the county is asking people not to bring signs on sticks that could obstruct someone's vision.

Ahead of the hearing, anti-quarry forces have tried to stoke turnout via email, public rallies, exhortations at public meetings and a billboard on Interstate 15.

There also could be plenty of pro-quarry representatives in the crowd, as evidenced by the turnout in 2009 for a hearing in Riverside on Temecula's request to annex land that included the quarry site. That request was denied.

According to Granite's projections, about 70 percent of the aggregate generated at Liberty Quarry would be headed south to San Diego County.

The Riverside County Planning Department has taken that figure and determined that because that aggregate no longer will be coming from sources north of Murrieta, the stretch of Interstate 15 that runs through Southwest Riverside County will see fewer trucks and have better air quality as a result.

In fact, county planners have determined the quarry project to be "environmentally superior" to not digging a quarry, in part because of those anticipated air-quality benefits and the production of aggregate materials.

Opponents are vocal

Opponents have said there is no way for the county to know where the aggregate from Liberty will end up, making any potential air-quality benefits mere speculation.

They also have said the county's environmental documentation has seriously underestimated the health risks associated with an increase in air pollution due to quarry operations, which will include diesel exhaust from trucks as well as a mix of dust and silica from blasting and mining.

"If that quarry goes in, I'm out of here," said Al Minne, 70, a Temecula resident who said he has battled heart problems.

Minne said he moved to the area because of its clean air, and he's not confident in the studies that show no health risks will be associated with the quarry's operations.

"I personally will hold the county commissioners responsible if the information in those studies turns out to be wrong. I'll do everything I can to get them out of their job," he said during a telephone interview.

Granite has said research by Canadian epidemiologist Patrick Hessel and studies by air-quality experts who have backed up the study at the heart of the county's documents that shows there would be no health risk to area residents.

Even at the spot that would see the highest concentration of air pollution, the weigh station in San Diego County just south of the Riverside County line, the pollution levels will be below state standards, according to a study by Kleinfelder Inc.

The study was paid for by Granite, in accordance with county rules that require companies to pay for studies associated with their projects.

Fred Bartz, one of the leaders of the opposition, said Hessel is not a medical doctor but a scientist, making his findings less valuable than the opposition to the quarry from more than 100 local medical doctors. On Wednesday, several of those doctors held a news conference to detail their concern about the chance of increased health risks associated with the air pollution from the quarry.

"He works with statistics," Bartz said. "He doesn't work with patients."

'We need jobs'

Adele Harrison, who lives on county land near the proposed quarry site, said she has read Hessel's findings and is confident that there will be no adverse health effects from the quarry.

"The information I have says that he's a doctor that has done research for more than 25 years. He's conducted numerous studies that have been published in scientific journals and papers. He's a specialist on the health effects of silica," she said. "I'm confident that he would know a lot more about it."

Harrison said she has studied this issue closely because she lives so close to the site ---- she lives south of the Redhawk neighborhood ---- and she wasn't swayed by the recent announcement by the coalition of doctors.

"A lot of these people don't know anything about quarries," she said, adding that silicosis, a lung disease caused by the inhalation of microscopic silica shards, is virtually unseen outside occupational settings.

"There's no connection to quarries. They say these outrageous things without any evidence at all," she said.

As for why she supports the quarry, Harrison said she is a conservative who believes the supply of low-cost aggregate at the Liberty Quarry site will cause a positive ripple effect for builders and industry in the valley.

"We need jobs in this state more than anything else," she said.

The hearing feed is expected to be made available via links on the county's website, www.countyofriverside.us, and at www.rctlma.org/planning.

Call staff writer Aaron Claverie at 951-676-4315, ext. 2624.


Planners to hear quarry dispute

12:13 AM PDT on Sunday, April 24, 2011
The Press-Enterprise

Jan Tucker and her husband hope to retire to the dream home they bought last June in Temecula

But they see a shadow looming over their plans: an open-pit mine proposed for the foothills just outside the city limits. Like most opponents, she worries that the quarry will lead to pollution, traffic backups and other problems that will ruin the area's quality of life. "This is God's country, and you have the power to destroy it with the thoughtless swipe of a pen," Tucker wrote to Riverside County officials, who open hearings this week on the controversial project.

She plans to be among the hundreds, if not thousands, expected to attend a county Planning Commission hearing on the Liberty Quarry at 4 p.m. Tuesday. The panel's recommendations will go to the Riverside County Board of Supervisors, which will decide whether the quarry gets built.
Quarry developer Granite Construction maintains the quarry planned for the foothills above Temecula would create about 100 jobs averaging $100,000 a year in salaries and benefits as well as hundreds of millions in tax dollars over its lifespan. County planning staff has recommended the commission approve the quarry.

The quarry would be a local source of aggregate, tiny rocks used for building material, Granite officials say. That means hundreds of trucks could stay off county roads each day and improve air quality, they say.

Click to enlarge
These benefits would come "all without the project being seen, felt or heard by Temecula residents," Granite spokeswoman Karie Reuther said in an email. "It really is an ideal site."
The meeting and another on May 3 will take place at Temecula's Rancho Community Church instead of Riverside, where the five-member commission normally meets. The hearings will be in Temecula to reach as many people as possible in the area near the site, county spokesman Ray Smith said.

The public hearings mark a key point in the 6-year-old battle over what is probably the most debated land-use project ever proposed in southwest Riverside County.

Quarry foes have written letters to elected officials and newspapers, paid for roadside billboards, waved signs at intersections, started websites, sponsored a "Run for the Hills" charity event and rally and held demonstrations in which orange-clad people lined up to spell "No Quarry" on a sports field.

A sea of orange could be at Tuesday's hearing, as opponents plan to have their photo taken from a helicopter. The Temecula City Council also joined the battle, passing an anti-quarry resolution this year and trying unsuccessfully to annex the site in 2009.

Granite representatives have traveled the county to muster support, winning endorsements from city councils in Banning, Beaumont, Eastvale and Indio, as well as from a number of chambers of commerce.

Recent Granite news releases contain quotes from local politicians such as Hemet Mayor Jerry Franchville, who said the quarry would help his city by reducing truck traffic, air emissions and construction costs.

Quarry foes see themselves as ordinary people fighting a big corporation, comparing their struggle to a fictional tribe's battle against a mining company in the movie "Avatar." Anti-quarry groups even honored the film's director, James Cameron, with an award at the 2010 Temecula Valley International Film & Music Festival.

Granite, an 89-year-old Central California-based corporation that reported revenues of $2 billion in 2009, has a website called Liberty Quarry Facts. It also has hosted open houses on the quarry, emphasizing its awards from other organizations for ethical behavior. At one time, Granite handed out bumper stickers with the slogan, "Character Matters."

First proposed in 2005, the quarry would be up to 1,020 feet deep. By comparison, the Empire State Building is 1,250 feet tall. The project would occupy at least 135 acres of a 414-scre site bound by Interstate 15 on the east, Temecula on the north and west and San Diego County to the south.

For 75 years, Granite wants to use explosives to blast away the hillside and take out 270 million tons of aggregate, a material commonly used in concrete, roads and building foundations. Asphalt and concrete also would be made at the quarry, which would be turned into open space when its lifespan is up.

Granite contends the quarry would support at least 269 jobs, generate $300 million in sales tax revenue and $41 million in property tax fees and solve a looming aggregate shortage that threatens economic growth.

Most of the material mined from the quarry is expected to head to San Diego County. The quarry would not be seen or heard from Temecula, Granite executives say, as technology would keep dust from blowing into populated areas.

Critics contend the quarry would add 1,600 truck trips a day to Interstate 15. Diesel fumes, as well as microscopic silica dust from quarry operations, would pose a severe health risk to Temecula and nearby communities, they contend. They believe the quarry would cause noise and light pollution, sever a coastal wildlife linkage and spoil a neighboring wilderness preserve.

Among the opponents is a group of 146 local physicians who warn that quarry-related illnesses could overwhelm an already-taxed local health care system. "To me, this is a medical nightmare," said Dr. Phillip Tafoya of Physicians Against the Quarry.

Opponents also warn the quarry would harm Temecula Valley's tourism industry -- estimated to support more than 6,000 businesses and worth more than $600 million a year -- lower property values and cause people to move away. Critics say Southern California has plenty of better sites for extracting aggregate.

A 6,800-page environmental study of the quarry by Granite-paid consultants determined the project would have "significant and unavoidable" effects on air quality and traffic. But there would still be air pollution and traffic if the quarry were not built because trucks would continue hauling aggregate long distances, according to the report vetted by county planners.

Granite executive Gary Johnson has said the terms "significant and unavoidable" are misunderstood, because the region already has levels of traffic and air pollution considered too high.

Temecula city officials have slammed the environmental study as misleading, incomplete and pro-quarry propaganda. Their own studies conclude that open-pit mining is a bad fit for the region.

On Tuesday, planning commissioners, who are appointed by county supervisors, will consider a surface mining permit and a noise ordinance exemption for the quarry. The exemption is needed because ambient noise at the quarry site already exceeds the county threshold, said David Jones, county chief engineering geologist.

Commissioners also will decide whether to approve the environmental study and recommend that supervisors change the zoning at the quarry site.

Supervisors will have the final say on the quarry, but it's unclear when they will vote. John Petty, the commissioner representing Temecula, said he'd be surprised if the commission held only two hearings on the quarry given the project's complex nature.

Temecula council members plan to attend the hearing, but Mayor Ron Roberts and city planning chief Patrick Richardson declined to say what they would tell the commission.

Reuther, the Granite spokeswoman, said she thinks the hearings will bring out "a decent showing (of supporters). There's going to be a lot of people who come out who just want the facts and to hear what it really is."

Even after supervisors decide the quarry's fate, the issue could be headed for the courtroom. Temecula's city council set aside $500,000 in 2006 for a legal challenge, and Councilwoman Maryann Edwards last summer said the city had not given up its right to sue to stop the quarry.
Tucker wrote that the county's leaders face a moral decision. "If you vote 'yes,' you are casting that vote for the love of money and only for the love of money,' " she said. Petty said he and his colleagues are well aware of the emotion surrounding the quarry. "I can assure you that both the Planning Department and the Planning Commission will roll up our sleeves and do whatever it takes ... to render an intelligent and well-founded decision," he said.

Reach Jeff Horseman at 951-375-3727 or jhorseman@PE.com

VALLEY NEWS    Saturday, April 23rd, 2011

More than 145 medical physicians have joined forces to fight a large open pit quarry mine proposed for the hills just south of Temecula.

At a morning press conference Wednesday, Dr. Dan Robbins, well-known Temecula pediatrician, was joined by other local physicians to talk about the recently formed group called Physicians Against Quarry (PAQ).

Robbins said PAQ was created by the local medical community to try to prevent Granite Construction from digging Liberty Quarry at the selected location. "The doctors are worried about the potentially damaging effect the quarry will have on the health of their patients," Robbins said.

Robbins said that physicians have concerns that regular prevailing winds that pass over the proposed site of the quarry will spread fine silica dust over the surrounding communities.

"As physicians, we have many patients with chronic illnesses: asthma, cancer, and heart disease. Some of these patients are extremely fragile and a slight increase in air pollution will cause significant harm," Robbins said. "We cannot take a chance with these patients."

Robbins went on to describe PAQ and why the long list of prominent medical doctors felt it necessary to take time out of their busy schedules treating patients to oppose Liberty Quarry. He said they are all concerned local physicians that either live in the Temecula Valley, or take care of patients who live in the Temecula Valley. 

The list of PAQ physicians includes a wide range of medical specialties including cardiologists, ICU doctors, oncologists, internists, radiologists, anesthesiologists, surgeons and pediatricians.

“We are not opposed to gravel quarries, we simply are opposed to locating this particular quarry so near to where our patients live and go to school,” said Robbins.  “We must be the guardians of the health of the people of Temecula Valley, and there is significant chance that the health of our patients will be affected by this project, so it our view that this project should be located at some other location.”

When asked about proof that so many doctors actually oppose Liberty Quarry, Robbins referred to the loose leaf binders sitting on the table in front of him.  He said there is a signed statement from every doctors on the PAQ list inside each binder, at 146 of them.

“This is too serious a health issue for the Riverside County planners and the Riverside County Board of Supervisors that will make the final decision on this matter to ignore the opinion of 146 local physicians.” said Robbins.

Local Physicians Denounce Planned Quarry
The quarry will fill the air with dangerous particles.
By Stephanie D. Schulte | April 20, 2011| (www.patch.com)


Local physicians spoke out today against a quarry planned for the hills just south of Temecula.

The group, called Physicians Against the Quarry, held a meeting at Temecula’s Tower Plaza aiming to denounce a county report that says the quarry will have little to no impact on local air quality. The group is comprised of 146 Temecula Valley physicians.

The physicians had a responsibility as the vanguards of public health to speak out, said Dan Robbins, a pediatrician and the department chair of pediatrics for the Southwest Health Care System. “We must be guardians of the health of the people of the Temecula Valley, and there is a significant chance that the health of our patients will be affected by this project," he said.

He hoped the large number of physicians in the group would get the county's planning commission's attention. "This is too serious a health issue for the Riverside County planners and supervisors to ignore the opinion of 146 local physicians," Robbins said.

Much of the physicians' concerns were over an airborne particle called silica. “The dust and pollutants that will be in blown into our valley’s air as a result of the Liberty Quarry will contain needle shaped microscopic silica particles that can enter our airways including the air sacs in our lungs potentially causing chronic lung disease among other health problems,” Robbins said.

The explosions that will happen at the quarry are at the heart of the problem, said Reginald Watts, a retired vascular neurosurgeon. "The crushing or blasting techniques that this type of mining utilizes creates sharp sided silica which causes the health hazard, not to mention all of the other problems that come with heavily polluted air.”

Granite Construction, the company planning the mine, slated the quarry for a 414-acre lot bordering Temecula to the north and west and the county line to the south. The open-pit mine will stretch for about a mile from north to south and take up 135 acres.

The county's planning commission is scheduled to make its decision after two meetings about the project at 4 p.m. on April 26 and May 3 at Rancho Community Church, 31300 Rancho Community Way in Temecula.

County planners released a recommendation to approve the quarry, though the decision is up to the commission.

Members of Physicians Against the Quarry hope their expertise on public health can sway the commission to reject the plan.

“From a hospital perspective we are already short the number of beds for patients.  We won’t have the room to handle the influx of patients that are sick from the hazardous and polluted air,” said Philip Tafoya, an internal medicine specialist.

Physicians saw an increase in sick patients when the fires of recent years blew in soot and smoke, and the quarry will likely have the same effect, he said.

Robbins had a couple young patients with chronic asthma who ended up in the intensive care unit and almost died due to the polluted air created by the fires, he recalled.
“We are not opposed to gravel quarries, we simply are opposed to locating this particular quarry so near to where our patients live and go to school," Robbins said.

The report on the effect the quarry will have on the region, called the "Environmental Impact Report," has major flaws, the physicians said.

“The Environmental Impact Report is a weak document based on weak assumptions, improper wind speed analysis and out of date research and data,” Robbins said. “It does not take into account the fact that Granite Construction hires its own safety and air monitoring personnel or that the EIR was prepared by a consultant paid for by the applicant.”

If air pollutant levels exceed state standards, Granite Construction has to share that information with the public, but doesn't have to respond, some physicians said.

TEMECULA: Doctors concerned about proposed quarry's health risks
By AARON CLAVERIE - aclaverie@californian.com
North County Times - The Californian | Posted: Wednesday, April 20, 2011 8:02

Four doctors representing a coalition of 146 physicians opposed to Granite Construction's Liberty Quarry held a press conference Wednesday in Temecula, saying the county's environmental report failed to thoroughly study the health risks associated with the project.

"It's a medical nightmare," said Phillip Tafoya, a doctor who was joined at the conference by three colleagues: Temecula pediatricians Daniel Robbins and Natasha Rodgers and retired physician Reginald Watts.

Of particular concern for the doctors is the "needle-shaped" silica that will be generated by the quarry ---- sharp microscopic shards created by blasting and crushing operations. They also spoke about the possibility of lung and heart issues associated with an increase in pollution.

The doctors' announcement follows the release of a county-commissioned environmental analysis that concludes that the quarry activity would not create significant health risks and would actually improve air quality because of reduced truck traffic through Southwest County.

Granite, a Northern California-based company, has proposed operating the open-pit mine within a 400-acre property that sits between the San Diego County border with Riverside County and Temecula's southern border. At full capacity, the 135-acre quarry is expected to generate 5 million tons of aggregate rock 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 meet construction needs in San Diego County.

On Tuesday in Temecula, the Riverside County Planning Commission will conduct the first of two scheduled 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, the migratory paths of animals and other environmental issues.

The quarry is supported by people who point to the jobs it will produce and the tax revenue it will generate.

The county, in its final report on the project, determined that the dust and silica kicked up by the quarry activity would not exceed the air quality standards put in place by the state to protect public health.

The county also said the project is "environmentally superior" to not digging a quarry, in part, because of the air quality benefits from reduced truck traffic on the stretch of Interstate 15 that runs through Temecula Valley.

The county's environmental documentation contends 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 will no longer buy aggregate from quarries in the Corona area and other points north.

Questioning report
Robbins said he and his colleagues have serious concerns about the validity and breadth of the data being used by the county, and the collective doubts of more than 140 doctors should give the county pause before it signs off on the project.
The coalition, which calls itself Physicians Against the Quarry, has forwarded a letter addressing its concerns and signed by all 146 doctors to the county planning commissioners as well as to the county Board of Supervisors.

"If there is any doubt about air quality, that should be enough for the supervisors," Robbins said, adding that any increase in pollution will have the strongest effect on the most vulnerable members of the community: the elderly and children.

The county board will rule on the quarry proposal after the Planning Commission hearings.

Talking about the pollution that will be generated by the quarry ---- a mix that includes exhaust from trucks and machinery, dust and silica ---- the doctors at the conference said residents exposed to that combo will find their health deteriorate.
"But (they) won't know why," Robbins said.

After the conference, Tafoya elaborated on the slow-developing nature of the health risks, saying it might take 20 or 30 years to see how the community has been affected by the additional materials in the air.

New conditions
In the county's final environmental report on the quarry, conditions were added that would require Granite to establish an air monitoring program and report that information quarterly. The company also would be ordered to suspend all blasting, excavating and grading when wind gusts exceed 25 mph.

Robbins said that requirement is very important, and he said it's an acknowledgement by the county that there is a danger of strong winds carrying dust and particulates into residential areas.

But Robbins said the air monitoring program doesn't have any teeth because it doesn't require Granite to shut down if pollution levels exceed the state standards. Also, he said it will be easy for Granite to game the program by not scheduling its most intensive activities for monitoring days.

In response to Robbins' claims, Granite spokeswoman Karie Reuther said that if the monitoring indicated a problem, the county and the South Coast Air Quality Management District would require changes to the operations be made immediately.
As for the possibility of gaming the program, she said Granite won't know or be able to choose what days monitoring will take place.

Kleinfelder Inc., the environmental firm that worked on the air quality analysis used in the county's environmental report, has determined that even in the "worst case" scenario, none of the quarry's air quality effects will exceed health thresholds.
"Air emissions from developments such as a mall, a discount store and a home improvement store are much greater than the net emissions from the Liberty Quarry project," according to a Kleinfelder report.

Granite answers critics
Quarry critics have dismissed Kleinfelder's findings because its report was commissioned by Granite ---- as per county rules that require companies to pay for studies associated with their projects.

Reuther said the studies were done according to Environmental Protection Agency and AQMD standards, and they have been cross-checked by a host of consulting firms.

The findings, she said, show that the emissions from the quarry, at the project boundary, would be 214 times lower than what the state and the EPA call safe standards for crystalline silica.

Reuther also said that the quarry, as noted by the Planning Department, would improve local air quality by removing pollution-belching trucks from the freeway.
"That's why reducing the truck traffic is such a positive," she said.

Addressing the risk of silicosis, a respiratory disease caused by breathing in silica dust, Granite has pointed to research by Patrick Hessel, a Canadian doctor who has written numerous papers on silicosis, that states, "There will be no risk of silicosis for people living in the area of the proposed quarry."

As for the other health issues mentioned Wednesday by the doctors' group ---- asthma, heart disease, reduced lung function ---- Reuther said there is no report that links health problems in residential communities with the operation of quarries.
"They're not basing this on anything but their opinion," she said.

Call staff writer Aaron Claverie at 951-676-4315, ext. 2624.

Doctors unite to oppose proposed Liberty Quarry

An environmental study of the proposed Liberty Quarry is full of flaws, and pollution from the open-pit mine would threaten public health, a group of doctors said this morning.

Physicians Against the Quarry's press conference came less than a week before the Riverside County Planning Commission holds the first of two scheduled public hearings on the project, sought for a 414-acre site in the Temecula foothills bordering the San Diego County line.
Temecula pediatrician Dan Robbins said the group represents 146 local doctors, all of whom signed forms declaring their opposition to the quarry proposed by Granite Construction.

Explosives at the quarry would blast away rock to be used as aggregate, a building material. Robbins said microscopic, needle-like silica dust created by the quarry would be carried by the wind and become lodged in people's lungs, leading to lung disease. Babies and the elderly are particularly at risk, he said.
"If there's any doubts about air quality, that should be enough for the (county) supervisors and the planners not to approve this project," Robbins said.
Granite spokeswoman Karie Reuther could not be reached for comment this morning.

However, Granite executives have said the quarry will lower air pollution, because fewer diesel trucks will clog roads hauling aggregate. Air quality will be constantly monitored and practices and technology at the quarry will prevent silica or other pollutants from escaping, they have said.

The first Planning Commission hearing is set for 4 p.m. Tuesday at Rancho Community Church, 31300 Rancho Community Way in Temecula. The second hearing is scheduled for 4 p.m. May 3 at the church.
The county Board of Supervisors will ultimately vote on whether the quarry can be built.

JEFF HORSEMAN - jhorseman@PE.com

Temecula gets support while two council members get criticized
MENIFEE: Quarry letter spotlights conflict over campaign funds

By JIM ROTHGEB - jrothgeb@californian.com
North County Times - The Californian | Posted: Saturday, April 9, 2011 9:39

A controversial vote over Temecula's fight against a rock quarry on its southern border last week did more than just highlight differences over truck traffic, air pollution and excess noise.

Beneath all of that, it also pointed out the differences that exist on the Menifee City Council over the acceptance of campaign funds from deep-pocketed developers seeking support for their projects.
It's an argument that Mayor Wallace Edgerton has waged in public since his State of the City address in January. And lately, Councilwoman Darcy Kuenzi and Councilman John Denver have taken some broadside hits over their acceptance of developer money.

On Tuesday night, the Menifee City Council gave its approval to a vaguely worded letter in support of Temecula's opposition to the Liberty Quarry project that will be sent to Temecula Mayor Ron Roberts. The quarry is proposed to be built just south of Temecula. The project will go to the Riverside County Planning Commission on April 26 and the Temecula City Council is on record for its strong opposition to the plan for various environmental reasons.

According to Roberts, Menifee is the only city to offer such support and he's happy for it. He added that the Temecula council didn't actively seek it from a city 15 miles to the north, but that it came out of the blue. "We're very appreciative and any possible endorsement we can get on this really helps, especially when it's from another city," Roberts said Friday. "No, I didn't ask Wally to do it; he wanted to."

The council argument in Menifee on Tuesday started with the question of whether the city should even get involved in Temecula's issues. Kuenzi said individual letters from council members may be fine, but to put it to a full council vote was not. Her words were echoed by Denver. "I just think this is very unwise for about a thousand reasons," Denver said. "We have no business dealing in other people's matters. Do not drag us into this political mish-mash."

Many cities would shy away from such support, but Edgerton was adamant. He was particularly concerned about harmful dust particles in the air that could be generated from the quarry operation.
But Edgerton's comments also took a strange twist. He talked about attending a political fundraiser ---- Denver referred to it as one of his many social gatherings ---- at Denver's house last year, where he met an executive from Granite Construction Co., the developer of Liberty Quarry.

"He was there because he knew there was a concern in the city of Menifee and apparently you have a personal concern as well," Edgerton told Denver, implying that a campaign contribution was Denver's goal. The councilman, who by now was agitated, shot back that Edgerton didn't know what he was talking about. "It's improper to try and smear me when all you're doing is just pure political shenanigans," Denver said. To which Edgerton replied: "Well, at least I'm not getting paid for my shenanigans."

In conversations later last week, Edgerton stuck to his contention that Denver and Kuenzi are motivated by campaign contributions from developers.

Public disclosure forms show that Granite Construction and Liberty Quarry Project Manager Gary Johnson have contributed $450 to Denver's election treasury. Another developer with a project that was being considered by the council last week, Regent Properties representing Town Center, has donated $500. Denver insists that campaign contributions don't influence his votes on the council. Instead, his votes influence the contributors.

"I don't go out and actively seek these contributions," Denver said Friday. "These people see the way I vote and then come to me, offering to make a contribution, and I say yes." He noted that the law allows developers to offer contributions to whomever they want.

The pro-business Kuenzi, whose track record for taking contributions from developers is well-known, has been attacked during council meetings lately by Michael Mudd, a member of the Menifee Tea Party. A recall attempt that was recently canceled also stated that her connection to developers was a detriment to the community. "I receive campaign contributions and report them according to the law," Kuenzi said. "I was elected by the voters to work in the best interest of the community and my decisions are not influenced by campaign contributions."

Edgerton has not accepted campaign contributions. Neither have Councilmen Tom Fuhrman and Fred Twyman, who were relatively quiet during the Liberty Quarry discussion. Recent council votes, especially on development issues, have been split, pitting the three of them against Denver and Kuenzi.

The Liberty Quarry vote for the letter of support was 3-1, with one abstention. Denver voted no. Kuenzi abstained, saying Friday that she was not comfortable with the way the issue was placed on the agenda and it wasn't the city's place to discuss it.

Call staff writer Jim Rothgeb at 951-676-4315, ext. 2621.


County responds to questions prompted by those concerns
TEMECULA: Opponents unswayed by Liberty Quarry data, studies

By AARON CLAVERIE - aclaverie@californian.com
North County Times - The Californian | Posted: Monday, April 4, 2011 10:33 pm

An anti-quarry billboard in front of the Temecula Civic Center that calls attention to an upcoming hearing on the proposed open-pit mine vies for the attention of drivers on northbound Interstate 15. (Photo by Don Boomer - Staff photographer)

The stacks of technical studies and reports on air quality and traffic. The information released by Granite Construction and the environmental documentation published by the county.

The "thumbs up" from some economists and conservative leaders.

They're all meaningless to opponents of Granite's Liberty Quarry project, and later this month, leaders of the opposition groups say they plan to air their concerns about the project at the first of two scheduled county Planning Commission hearings on the proposed open-pit mine.

"I don't believe them," said Temecula resident Marelle Dorsey, talking about the county's report stating that air quality in Southwest County will improve if Granite is allowed to dig the quarry because pollution-emitting trucks will be reduced on the region's freeways. "(Granite) came up with this story so their polluting numbers work."
The 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 at the site, which is just east of the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve.
On April 26, the county commission will conduct the first of two scheduled hearings on the project ---- hotly debated in Southwest County as well as Fallbrook and Rainbow, because of concerns that include the negative effects it could have on air quality, traffic, the migratory paths of animals and other environmental issues.

To boost turnout for the first hearing, opposition groups recently unveiled on the western edge of Interstate 15 a billboard urging people to attend.

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.
Dorsey contends that those benefits are a mirage, the product of a traffic study and assumptions that don't withstand serious scrutiny or common sense.

"The whole thing is built on a house of cards," she said.

Truck traffic
Granite has said that about 70 percent of the aggregate produced at Liberty Quarry will be trucked to San Diego County.

When developers tap that resource ---- the material used in building roads and many other projects ---- they will no longer be buying aggregate from quarries in the Corona area.

The study, commissioned as part of the county's review of the project, says the shift from those northern quarries to Liberty will remove millions of truck-trip miles from the roads annually.

"What if it's not true?" asked Dorsey, a real estate professional who said she has thoroughly vetted the county's environmental report. If Granite doesn't send the majority of the aggregate south, she said, the truck-traffic miles and the air quality estimates no longer will be accurate.

In response to that question, the county's Planning Department said in a written statement: "Granite's target market is the Temecula-Murrieta area, southwestern Riverside County, and northern San Diego County. The (environmental report) provides an accurate and thorough assessment of the potential impacts related to the project serving this market. "However, we have no control over market forces and we cannot analyze, and are not legally required to analyze, or in some cases control, every conceivable project permutation."

Lower demand?

Granite has said it is putting the quarry in that location because of the anticipated demand for aggregate in San Diego County. Even though demand has fallen in recent years because of the economy, Granite project manager Gary Johnson said it's only a temporary dip. "It will come back," he said, adding that the studies detailing the need for the aggregate included in the county report were conservative estimates that did not take into account the huge uptick during the building boom ahead of the recession.

As to the questions about the age of the studies on truck traffic and aggregate demand, the county said its report satisfies state requirements.

Those requirements state that an environmental analysis on a project must be based on nearby physical environmental conditions as they exist at the time the public is notified that the analysis is going to be prepared.

Some of the studies included in the Liberty Quarry report were completed before the issuance of the public notice in summer 2007, but the county said the report is consistent with the state's rules.

"Some of the other studies that were completed in earlier years ... present data collected at that time as well as reasonable projections of those data into the future," according to the county.

Regarding the traffic studies, the county took counts obtained in 2006 and added a growth rate of 2 percent annually up to the year the project is expected to be in full production.
Asked whether that growth rate skewed the counts in light of the dip in demand for aggregate, county spokesman Ray Smith responded in an email to The Californian:
"The data is not skewed. The consultants applied the required growth rate to analyze the project's potential impacts as originally proposed. That is standard practice. Current traffic numbers might be lower than during the studies (for the draft environmental impact report), but the approach taken ... would thus represent a more conservative analysis, i.e. the effects in the short term would be less than in the projections.

"The current economic downturn and related drop in aggregate demand is believed to be transient and does not reflect the demand for aggregate over the long run. Studies have shown that, over time, aggregate demand will grow along with population increase. Hence, the numbers are expected to pick up as the economy picks up."

Call staff writer Aaron Claverie at 951-676-4315, ext. 2624.




February 2011       Opinions/Forums    News Articles

February 2011 Letters to the Editor

The Californian, Thurs., Feb. 24

We should be able to vote on quarry

In all the Community Voices letters to The Californian I have read, none have addressed a reason why the people of Temecula will not be able to vote on the issue of Liberty Quarry. Why is it up to the five supervisors in Riverside County? I think we need a special vote. We have a new $70 million Civic Center. Let's vote there.

One hundred jobs will not help this community of more than 105,000 residents. Keeping our community safe and with clean, unpolluted air will do more for the property values than any new taxes from the quarry. "A clean, safe and beautiful place to live" should be our motto.

I am sickened to think we will lose our beautiful environment. I cannot express strongly enough my feelings of dread. Someone wrote that the multitude of trucks will head toward San Diego, but the interstate runs north as well. Truck traffic, truck traffic and more truck traffic, diesel-fueled.

That is a sad picture of the future. Don't let it happen. Be at the meeting, the Riverside County Planning Commission at 4 p.m. April 26 at Rancho Community Church, Temecula Parkway.

Carol Saenz, Temecula

Quarry is dependent on good economy

I sympathize with Ralph Caracoza (Feb. 22). The unnatural eight-year housing boom from all the special mortgage financing created a mass of construction jobs/workers. Sadly, the hit will be harder than other times, as many other types of jobs have been lost, affecting everyone.

The same goes for the growth in government jobs from the housing boom and its revenues. Government is top-heavy now, when everyone thought there'd be no end to the growth.

The quarry won't create the economy; it's dependent on a good economy. Liberty Quarry won't create another housing boom. Freeway contracts won't fill tax coffers; it's dependent on full coffers. Even the government is broke. Granite's been laying off workers, and Rosemary's Mountain isn't working at full capacity.

The country is in chaos. It's a mess for a lot of industries, but for one quarry to jeopardize already established businesses or neighborhoods within a thriving area, or a neighbor to sacrifice the next neighbor's quality of life to save theirs, is taking one household's well-being to replace their own. As every new job should be appreciated, so should every job saved.

Also, reduced truck miles equates to lost driving jobs. God help us all.

Mike Jurkosky, Temecula

The Californian, Sat., Feb. 19, 2011

Quarry truths

I am thankful for the letter from the two writers from Lake Elsinore who wrote about the dangerous air-quality conditions near any quarry (Feb. 16).

I was the director of the Lake Elsinore Senior Center from 1989 to 1990 and I do recall the seniors complaining about the dust and breathing conditions in the places they had moved from. They liked living in Lake Elsinore instead of living near smog-polluting cities or any community in close proximity to a rock quarry or a trash dump.
We in Temecula are not wanting any quarry in our front yard (dust and silica), living room (loud blasting noise) or waterway (Santa Margarita River).

Citizens, please attend the future hearings against a corporate giant. Our future and children are counting on us to preserve our quality of life in the Southwest.

Robert Martinez, Temecula

The Californian,  Fri., Feb. 18, 2011

Use people power to ensure a healthy future

I believe the Egyptian political crisis holds a lesson for the residents of the Temecula Valley. Nonviolent people power is the winning weapon in efforts to achieve a fairer future. Tip O'Neill famously asserted that "all politics is local." Put another way, "all politics is loco" if it is not compatible with local realities.

The people of our valley must use their people power to ensure a healthy, untroubled future for our community for the next 75 years. On April 26 (calendar this!), a series of meetings will ensue that will result in a decision regarding the controversial Liberty Quarry, which is opposed by the great majority of Temecula residents. If we follow the Egyptian model and mass our people inside and outside the Rancho Community Church, we will win our struggle. We will ensure that no small minority will override the great democratic majority will of the people.

A test vote was taken in 2006 on this matter in Temecula's largest community, the Riverside County-created Redhawk. The humongous sample taken indicated that approximately 95 percent of Redhawk households "totally oppose" the quarry project. The will of we the people is a preamble to all we stand for. Take a stand April 26.

Ken Johnson, Temecula

The Californian, Wed., Feb. 16, 2011

Our health is at risk with quarry

Rick Kellogg's letter of Feb. 6 states: "Today's air-quality standards are so stringent that no rock plant could operate if it was a hazard to our health." Perhaps Mr. Kellogg is not familiar with the quarry situation around Lake Elsinore.

Numerous families purchased homes in our community, called Alberhill Ranch. We had been informed that there was an inactive clay and shale operation nearby, but saw no reason for concern. We were happily living here and at first saw no health-related issues. Until the inactive clay and shale mine became an active aggregate mining quarry.

Since the quarry became active, area residents noticed increased health issues. Residents who previously had no respiratory issues now are having asthma and bronchitis health issues, etc. ...

In early 2010, the aggregate/quarry company placed signs in front of their entrance warning of dust. Then there is the loud noise of the crushing of the aggregate all hours of the day and night.

So while Mr. Kellogg may know "hundreds, if not thousands of people in that (quarry) industry," we suggest that he come live in our community to experience the realities of living near our quarry.

Paulie Tehrani and Sharon Gallina, Lake Elsinore

The Californian, Sun., Feb. 13, 2011

Don't be fooled by their agenda

O.B. Johnson, Rick Kellogg, Richard Brady, Vince Davis, David Thompson and Bob Kowell have had a number of letters and forums in The Californian supporting Liberty Quarry. They have all tried to convince us that the quarry will not be bad for us and our communities. But they have one thing in common: Their names are on the letterhead of a group calling itself "Friends of Liberty," or sometimes, "Friends of Liberty Quarry." Their names were on a letter opposing the city of Temecula's annexation request.

This group appears to exist just to get Liberty Quarry approved. They try to convince residents that the negative impacts that you hear from the opponents of the quarry are untrue or misleading. They want us to believe that a mega quarry, with 1,600 truck trips a day for 75 years on Temecula's southern border, will not damage our health, environment or economy.

What, if any, are their connections to Granite Construction's megaproject? Don't be fooled by their agenda. Do your own research. Also check www.NoGravelQuarry.com.

Marelle Dorsey, Temecula

The Press-Enterprise, Sun., Feb. 13, 2011

Reject granite mine

What a beautiful op-ed by George Johnson regarding Wine Country plans and how those plans will help the region's reputation and community ("Wine Country plan lifts entire community," Feb. 10).

What a shame that there are plans to open a granite mine. It will destroy the beautiful future of our lovely town.

I certainly hope the Riverside County Board of Supervisors considers this when it makes its decision on the mine. Residents of Temecula need to write the board and let it know that allowing that threatening mine here is a major mistake.

We all need to make our voices heard. Our health and property values are completely at stake!

Mary Jean Gordon, Temecula

The Californian, Wed., Feb. 09, 2011

Friends of Liberty mysteries solved

Two mysteries are solved, surprisingly confessed to by the Friends of Liberty/FOLs themselves. We now know why two of the fiercest quarry advocates in The Californian constantly pepper us with their smarmy screeds. They are intimately and deeply involved in granite quarrying.

1. Wildomar's Rick Kellogg, in the Feb. 6 edition of The Californian: "I worked in the aggregate business for 14 years and knew hundreds, if not thousands, of people in that industry." This relentless pro-quarry Energizer bunny never stops. Just this month alone, we read Rick's Feb. 6 letter, only 12 days after his Jan. 25 Community Forum ("The quarry won't hurt us as opponents claim"), which, in turn, was only 13 days after his Jan. 12 letter. What gives? Anyone have an interesting conspiracy theory to explain this hyperactivity from the same person?

2. Gerald L. Summers, in a Community Forum from June 3, 2010, refers to his "son-in-law, a Granite safety supervisor" ("Quarry foes' facts inaccurate"). Uh oh! As Perry Mason might say: "I rest my case."

No friends of Temecula there in those two tough old quarry birds. But clearly they have conflicts of interest with the citizens of Temecula's best interests.

Nick Biddle, Temecula

The Californian, Sat., Feb. 5, 2011

Is quarry good because Granite says so?

Charles Kohlberg's Jan. 27 opinion letter asks the right question. Why does The Californian provide Rick Kellogg, who lives in Wildomar, with so much space when Liberty Quarry is a Temecula issue? The same goes for Rich Loomis of Hemet.
Gary Johnson and Kerri Reuther are identified as Granite spokespersons, thereby permitting the reader a context in which to consider their opinions. The same is obviously true of Temecula residents.

I'm not suggesting that letters from out-of-towners be banned. However, the frequency with which the Loomis and Kellogg submissions are published is curious, especially as once you've read one, you've read them all.

For example: Liberty Quarry is a good idea because Granite Construction and its hired guns say it's so. Anyone not in agreement is a NIMBY, is ill-informed, distorts the truth, is not sensitive to job creation or all of the above.

John Hamilton, Temecula

The Californian, Sat., Feb. 5, 2011

NIMBY in Temecula's annexation area

Our home is one of the closest west of the proposed quarry site. The house is old, but we have a serene 23-acre backyard that puts most parks to shame. We have people referring to us as NIMBYs because we are against the area being bastardized by Granite's industrial site. To those referring to us as NIMBYs: Our entire southern property line was given up as an easement for SDGE's power transmission lines. If you look up, a swath of eyesore hangs over our land, with us being responsible to keep trees below it trimmed.

We have a 60-foot wide easement on our westerly property line for California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection as a firebreak road and a neighbor. Of our 23 acres, 4.6 are given easements for the good of the community, or about 20 percent of our property. Now Granite Construction wants our quiet serenity in exchange for their monstrous industrial site.

To those screaming NIMBY, what property have they sacrificed for the good of their community? Also, if such hatred is felt towards NIMBYs, why do they wish to prostitute Riverside County "again" for the needs of San Diego NIMBYs?

Mike Jurkosky, Temecula

The Californian, Sat., Feb. 5, 2011

What is the quarry really about?

I find it interesting that supporters of the quarry don't live in Temecula or live far enough away that they won't be affected.

My wife and I live in Southwest Temecula on the Redhawk Golf Course. Every afternoon, especially in the summer, we enjoy the wind that blows through the valley into our backyard. On occasions, fires have burned close to the area where the quarry is slated to go and the wind picks up the smoke and ashes and blows it through our area. When the wind stops, it falls down all over our house.

My wife has severe asthma and has to stay indoors on these occasions. If the quarry is approved, she will never be able to sit in our backyard. People who don't believe silica dust is bad for you should talk to people who live near a quarry.

It's sad that I will have to sell my house because a quarry wants to use a site that is cost-effective to their operation with no concern for the people around it. Is it really about 100 jobs or fewer trucks in a 30-mile area, or is it about money? You decide.

Kevin Sherar, Temecula

The Californian, Wed., Feb. 2

A rebuttal to hatred

I, as an honorably discharged disabled veteran who served and was injured during war time, must respond to Gary Johnson's lie (Jan. 25) of saying that I have hatred for people of the construction industry. I do not know Mr. Johnson, nor does he know me.

How is it possible that a high-ranking member of a corporation spouts out that he says that someone has hatred that he has never spoken to? Will Granite Construction tell anyone who disagrees with them that they are filled with hatred if they speak out and do not want to listen to their opinion? What's next? Calling people against the quarry terrorists or un-American?

I hope that no one in Granite Construction feels that because of Mr. Johnson's letter falsely stating I have hatred, it will inspire them to hunt me down or hurt me, my family or friends. ...

I have no hatred against anyone, including Mr. Johnson. He needs to be civil and not resort to malicious rhetoric. ...

Once again, workers of Granite Construction, I do not have any personal feeling against any of you. I, as a American citizen, just want to express my opinion against the Liberty Quarry. ...

By the way, I still do not want the quarry.

Robert Martinez, Temecula


February 2011 Opinions/Forums

FORUM: Quarry would disrupt wild lifestyle

By Mike Jurkosky North County Times - The Californian | Posted: Friday, February 18, 2011

My family lives within the Temecula annexation area. Our home has been in the family for three generations, and the property is part of the wildlife corridor.

Our stream, which originates from the proposed quarry property, doubles as a game trail that cuts northwest across our property. As I was growing up in the 1960s, deer, coyotes, bobcats and mountain lions would use this trail to continue on their hunting and foraging journeys.

One early morning, at the age of 10, as I ventured upstream alone with my trusty .22 rifle, something massive began crashing toward me through the sumac thickets within the shadows of the oaks. I suspected I was a goner, because I was too far from the house to have my grandparents hear me if I yelled. Terrain too rocky to run, trapped, I raised my rifle, ready to kill or be killed. ("Daniel Boone" used to be one of my favorite TV shows.)

The beast crashed through the brush line 12 feet in front of me. Standing across the stream, gigantic and massively built, was a majestic buck mule deer. I slowly lowered my rifle and stood in awe. We stood for a moment looking at each other, both shocked and startled, trying to catch our breath. Then the buck bolted upstream, crashing sumac as he went. It was exciting. Priceless.

Present day: One late afternoon, while making a snack for my boys at the same table my grandmother used for me 44 years ago, I looked up and saw an adult bobcat sitting on our porch, his back toward me. A beautiful animal with his full winter coat, he was eyeballing a covey of quail dashing across our front yard.

I walked up to the window and tapped gently on the glass. The bobcat looked over his shoulder with those big cat eyes and gave me a look like, "Hey, I'm working here!"
Then he sauntered down our stairs, in no rush, just moving on. With a muscled swagger, he sprayed our fire pit to mark his territory then meandered toward the brushline where the quail had disappeared.

The bobcat knew his place; this was his home, as well. I almost saluted the son of a gun as he looked over his shoulder at me one last time with that spectacular face to check me out.

In my youth I might have reached for my rifle, but with age, as with most true sportsmen, there's a respect for nature many environmentalists don't grasp. In reality, sportsmen want to protect the wild lands. They define them. The solitude ---- it's the last real environment. To spoil it would end who we are.

The proposed quarry will certainly put an end to our game trail and our quality of life.
For the people who paint all folks who oppose Liberty Quarry as left-wing environmentalists: Give the rhetoric a rest.

MIKE JURKOSKY is a resident of Temecula


February 2011 News Articles

From Change.org

Red Flags Plague Proposed California Granite Quarry

by Nikki Gloudeman · February 15, 2011


There are certain ideas that raise an immediate red flag. Such is the case with the Liberty Quarry, a proposed 155-acre granite mine in Temecula Valley, California.
The proposal itself is alarmingly aggressive. Granite Construction, the corporation pitching it, wants to mine 5 million tons of aggregate over the course of up to 75 years. The quarry pit would be as deep as the Empire State Building and more than one mile long. And workers would blast a total of 100,000 tons of granite a week, working at a pace of up to 24 hours a day, 6 days a week.

But what’s really damning is the swatch of land on which the quarry would be built. Not only is it adjacent to the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve—a 4,281-acre San Diego University nature reserve and research station—but it is within the watershed boundary of the Santa Margarita River, the last free-flowing river in the state and the water source for the Marine Corp Base, Camp Pendleton. Add in the fact that several species of wildlife live within its boundaries, that it is less than a mile away from the residents of the community of De Luz, and that is the site of the Pechanga Indians' origin, and you have an area that seems like the last place you’d want to build a massive granite mine.

That said, it’s easy to why a bevy of locals are up in arms about the project, so much so that more than 475 local businesses, non-profits and eco groups (including The Sierra Club) have publicly declared their opposition.

Among the dissidents is a group of 30 physicians concerned about the adverse health effects the quarry would pose. In a North County Times article, Daniel Robbins, a pediatric and adolescent medicine specialist, was quoted as saying the quarry could increase air pollution and increase the rates of asthma and chronic lung diseases.
The Temecula Valley Unified School District has also expressed anxiety over the quarry’s potential health impacts. In a letter to the Riverside County Board of Supervisors, they asked supervisors to “seriously consider the potential air quality impacts…that may put in jeopardy the health of thousands of children who attend school in close proximity to the proposed mining site.”

In that letter, the school district cited the findings of the Riverside Planning Commission’s Draft Environmental Impact Report, a damning document that has provided powerful ammo to the project’s dissidents. The report found that, among other things, the project would result in “significant and unavoidable impacts to Air Quality and Traffic Transportation which cannot be mitigated to below a level of significance."
Yet rather than confronting any of these problems, Granite Construction has gone on a counter-crusade to present the project, ridiculously, as something that would be good for the community and environment—even going so far as to issue a 12-page advertisement in the Sunday edition of the North Country Times saying just that.
With all the evidence on their side, the community is refusing to buy the spin. As a resident wrote in response to the advertisement, “Please remember, this for-profit company is not doing us any favors. It will say and do almost anything to make those billions of dollars off our backs.”

Locals are doing everything they can to prevent this from happening. Help them out by signing this petition now.

Follow Change.org's Environment page on Facebook,  Twitter or RSS. Have a story tip? E-mail us at environmenttips@change.org.

QuarryNikki Gloudeman is a senior fellow at Mother Jones magazine where she writes about the environment and other topics.



January 2011       Opinions/Forums      News Articles

January 2011 Letters to the Editor

The Californian, Sun., Jan. 30

Make your voices heard

For those who have been following the proposed Liberty Quarry issue in The Californian, you would have recently read that the County Planning Commission hearing on the quarry was to be held in Riverside, with Granite Construction renting the Convention Center for the hearing.

Next, you would have read that the hearing was being moved to Temecula. In response to this location change, Granite's representative stated: "Wherever the county wants to have it, we're fine with" ("County leaders get quarry hearing moved to Temecula," Jan. 23).

Interesting is that shortly thereafter, there's been a relative flurry of letters/Community Forums in The Californian supporting Liberty Quarry, touting how this project won't be so bad, and in fact, will be good for us. Now that the hearing will be held in Temecula, it appears Granite and its supporters are increasing their comments, perhaps to discourage area residents from attending the hearing to make their voices heard. Granite will undoubtedly bring in its employees and supporters from other parts of the county.

This hearing may the last opportunity for area residents to have their voices heard without having to go to Riverside. You and your children will have to live with the consequences of whatever decision is made for the next 75 years.

Fred Bartz, Temecula
'Experts' on quarries?

Rich Loomis (Nov. 19, 2009, Oct. 5, 2010, Jan. 14 and much more), Rick Kellogg (Sept. 25, 2010, Oct. 12, 2010, Nov. 30, 2010 and Jan. 12 and more), Richard Brady (Jan. 5), Olden Johnson (Jan. 26) and Donald Hogan (Nov. 28, 2010) are all pretending to be experts on quarries, when in actuality, they either do not know what they are talking about or are making statements in hopes of personally making money from Granite.

First of all, Granite has a bad record on safety and health issues and has been fined several times, and it pays the fines instead of correcting the problems because the fines are cheaper than the repairs.

Second, the allegations of dangerous silica dust being unable to be contained in open quarries such as the proposed quarry is true. The silica dust is highly microscopic and invisible to the naked eye, and the particles float for miles, creating a dangerous and potentially disabling condition for mostly young children and the elderly, especially those with lung problems. I know, I studied about it as an adult, having been a permanent victim of silicosis because I lived about 10 or 12 miles downwind from the same type of quarry (when I was a youth myself) with winds blowing at least two or three times a month.

Just food (or dust) for thought.

Ron Glusac, French Valley
Dumb as a box of Granite rocks

It was just eight years ago that the wife and I retired from that hustling, bustling town of Chicago. With no particular place in mind, we drove west. Soon, we were on the 15 and saw the Rancho California exit. We took it.

The town of Temecula was all around us. Magnificent mountains, trees galore, no air pollution. In fact, smoking was prohibited. More sunshine than a person could handle. So we settled here.

But then, like the song says, what do you do with paradise? Why, you tear it down and put in a parking lot. In our case, a hole in the ground called Liberty. Why is everything that is bad named after something that is good? Let's call it what it really is: a dirty, stinking, air-polluting mine.

And sadly, for those who believe in this wonderful quarry, they can watch it outside my bedroom window (for 75 years). I won't be here. When the first explosives go off, my house will be for sale.

Give me life — not Liberty Quarry.

Frank Saenz, Temecula

The Californian, Fri., Jan. 28

What affects one, affects all

Reading the confirmation to the change in venue for the Planning Commissioner's meeting on April 27, I notice again, as often happens, when the people affected by the quarry are listed, residents in the communities of Rainbow and Fallbrook seem to be forgotten ("County leaders get quarry hearing moved to Temecula," Jan. 23).

Living in Rainbow, I assure you that we are closer than most others to the site. Our communities make up over 45,000 people, more than 2,000 of whom are members of Save Our Southwest Hills and Rainbow Against The Quarry. We are volunteers, we come to all events, we write the letters, we "talk the talk and walk the walk." We hold rallies and meetings opposing the quarry, and we have influential groups (such as the Fallbrook Healthcare District, the Rainbow Planning Group, the Fallbrook Planning Group, the Vallecitos Elementary School District and MDs) who oppose the quarry.
Not living in Riverside County does not mean we don't have a voice. A county line doesn't exist for this issue. What affects one, affects all.

Also, editorials and letters do not seem to reach the North County Times in our county. Our people are hungry for any news available on this subject too. Please stop leaving us out.

Jerri Arganda, Rainbow
Out-of-towners can't talk about quarry benefits

Reading the Jan. 25 Community Voices, I find it interesting and sad that all the writers who say how wonderful this quarry will be for Temecula are living far away from the proposed site, claiming no adverse affect from the operation.

The letters from Wildomar and even close neighbors from Murrieta tell us how wonderful and healthy the operation will be. I never read that any of the writers are planning to come and live close to the quarry to enjoy the benefit of this operations, like living exactly next to it.

So if you live far away from Temecula, please don't tell us how healthy and wonderful it's going to be for us in this quarry operation.

Sandor Muller

The Californian, Thurs., Jan. 27

Why does he support the quarry?

I don't understand. Doesn't anyone other than Rick Kellogg write letters in support of Liberty Quarry? He doesn't live in Temecula, he doesn't say he works for Liberty Quarry, and he won't be affected by any of the adverse effects of the quarry. So why is he writing all these Community Forums and letters about the quarry? Also, why is The Californian publishing them?

I live near the gravel mine off the 15 in Lake Elsinore, and we are affected by the blasting, increased dust and truck traffic. I don't believe that the dust will be or can be controlled. Do you?

I hope the county wakes up and denies the permits necessary to open this boondoggle.

Charles Kohlberg, Lake Elsinore

The Californian, Fri., Jan. 21

Quarry is not a Temecula issue?

In Aaron Claverie's recent article "Liberty Quarry hearing scheduled," Jan. 19, a statement made by Karie Reuther, Granite Construction spokeswoman, regarding the location of the upcoming Planning Commission meeting in Riverside, left me stunned.

"This isn't a Temecula issue: it's a regional project," she was quoted as saying. Not a Temecula issue? Really?

In order to agree with Ms. Reuther's statement, I'd simply have to disregard the following: everyone living here, everyone working here, everyone doing business here, everyone attending school here, everyone who plays here, and, finally, everyone who breathes here. That covers exactly everyone.

Not a Temecula issue? Really?

Pete Friederich, Temecula


Quarry won't be in Wildomar backyard

This letter is in response to Rick Kellogg's letter of Jan. 12: Mr. Kellogg, a resident of Wildomar, cited a Community Forum by Mr. Ken Johnson ("Health impact of quarry can't be watered down," Jan. 11), which states that dust from a quarry across from Tom's Farms "filled the air." Mr. Kellogg contends that this is a "good illustration of why we should support Liberty Quarry," because the quarry will be distant from residential areas.

The proposed quarry is near residential areas, just not his in Wildomar. The dust will settle on the skin and in the lungs of residents of Temecula and surrounding areas when the daily westerly winds blow.

I lived in Moorpark, home of a gravel quarry. The quarry generated more than 900 truck trips per day. The roads were packed. The air had a frequent haze. Houses were always filled with a layer of dust. When we moved to Temecula, we discovered clear air, and the dust layer disappeared.

Mr. Kellogg's suggestion is another example of "I want it, it's a great idea, just keep it out of my backyard."

Michael Wakshull, Temecula

The Californian, Thurs., Jan. 20

Intentionally misrepresenting the quarry

While Rich Loomis (Jan. 14) and Rick Kellogg (Jan. 12) may be considered comedians (Jan. 18), I don't find their position at all funny. They are intentionally misrepresenting facts or living outside the area of the dust coverage that would be produced by the quarry.

I suspect that both failed basic geology in high school, or they forgot what they learned. Microcrystalline silica dust, produced by blasting and rock crushing, incites silicosis and other pulmonary problems. They can check with any physician, especially pulmonologists, if they are at all honest about wanting to know the facts of silicosis.

This mine is nothing short of a "fool's errand" that Granite Corporation is trying to ram down the throats (esophagi) of the residents of Temecula.

Alexander Watts, Temecula

The Californian, Tues., Jan. 18

The comedians of Liberty Quarry

The comedy team of Rich Loomis (Community Voices, Jan. 14) and Rick Kellogg (Community Voices, Jan. 15) are hysterical.

The wind that blows over Temecula will not blow any of Granite's posionous dust over Temecula, hah, hah, hah. The jobs that will be created will require no high school diploma, just a green card or class B license, hah, hah, hah.

Don't trust your doctors about what they feel is wrong about the quarry, trust us. Hell, we don't live in Temecula and do not care about your environmental concerns. Hah, hah, hah.

Next stop for Loomis and Kellog is "Saturday Night Live." Hah, hah, hah. Look out, Abbott and Costello.

Robert Martinez, Temecula

The Californian, Sat., Jan. 15

Brockovich needs to investigate quarry

Of course Rick Kellogg (Jan. 12) thinks the quarry will be in the ideal place. It's not in his backyard. I can't understand how 1,600 trucks daily would be less harmful than all the trucks from other places on other routes would be. Surely, the trucks from Granite won't all go south.

Ken Johnson (Jan. 12) was stating the concerns about the health issues that we all have. When I'm reading all the comments, I keep flashing back to Erin Brockovich and her fight with Pacific Gas and Electric. It's been a long time, but probably most people remember all the lies and cover-ups and distortions of the truth that Big Business put forth to protect themselves, which were finally revealed by a dedicated citizen who cared about the people.

Once the quarry is in, any problems that are caused will have to be proved in court over a period of years, while the quarry continues to do business as usual. The smart thing would be to prevent it from opening in the first place. Maybe we need to get Erin out here to do some investigating.

Jo Ellen Kellerman, Murrieta

The Californian, Thurs., Jan. 13

Wrong project, wrong location

In Rick Kellogg's letter from Jan. 12, he states that the proposed Liberty Quarry would be "three miles south of town" (referring to Temecula). Where does Mr. Kellogg get his facts?

Fact: Since the Local Agency Formation Commission annexation approval last summer, the proposed Liberty Quarry site is directly on the border of the city of Temecula, as in zero feet away. Prior to annexation, the proposed Liberty Quarry site was never three miles south of Temecula's border. At its closest point, the proposed quarry site was less than one mile from the city's border.

Mr. Kellogg will probably respond that it says three miles in the draft environmental impact report, but this document is only a draft, and for this point, it is wrong. What Mr. Kellogg fails to mention is that the quarry will be west of the city, and that the winds (and quarry dust) blow from west to east over the Temecula Valley and the Valley's more than 100,000 residents, of which approximately half are children.

Mr. Kellogg also doesn't mention that the proposed quarry site would be on the border of the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve.

It is still the "wrong project in the wrong location."

Fred Bartz, Temecula

The Californian, Friday, Jan. 7

We can save Temecula

For two years, I lived across town from a gravel quarry in Moorpark. I got bronchitis three times each year, and each time it hit me hard for a full month.

When we moved to Temecula, I breathed easier every day. When I discovered my health vastly improving minus a quarry, I realized it's not healthy to live even across town from one.

We will be powerless after the fact if Granite Construction is permitted to excavate our back yards. Every issue — health and environmental effects, pollution, truck traffic, blasting, water use, home value depreciation — has a true side. The quarry proponents have reasoned all of these issues in their favor, and we citizens who oppose the quarry have argued the opposite.

But the facts are easy to verify based on the experience of other communities. Quarries are extremely undesirable neighbors. We can only stop the quarry if enough of us stand up now.

Visit www.libertyquarry.com and www.sos-hills.org. Inform yourself fully and write to your Board of Supervisors now if you want those of us who live here to decide how we live.

The final vote is soon. We can save Temecula if we act now.

Jan Tucker, Temecula

Fallbrook Village News        

Thursday, January 6, 2011

I've lived near a gravel quarry before and it made me sick

Previously, I lived across town from a gravel quarry in Moorpark. I experienced ill health that I attribute directly to the quarry. I was getting bronchitis three times a year.

We moved to Temecula in 2008, my health returned to normal, and I was breathing easier every day. When I learned about the [proposed] gravel quarry, I already knew it's not healthy to live near one.

We will be powerless to do anything after the fact if Granite Construction, Inc. is permitted by the county to open the quarry in our back yards.

Every issue that has been argued-such as health and environmental effects, pollution, truck traffic, blasting, water use, home value depreciation-has a true and a false side. The quarry proponents have reasoned all of these issues in their favor and we citizens who oppose the quarry have argued the opposite.

The truth is, the facts are very easy to verify based on the real experience of other communities with quarries. Quarries make undesirable neighbors for many reasons. We want our peace, our quiet, our health and the health of our environment. We will only be able to keep the quarry from locating here if enough citizens who care stand up now to speak out. Please visit www.libertyquarry.com and www.sos-hills.org.

The final vote is coming soon. There are enough of us to save Temecula, Rainbow and Fallbrook if we take action now.

Jan Tucker, Temecula


Jan. 2011 Opinions/Forums

FORUM: County needs to listen to Temecula

By Jan Tucker North County Times - The Californian | Posted: Friday, January 28, 2011 12:00 am

There is a continuing concern that Riverside County is not being sensitive to residents' interests.

Those of us who live in Wine Country have been trying to get the county to take us seriously ever since we were given three seats on the ad hoc committee planning the Wine Country expansion.

I attended the latest ad hoc committee meeting, and, along with the other residents present, I was appalled by the way our concerns were glossed over by the county committee members.

They really are not listening. Also, all the meetings have been 90 minutes away in Riverside and during the day, when most residents work.

It is exceedingly difficult for us to attend to ensure we have input.

We own land in Wine Country. The officials planning the expansion don't.

It's easy for them to say they are listening, but ask them for evidence and their answer will be minimal.

Regarding noise (nuisance laws), Wine Country code enforcement is almost nonexistent.

We have one code enforcer who is off duty when most of the noise occurs.

We've been told to call sheriff's deputies instead.

The code enforcer recently suggested a meeting with residents to discuss our concerns, but when we responded favorably, the story changed.

Apparently, her supervisor said there is not enough staff or time to meet with us.

Other cities, such as Glendora, have strictly enforced, detailed noise control ordinances to protect them.

The state encourages communities to manage noise because too much of it is injurious to our health.

The Wine Country expansion will affect all of Temecula.

Four times as many wineries will burden the city with added traffic.

And how will this expansion be served or maintained with existing utilities and infrastructure? Water is already a concern for our area, and the problem will worsen.

We have two major programs beyond the control of the residents who will be forced to live with the consequences ---- Wine Country expansion and the proposed quarry.

It's time Riverside County officials realize they're affecting Temecula residents' lives in a seriously negative way, and it would be extremely prudent for them to begin paying close attention to our needs (not wants) for the sake of our health and that of our natural habitat.

Noise pollution, air pollution, destruction of our land that provides a habitat for plants and animals ---- residents take these issues seriously.

Our right to quiet enjoyment and peaceful, healthful living is being taken away.

Temecula residents need to wake up, take notice and take action to preserve the lifestyle we want to live.

All it takes is voicing your opinion through letters to the appropriate county officials. They do notice when more people speak up.

It's easy; for a list of e-mail contacts, visit savetemeculawinecountry.com and sos-hills.org.

County officials need to involve up front everyone who is affected.

Instead, it appears they are planning to do what they want and ask for forgiveness later.

Then again, who said they would ask for forgiveness?

JAN TUCKER is a resident of Temecula.

The Californian, Tues., Jan. 11

Forum: Health Impact of Quarry can't be watered down

Though the Western Municipal Water District does not take a position on the Liberty Quarry issue, I believe its Dec. 15 decision that it could supply water for the project will be a disappointment to the great bulk of the Temecula Valley populace.

When the Liberty Quarry proposal first surfaced, I took several trips to the Corona and Irwindale areas to see large quarries firsthand. I visited a large quarry just up Temescal Canyon Road from Tom's Farms. One of my first impressions was that after the use of water to hose down the gravel trucks and the interior quarry roadways, 90 percent of the dusty quarry site remained unserviced against potential air pollution.

That was proved to me several days later when a heavy windstorm caused a dust storm in that quarry valley. Inquiring at Tom's Farms about that local dust storm, I asked an employee what explained it. The employee responded to the effect of: "Like, what do you think? The quarries, of course!"

I believe the use of water to fight the pollution from quarries is a futile use of what has been proclaimed to be a scarce commodity. Certainly it will not be a factor in combating the diesel soot from the compacting of 1,600 daily truck trips up and down our local hills. This cannot be successfully mitigated, as the county planners' review of Granite's own environmental impact report reveals. That in itself seems sufficient cause to halt the proposal in its tracks. Diesel soot is probably the most damaging neurotoxin in Riverside County.

In addition, when quarry blasting occurs, freshly fractured silica is projected into the airstream. Use of water in this situation seems useless. Quarry workers use masks to protect themselves. Ceramacists, too, wear masks when they lace silica into their clay. They know that these invisible but lethal particulates of silica stay suspended in the air for remarkable periods of time. They are schooled to vacate the preparation site for three days after glazing. Why wouldn't the prevailing Pacific airstream carry such silica particulates from Liberty Quarry into our valley, where 30,000 children play?

We've asked quarry supporters to respond to these contentions, and there has been deafening silence. My belief is that they could not care less about the health impacts of their quarry, positing every so often that there will be no significant pollution caused by this multi-task, humungous quarry.

In telling contradiction, 138 local physicians (MDs and DOs) have now signed the Physicians Against Quarry petition opposed to Liberty Quarry. This is obviously very disturbing to the quarry camp. It should be. Air pollution may be just one of the myriad of substantial negative quarry impacts upon our communities, but even if it stood alone, it would mandate a "no quarry" vote in a sane world. Public health trumps aggregate.

KEN JOHNSON lives in Temecula.

Jan. 2011 News Articles
Liberty Quarry hearings moved to Temecula

The Press-Enterprise, Monday, January 24

Opponents of the proposed Liberty Quarry are praising the decision to move the Riverside County Planning Commission hearings on the project from Riverside to Temecula, saying the new location is more convenient for the public.

The public hearings are now scheduled for 4 p.m. April 27 and May 4 at Rancho Community Church, 31300 Rancho Community Way off Temecula Parkway. The church is one of Temecula's largest and holds about 1,400 people.

The plan to build a 414-acre open-pit mine in the hills south of Temecula is one of the most controversial projects ever proposed for the Temecula Valley. Quarry developer Granite Construction said the quarry will be an economic asset, but critics fear it could lead to air pollution and environmental ruin.

The hearings were originally set for 3 p.m. at the Riverside Convention Center, almost an hour away from Temecula. Behind-the-scenes maneuvering involving Temecula Councilwoman Maryann Edwards resulted in the location change, which was announced in a county news release Saturday.
Edwards, a church member, said the closed Stater Bros. market on Jefferson Avenue and area high schools also were looked at. Schools were ruled out because of after-school activities during the week, she said.

"I think it's vital that residents who are living near the proposed project have a venue where they can express their concerns," said Edwards, a quarry opponent. "Having to go to Riverside ... is not convenient for those who would be most impacted by the project."

Jerri Arganda, a Rainbow resident and member of the anti-quarry group Save Our Southwest Hills, said attendance at the hearings will likely double now that they're set for Temecula. The 4 p.m. start is more convenient for working families, she said.

Granite spokeswoman Karie Reuther said her company is fine with moving the hearings.
"Wherever the county wants to hold the hearings, we're happy to show up," she said.
The project will be reviewed by the commission before heading to the Board of Supervisors for a final vote.
Reach Jeff Horseman at 951-375-3727 or jhorseman@PE.com

WHAT: The Riverside County Planning Commission will hold at least two public hearings on the proposed Liberty Quarry.
WHEN: 4 p.m. April 27 and May 4
WHERE: Rancho Community Church, 31300 Rancho Community Way, Temecula

County leaders get quarry hearing moved to Temecula.
Riverside Convention Center was announced as the site earlier this week.

By AARON CLAVERIE - aclaverie@californian.com North County Times - The Californian Sunday, January 23

The venue for the highly anticipated hearing on Granite Construction's Liberty Quarry project is moving south.

Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone said Friday that the meeting will be conducted at Rancho Community Church on Temecula Parkway.

"My feeling is we need to always make it as convenient as possible for our constituents," Stone said during a telephone interview.

Earlier in the week, the county's Planning Department announced that the hearing would be conducted April 27 and, in a posting on the department's website, listed the site as the Riverside Convention Center. That location was selected, in part, because the crowd for the hearing is expected to exceed the capacity of the County Administrative Center.

During a hearing staged by the county's Local Agency Formation Commission in the summer of 2009, more than 500 people showed up to the center to weigh in on the city's application to add 5,000 acres of land on its southwestern border, a swath that included the proposed site of the quarry. That application was eventually denied, but a follow-up application ---- 4,500 acres that did not include the quarry site ---- was later approved.

On Friday, which saw county offices dark because of budget considerations, the website still listed the convention center as the site for the meeting.

Ray Smith, a spokesman for the county, confirmed Saturday that the venue for the meeting had been changed. Shortly after the convention center was announced as the location for the hearing, Stone and Supervisor Bob Buster started working behind the scenes to get the venue shifted to Temecula.

"I don't think people in downtown Riverside are going to care about what transpires in Southwest County," Stone said, adding that the vast majority of the people who are interested in the project live in the Temecula-Murrieta-French Valley area.

Dave Stahovich, Buster's chief of staff, said it makes sense on a number of levels to bring the hearing to Temecula.

"Whether they are for or against it, why add all those cars to the road?" he asked, referring to the hundreds of people expected to attend the meeting.

The quarry, proposed for 400 acres near the community of Rainbow on the city of Temecula's southern border, has been a flashpoint for debate for years.

Opponents claim it will affect air quality in the area, drive down property values and cause a host of other environmental ills. Supporters contend it will bring high-paying jobs to the area and improve the environment by removing pollution-emitting trucks from the stretch of Interstate 15 that runs through Murrieta and Temecula.

Temecula Mayor Ron Roberts said he supports the move south, provided the venue has all the necessary audiovisual equipment.

"It would be great for the people in Temecula," he said.

Temecula City Manager Shawn Nelson said the city never received a formal request to use a city facility for the hearing, but he said he definitely thinks the council would support having the hearing conducted locally.

He added that when the city was working to annex the quarry site, it made a similar request to move the Local Agency Formation Commission hearing on that application to Temecula.

The hearing was eventually held in the County Administrative Center and, due to the large crowd, some residents of Temecula and De Luz who had driven north to offer testimony had to stand in the lobby and wait for a seat to open up. Those who didn't want to wait turned around and left.

Granite spokeswoman Karie Reuther said Thursday that it was her understanding, based on what Granite officials had been told earlier in the week, that there wasn't a venue with enough seating in Temecula.

Asked if Granite has a preference as to where the hearing is conducted, she said, "Wherever the county wants to have it, we're fine with."

If the hearing, scheduled to start at 4 p.m., is not wrapped up on April 27, the commission is scheduled to reconvene May 4 to complete the proceedings.


TEMECULA: Liberty Quarry hearing scheduled
Decision by county disappoints foes of project

By AARON CLAVERIE - aclaverie@californian.com North County Times - The Californian | Posted: Tuesday, January 18, 2011 7:36 pm

The Riverside County Planning Commission will meet in late April to rule on Granite Construction's Liberty Quarry project, an open pit mine proposed for land on Temecula's southern border that has long been a flash point for debate in Southwest County.

The hearing is scheduled for 3 p.m. April 27 in the Riverside Convention Center, a building chosen by the county because it's large enough to accommodate what is expected to be a huge crowd.

If the hearing is not wrapped up on that date, the commission is scheduled to reconvene May 4 to complete deliberations.

At previous public meetings on the project ---- fiercely opposed by a coalition of Temecula area residents ---- hundreds of people signed up to speak for and against it.

The decision to schedule a hearing means the county will not be recirculating a draft version of the huge environmental impact report that was published in the summer of 2009.

Project opponents had hoped for a new draft version because they contend the 2009 version was flawed and incomplete.

Granite spokeswoman Karie Reuther said she was happy to hear that the county won't be recirculating the report, adding that the county has thoroughly reviewed the project.

"I think that they really just took their time and went through everything," she said.

The draft report detailed how the quarry, projected to produce 5 million tons of aggregate material per year at peak production, would affect the environment.

Though the report said some of the potential effects to air quality and traffic were "significant and unavoidable," the quarry was deemed to be "environmentally-superior" to not digging a mine because pollution-emitting trucks would be removed from Southwest County roads.

Asked to name the person or entity that decided digging a quarry was environmentally superior to not building one, David Jones, the county's geologist, said at the time of the report's release that the "environmentally-superior alternative" phrase is wording dictated by the California Environmental Quality Act.

Before the hearing, a final report will be published that includes the findings in the draft report and the county's responses to various comments submitted by public agencies and area residents.

Fred Bartz, a member of the group that has opposed the quarry project, said he was disappointed in the county for staging the hearing in Riverside as opposed to Southwest County.

"So many people will be disenfranchised by not having the meeting local," he said.

Reuther, asked about the location of the hearing, said Riverside makes sense due to the capacity of the convention center and the project's regional benefits.

"This isn't a Temecula issue: it's a regional project," she said.

Call staff writer Aaron Claverie at 951-676-4315 951-676-4315 , ext. 2624.

Spring hearing dates set for proposed Liberty Quarry

11:02 PM PST on Tuesday, January 18, 2011

By JEFF HORSEMAN The Press-Enterprise

The proposed Liberty Quarry is tentatively set to go before Riverside County's Planning Commission on April 27 and May 4.

Also, a county official said Tuesday that the county will finalize a draft environmental impact report for the project, a source of emotional debate and division in the Temecula Valley.

The move means the quarry will reach the county Board of Supervisors more quickly.

Karie Reuther, a spokeswoman for quarry developer Granite Construction, said her company learned of the April and May dates from county officials.

County Chief Engineering Geologist David Jones confirmed the dates on Tuesday.

Jones said the 6,800-page draft report is ready to be finalized. While the county received hundreds of comments on the draft, "We received no comments that brought up any issues that weren't already addressed," Jones said.

The report found Liberty Quarry would have "significant and unavoidable" effects on air quality and traffic and that supervisors would have to find the quarry's benefits outweigh those effects. Granite said the report showed the quarry's impact could be mitigated.

County planners could have decided to develop another draft to answer the comments, many of which denounced the report. That might have taken months to complete.

The final report will be available for public review prior to the commission hearings. Supervisors are guaranteed to hear the quarry matter because a zoning change is needed for the quarry to exist, Jones said.

Planned for a 414-acre site just south of Temecula, the open-pit quarry has encountered impassioned opposition from a grassroots residents' network and Temecula City Council members who fear it could ruin the area's quality of life. Granite and its supporters argue the quarry won't harm the environment and will boost the local economy.

Both hearings will be at 3 p.m. in the Riverside Convention Center.

County planning commissioner John Petty, who represents Temecula, said he would be surprised if the commission could hear the quarry issue in two hearings.

He said county officials have been exploring holding a hearing in Temecula.


JUST IN: Liberty Quarry developer says date set for Planning Commission hearing
PE News

 on January 18, 2011 1:28 PM
A spokeswoman for the developer of the proposed Liberty Quarry said the project has two tentative dates before the Riverside County Planning Commission.

The project, a source of great division and emotional debate in the Temecula Valley, is scheduled to come before the commission on April 27 and May 4, said Karie Reuther of Granite Construction. She said the company learned of the dates from county staff.

After the commission reviews the quarry, it will head to the Board of Supervisors for a final vote.
Planned for a 414-acre site just south of Temecula, the quarry is vigorously opposed by a grassroot residents network and Temecula City Council members, who fear it will ruin the area's quality of life with air pollution, truck traffic and other environmental harm.

Supporters say the quarry is needed as an economic boost. They say critics' fears are baseless and the quarry will provide a vital local source for building materials.
- JEFF HORSEMAN jhorseman@PE.com


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