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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

July 2012 Letters Opinions/Forums News Articles
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July 2012 Letters to the Editor

Press-Enterrpise, Fri., July 27
We’ll fight quarry again

So Granite Construction is preparing its next attempt to ruin Temecula (“Granite resubmits mine application,” July 25).

The Liberty Quarry will not benefit Temecula. It will only benefit Granite and the politicians of Riverside County.

I’m deeply disappointed. This move is based on Supervisor John Tavaglione’s vote to OK the environmental impact report after voting to deny the quarry.

But be assured that we, the residents of Temecula, are not finished. We fought hard for seven years and we will not give up now. No one can push us into doing something that will harm our beautiful city and our residents.

Mary Jean Gordon, Temecula

 

July 2012 Opinions/Forums
 

 

July 2012 News Articles

PRESS ENTERPRISE  Wednesday, July 25, 2012
BY JEFF HORSEMAN jhorseman@pe.com STAFF WRITER
 LIBERTY QUARRY: Granite resubmits mine application

A 7-year-old battle over a proposed gravel quarry near Temecula reignited Wednesday, July 25, when the quarry's developer resubmitted plans for an open-pit mine and city officials voted to file a lawsuit to block the project.

Granite Construction submitted a revised application for Liberty Quarry to Riverside County planning officials. Company officials said the new mine would be smaller and more environmentally friendly than the version rejected by the county Board of Supervisors earlier this year.

Supervisor John Benoit, a quarry supporter, wants to put the project on the fast track. He said he plans to back legislation at the Tuesday, July 31, board meeting to add surface mining operations to the list of projects supervisors can fast-track.

"It's no secret that Liberty Quarry was a good project, and it gets better with the revisions," he said. The quarry has been through a complete environmental review and it's appropriate to bring it back to the board through the fast-track process, Benoit added.

Benoit's mention to fast-track the new quarry plan drew sharp criticism from Supervisor Jeff Stone.
"I am offended that a supervisor, from another district, would take it upon himself, to request a fast track in another supervisor's district," Stone wrote in an e-mail. "I have not seen this type of action in the eight years I have been on the Board. We all have respected District lines when land use decisions are made."

Granite "has the right to submit a new plan ... that frankly may not be supported by area residents," he wrote. But they shouldn't be given a fast track, Stone wrote.

A lawsuit planned by Temecula could complicate matters.

Temecula's City Council late Tuesday voted unanimously to file litigation to block the county's certification of the quarry's environmental impact report. Supervisors in May upheld a Planning Commission decision denying the project, but they certified the environmental report, which concluded that a smaller version of the quarry would reduce truck traffic and air pollution in the region.

Under the spotlight was Supervisor John Tavaglione, who first voted to reject the quarry, and then voted to certify the environmental report three months later. In an e-mail Wednesday, Tavaglione said he had expected Granite to reapply and he promised to listen to both sides.

Tavaglione, a Republican candidate for the Inland area's open 41st Congressional District, has received thousands of dollars in campaign donations from both sides of the quarry fight.
Quarry proponents, including Granite and officers of Johnson Machinery Co., have spent at least $6,450, according to federal campaign finance reports. Opponents, including the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians and Murrieta-based developer Dan Stephenson, have spent at least $4,025, according to the reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.

'ONLY RECOURSE'

Quarry opponents have said the 8,500-page environmental report paid for by Granite and vetted by county planners is incomplete, misleading and an attempt to gloss over the quarry's harmful effects.

"It didn't seem like those comments were heard very well," said Temecula Councilman Jeff Comerchero. "The only recourse open to us is to challenge (the report) in court."
Comerchero declined to provide details on the city's legal case and said only that it would be filed in the near future. He said the council got information Tuesday that's covered under attorney/client privilege. That information, he said, led to the council going into closed session and voting to launch legal action.

Spokesman Ray Smith said Riverside County anticipated a lawsuit "regardless of how this project was decided." Granite agreed to pay for the report's legal defense.

County staff members are reviewing Granite's re-submittal to see what information is needed before it can be considered complete, Smith said, adding there's no timetable for the review. Amending the fast-track ordinance will take several months and likely longer, he said.

CHANGES TO PLAN

Granite's new quarry plan is for the same 414-acre site sandwiched between the Temecula city line and San Diego County. The company wants make asphalt and concrete on-site and use explosives to blast away aggregate, tiny rocks used for construction projects.

The re-submitted version of the mine, according to Granite, would have a 50-year instead of 75-year lifespan. It would operate only during daylight, and 174 million tons of aggregate would be mined during its lifetime instead of 235 million tons.

In addition, the new quarry would generate a maximum of 640 truck trips a day, down from 800 trips in the old version, Granite contends. The mine pit would be 710 feet at its deepest point - the old version dug more than 1,000 feet in the ground - and annual aggregate production would be 1 million fewer tons a year, according to Granite.

To sweeten the deal, Granite is now proposing a 20-cent-per-ton tipping fee it says will generate $92 million in revenue for Riverside County. Nearly $62 million of that will come from San Diego County users, the company said.

"The revised Liberty Quarry project will create hundreds of new jobs and provide a new source of ongoing revenue for Riverside County to support public safety and other public services," Gary Johnson, Granite aggregate resource development manager, said in the press release. "At the same time, this revised proposal substantially reduces the potential environmental impacts of the project."

'NO QUARRY'

Quarry opponents aren't convinced the new quarry plan is any better.

"No quarry is the only answer," said anti-quarry activist Jerri Arganda, who lives in Rainbow, a San Diego County community near the proposed quarry site. "We don't want a quarry at that location."
Jim Mitchell, a Temecula resident and chairman of the Santa Margarita Group of the Sierra Club, said Granite's new quarry application was inevitable after supervisors certified the environmental report.

'I am so absolutely astounded at how badly Riverside County government has failed us on this issue," he said. "We clearly established this was a bad project. It really has made it a joke out of representative government in Riverside County."

BITTER SHOWDOWN

First proposed in 2005, the quarry has been one of the most bitterly contested and emotional land-use conflicts in county history.

Granite and a coalition of labor unions and business groups contended the quarry would provide jobs in a tough economy as well as $300 million in sales tax revenue and $41 million in property tax fees.

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 says, as technology would keep dust from blowing into populated areas.

Opponents include Temecula officials, environmentalists, a coalition of doctors and others who accused Granite of lying to get its way. They said the quarry would worsen air pollution through increased truck traffic and the spewing of microscopic silica dust through daily wind currents into nearby communities.

Opponents said the project would not add jobs, but take them from other quarries while ruining the local tourism industry and disrupting a neighboring ecological reserve. Groundwater would dry up and coastal wildlife linkage would be severed if the quarry were built, according to critics.
The Pechanga tribe contends the quarry would eradicate a sacred site where the world began and the first people lived.

Tribal officials mounted an unsuccessful effort in Sacramento last year to secure state legislation to block the quarry. It's unclear whether they'll do so again; tribal leaders were unavailable for comment.

3-2 VOTE

Public hearings on the quarry featured dueling experts, including lawyers and scientists, who gave contradictory talks about the quarry, depending what side they were on. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent to hire those experts and produce thick studies supporting or denouncing the project.

Other testimony was more emotional. Supporters, many of whom wore green, talked about their unemployment struggles and how a quarry job would put food on the table. Opponents wore orange and said the quarry would wreck everything they love about where they live.

Planning commissioners listened to nearly 52 hours of public comments and needed six hearings before voting 4-1 against the quarry in August. Granite appealed the decision to supervisors, who held three hearings - two at the Riverside Convention Center - attended by more than 2,000.

In February, the board voted 3-2 to reject Granite's appeal. Benoit and Marion Ashley voted yes while Bob Buster, Jeff Stone and Tavaglione voted no. Supervisors finalized their denial and certified the environmental report in May.

The certification upset Stone, who represents Temecula. "Today, we have placed life-restoring equipment on a dead body," he said at the time.

Contributing to this report: Staff writer Ben Goad, bgoad@pe.com

CALIFORNIAN  Wednesday, July 25, 2012

By AARON CLAVERIE aclaverie@californian.com

Granite submits request for smaller Liberty Quarry project

Granite has scaled down its Liberty Quarry project in an attempt to win fast-track approval by the Riverside County Board of Supervisors.

The new proposal, submitted Wednesday according to a Granite news release, would find the mine, slated for county land on the city of Temecula's southern border, producing 4 million tons of aggregate material a year at peak production.

The original proposal, hotly debated for years in Southwest County and surrounding areas, called for 5 million tons per year.

Granite also is proposing a new 20 cents-per ton fee that could generate up to $92 million in revenue for the county, of which, the vast majority will be paid by San Diego County users who are projected to buy the quarry's products.
The mine was opposed by a coalition of the city of Temecula, residents in De Luz ,Rainbow, Fallbrook, the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians and a nearby research facility run by San Diego State University.

It was supported by union members and area residents who said it could help brighten the area's economic picture with new jobs and a locally produced supply of aggregate material.

The action by Granite follows the city of Temecula's move late Tuesday night announcing its intention to file suit against the county for certifying the environmental impact report for the project in May.

That decision by the county was made during the same meeting the board voted to uphold the denial of the project by the county Planning Commission.
Call staff writer Aaron Claverie at 951-676-4315, ext. 2624

PRESS ENTERPRISE   Wednesday, July 25, 2012
BY JEFF HORSEMAN  jhorseman@pe.com    STAFF WRITER

The city of Temecula will sue to block certification of the environmental impact report for the Liberty Quarry project. Riverside County Supervisors in May voted to reject the open-pit mine. But they certified the report, a move critics say leaves the door open for the quarry to come back.
In a press release, the company said it submitted a revised application for a smaller quarry "that will substantially reduce the project's potential environmental impacts while continuing to provide hundreds of millions of dollars in county revenue."

The new application calls for a quarry that would operate for 45 years instead of 70 and 160 fewer truck trips a day. Only 174 million tons of aggregate would be extracted from the quarry over the life of the project; the original proposal called for 235 million tons to be mined.
Also, mining activity would be restricted to daylight hours and the mine pit would be shallower, the press release read.

"The revised Liberty Quarry project will create hundreds of new jobs and provide a new source of ongoing revenue for Riverside County to support public safety and other public services," Gary Johnson, Granite aggregate resource development manager, said in the release. "At the same time, this revised proposal substantially reduces the potential environmental impacts of the project."

Granite's announcement comes as the city of Temecula moves forward with lawsuit plans to block the certification of a quarry environmental study.

Fallbrook/Bonsall Village News, Wed. July 25, 2012
Temecula City Council moves to block Liberty Quarry EIR as Granite files application for smaller quarry
Andrea Verdin and Staff


The Temecula City Council moved to give its city attorney the ability to file a motion that questions the validity of the environmental impact report for Granite Construction’s Liberty Quarry, just as the quarry moved to resubmit a REVISED APPLICATION FOR a SMALLER LIBERTY QUARRY near Temecula. According to a press release from Granite Construction, the scaled-down project includes unprecedented per-ton fees to Riverside County’s General Fund and will generate 662 jobs and have significantly fewer environmental impacts.

At the council meeting held on July 24, Peter Thorson, the Temecula city attorney, was given permission to move forward on the motion after the board agreed to challenge whether or not the certification of the EIR was valid or not, as the project had previously been denied by the county.

The Riverside board of supervisors voted in February, 2012 to go against county staff recommendation and vote against the project, however they voted to certify the 8500-page environmental impact report for the proposed 414-acre Liberty Quarry, which was a surprise to quarry opponents.

Riverside County’s Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR), released last year, concluded the County would be better off economically and environmentally with Liberty Quarry and by taking the trucks that are presently bringing aggregate from other areas off the road, Liberty Quarry would actually improve the region’s air quality.

Chairman John Tavaglione, who had voted to deny the quarry, was the swing vote in favor of the EIR certification, saying he wanted to give Granite an "opportunity to come up with some level of project (in the future) that works."

"We believe that if you deny the project, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) process is ended," said Bob Johnson, Temecula’s city manager. "It is not an appropriate action."

Johnson stated that he feels the city’s decision was appropriate, as the officials are opposed to the quarry.

"We have spent $1.5 million challenging the validity of the EIR," he said. "The quarry damages the health of the community, destroys environmental linkage, reduces our water level, creates air quality issues, and causes traffic issues that are negative in the community. There is absolutely nothing about the quarry in that location that we can support."

Johnson also stated that the quarry is not located in a place that was beneficial to the community.

"It is a bad location for the quarry, and it should be in a different location because it is in the wind corridor that comes from the Pacific Ocean and right into the city. We are vehemently against it."

 

 

 

 

 

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May 2012 Letters to the Editor

The Californian, Tues., May 29
We need to re-elect Supervisors Buster and Stone

It was very reassuring to see The Californian, and the other leading Riverside County newspaper, both coming out to endorse Supervisors Bob Buster and Jeff Stone for re-election ("Buster, Stone for supervisor," May 23).

Both supervisors have done a fine job keeping costs in check for Riverside County in these trying economic times. The Californian said that both Supervisors "should be re-elected because they offer the best combination of philosophy and experience to meet the needs of the county's residents."

It was Supervisor Bob Buster who first put out the "early warning about the need to scale back the overly generous pensions," said The Californian editorial staff. Further, The Californian stated, "we see no compelling reason not to return Buster to office. Stone is equally committed to fiscal restraint, and also brings a real focus on local issues."

Personally, I don't think I could say it any better than The Californian already has. We need to re-elect Supervisors Buster and Stone helping to lead our county government.

Linda Bartz, Temecula

The battle continues; vote for Buster, Stone

To the citizens who helped defeat Liberty Quarry (before John Tavaglione flip-flopped with his "schizophrenic" vote approving the totally flawed environmental impact report): Thanks for all of the time and energy these citizens put forth this past seven years to keep our pristine area a show-piece of natural beauty.

Because of Tavaglione's recent vote, we must all continue our battle, and one way we can do this is to vote for Bob Buster and Jeff Stone on June 5 so they can continue to work with and for us. Both of these supervisors have been steadfast in supporting the needs of their constituents and encouraging projects that will benefit the local economy and infrastructure. They are men of integrity with open minds and listen to what the people want and need. They will not be bought off with the big money Granite Construction has to offer.

I am sorry I live in Rainbow and am not able to vote for a Riverside County Supervisor, but these two men would definitely get my vote if I lived in Temecula. Bob Buster was thoughtful enough to mention how negatively the proposed Liberty Quarry would affect residents of Rainbow. He cares about people and their needs.

Marilee Ragland, Rainbow

 

May 2012 Opinions/Forums

 

 
May 2012 News Articles
 
April 2012 Letters to the Editor
 
 

April 2012 Opinions/Forums

 

 
April 2012 News Articles
 
March 2012 Letters to the Editor

The Californian, Fri., Mar. 9
Supervisors made the right decision

I want to thank Supervisors John Tavaglione, Jeff Stone and Bob Buster for voting to oppose the Liberty Quarry project. They, along with others, listened to four days of testimony and rebuttal before making their decision.

Over these four days, there was significant testimony from the general public, the city of Temecula, San Diego State University, Pechanga and a number of experts. At the end of the testimony, it was Granite's job to rebut opposition testimony and show why the appeal should be granted.

At the end, even the supervisors who supported the project questioned the 75-year project life and recommended other conditions should be required. Even before the supervisors' vote was taken, it was clear that the applicant had not met the burden of proof to overturn the Planning Commission's project denial. ...

It's unfortunate that individuals who supported the project, and lost, feel it is necessary to write in and slam any politician who opposed the project. To me, it is sad that some cannot accept the decision made, and move on.

Fred Bartz, Temecula

The Californian, Tues., Mar. 6
Opinions and Mind Readers

Regarding a recent letter by Adele Harrison, "Denying quarry a disappointment," Feb. 16: For some, I'm sure it was a disappointment; for others, a victory.

However, Mrs. Harrison stated that "our so-called 'pro-business' conservatives ... will not stand up for what is right." I guess her assumption is that she has acquired the domain of what is "right." She then continued on by reading Supervisor Tavaglione's mind: "he's more interested in getting funding from the tribes and the support of the extreme environmentalists." I wonder if she ever met a moderate or liberal environmentalist?

She then continued on to thank Supervisors Ashley and Benoit because they did not worry about their own self-interests and politics. More mind-reading.

In conclusion, she stated that our air would be cleaner. Whew, we should have these aggregate plants in San Francisco, New York City, Boston and each and every city that needs cleaner air. Forget what our local doctors know about the potential injurious impact Liberty Quarry would have on our youth; Mrs. Harrison has the inside track on what is "right."

Edward Filardo, Temecula


March 2012 Opinions/Forums
 
March 2012 News Articles
 
February 2012 Letters to the Editor

THE CALIFORNIAN, SUN., FEB.5

Still the wrong project in the wrong location

In Jackie Raspler's response (Feb. 3) to my Community Forum ("Liberty Quarry not like San Antonio quarries," Jan. 22), she says, my "listed reference source is invalid." So getting information directly from the actual quarry company is an invalid source? Would that mean getting information directly from Granite Construction is also an invalid source?

Apparently, Ms. Raspler does not understand the importance of designated habitat areas in California and especially Riverside County. There is a difference between "habitat" and areas with a special habitat designation. If Riverside County did not have these protected designated habitat areas that it does have, legally, further development would be highly restricted.

Also, I did not state or imply "that Liberty Quarry will create destruction to the 4,000-acre reserve." However, it has been shown that the quarry being on the border will impact the reserve's future as a university outdoor educational laboratory.

While Ms. Raspler references that Liberty Quarry could be transformed into a "beautiful natural lake and park," who wants a lake with a thousand-foot-deep bottom and pit sides with 60-foot sidewall steps? ...

Let's remember, the Riverside County Planning Commission voted 4-1 to deny the proposed Liberty Quarry project.

Linda Bartz, Temecula

Liberty's dust blanket

Granite's own environmental impact report indicates the Liberty Quarry site will release 27.4 tons of microscopic particulate matter into the air per year. That's a big number, 27.4 tons. I want to put that into perspective.

What would you feel is a downright filthy surface? For the sake of discussion, let's say we've got a 1/64-inch thick layer of dust for our filthy surface. If we take the bulk density of the dust in question to be that of concrete dust, it weighs about 50 pounds per cubic foot. Spread out to make a 1/64-inch layer, 27.4 tons of dust would cover an area of nearly 900,000 square feet or about 15 football fields' worth. This is dust that has two Proposition 65-listed, known carcinogens in it: hexavalent chromium and silica.

Sure, this stuff is small and won't all settle to the ground. That just means it's floating around in the air for us all to breathe. This all reminds me of the TXI Riverside cement plant problems and lawsuits from 2008. Surely, our elected officials can learn from history.

Mark Herndon, Temecula

We don't need Granite in our community

Re: "If it is orange, vote it out," Community Forum, by Jim Welker, Feb. 2: I have just read Jim Welker's diatribe. I have never, in my life, read such a piece of uninformed and misleading nonsense.

He claims physicians don't know how to use a shovel. I'm a physician, and he couldn't have held a candle to my ability with a shovel prior to medical school. We treat diseases caused by companies like Granite Construction Company and they are not pretty. ... We don't need this company in our community.

Alexander Watts, Temecula

Take a deep breath

Re: "If it is orange, vote it out," Community Forum, by Jim Welker, Feb. 2: Whew, Jim, take a deep breath. One hundred and sixty doctors turning shovels, San Diego State University scheming for research dollars, Pechanga tribe dreams of an empire, reserve water stinks, stores empty in Temecula, housing costs exploding, U.S., Greece, Italy going into bankruptcy ---- all due to a few Red Hawk elitists. Who knew? Barack Obama said it was all due to President Bush, but he thinks this will happen without the quarry.

What do we know? The wind blows from west to east about 2 p.m. just about each and every day. Any and all dust will affect those in its path, some more than others, increasing the need for doctor visits (hopefully they will not be turning over shovels). Our children will be the most vulnerable and most affected.

With the government's Congressional Budget Office release of quite a dismal outlook for 2012, 2013 and beyond, does Mr. Welker really think we're on the verge of a housing boom that requires such vitriolic rantings?

Again, Jim, take a deep breath of our pristine air (when he's in Temecula), have a beer, and I hope his Super Bowl team wins.

Edward Filardo,Temecula

The Press-Enterprise, Thurs., Feb. 2

Keep Liberty Quarry out

We live on a small hill on the far side of Temecula. Every day at 1 o’clock the ocean breezes start flowing in through the same gap where the Liberty Quarry would be built (“Supervisors’ vote could come next week,” Jan. 31).

All the tiny particles from the quarry dust would ride in on those breezes and be deposited on Temecula. Good for the area? I don’t think so. It just cannot happen.

Anna Mills, Temecula

Spare our air, wineries

I grew up in Temecula, taking for granted its clean air. Now that I no longer live there, I realize how fortunate I was to be in a place where the air quality has not been compromised.

Permitting the operation of Liberty Quarry would most assuredly compromise Temecula’s clean air (“Supervisors’ vote could come next week,” Jan. 31). The environmental impact report clearly states the implementation of this open pit mine would add to air pollution.

This, in turn, would impact the wineries, adversely affecting the grapes and deterring tourists. Does anyone really want to tour Wine Country if it requires seeing and breathing dirty air?

Granite Construction has spent millions touting the benefits its gravel pit will bring to the economy. I, too, care about the region’s economy — the economy that is already in place, a tourist industry dependent on the 30-plus wineries of the Temecula Valley. Wineries cannot coexist with a project that destroys air quality.

Mary Hamilton, Riverside

February 2012 Opinions/Forums

A time to heal
The Californian, Sun., Feb. 19

Now that the Riverside County Board of Supervisors has upheld the Planning Commission's denial of the Liberty Quarry, it's time for healing to be the new theme for the area.

With labor and business interests having enthusiastically supported the now-defeated quarry proposal, and many nearby residents and the American Indian community having been every bit as vociferous in opposing it, feelings have been running high since Granite Construction began working to develop a rock and gravel quarry on the site just west of Interstate 15 on the north side of the county line.

Although Granite could conceivably revive the Liberty Quarry proposal, it would probably need major revisions to warrant reconsideration from the county ---- much less a different outcome to the permitting process.

It seems to us that it is time for both sides to move on. The democratic process ran its course, and a controversial proposal was defeated.

However, Granite expended quite a few resources in developing its proposal ---- a proposal that was made in good faith, based on an established local need for building materials.

Should Granite find an alternative site to provide these needed materials, we would hope that those who opposed the Liberty site would approach any new proposal with an open mind. And we would urge those labor and business interests that supported Liberty to help ensure that those who opposed Liberty are included in siting decisions of any future proposals at the earliest possible time.

Finally, should Granite decide to relieve itself of the Liberty site, we think it would be a wonderful gesture for the Pechanga community ---- which opposed the quarry because it would have infringed on the tribe's sacred lands ---- to quickly come to agreement with Granite on a fair price to preserve the land in Pechanga hands in perpetuity.

But the heated debate should come to an end at this point. Both sides need to take a deep breath and acknowledge that their opponents acted in good faith, with the best of intentions and the interests of the community at heart.

That kind of community commitment is something we ought to be able to recognize, even in those who see the betterment of the community as traveling a very different route.

Process is flawed to the max
The Californian, Sun., Feb. 12
Phil Strickland

As we sit here fidgeting while we wait for the Riverside County Board of Supervisors to decide whether Granite Construction can blast the hell out of our countryside with consequences so grim for so long that to take a chance on any one of them ---- much less the whole passel ---- would be inviting disaster to take up residence, how, one might ask, did we end up in this mess?

Easy: We, as a county, have a consultant-approval process that is laughable at best.

The unfunny thing for some people might be that the whole thing hinges on documents sworn to under threat of perjury by the applicant and consultant that there will be no hanky panky.

That document, in turn, is approved by the county's planning director, Carolyn Syms Luna.

It sounds intimidating and all that, but frankly it's all bark. It says nothing about the substance of the relationship between applicant and consultant.

Take San Diego County for example: Once a consultant is chosen, it's hands-off for applicant and consultant alike.

And you have to ask why that patch of wildness just at the county line is so desirable?

It's not so much the location being contiguous to San Diego County as it is being contiguous to the county and located in Riverside County, a much friendlier county when it comes to handing out mining permits.

As everyone knows, there's plenty of that very same granite in San Diego County. In fact, something like 80 percent of the county's land mass is ---- that's right ---- granite.

So now, with a meeting scheduled for Tuesday at 9 a.m. at the supervisor's chambers in Riverside, the county drama that is Liberty Quarry may play its final show.

Not likely, but one can hope.

But what can happen, and with relative ease (given the political will), is the re-evaluation of the county's procedure for hiring consultants and their actions once assigned to a project.

If nothing else, Liberty Quarry has given county residents only the merest of glimpses into how the system works: Use a trusted consultant, add some slapdash "science" and utterances so easily discredited that it's embarrassing for some regional "experts."

The state and marriage: In yet another setback for Prop. 8 advocates, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court and ruled that the citizen-backed proposition declaring that marriage is between a man and a woman is unconstitutional.

It had been my opinion for quite some time now that two or more people can join in whatever relationship they find fulfilling without any interference from the government.

A colleague of the feminine persuasion asked me why government should be involved in marriage at all ---- except, perhaps, for atheists ---- and she's right.

If a church wants to marry homosexuals, fine, let them do it. If not, no biggie.

The biggest question for the state is how to replace the marriage-license fees.

RivCo Supes face a mine-blowing decision
The Press-Enterprise, Sat., Feb. 11
Dan Bernstein

There have been hours upon days of testimony from busloads of color-coordinated proponents, opponents and exponents. Entire forests may have sacrificed their lives for environmental impact reports.

So it might sound strange that, after all this and after more testimony to come, RivCo’s board of supes might actually find it quite easy to deprive Granite Construction of the permit it needs to operate Liberty Quarry.

It might sound snotty and selfish, but why rip up them thar hills so San Diego County can gulp down its fill of aggregate — especially when an aggregation of Temecula-area peeps thinks this is such a loopy idea? If you are a county supe, do you really want to fall on your sword to export a key ingredient of cement and asphalt for someone else’s roads?

I do not mean to minimize the complexity of this matter, which becomes more complex with each orating expert: It’s dirty. It’s clean! It’s a money-maker! Is not! Is too! Enough of that could crush a supervisor’s brain into a key element of asphalt.

The trouble with aggregate is that it is not sexy. It is not energy harnessed by solar farms in the desert. It is tiny pebbles aggregated by blowing up a hilltop. Even the specter of an aggregate shortage does not strike fear into the hearts. But the prospect of mining aggregate strikes fear into the lungs.

It might be different if we were talking about water or oil or some other resource whose occasional scarcity has required rationing. But aggregate rationing? We are not likely to see even-odd aggregate days any time soon.

A tl

What quarry approval will come to, warns Temecula Mayor Chuck Washington, is exactly 146 pollution-related deaths over the life of the mine. I hear the mayor can read palms, too.

But there is a Bookends Problem. Well north of the envisioned quarry, RivCo is in a committed relationship with large trucks drawn like bees to the honeycomb of inland warehouses. Experts differ (surprise!) over levels of noxious perfumery likely to be expelled by aggregate-bearing fleets. But do supes really want to bookend RivCo with belching hubs — a legacy that might not be so fleeting? Where will they come down if the chorus chants, “Give me Liberty or give me breath”?

Even the promise of jobs in an economy blown to aggregate has a sketchy ring. Skechers promised double the number of jobs now in place at MoVal and its Empire warehouse workforce actually shrank. March Healthcare promised lots of jobs, but the medical “campus” remains stubbornly, joblessly unbuilt.

This could be a no-brainer for supes. Although some job-hungry Temeculans back the quarry, support seems to gather strength the farther the backers (including Perris and Menifee electeds) reside from the site.

I keep coming back to the notion of being a bedroom mine to San Diego. Can’t Granite find another hill to climb? Or if we must export, let’s export: Ship our aggregate to China where it can be ground up to make computers or phones and shipped back here so we’d have something nice to show for it. Do I hear a motion?

A search for the truth about the quarry
The Californian, Sat., Feb. 11
Marelle Dorsey

At the Feb. 6 Riverside County Board of Supervisors Appeal hearing for Liberty Quarry, I represented hundreds of area real estate professionals on record against the quarry, stating that it would lower property values. The Rose Institute economic study supported our position.

I questioned the board: "How could you even consider changing the site's Rural and Residential zoning to Mining and Manufacturing?" Many area housing developments, such as Redhawk, were created under the county and incorporated years later. On Jan. 30, Betty Johnson presented copies of approximately 2,200 Redhawk anti-quarry petitions gathered in 2006.

I also gave each supervisor my notebook titled, "A Search for Truth: Publicized Background Information for State and County Hearings." Included were supporting documents concerning real estate. One was a copy of the buyer disclosure that the San Diego Real Estate Board demanded be used for the Fallbrook area as early as 2004, when Granite Construction's Rosemary Mountain, a smaller blasting quarry project, was just proposed. Buyers of properties had to acknowledge that a quarry would have occasional "explosion sounds, equipment sounds, and dust."

Liberty Quarry would have to disclose additional health concerns, as well as increased traffic congestion from the heavy truck traffic caused by 1,600 daily truck trips on I-15.

In 1991, Temecula recorded a Sphere of Influence to the county line for the purpose of giving Temecula some control over the southern entry's scenic escarpment.

Granite and the county proceeded in 2005 with quarry plans. Temecula spent a total of $644,000 in its 2009 LAFCO annexation bid, the later appeal, and then in winning a partial annexation in 2010, which did not include the quarry site. Granite supported LAFCO's decision to demand Temecula had to first give up its Sphere of Influence over the quarry site. This sparked calls for a grand jury. Granite spent heavily to stop the annexation.

LAFCO, or the Local Agency Formation Commission, in charge of local boundaries, is a state legislative agency with county members. They are supposed to promote orderly development, but also to preserve agriculture and open space.

Concerns about water and a study of area earthquakes, including the nearby huge fault line, and Granite's inaccurate economic report are documented, as are examples of Granite's propaganda and bad conduct.

The EIR is at times itself the proof of insufficient and misleading data.

The exaggerated traffic studies and the minimizing of accident risks associated with loss of truck brake control are examples.

The air-quality concerns of physicians and the American Lung Association, such as silicosis, poor health and death are examined.

The nonstandard data collecting, which determined levels of predicted air quality, is found in the EIR. Granite's own expert at the August Planning Commission hearing admitted that the wind data should have been collected at the top of the mountain, not 600 feet below.

However, even with wind numbers that are too low, the EIR shows that the maximum pollution credits, emission-reduction credits and additional RECLAIM credits for excessive nitrous oxide, must be purchased. How bad would the the actual truth be?

Wear orange and attend the 9 a.m. Feb. 14 final hearing in Supervisors' Chamber.

A talk with Abe
The Californian, Sat., Feb. 11
John Hunneman

Good Sunday morning to you. We're headed for breakfast at The Mill.

Browsing through this newspaper's archives recently, I discovered it had been five years since I last sat down withPresident Abraham Lincoln and, using his words from 150 years ago, discussed some of the current issues of the day. Today, on Lincoln's 203rd birthday, it seemed a good time for another interview.

President Lincoln, late last year Riverside County planning commissioners heard days of expert testimony for and against a proposed granite quarry near Temecula before deciding the project was a bad idea.

Abe: "I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to give them the real facts."

Even so, Granite Construction is continuing its marketing campaign trying to convince people that the quarry will be great for everyone.

Abe: "What kills a skunk is the publicity it gives itself."

The quarry project has now been appealed to the county Board of Supervisors for a final decision.

Abe: "You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time."

Switching to the national scene, do you have an opinion about the upcoming presidential election?

Abe: "The time comes upon every public man when it is best for him to keep his lips closed."

But aren't you concerned that instead of small donations from many Americans, political campaigns now seem to be bankrolled by only a few large companies and rich people?

Abe: "These capitalists generally act harmoniously, and in concert, to fleece the people."

The country is so divided these days. Nobody in Washington can seem to agree on anything. Meanwhile, many Americans are hurting.

Abe: "America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."

Closer to home, I realize you may not have seen the movie "Forrest Gump," but the actor who played Lt. Dan is bringing his rock 'n' roll show to Temecula on March 1 to raise money for a wounded war veteran. You must appreciate that.

Abe: "With malice towards none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and among all nations."

Finally, do you have any words to offer today, on your 203rd birthday, to future generations of Americans as they make their way in the world?

Abe: "You have to do your own growing no matter how tall your grandfather was."

Thank you, Mr. President, and happy birthday.

No need to desecrate Temecula for quarry
The Californian, Thurs., Feb. 9
Ken Johnson

Temecula neighbors, are you thankful for your city? I believe most of you are. If so, there's a situation going on at "final hearing" sessions on the Liberty Quarry that I think should alarm you and cause you to ask what you can do about it.

After Granite Construction failed to convince Temeculans that the Liberty Quarry was a good idea for Temecula, they switched tactics and set out to pit neighbors against each other by styling Liberty Quarry as a regional issue. They have gone to city councils across the county and influenced them (how, would you imagine?) to call for Liberty Quarry to be imposed on Temecula without even offering Temeculans a chance to defend themselves in these forums ... a bad-neighbor policy on steroids.

The current final hearings in Riverside have taken on a tawdry hue. Granite is bringing AFL-CIO workers from all over Southern California by the busloads to arrive early at these sessions and occupy the center of the auditorium. These workers have been told they are going to a "jobs rally." They know little or nothing of the issues of Liberty Quarry. They are outfitted with green shirts and a green hats. They are given vouchers for a free lunches. They are trotted out for newspaper photos.

At the Feb. 6 session they found themselves listening to our local opponents of the quarry absolutely demolish Granite Construction's purchased Environmental Impact Report. By the end of the day, the EIR had been reduced to a shambles (just as was the case at the commission level) and stripped naked of its deceptive clothing of misinformation. The EIR was in critical condition. It was on life support and needing to be put out of its misery.

All this was lost on the green shirts occupying the center of the room, surrounded by the anti-quarry orange shirts. They soon lost interest in the proceedings and were found in long lines getting their free lunches and lounging at all the tables in the dining room, leaving an embarrassing sea of empty seats in the middle of the meeting hall ---- possibly wondering, where are the jobs?

These job-seekers had been deluded. Granite's Rosemary's Mountain quarry is the test case for the validity of Liberty Quarry's boast of "Jobs, Jobs, Jobs." Its anemic employment rate shows that the jobs supposed to come from servicing San Diego's aggregate supply needs are missing in action. It is clear, on top of this, San Diego has plans to meet its own aggregate needs with its own resources when the building market revives. No need then to desecrate Temecula!

I've coined a new word to describe the Liberty Quarry EIR, the EIR process, and the green mercenary tactic. The word is spelled F-L-A-W-E-D-U-L-E-N-T ... flawedulent! What think you?

A 'fanning the flames of democracy' rose
The Californian, Mon., Feb. 6

Roses all around to the 1,700-some residents who attended the Liberty Quarry hearing before the Riverside County Board of Supervisors last week. No matter where one stands on the proposed quarry, that so many people were willing to take time out of their busy schedules, find parking and then sit through a lengthy hearing in order to have their viewpoint considered was heartening. Representative democracy requires an involved citizenry to work, and that so many area residents were so very willing to become personally involved is a positive sign of the health of our system.

Re-site quarry
The Press-Enterprise, Sun., Feb. 5

The proposed Liberty Quarry near Temecula is a case of a promising project in the wrong location. The quarry proponents have not made a convincing case that the potential benefits of the mine in this spot outweigh the drawbacks to the nearby region. So Riverside County supervisors should uphold the Planning Commission’s rejection of the quarry plans.

Granite Construction Company proposes to put a 135-acre mine on a 414-acre site south of Temecula and west of Interstate 15, just north of the San Diego County line. The Liberty Quarry would produce aggregate, a type of rock used in construction materials such as cement and asphalt. But neighbors of the proposed mine site, including the city of Temecula and the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, adamantly oppose the project.

The county Planning Commission rejected the quarry proposal last year after five public hearings and nearly 52 hours of testimony. The company appealed that decision to the Board of Supervisors, which could make a decision on the issue on Monday.

Opposing the quarry location is not an easy call. The Press-Enterprise editorial board generally supports business growth and grasps the need for a sufficient source of building materials. The editorial board met with a range of stakeholders in the issue, and understands the concerns on all sides. And much of the discussion is a debate between dueling expert testimony that offers contradictory analyses of the need for and effects of the quarry.

On balance, however, the arguments for the quarry are insufficient to justify a hilltop site surrounded by a tribal reservation, an ecological preserve and a city of more than 101,000 people. Nor should anyone be comfortable with the prospect of a sensitive swath of Riverside County shouldering the burdens of a mine that mainly would serve San Diego County needs: Granite says two-thirds of the materials from the quarry would go to construction south of the county line.

The demand for necessary building materials does not offer a convincing justification for the proposed site. The region will need more sources of aggregate in the future, but just how much and how soon is a subject of dispute. Granite and Temecula officials, for example, offer competing analyses of the immediacy and need. But even a pressing shortage does not mean that the proposed quarry site is the right solution. The long-term projections assume no other new sources open up, which seems unlikely. And the Temecula location is hardly the only spot in the region where such rock exists.

Nor are the potential economic benefits of the quarry persuasive. The quarry’s study points to a more than $200 million boost to the economy from the project by 2021, and hundreds of millions in new government revenue over the 75-year life of the mine. Yet a competing study says the quarry will result in a cumulative $3.6 billion cost to the region over the next 50 years — leaving residents to guess at which figure is right.

Jobs also are not a reason to push ahead with the current plan. Granite says the quarry will create 99 jobs on site and another 178 related jobs elsewhere. Jobs are welcome, given the region’s high unemployment levels. But there is no guarantee those would be new jobs, and not workers shifted from elsewhere. Nor is there any certainty those would go to local residents.

Riverside County should not chase business away, certainly. But the need for jobs and commerce should not mean abandoning careful planning. Quarries are necessary operations for a growing region — but only if the site makes sense.

Granite plays the jobs card
The Californian, Sun., Feb. 5
Phil Strickland

It wasn't long before pro-Liberty Quarry union members fresh from the 7:30 a.m. Jobs Rally and hangin' for the real reason their leaders dragged them out ---- to show the supervisors clout at the ballot box ---- got to go into action.

In rather quick fashion following the warning from 2nd District supervisor and candidate for the new 41st Congressional District seat John Tavaglione that hoots and hollers would result in the violators' removal, the pro-quarry unionists gave way to waving green rags.

Quick learners, the opponents of Granite Construction's appeal of the Planning Commission's denial of a permit for the quarry, known by their orange garb, responded by waving their suitably hued hats.

Eventually it was all mime (except the testimony), a rather odd spectacle to be sure.

Before the meeting, at least one member of the AFL-CIO asked quarry opponent Jerri Arganda what all the fuss was about. He said he had been told to show up for a Jobs Fair (complete with free lunch) and confessed to knowing nothing about the subject project.

You know Granite's feeling the heat when it plays the jobless card ---- over and over.

Imagine, passing off a supervisors meeting as a job fair.

In fact, a man of character has confirmed that he saw a letter, a copy of which was forwarded to me, inviting members to just such an event.

You know you're in trouble when you have to scam your own workers/members.

And so began the first day of the recitation of Granite's well-rehearsed make-it-sound-like-science "science," i.e., the Granite litany that might normally skate through the approval process.

This attempt to desecrate the public trust ---- not to mention the sacred land of the Pechanga ---- all in the name of profits that are unimaginable to you and me and about 99.99 percent of everyone else ---- even the "wealthy" ---- has the feeling of a cosmetic surgery gone terribly wrong.

Granite came prepared with some gussied up arguments, but little supported its contention that a gargantuan open-pit blasting mine directly upwind of hundreds of thousands of people and dozens of successful wineries and growers ---- not to mention right next to an internationally recognized ecological reserve ---- would be a boon to all.

The case Granite put forth was more a matter of trying to prop up its eroding position while the opposition continued bit by bit to get closer to the truth of the matter.

Take, for instance, when resident Stella Stevens presented the supervisors with a binder laden with government studies refuting Granite assertions regarding blasting near faults.

Or when Fred Bartz discussed the safety of the road grade from the pit back to the freeway: a grade of about 9 percent, which could result in a runaway loaded hauler plunging to the interstate.

Or pictures taken of enormous dust clouds lingering hours after a single blast.

Granite's biggest problem is credibility.

It's a recurrent theme.

Nothing plus nothing is nothing.

February 2012 News Articles

Dust settles following county quarry decision
Valley News, Fri., Feb. 24

Members of a grassroots coalition staged an impromptu celebration Thursday night, Feb. 16, following the narrow defeat of a bid to open a granite mine between Temecula and Rainbow. The spirited Temecula gathering came hours after a 3-2 vote by Riverside County supervisors to deny Granite Construction Co. permission to operate Liberty Quarry south of Temecula.

"I can’t remember ever seeing smiles on this many faces," Jim Mitchell, chairman of the local Sierra Club chapter, said at the start of the group’s general meeting last Thursday. "We are celebrating."

The meeting attracted about 50 people, and participants congratulated each other and feted the efforts of a broad coalition of environmentalists and local leaders and officials. They sipped sparkling cider and munched on oatmeal and macadamia cookies as they pondered the pivotal vote and the likely path ahead for the highly-controversial mine project.

"Liberty Quarry is now no quarry," exclaimed Fred Bartz, a leader of the Save Our Southwest Hills environmental group. "It’s basically done."

Bartz stood in front of a projected slide he said quoted county Supervisor Jeff Stone’s speech in the board hearing that ended with Liberty Quarry’s denial. In his remark, Stone noted that his supervisorial district would suffer the mine’s impacts while Granite reaped a profit and San Diego County purchased the lion’s share of the product.

Bartz and other quarry foes then went on to note that county supervisors must reaffirm that denial soon in a second reading. They wondered whether the swing vote cast by Corona-area Supervisor John Tavaglione might change. They also discussed Granite options of a court challenge or the submittal of a revised development plan.

"We don’t know what they’re going to do," Bartz said. "(But) I’m happy where we’re at. Let’s celebrate for a few days and then take another look at it."

Mitchell, whose Sierra Club chapter opposed the mine plan, quoted a Granite representative as saying it cost the company $10 million to plan, study, and promote the project since it was proposed more than six years ago.

Granite initially sought 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 was identified by county planners as a favored development alternative.

If approved, the 414-acre project could have included 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 helped fuel criticism of the mine plan.

The project was one of the most controversial development plans to surface in the area in recent decades. Thousands of area residents who opposed the project or sought the jobs and taxes it would provide packed public hearings that played out over many years.

The land use proposal and subsequent backlash sparked community rallies and aerial photographs, billboard campaigns, and bus trips to Riverside hearings.

Capping the post-vote celebration, Bartz and other mine foes praised SOS, SDSU, the Sierra Club, Temecula city officials, Pechanga tribal leaders, and others for forming a unified front.

"It was a large effort of people working together," Bartz said.

Quarry Vote came down to quality of life
The Press-Enterprise, Sat., Feb. 18

Quality of life.

When it comes to the Temecula-area quarry, those three words boil down far too many years of studies, lobbyists, protests, public hearings, speeches, orange shirts, green shirts, sacred grounds, campaign contributions, news releases, politics, politics and more politics.

Those three words — what the modern-day community of Temecula was founded upon — triumphed yet again when Riverside County supervisors momentously rejected the Liberty Quarry.

Temeculans didn’t move here by the hundred thousand in the past quarter century to create just another Southern California suburb crammed with tract homes and strip malls. No, they’re better than that, haughty and misguided as it may seem to some. Sure, other communities have quarries that haven’t thrashed their property values (i.e. high-end Corona), but they’re not the all-mighty Temecula.

To paraphrase their hero Ronald Reagan, Temecula residents are that shining city upon a hill he spoke of. To the zillions of quarry critics, all of its dust, noise and congestion wouldn’t have just blurred that idyllic image, it would have destroyed it.

And so the supervisors voted 3-2 to preserve Temecula and all of its glory. And it was no accident that the two guys who most speak for us — Bob Buster and Jeff Stone — voted no. They know all too well what the quarry meant to local voters.

So what if Temecula, with its tract homes, massive commerce and congested freeway, is a sea of concrete, a quarry’s sole reason for existence. So what if Temecula residents are more than happy to build themselves silly with aggregate from other people’s quarries. They’ll be darned if they’re going to do their fair share. That’s some other sappy community’s headache, not Temecula’s.

Yes, in a tough economy, with claims by quarry boosters that it would support about 300 jobs and generate $300 million in sales tax revenue over the life of the project, Temeculans en masse said no, it’s not worth our — all together now — quality of life!

To them the quarry was the great unknown. Yes, the developer produced study after study after study after (OK, you get the point) that said those concerns were overblown, that other communities are doing just fine environmentally with a quarry in their midst. But Temecula residents weren’t willing to take that risk.

The quarry’s demise also was a rejection of Temecula’s idol, San Diego County. We in southwest Riverside County drool over all things San Diego, from the beaches to the sports teams to the big-city culture.

Yet when it came down to our precious quality of life, our county supervisors essentially told our neighbors to the south, “Take this quarry and shove it!”

Time after time supervisors hammered the point: If much of the aggregate mined from the quarry is going to be trucked down to San Diego, build the thing there. No matter their beaches, we’re tired of being their whipping boy.

We close with this thought, compliments of the Temecula-area Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians. They say the quarry would have obliterated a tribal site on par with the Bible’s Garden of Eden.

To the typical Temeculans and their hallowed quality of life, that says it all.

Riverside county supervisors reject massive Temecula quarry
The Los Angeles Times, Fri., Feb. 17

The fastest-growing county in California rejected a massive, mountaintop rock quarry Thursday that supporters called an essential source of the ingredients that fed the region's economic ascent.

In the end, however, neighborhood objections to increased traffic, possible health hazards and environmental destruction won out, a rare outcome in the pro-development frontier of the Inland Empire.

Fierce opposition in Temecula, a city known for its vineyard-covered valley and rock-ribbed conservative politics, persuaded the Riverside County Board of Supervisors to vote down the proposed rock mine by a 3-2 vote, despite the promise of hundreds of new blue-collar jobs to the recession-flattened region.

Temecula City Councilman Jeff Comerchero called the vote a "watershed" moment for a county that had been used as Southern California's back lot for mining, landfills, prisons and other less glamorous necessities.

"I don't think the county of Riverside was strong enough politically or economically to really understand our image, of what we wanted to be, 20 years ago,'' Comerchero said. "This vote says that we really do have the right to determine what happens in our communities.''

Veteran Inland Empire economist John Husing, a consultant for the mining company, offered a less charitable assessment. He said the influx of upscale housing in Riverside and San Bernardino counties over the last decade coincided with rising opposition to major mines, jails and similar employers — sources of blue-collar jobs in a region where nearly half the workforce has only a high school diploma.

"The people who moved out here think of themselves as upper crust,'' Husing said. "And the NIMBY (Not in My Back Yard) attitude is very strong.''

Watsonville-based Granite Construction had proposed a 414-acre rock mine, known as Liberty Quarry, on a mountain that looms over the 15 Freeway in the southwest corner of the county, an upscale suburban haven that has attracted thousands of new families drawn by the quiet neighborhoods, good schools and gentle hills east of the Santa Ana Mountains.

The company would have mined about 270 million tons of granite over 75 years, supplying building material to northern San Diego County and southwest Riverside County.

Four days of marathon testimony and deliberations drew busloads of union members in favor of the mine and busloads of Temecula community groups against it.

"There are just too many uncertainties to me,'' said Supervisor John Tavaglione, whose district includes several similar mines in Corona.

Tavaglione appeared to be the swing vote against the project, siding with Supervisors Jeff Stone of Temecula and Bob Buster of Riverside. Voting in favor were Supervisors John Benoit of Indio and Marion Ashley of Perris.

In a statement, the company said it was "very disappointed by today's decision by the board as the environmental studies clearly show this project would be good for Riverside County.''

Gary Johnson, project manager for the proposed quarry, said one option for Granite may be to submit a revised proposal.

Granite won support from business leaders and chamber of commerce groups outside the city in part by stressing that the quarry would create 99 mining-related jobs and hundreds of more indirect jobs with local suppliers and support companies.

The argument was not lost on the supervisors, who oversee a county decimated by the economic downtown and a 12.5% unemployment rate, one of the highest in California. Earlier this month, medical device manufacturer Abbott Labs, the Temecula area's largest employer, laid off 300 workers.

Roger Wright, an unemployed 29-year-old laborer who lives a mile east of the proposed mine site, told the supervisors earlier this week that he was two weeks away from losing his house and car.

"To say we are currently scraping by is an understatement,'' Wright said. "We, like so many others in our situation, need the project to happen.''

Opponents included the city, Temecula wineries, local school districts, the regional tourism council, area avocado growers and the local chapter of the Sierra Club.

The Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians also launched an aggressive campaign against the mine, which would be a few hundred yards from the reservation and loom over the tribe's four-star resort casino.

Tribal Chairman Mark Macarro said Granite's proposed mine was on a mountain where Luiseño people believe all life was created, akin to the Garden of Eden.

"We only have one creation site. Only one," Macarro told the supervisors shortly before the vote. "Once it's destroyed, once it's eviscerated by a mine ... it's gone."

Liberty Quarry near Temecula rejected
The Union-Tribune, Thurs., Feb. 16

A large open-pit rock quarry to be built just over the San Diego County line near Temecula was denied by a 3-2 vote of the Riverside County Board of Supervisors today following three days of lengthy and often passionate testimony.

Granite Construction’s Liberty Quarry has been the object of intense debate since it was first proposed in 2005. In August, the Riverside County Planning Commission voted 4-1 to deny the project. Granite appealed the decision to the supervisors.

Supervisors Chairman John Tavaglione cast the deciding vote.

“There are just too many uncertainties for me,” he said as audible gasps were heard in the supervisor’s chambers. “I just cannot support this project at this time.”

Thousands of people attended the marathon-like meetings held this month and six earlier ones held last year before the Planning Commission. Most opposed the project.

The quarry would have produced 500 million tons of aggregate — tiny rocks used to make asphalt and concrete — over the 75-year life expectancy of the project.

It would have been built on a 414-acre site just west of Interstate 15, of which 110 acres would have been the actual mine.

The environmental report on the project contained more than 8,500 pages.

Granite maintained the quarry would create nearly 100 permanent jobs and more than 900 temporary construction jobs, and would generate more than $1 million in sales tax revenue to the county annually.

“The county is better off with this project than without this project,” Granite’s Gary Johnson told the supervisors Tuesday. “Now is your opportunity to say yes to this project. Say yes to unprecedented environmental protection. Say yes to less traffic and cleaner air. Say yes to clean trucks and more tax revenue. Say yes to private investment. Say yes to jobs. Say yes to Liberty Quarry.”

Opponents included environmentalists, nearby residents and the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, who say the quarry would be built in an area that represents the origins of their people.

Concerns centered on noise that could be caused by blasting, dust, truck traffic, the possibility the operations could damage residents’ health, and the harm the quarry could have on tourism and housing prices.

Supervisors Bob Buster and Jeff Stone, both representing southwest Riverside County, also rejected the project. Buster, citing studies that show 60 to 70 percent of the material mined would be trucked to San Diego County, called the quarry an “environmental injustice.”

Stone said he found fatal flaws with the environmental report that the county’s planning department oversaw and upon which recommended approval of the project.

“We get all the impacts of the project,” Stone said, “Granite gets all of the profits, and San Diego gets most of the aggregate needs at the expense of our cherished quality of life for the next 75 years.”

Voting for the project were supervisors John Benoit and Marion Ashley.

“I am persuaded that any adverse effects of this project will be minor,” Benoit said, “and will never come close to the catastrophic levels envisioned or argued here before us. The benefits of this project to the community at large significantly outweigh any negative impacts.”

It wasn’t until Tavaglione announced his decision that anyone in the chambers knew what the outcome would be. Loud applause followed the official vote.

 

Controversial quarry voted down by board
The Californian, Thurs., Feb. 16

Overcome by emotion, opponents of Granite Construction's Liberty Quarry project cried tears of joy after the Riverside County Board of Supervisors voted Thursday to uphold the denial of a controversial hard rock mine.

Others cheered from their seats, and a few surged forward to applaud the decision, shouting "Thank you! Thank you!" to the supervisors.

The vote was 3-2 with board Chairman John Tavaglione and fellow Supervisors Jeff Stone and Bob Buster voting yes to uphold the decision. Supervisors Marion Ashley and John Benoit voted no.

The county Planning Commission voted 4-1 last year to deny the project. Granite appealed that decision, sparking a series of meetings conducted by the supervisors.

Granite has been working since 2005 to secure approval for the mine, and has encountered strong resistance from the beginning.

Opponents, who have waged an epic battle against the mine, hope the supervisors' vote serves as a death blow for the project.

Thursday's meeting came on the heels of three public hearings that attracted crowds of more than 1,000 people.

After the vote was taken, opponents congregated in the lobby of the Riverside County Administration Center to hug each other, shake hands and fix makeup that had been marred by tears.

Granite Construction officials, green-clad union members and project supporters quickly left the building.

The chairman of the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, Mark Macarro, said the tribe was very happy with the decision and he translated a Pechanga word to sum up his feelings.

"Our heart, my heart, is well," he said.

The tribe had argued that the entire mountain eyed by Granite for its 135-acre hard rock quarry was sacred, a site akin to the Garden of Eden for them.

Granite attorney Mark Harrison had worked to undercut that argument by saying the site could be developed carefully to avoid damaging landscape "features" that were culturally significant, much as the tribe spared its Great Oak during construction of its golf course.

Macarro told the supervisors that any development on the mountain would not be supported.

"The mountain is the feature," he said.

Project debated

Buster and Stone, who represent portions of Southwest County, dominated the discourse on the project before the final vote. They said the benefits of the mine did not outweigh its potential negative cultural and environmental effects, which they said included risking the health and welfare of area residents.

"I don't see how a quarry of this size, with this number of tons per year, designed for a distant marketplace in mid-San Diego County ---- even with the paltry additional mitigation that has been proposed ---- is an appropriate thing for us to approve today," Buster said.

Benoit had argued that an oversight board could be established that would allow the public to closely monitor the quarry's operations, and he proposed a slate of conditions that would require creating programs to monitor noise, air quality and water quality.

Benoit's motion to approve the project with those conditions, seconded by Ashley, was defeated, however.

Reading from 17 pages of notes, Stone offered an expansive criticism of the project and the county's environmental review of the project, which was proposed for land near an ecological reserve and the San Diego County community of Rainbow.

"I believe a flaw in Riverside County's permitting process is allowing companies to pick their consultants," he said. "You can hire a consultant to give you any result you want."

After saying he would like to change that process, Stone proceeded to go down a checklist of the issues that he felt were troubling about the project.

One of the most serious, he said, was the possibility that air quality, and residents' health, would be affected.

He also wondered aloud what the county could possibly do with the mine site after Granite finished with its excavation work in 50 or 75 years.

"A landfill maybe? More blue-collar jobs, Mr. Husing?" he asked.

Earlier during the series of meetings, Inland Empire economist John Husing had appeared to lobby on behalf of "blue collar" jobs, saying industries that could support those sort of jobs have repeatedly been opposed in Riverside County, to the detriment of the county's unemployment rate.

On the jobs issue, Stone said he wasn't sure any would be created. Instead, he said the likelier scenario was a redistribution of jobs from quarries in the northern part of the county to Liberty Quarry.

"More studies should have been done," he said.

Talking about the cultural issues raised by the tribe, Stone asked why the Pechanga wouldn't support a project that would create jobs and workers who might spend money at its resort and casino.

Answering his own question, he said, "Because this site cuts to the soul of our Native American friends.

"Haven't our Native American friends suffered enough over the decades and centuries?"

Benoit's support

Benoit, meanwhile, said he was motivated to support the project because he believes property owners have a right to use their property to its best and highest use.

And he said that in this case, satisfying a regional need for more aggregate material qualifies.

"I don't think there's any question ... I'm convinced there is, or will be, a serious demand for aggregate in excess of what's available in our region," he said.

Talking about the health concerns expressed by project opponents, Benoit said he believed there would be "very little dust" that would leave the quarry site, and he said regional air quality would improve when pollution-emitting trucks are removed from county roads.

"That's very, very important to tens of thousands of children throughout the region," he said. "Aggregate no longer will be trucked from Corona, Coachella Valley ... regional air quality will be vastly improved, highways will be safer if this project is approved."

A traffic study used by Granite to promote the project stated the mine could remove 9 million to 16 million in truck miles from county roads because trucks that now carry aggregate from Corona and other quarries north of Temecula would be buying from Liberty Quarry instead.

Before casting his vote, Ashley asked county planning staff members whether their opinions of the project had been changed after listening to around 70 hours of testimony at both the Planning Commission and board level.

That testimony often included "dueling experts" who offered contradictory comments about the proposed mine and its potential environmental effects.

County Planning Director Carolyn Syms Luna said the California Environmental Quality Act does allow for "other opinions," and that the county's stance was unchanged.

"I don't believe there is any reason to change our recommendation (for approval). The conclusions we arrived at in the (environmental impact report) still stand," she said.

In a statement, Granite officials said the company is "disappointed" with the board's decision.

"Unfortunately, this region still faces a looming shortage of aggregate that will have to continue to be met by importing materials from distant sources," said Granite spokeswoman Karie Reuther. "This is not a sustainable practice and will come at a growing cost to the region's traffic conditions, air quality and economy."

Granite officials have speculated on potential next steps if the project were denied, saying filing an amended application was a possibility.

Syms Luna said after Thursday's meeting that she hasn't talked with Granite about any amended application and couldn't comment on what that might look like or entail.

A celebration

An hour and a half after the vote, about 150 people gathered at the Temecula Civic Center to celebrate with an impromptu rally that featured hugs, cheers and a few tears.

The crowd, which included all five Temecula City Council members, gathered near the front steps, many wearing the orange shirts and hats they'd worn for years at meetings and hearings to illustrate their opposition to the project.

"I have never been so proud of this city as I am today," Councilman Jeff Comerchero told the enthusiastic crowd.

Each elected official, and several of the anti-quarry organizers, took a brief turn speaking. They often were interrupted by horns from passing cars that were filled with opponents who were just arriving from the meeting in Riverside.

All the speakers praised the cooperation among the grass-roots group that opposed the project, the city and the Pechanga band of Lusieno Indians as helping influence the Board of Supervisors' decision.

"We all did this together," said Mayor Chuck Washington.

However, Washington and several colleagues cautioned that Granite Construction might again try to build a quarry at the site.

Pointing south toward the mountain where the quarry had been proposed, he urged the crowd to be vigilant.

"It may not be over yet," Washington said. "But we're not going to let them put a quarry up there."

 

Quarry Defeated
Temecula.patch.com, Thurs., Feb. 16

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors during a meeting today at the County Administrative Center voted to block the proposed Liberty Quarry.

The 115-acre mine would have been placed just south of Temecula's city boundary. To read more about the plan, click here.

Supervisors Bob Buster, Jeff Stone and John Tavaglione voted against the project, and Marion Ashley and John Benoit voted in favor of it.

Stone earlier in the meeting said Granite Construction, the company proposing the plan, misled the public with inaccurate information in an attempt to get its project approved.

To read about what he said, click here.

The project would be an economic boon to the county, said Benoit, who praised the project.

To read what he said, click here.

The crowd erupted into applause and cheers in the board chamber as opponents of the quarry, wearing orange shirts and hats, embraced each other, many with tears in their eyes, while quarry supporters quickly and quietly filed out of the room.

"I'm over the top. I'm shaking, I'm so excited," said Chuck Washington, Temecula mayor.

"Personally, I feel very gratified, but on behalf of the Pechanga (tribe), I'm glad the (board) landed in the right place," said Mark Macarro, chair of the Pechanga Tribe of Luiseno Indians.

The site of the mine is a spot sacred to the Pechanga people, he said during previous hearings.

To see a video where he explains about the site's sanctity, click here.

This may not be the last the county has seen of this project though, and he was still leery, he said.

"I don't believe the fight's completely over ... we remain on guard for future threats," Macarro said.

The company can still try to get the project approved, but it will be an uphill battle, experts agreed.

To read about what Granite could do, click here.

The project was already denied by the County Planning Commission, though Granite appealed the vote. To read about that process, click here.

For Kathleen Hamilton, the head of SOS-Hills, a group that took the lead in opposing the quarry, the vote was a huge relief, she said.

"I feel incredibly fantastic," she said.

She and her husband plan to take a much-awaited vacation. "We were arranging to go (to Paris) before, then this came up," she said.

Opponents of the project planned to meet at the Civic Center in Old Town after the meeting, according to Temecula officials.


Quarry vote prediction: 2 - 2 with one tie-breaker
temecula.patch.com, Sun., Feb. 12

Boxing matches are known to begin with a tale of the tape. After sitting through multiple rounds of the fight over Liberty Quarry, my scorecard indicates a split decision. Let's review the five ringside judges, this time known as the county supervisors, alphabetically.

Supervisor Marion Ashley is likely to vote for approval of Liberty Quarry as evidenced by his fast-track approval of a private military training facility in an area of Homeland zoned for rural agricultural use. Any development anywhere seems to be Ashley's modus operandi.

Supervisor John Benoit also appears to favor the project, and a flurry of support for Liberty Quarry comes from his district, which is far from Temecula. Ben Benoit, son of John and current member of the Wildomar City Council, has written letters in support of Liberty Quarry. As the adage goes, the acorn does not fall far from the tree.

Supervisor Bob Buster has been an environmental protection advocate for years. Considering Liberty Quarry would not be a good neighbor for the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve and would interrupt an established wildlife habitat corridor, Buster’s opposition to the quarry seems a safe bet.

Supervisor Jeff Stone gained much of his political experience on the Temecula City Council, and his constituents are overwhelmingly against the quarry. On the other hand, Stone does not shy away from the political limelight, and he wears his pro-business, conservative leanings on his sleeves.

Although Stone is a potential wildcard in the deck, it is hard to imagine him throwing his community and constituents under the Liberty Quarry bus, so the expectation is that he will also oppose the project.

Chairman John Tavaglione appears to be the tiebreaker vote. I would not want to play poker with Tavaglione, because he's hard to read. There are no tells to know what hand he is holding. His officiating of the Liberty Quarry hearings has been extremely evenhanded. The Tavaglione scorecard is just too close to call going into the final round.

The third board of supervisors hearing on Liberty Quarry begins at 9:00 a.m. on February 14 at the Riverside County Administration Center, 4080 Lemon Street. Granite Construction will spend most of Valentine's Day "romancing the stone," and the board’s vote could come by nightfall.

The supervisors are voting on an appeal of the County Planning Commission's 4-1 denial of the Liberty Quarry project. Granite Construction was unable to convince the Planning Commission to approve the quarry, and has yet to offer the supervisors a compelling argument why that decision should be reversed. Perhaps Granite is hoping to land a Sunday punch in the final round.

Whatever decision the supervisors arrive at is likely to be contested by the losing side, and that is when lawyers will start duking it out in courtrooms. In that venue, not only will the decision be scrutinized, but also, the entire public hearing process of Liberty Quarry will be put on trial.

Supervisors face political backlash
The Press-Enterprise, Sat., Feb. 11

A political rock-and-a-hard-place scenario faces Riverside County supervisors as they decide the fate of a proposed Temecula-area quarry.

Approve Liberty Quarry, and the five supervisors will anger a wide range of opponents, including a politically active Indian tribe. Deny the open-pit mine, and they risk the wrath of business groups and union members desperate for jobs.

On both sides are voters who traveled by the busload to deliver emotional pleas for and against the project. More than 1,000 attended each hearing, with supporters wearing green and opponents wearing orange.

“These guys have a problem,” UC Riverside political science professor Shaun Bowler said. “This is what democratic politics is about, deciding who you make unhappy. It is one of the components of politics.”

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday will hold a third special hearing on quarry developer Granite Construction’s appeal of a county Planning Commission decision denying the quarry a surface mining permit and related approvals.

It’s possible, but not guaranteed, that a vote will take place. Planning commissioners needed six hearings and heard nearly 52 hours of public testimony before voting 4-1 against the quarry. So far, supervisors have spent more than 16 hours on the matter.

So far, none of the supervisors has said publicly how he’ll vote. They’ve remained silent during the first two quarry hearings in the Riverside Convention Center.

DUELING EXPERTS

At issue is a quarry sought for a 414-acre site between Temecula’s southern border and the San Diego County line. Using explosives, Granite wants to extract up to 270 million tons of aggregate — tiny rocks used in construction — from a 135-acre portion of the site over 75 years.

Granite and its backers say the quarry will support nearly 300 jobs and generate $300 million in sales tax revenue over the life of the project.

It won’t be noticed by surrounding residents as it provides a much-needed local aggregate source and improves air quality by taking diesel trucks off the road, say supporters, who include five city councils, construction unions and Inland chambers of commerce.

Critics say the quarry would increase truck traffic and air pollution. It would harm local tourism, lower property values and ruin the environment, they argue.

The Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians says the quarry would obliterate a sacred tribal site. Other opponents include the Temecula City Council and environmental groups.

Granite and Pechanga, as well as pro- and anti-quarry residents, have donated tens of thousands of dollars to all five supervisors’ campaigns. All have said the donations will not influence their quarry votes.

Granite and quarry opponents have hired professors, lawyers and technical experts who reach detailed, yet totally opposite conclusions on air quality, traffic, the quarry’s economic impact and other topics.

“I think the biggest challenge for the board is each side has employed true professionals in their fields,” said Supervisor Jeff Stone. “Which studies does the board look at?”

For Stone and Supervisor Bob Buster, the issue could prove difficult. Bowler said Stone is in a particular bind. The quarry is his district, and he is seen as a pro-business, pro-growth official.

Stone also faces re-election this year. So does Buster and he faces two well-funded opponents. Together, the two represent all of southwest Riverside County.

WEIGHT TO STONE?

Typically on land-use matters, board members defer to the supervisor who represents the area, giving a great deal of weight to Stone’s comments on the issue.

“Hopefully, the board will honor that unwritten rule, but this is a huge issue and I know the board wants to weigh in, and I look forward to their comments,” Stone said.

Stone said he has “at least an hour’s worth of questions” for those on both sides of the quarry issue.

Buster said he’s not feeling any real pressure. It’s very useful, he said, that the quarry hearings have featured expert comments from both sides. “It’s really taken the process, I think, to a whole new level,” Buster said.

Buster said he’s surprised at the “stunning silence” from San Diego County about the quarry, especially since most of the quarry’s aggregate would head south. Riverside County weighs in on projects in other counties that could affect its residents, he said.

Board Chairman John Tavaglione said the quarry is “probably the toughest decision we have faced.”

The only other issues that have come close in recent decades are the El Sobrante Landfill expansion near Corona and the proposed Eagle Mountain landfill proposed for the county’s desert in the mid 1990s.

Supervisors approved both projects despite strong opposition from environmentalists. But Eagle Mountain, which would have been the nation’s largest trash dump, was never built after a series of court defeats.

“I think this (the quarry) has had much more public concern on both sides,” Tavaglione said. “I am sensing that every board member sees the pros and cons on both sides. I know I do.”

QUARRY HEARING

What: The Riverside County Board of Supervisors will hold its third meeting on the proposed Liberty Quarry.

When: 9 a.m. Tuesday.

Where: Board chambers, County Administrative Center, 4080 Lemon St., Riverside.

Granite's plans for quarry site don't include reservoir
The Californian, Fri., Feb. 10

One of the talking points for supporters of Granite Construction's Liberty Quarry project has been the site's potential as a reservoir.

During public meetings and interviews, supporters have said the mine, once it is exhausted, could be used as a recreational lake or help stabilize the region's water situation, which is complicated by the murkiness related to the long-term availability of water from Northern California and the Colorado River.

Opponents have worked to undercut this argument. They say there's no way the site would work as a reservoir or lake because the blasting chemicals that would be used during excavation would affect water quality. Opponents also argue that the geology of the site is too porous and fragmented to support a 1,000-foot-deep body of water.

During a phone interview this week, Granite project manager Gary Johnson addressed the reservoir debate and a recent report in a San Diego publication stating that the site, if the quarry project were eventually approved, would be turned into a "lake" after the aggregate material is mined.

"It's very clear in the reclamation plan," Johnson said. "(The site is) going to be left as open space."

As the company goes down into the soil and mines the aggregate it contains, the benches left behind would be replanted with vegetation, he said.

Weighing in on the technical challenges of turning the site into a lake or a reservoir, Johnson said, "I'm not sure how it would work because we haven't looked at.

"It may make sense in the future, but it's not something we're proposing."

As for the site becoming a lake via natural circumstances ---- water collecting in the basin due to seepage or rainfall ---- Johnson said the area averages about 12 inches of rainfall a year.

"The evaporation rate is seven or eight times that," he said.

If water ends up collecting in the basin, it would only remain for a short period, Johnson said.

Fred Bartz, one of the leaders of the groups who oppose the quarry, said that based on the testimony of geologists, there's no way the site would retain water and he's not sure where it would come from if it could.

"We need reservoirs, but you have to have something to put in them," Bartz said.

There's also the issue of the chemicals that will be used during blasting of the mine.

If the project is approved and the site is eventually exhausted, Bartz said, it would not be practical to use a place filled with "dangerous chemicals" as a reservoir.

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors is in the process of ruling on an appeal of the project's denial by the county Planning Commission.

If the commission is overruled and the supervisors approve the mine, opponents have said they will file a lawsuit to block the project.

If the supervisors uphold the commission's decision, Johnson said Granite could consider filing an amended application.

Ever since the project was proposed in 2005, it has been a lightning rod for controversy in Southwest County.

Supporters claim the mine will produce high-quality jobs and spark a regional economic boom. Opponents claim the mine could end up destroying the area's tourism industry, create health issues because of added air pollution and desecrate a site sacred to the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians.

County to stay course with quarry hearing
temecula.patch.com, Thurs., Feb. 9

County officials decided today against changing the date of a hearing on the controversial Liberty Quarry plan.

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors decided to meet on Tuesday, as they previously scheduled, instead of take a trip to Washington D.C. to meet with federal officials about an unrelated subject.

"There is no need to cancel the meeting for next Tuesday," said Supervisor John Taglione during an emergency meeting today, which was answered by a round of applause at the County Administration Center.

To read about the planned quarry, click here.

Taglione and Jeff Stone, a former Temecula City Council member and the supervisor of the district where the quarry is planned, were planning to meet with federal officials from the Department of Transportation to urge them to give Riverside County money for infrastructure projects, Stone said today.

"It was very important not to squander the opportunity," he told the audience, numerous of whom wore orange anti-quarry shirts and hats.

The supervisors found another official to go to the meeting in D.C. in their place, Stone said.

The quarry plan was rejected by the County Planning Commission late last year after numerous meetings that drew hundreds of residents -- both for and against the plan -- to Rancho Community Church in Temecula.

To read about the rejection, click here.

Granite Construction, the Watsonville-based mining company planning the quarry, filed an appeal, leaving the decision in the hands of the Board of Supervisors. So far, the board held two meetings on the quarry, and at least one more is planned.

To read about the appeal hearings, click here.

He was thinking with clouded judgement when he made the plan to reschedule the quarry hearing in favor of the D.C. meeting because he feels so passionately for the infrastructure projects, he said.

"Our citizens are watching our infrastructure age and crumble before their eyes," he said. "I often lead with my heart, not with my political logic."

He then gave an apology couched to emphasis the importance of the county's infrastructure to him. "I regret my passion for this county has caused any inconvenience," he told the audience.

Taglione was also sorry for the inconvenience, because many audience members came from Temecula on short notice for what turned out to be a meeting lasting fewer than 15 minutes, he said.

"This is the process we have to go through, and it took us a little while to find a replacement (to go to D.C.)," he said to the crowd.

Some anti-quarry activists were glad the meeting will be unchanged.

"We're pretty excited about rolling it along," said Kathleen Hamilton, the head of SOS-Hills.

"I'm very happy with the result, because we get to move forward as a community," she said.

Supervisors don't postpone Tuesday's meeting
The Press-Enterprise, Thurs., Feb. 9

Tuesday’s Riverside County Board of Supervisors hearing on the proposed Liberty Quarry will be held as scheduled.

At the start of a special session late Thursday, board Chairman John Tavaglione said the hearing would not be postponed. It remains scheduled for 9 a.m. in the board’s chambers at the County Administrative Center, 4080 Lemon St., Riverside.

The announcement was greeted with light applause from about a dozen anti-quarry activists. Many of them made the trip from the Temecula area to Riverside for Thursday’s meeting.

Supervisor Jeff Stone asked for the special meeting to consider a postponement because he was to join county officials to discuss transportation needs on a Tuesday trip to Washington, D.C. Word of the special meeting came Wednesday afternoon.

Since then, Stone said Corona City Councilman Eugene Montanez agreed to go to Washington instead. Supervisor Marion Ashley also was originally scheduled to attend the trip.

Stone said the Washington trip is a rare chance for the county to talk about its transportation issues with high-ranking officials controlling federal funding.

“I felt it was very important not to squander this important opportunity,” he said. “I regret that my passion for this county caused any inconvenience or confusion for my fellow board members … or the public.”

The board has held two special hearings on the quarry, planned for a 414-acre site between Temecula and San Diego County. Supporters say the quarry would bring much-needed jobs; opponents warn it would bring environmental and economic ruin.

Tuesday’s hearing is expected to feature a rebuttal of quarry criticism by quarry developer Granite Construction. The board could vote after that on Granite’s appeal of the county Planning Commission’s denial of the project.

Board going ahead with quarry appeal hearing on Tuesday
The Californian, Thurs., Feb. 9

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors will meet Tuesday morning for the third in a series of hearings on Granite Construction's appeal of the denial of the company's Liberty Quarry project, it was decided Thursday during a special meeting.

The board had considered postponing the third hearing in case a county supervisor was interested in going to Washington, D.C., to meet with transportation officials about the need for hundreds of millions of dollars in infrastructure improvements.

County spokesman Ray Smith said Eugene Montanez, a member of the Corona City Council, will make the trip instead, allowing the full board to meet Tuesday as previously scheduled.

About 15 or 20 people politely applauded the board's decision after it was announced, he said.

Project opponents favored holding the third hearing Tuesday, in part, because they felt they had gained momentum during Monday's hearing.

Granite project manager Gary Johnson said the company also wanted the third hearing held as soon as possible, but that the Washington, D.C., trip was important as well because the region needs the federal money for infrastructure, which will require large supplies of aggregate materials.

"Everyone in Riverside County should want it," he said.

The third hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday in the County Administration Center, 4080 Lemon St. in Riverside.

The first two hearings were held in the nearby convention center, a venue that can hold around 2,000 people, and the crowd for each eclipsed 1,000.

The administration center, in contrast, can only seat around 300, which may make space a premium.

Smith said the doors will open at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday and the county would provide overflow seating if the chambers fill to capacity.

During the upcoming hearing, the county will listen to anyone who signs up to address the board who has not spoken at the previous hearings and to a rebuttal by Granite representatives.

At the second hearing, dozens of speakers blasted the proposed quarry, Granite and the county's environmental review of the project. Granite plans to defend the project and provide counter arguments to the information offered by opponents.

Granite has proposed digging a 135-acre hard-rock quarry just south of Temecula.

The company's supporters say the project will deliver high-paying jobs, help satisfy the need for aggregate in Southern California and spark a regional economic boom.

Opponents say the mine will worsen air quality in the Temecula area, desecrate land considered sacred by the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, forever mar a nearby ecological reserve, sink property values and harm the area's tourism industry.

The county Planning Commission voted 4-1 last year to deny the mine project, saying its benefits did not outweigh the environmental costs detailed in the county's review.


Opponents hit project; next meeting set
The Press-Enterprise, Mon., Feb. 6

Liberty Quarry foes launched a sometimes emotional verbal assault on the proposed open-pit mine during an all-day hearing on Monday.

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors will need at least one more meeting to decide the fate of the quarry planned for a site bordering Temecula. A third hearing was set for 9 a.m. Feb. 14 at a special supervisors’ meeting at the Riverside County Administration Center, 4080 Lemon St., Riverside.

Supervisors are considering quarry developer Granite Construction’s appeal of the county Planning Commission’s denial of the project. Granite executives will begin next week’s meeting with their rebuttal, but others who have not addressed the board could have a chance to speak. When the public hearing closes, supervisors will deliberate in public. A vote could occur after that.

Opponents took nearly all of Monday’s proceedings, which again drew more than 1,000 people and included chartered buses transporting supporters and foes. As last week, opponents wearing orange and backers clad in green filled a Riverside Convention Center auditorium.

French Valley resident Boyd Roberts vowed to fight the quarry using the courts, the state Legislature, the ballot box and “very civil disobedience.”

“Go home before you lose more money,” he told Granite executives seated nearby. “Do you think that we are stupid? You want to rape our land, pollute our air and tell us we are better off for it? It is insulting.”

Gary Johnson, Granite’s aggregate resource development manager, said he looked forward to responding next week to opponents’ criticism.

“Today’s testimony did not offer any new information that has not already been clearly refuted by scientific studies in the” environmental impact report, Johnson said in a statement. “The EIR was prepared by experts certified in their field of study and the document was fully vetted by county planning staff.”

Foes at podium

Opponents included Temecula-area real estate agent Marelle Dorsey. She told supervisors that the quarry, planned for a 414-acre site between Temecula’s southern boundary and San Diego County, would make it harder to sell homes.

“Clients do not want to purchase a home near a mega-quarry,” Dorsey said.

Robbie Adkins, who said she used to work for a real estate data firm, said the county stands to lose $1 million in property tax revenue because the quarry would depress home values.

Granite executives have argued that the project will not harm property values and have cited studies that found quarries near Corona did not de-value homes.

Granite says its project will support nearly 300 jobs in a down economy. Labor union members attended both hearings to support the quarry.

Referring to pro-quarry T-shirts with the words “Jobs Jobs Jobs” on the back, Temecula resident Ann Loree said, “They’re not putting ‘Greed Greed Greed’ on those T-shirts … or anything else that is true.”

Granite insists the quarry would improve air quality by taking diesel trucks off the road. Technology and practices in place will ensure hazardous silica dust would not escape the quarry site, the company says.

Mary Beth McLaughlin, of Temecula, said lung disease forced the removal of one of her lungs last November.

“I don’t want to move,” McLaughlin said, adding that she did not want to use a breathing mask “just to enjoy my property.”

Experts testify

Comments in the afternoon session included testimony from opposition experts and professionals such as Matt Rahn, who oversees a San Diego State University ecological reserve adjacent to the quarry site.

He criticized the 8,500-page environmental study cited by Granite’s Johnson by saying it lacked “scientific rigor and legitimacy.” Rahn said the project provides “a playbook for how to kill a mountain.”

Granite officials said they stand by the environmental report, which following standard county practice, was paid for by Granite and vetted by county officials.

Temecula City Manager Bob Johnson and city-hired experts said Granite drummed up a false aggregate crisis to justify the quarry. Aggregate tiny rocks used in construction would be the quarry’s main product.

Granite maintains new aggregate supplies are needed to support future growth. Johnson and opposition experts said Granite failed to adequately consider alternate mine sites or the possibility of extending permits for existing quarries.

Reaching depths of up to 1,020 feet, the quarry would use explosives to mine 270 million tons of aggregate over 75 years. Asphalt and concrete would be made on-site and once shut down, the quarry would become a lake.

Quarry supporters include Inland chambers of commerce and the city councils of Eastvale, Banning, Beaumont and Moreno Valley. Granite insists the quarry would generate $300 million in sales tax revenue in its lifetime while respecting the environment and operating unnoticed by surrounding communities.

Critics say the quarry would not create jobs, but take them from other quarries. Most of the aggregate would go to San Diego County and the project would damage a tourism industry worth more than $600 million annually, they contend.

They also warn the quarry would clog roads with truck traffic, dry up groundwater needed by hillside vegetation and desecrate a sacred site that the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians compares to the biblical Garden of Eden.

The tribe and Temecula City Council oppose the quarry, as does a grassroots citizens’ network, two San Diego County planning groups and environmental organizations.

The Planning Commission held six hearings and listened to nearly 52 hours of public comments before voting 4-1 last August to deny the quarry a surface mining permit and related approvals.


Opponents slam quarry project during 8-hour plus hearing
The Californian, Mon., Feb. 6

Opponents of Granite Construction's Liberty Quarry slammed the proposed mine Monday during the second in a series of hearings being held by the Riverside County Board of Supervisors.

The series, which stems from the company's appeal of the county Planning Commission's denial of the project late last year, is scheduled to continue Feb. 14 at the County Administrative Center in Riverside.

Then Granite will present its rebuttal to the criticism heaped on the project during Monday's eight-hour-plus meeting at the Riverside Convention Center.

Granite is proposing a 135-acre rock mine for land near the Temecula's southern border.

"We're here because of greed, greed, greed," said Temecula resident Ann Loree, lampooning Granite's claim that the project would bring "jobs, jobs, jobs."

According to Loree, and a host of other project opponents who addressed the board Monday, Granite is trying to line its pockets at the expense of residents' health, research conducted at a nearby reserve and the sanctity of the Pu'eska mountain that is considered holy by the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians.

"The ancestral origin landscape is comprised of a number of different places," said Lisa Woodward, a tribal archivist, adding that some of those places are on the proposed quarry site, next to the site or surrounding the site.

"All will be impacted either directly, indirectly or cumulatively by the proposed quarry. That's pretty simple," she said.

Other folks argued that the mine would sink the worth of area homes, depressing an already difficult real estate market.

"Property values would decrease," said Marelle Dorsey, a real estate agent.

She said she is joined in opposition to the project by hundreds of other area real estate professionals and the Temecula Valley Chamber of Commerce, which voted last year to oppose Granite's project.

That land also is near an ecological reserve managed by San Diego State University scientists, and near the North San Diego County community of Rainbow and land belonging to the Pechanga.

To support her claim that property values would fall, Dorsey pointed to data in a Rose Institute study commissioned by the city of Temecula.

Granite has cited competing research that said property values wouldn't be affected by the quarry, but Dorsey contended that the research didn't take into consideration the strong winds that blast into the community from the direction of the quarry.

Opponents say wind from Rainbow Gap will carry dust from the project into the city and harm the health of residents, especially seniors and young children.

Other speakers Monday criticized Granite, saying residents will do "whatever it takes" to oppose the company's project, which they called a "proposed holocaust."

"Liberty Quarry will not stand; it is not going to happen," said Boyd Roberts, a real estate professional, looking toward Granite officials in the front row of the audience. "Go home before you lose more money."

Granite officials have said that the company has invested millions to date while seeking approval for the mine, a project proposed in the middle of the last decade.

Ray Johnson, a Temecula-area environmental law attorney, told the board that Granite has turned the review of the project into a public relations campaign threatening to make a mockery of the state.

"Tell Granite to find a new location," Johnson said, saying the project makes more sense in San Diego County, where Granite has said it plans to ship about two-thirds of the material the mine would produce.

In denying the project, county planning commissioners said its benefits would not outweigh the costs associated with the environmental issues identified in the county's lengthy review.

Granite promptly appealed that decision, spurring a series of hearings that started last week in the convention center, which can seat about 2,000 people.

Many of those who spoke, especially consultants hired by the city and SDSU scientists, cited the commission's denial findings to buttress their respective cases that air quality issues and the effects of the project on wildlife, vibrations from blasting, the danger of landslides and more were under-represented in the county's environmental review.

Late in the day, a consultant with PCR Services Corp.,Heidi Rous, told the board that this alleged under-representation, when examined to determine the health effects of the quarry on Temecula-area residents, adds up to $12.8 million in annual losses from illness, death and lost work days.

The county and Granite have defended the project's environmental review, and both entities will be given a chance to answer questions posed by the board and to defend their work.

At the first hearing, supporters of the project, a group bolstered by area union members, urged the county to overturn the commission's decision and approve the quarry.

They said it will bring much-needed jobs to the area and spark a local economic boom. They also said the area desperately needs the construction aggregate material the mine would produce, an essential part of large-scale infrastructure projects such as the widening of Interstate 215.

At full production, Granite has said, the mine could produce about 5 million tons of aggregate per year and help satisfy the long-term needs of Southern California.

Many green-shirt-wearing union members attended Monday's hearing as well, arriving on union-provided buses well before the start of the meeting and eating union-provided meals.

The union members sat for hours and listened to opponents calling the mine a terrible thing that would exacerbate health issues, snarl traffic and "destroy Temecula."

Bill Smith, president of Laborers International Union-Riverside, said he was unswayed from his support of the project.

"Take a look ---- not with your heart, but with your brain," he said.

He contends that the project will pump hundreds of millions of dollars into the coffers of the state and the county, and provide high-paying union jobs in the $48- to $50-per-hour range with benefits.

About 1,800 people attended the meeting, an audience that included hundreds of the union members who had been bused into town, and folks who drove up, or rode in buses, from the Temecula area.

New Silica rules languish in regulatory black hole
NPR.org, Wed., Feb. 1

Any job that involves breaking up rock or concrete or brick can potentially expose workers to dangerous silica dust, and last year it looked like the Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration was about to put stricter controls in place to limit this health hazard.

But for almost a year, the proposed regulations have been stalled at the White House Office of Management and Budget. Worker safety advocates are growing increasingly frustrated. They say instead of having a public debate, officials are meeting behind closed doors with industry stakeholders who want to stop new rules.

Breathing tiny particles of silica, which is basically sand, can damage the lungs and cause silicosis. Sufferers can't get enough oxygen; they become weak. There's no cure.

Workers can encounter silica dust while doing all kinds of jobs, from mining to manufacturing to construction. Experts estimate that there's thousands of new silicosis cases each year, and hundreds of deaths. Silica has also been linked to other diseases like lung cancer.

"It's almost unbelievable that we have allowed something like this to go on for so long, without an effective means of controlling it," says Tee Guidotti, a physician in Washington, D.C., who specializes in occupational health.

The government does limit the amount of silica workers can be exposed to, he says, but that exposure limit dates to the 1960s. Guidotti says a safe limit would be half of what's currently allowed.

So he was pleased when, last Valentine's Day, the Department of Labor sent the OMB a new proposal for regulating silica. That office has to review the proposal before it is made public, and that review was supposed to take only 90 days.

As the one-year anniversary approaches, many safety advocates wonder what's holding things up. Records show that officials have held nine private meetings on the issue.

Guidotti went to one, which was requested by a medical group, the American Thoracic Society. He says officials didn't ask too many questions. "But you could tell from what they did ask that they were very well-briefed," Guidotti says. "So they know about this. They know it well."

Most of the other meetings were with industry groups, like the American Chemistry Council's Crystalline Silica Panel.

Jackson Morrill, who heads this coalition of companies and industry associations, says they asked officials not to lower the level that workers can be exposed to. Morrill says the current level is adequate to protect worker health and safety, and that any changes could cost billions. In his view, the real problem is employers who ignore the current rules and the answer is better enforcement.

"I think that's the way forward and if we can reach universal compliance, it's certainly our hope that that would lead to an end to the silicosis issue," Morrill says.

One member of this coalition, the National Industrial Sand Association, also opposes lowering the current exposure limit but would support some new regulations.

Mark Ellis, the head of the association, says they argued for mandatory exposure monitoring and medical surveillance at certain silica levels — the kind of measures that his industry is already doing voluntarily.

"We have been using this program since 1977 and it's proved successful in virtually eliminating silicosis from our workforce," Ellis says.

Government officials also have heard concerns from representatives from the construction industry.

Robert Matuga, with the National Association of Home Builders, says construction sites shouldn't be regulated in the same way as mines or manufacturing plants because in construction, silica exposures can change from day to day.

"One of the things about the construction industry is that the job sites are constantly changing," he says. "The tasks and activities are really variable as the project progresses."

But Scott Schneider, with the Laborers' Health and Safety Fund of North America, says there are plenty of studies showing how to control silica in common construction tasks. And he says there's a clear need to act: "You know, anyone that walks by a construction site, you can often see someone cutting concrete or cutting brick or block and huge clouds of dust coming from the saw."

Schneider attended one meeting with officials at the OMB that was requested by union groups and safety advocates so that they could express their dismay at the long delay.

Chris Trahan, with the Center for Construction Research and Training, was at that meeting as well, and she says their message was simple: Let the Department of Labor go public with its proposal and start a real debate, rather than holding discussions behind closed doors.

"It's not consistent with transparency; it's not consistent with open government," Trahan says. "What would be consistent with that would be to allow the agency just to propose it. And let the process move forward."

The National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health issued a statement in December saying it was "deeply distressed" that the proposed new regulations had been under review for so long.

"The current standard is many decades old and is insufficient to protect workers from this serious occupational health hazard," the advisory committee noted. "The silica rule delay is extraordinary and without explanation, and there is no indication as to when the review will be concluded."

Michael Silverstein, the chairman of the committee, says having the rule tied up behind closed doors is irresponsible. "Whether or not the current standard is being entirely complied with — and it's not — does not change the fact that the current standard is too weak," he says. "The acceptable baseline needs to be lowered."

Those concerns were echoed by Steven Fess, who serves as the chairman of the construction committee for the American Industrial Hygiene Association.

"American construction workers shouldn't have to rely on 35-year-old science for protection," says Fess. "The standard is out of date, and OSHA itself acknowledges that the standard is obsolete."

An OMB spokeswoman said the office doesn't comment on regulations under review, but it's not uncommon for reviews to be extended. She said the office grants meetings to all parties and individuals who request them.

A Labor Department spokesman said that OSHA was working with the White House office "to address complex issues related to the costs, benefits and economic impact analyses." This has required "extensive new analyses by OSHA" and additional review, he said, but OSHA would "continue to complete the required steps in the rule-making process as quickly as possible."

January 2012 Letters to the Editor

Quarry poses health risks
The Press-Enterprise, Fri., Jan. 27

I represent more than 160 local physicians who oppose the location of a giant, blasting pit mine upwind of hundreds of thousands of our patients (“Doors open at 7:30 a.m. for quarry hearing,” Jan. 23).

The Riverside County Planning Commission concluded that there will be unavoidable health impacts if Liberty Quarry is approved. After listening to expert testimony, including concerns from the American Lung Association, the commissioners denied the project.

It would be outrageous for the county supervisors to ignore this testimony and overturn the ruling. Please attend the hearing on Monday at the Riverside Convention Center and wear orange if you oppose the project.

Daniel Robbins, Temecula

Mining full of negatives
The Press-Enterprise, Fri., Jan. 27

Liberty Quarry isn’t about right versus left, or conservatives versus liberals; it is simply about right versus wrong (“Doors open at 7:30a.m. for quarry hearing,” Jan.23).

Establishing a blasting quarry and an asphalt plant in a rare, pristine environment would sound like a bad idea to most people. If you told them that this would also desecrate sacred tribal lands and might cause health problems, they would probably think it is a really bad idea. If you then shared that this also happens to be in the middle of a wind channel that feeds a beautiful valley with fresh ocean air, an objective person might start to question why anyone would do such a thing.

Now if you told them that it will compromise a wildlife preserve, they might start to get angry about it. If you also reveal that the area will become a major trucking hub and visitors will come to know our city as the place with the stench of bubbling asphalt and diesel fumes, the average person might think that we have lost our minds.

I trust that the proponents of this project believe in their hearts that it has its virtues, but the potential gains could never offset the potential losses to the Temecula Valley.

Dan Brunell, Temecula

This giant must not win
The Press-Enterprise, Fri., Jan. 27

Granite Construction, sponsor of the proposed Liberty Quarry (“Doors open at 7:30 a.m. for quarry hearing,” Jan. 23), is a giant with far more in resources than residents in southwest Riverside County.

But Granite must not be permitted to disregard local communities’ interests and the well-being of thousands of families in Riverside County merely for the sake of its profit motivation.

The proposed Liberty Quarry should be rejected.

Jackie Lopez, Temecula

Not just Temecula's fight
The Press Enterprise, Fri., Jan. 27

Real liberty is having local control over a local project (“Doors open at 7:30 a.m. for quarry hearing,” Jan. 23).

The Riverside County Planning Commission voted 4-1 to deny Liberty Quarry’s project, based on facts and years of experience making land-use decisions.

The Board of Supervisors’ hearings Monday and Feb. 6 at the Riverside Convention Center are important for all communities that might have an unpopular project imposed immediately outside their city’s border. If it’s OK today that Temecula gets stuck with a quarry, don’t complain tomorrow should the county approve an organic fertilizer processing plant just outside and upwind of your community.

Wine Country is a vacation destination of Riverside County. The I-15 gateway to Riverside County should not be turned into Mine Country.

Don’t let Granite Construction turn this place into the pits.

Paul Jacobs, Temecula

Grant us from Liberty Quarry
The Californian, Fri., Jan. 27

The quarry issue is heating up again with the supervisor meetings, the first of which is set for Monday in Riverside. After the truth came out last summer during lengthy and painful commission hearings, we residents are confident that the rhetoric repeated by Granite Construction to buy their way in will be correctly interpreted as fiction by our county supervisors. Falsehood can only go so far, limiting those who speak it.

Anyone who attended even a single hearing last year can plainly see that a mountain of truths reveals the damage this quarry would do to our pristine area. It would devastate our health, our economy (real estate, business, jobs), our environment, including wildlife, the morale of our residents and many other things we value.

The false information has been blatantly twisted and exaggerated by Granite. Our experts proved them wrong on every point, including the number of jobs our residents would get, the number and path of truck trips, the extensive damage and noise, health concerns and the revenues it would generate for our area.

All of the proof is on our side. The commissioners saw it. We don't want a quarry, and we are not going to give in.

Jan Tucker, Temecula


Quarry: juice not worth the 'squeeze'
The Californian, Fri., Jan. 27

I support jobs where they make sense. Therefore, I stand solidly against Liberty Quarry.

The Riverside County Planning Commission already voted overwhelmingly to deny this project. They cited numerous negative impacts. Air quality is one concern already addressed by hundreds of medical professionals in the area.

Economically, the negative impact on our tourism and agricultural industries simply cannot be overlooked. Perhaps that's why the Temecula Valley Chamber of Commerce (typically pro-business) also opposes the project. Also important, how many current and potential businesses will locate elsewhere each year rather than risk exposure to the negative impacts of this project? Multiply that number by 75 years, and you'll see that Granite's own jobs claims are a mere drop in the bucket. Also, how many of those would simply be transfers from other less profitable mines?

I recently read that a local auto dealership employs 150. Should we risk our entire community's long-term physical and economic health on what amounts to less than two-thirds of a single car dealership?

Having held national marketing positions for years, I know "spin" and "PR" when I see it. Simply put: Regarding Liberty Quarry, the juice is not worth the "squeeze."

Pete Friederich, Temecula

Support jobs: Say no to Liberty Quarry
The Californian, Fri., Jan. 27

If you want to really support jobs, then you have say no to Liberty Quarry. The quarry will not create jobs, but rather take jobs away from other quarries in Riverside County. This is not job creation, but rather job relocation.

The problem also is that Liberty Quarry will actually cause job losses. Losses to numerous truck drivers employed at other quarries, which Liberty Quarry won't need. Losses to tourism in the Temecula Valley, which, according to the Temecula Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau, employs more than 6,000 people. In addition, high-tech firms looking to locate in a community first look to the area's quality of life. Without a good quality of life, you cannot attract companies and the talent needed to compete.

The proposed Wine Country expansion is planned to triple the number of wineries in the Temecula Valley. County officials already have said there are companies eager to purchase and develop land in Temecula's Wine Country. If each new winery added just 15 to 20 jobs, this would create more than 1,000 new jobs in the area and still preserve the quality of life.

Why would anyone want to risk ever-increasing tourism jobs for just 99 quarry jobs?

Fred Bartz, Temecula

What is gained by quarry?
The Californian, Fri., Jan. 27

Regarding the placement of a gravel pit on the Riverside/San Diego County border: We live in an area of variable winds and air that is loaded with fine particulates and allergens. Granite Construction intends to make two explosions a day and then grind up the resulting rocks into gravel.

Only the lucky people who live in established homes nearby the site will hear and feel the explosions. The entire region will get the resulting increase in fine particulates on the daily variable winds. What we have is a few jobs, as opposed to the air breathed by thousands of people living in the region.

Other than as a political football, the positive results that might enrich a few people in local government, what, really, is to be gained by blowing up and grinding up local soil and rock?

Patricia Giglioli, Murrieta

Reject proposed Liberty Quarry
The californian, Thurs., Jan. 26

Granite Construction Company's Liberty Quarry, a proposed massive open pit mine at the southwest entrance to Riverside County, should be rejected by the county supervisors.

As presented in the Environmental Impact Report, the unmitigated negative effects of the project far outweigh its benefits. The vast majority of the local residents do not want the increased pollution and traffic congestion that the open pit mine will create. It is unconscionable that Granite Construction would disrespect and discount the interests of the region's residents and at any cost sacrifice, abuse and degrade Southwest Riverside County for its own profit motives.

The company, under the disguise of creating jobs (the EIR does not mention "jobs loss" or jobs that will not materialize because of the mine) and "clean air" (despite that, the EIR states the pollution cannot be mitigated), is only truly interested in making profit at any cost over the well-being of the residents of Riverside County and the long-term future of the county.

Armondo Lopez, Temecula

This is not what Temecula should be
The Californian, Thurs., Jan. 26

I would like to respond to David Thompson and Christy Haldeman ("Jobs available with Liberty Quarry" and "Need for quarry is overwhelming," Jan. 24). As a heavy-equipment owner/operator, I have worked next to the Vulcan quarry and American Asphalt plant off Interstate 15 and 91 in Corona from June until December 2010.

I have inhaled, through my mask, the fine particles of dust that covered our crew daily. I have coughed up nasty phlegm that was full of the dust particles. My lungs ached from the extra labor to breathe. I had globs of dust in the corners of my eyes. I don't want to mention what I blew from my nose.

My opinion of the area around the I-15 and 91 freeways is that it is a disgusting dust bowl. The area has a layer of dust all over it. I have lived in Temecula for 24 years and I don't think this is what Temecula should be.

As a person who has been in the construction industry for 38 years, I do not support the Liberty Quarry.

Robert Anderson, Temecula

Quarry Won't create jobs
The Californian, Thurs., Jan. 26

It says a lot about Liberty Quarry's mindset that it has been overwhelmingly voted down, and Granite Construction continues to jam it down our throats. It is amazing that people continue to say it will create jobs. I say, what created jobs is the Loma Linda hospital that opened up and the new one in Temecula that will create even more jobs. Real jobs that employed many people in need.

The quarry? They already have their limited number of employees and won't hire any more if they were to open. The bottom line is this: The majority of intelligent people don't want Liberty Quarry here. It's just not going to happen.

Jeff Miller, Murrieta

We are not paid to be there
The Californian, Thurs., Jan. 26

Does the color green stand for "money" or "green with envy"? How interesting that, over the past years, whatever the quarry opponents do, Granite follows suit. Now, with bright yellow signs opposing Liberty Quarry appearing around town, here come the drab green signs from Granite. Now, while it is true that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, they just may have gone a step too far this time.

Last Sunday, after being "tipped off," I drove to some of the areas where I had placed signs (in opposition) Saturday afternoon. Where my signs previously stood, they had been removed and a Granite sign stood in its place. Now, I have to admit, my first reaction was to remove it, but that would have been childish and spiteful. Consequently, I simply put another yellow sign beside the drab green Granite sign.

The people already know the truth. When you put on your orange to attend the final supervisors' hearings about Liberty Quarry on Monday and Feb. 6, just remember, none of the people there in orange are paid to be there.

Go to www.nogravelquarry.com for more information.

Jerri Arganda, Rainbow

Residents oppose mining
The Press-Enterprise, Wed., Jan. 25

I don’t know where letter writer Rick Kellogg gets the idea that “more and more people” are coming out in support of Liberty Quarry (“Cut the truck traffic,” Your Views, Jan. 19). The Temecula Valley Chamber of Commerce voiced its opposition, the Temecula City Council is against it, more than 100 doctors in the Temecula Valley are against it, and the Pechanga band is against it.

Kellogg should attend the Board of Supervisors hearing on Jan. 30 and hear the true voice of the people. We don’t want a quarry in or near Temecula. The reasons are myriad, not the least of which is that air quality will be corrupted.

Mary Jean Gordon, Temecula


No Liberty Quarry
The Californian, Wed., Jan. 25

After reading letters from the same old supporters who would have you believe that Liberty Quarry would be the second coming of the Garden of Eden, here is my take: Would you rather have honey bees flying through your backyard to get to their hives, or would you rather have the hives on your back porch?

Bud Ogletree, Temecula

Reject quarry proposal
The Press-Enterprise, Sun., Jan. 22

John Husing, who lives in Redlands and whose company prepared the economic analysis portion of the Environmental Impact Report for the Liberty Quarry project, is obviously biased toward having the quarry approved (“Quarry rejection is bad news for all,” Perspective, Jan. 15).

If the quarry were in his “backyard,” would he still want to see it approved?

This is an issue affecting every person living in the area of the quarry, and everyone outside the north San Diego, Temecula and Murrieta area needs to butt out, especially those who have an interest in seeing this project approved.

Thank goodness for the Riverside County Planning Commission’s common sense in turning down this horrific project.

We hope the Riverside County Board of Supervisors exhibits the same common sense in siding with the majority of residents.

Richard Berbiar, Murrieta

Battle of Liberty Quarry almost over
The Californian, Sun., Jan. 22

After six absurdly long years, the battle of Liberty Quarry should end in the next several weeks (two years longer than American participation in World War II). But if you think that this six-year period was long, imagine what 75 years of having Liberty Quarry in our backyard would be like.

If you'd like to close out that possibility, it's extremely important to get up to the Supervisors' hearing on Monday, Jan. 30, at the Convention Center in downtown Riverside. After the Planning Commissioners' 4-1 denial of the project last year, Liberty Quarry is on the ropes. A mammoth turnout of our orange shirts on the 30th would be the coup de grace needed to end this struggle. Our city leaders, the Pechangans, the ecological reserve and their experts, along our our intelligent citizenry, will further demolish the deceptions of the environmental impact report.

Please, good citizens, get on the buses that will be leaving Reagan Sports Park that morning at 7:45 a.m. sharp. Save Our Southwest Hills needs to know how many buses to provide. Call 951-587-0476 to make your reservations for this epic ride to protect our future vision for this extraordinary city.

Ken Johnson, Temecula


Who thought the Liberty Quarry was dead?
The Californian, Sat., Jan. 21

you ever experienced long-term pain, with no cure? Pain you've lived with so many years, it becomes the norm? So you try trial drug tests. The test drug makes you feel great, normal again. You rejoice, you get lost in your newfound youth and vitality, you dance the night away, forgetting there are no guarantees. You need to believe it's over. Then the pain creeps back in.

Think of the Planning Commission hearings as a test drug. It may or may not take hold. Don't get overly excited in believing it's all over. So don't put on your dancing shoes yet. Life's funny that way, and I personally think God sometimes has an ironic sense of humor.

The Liberty Quarry is not over yet. The last and final test drug is the public hearing that starts at 9 a.m. Jan. 30 at the Riverside Convention Center. Help finally bury Liberty Quarry and let's get back to our lives. Charter buses are available for half-day field trips. The buses return at 1 p.m. For info, call 951-587-0476. Mark your calendars.

This is a great experience for teens to see how a community works together and how our government makes decisions. This stuff is not learned in textbooks or computer games. Also, Liberty Quarry's kryptonite is the color orange.

Mike Jurkosky, Temecula

Pro-quarry arguments are misleading
The Californian, Thurs., Jan. 19

The Jan. 15 Community Forum by Jackie Raspler, "Quarry concerns not part of San Antonio experience," was misleading. Ms. Raspler's main point was that a 1907 quarry in Alamo Heights, Texas, "did not have negative effects on the real estate values" of homes that were built later.

As a longtime Realtor, I know that you can't prove that a quarry did not and will not cause a lowering of real estate prices unless you can compare records of home values before a quarry and after a quarry. The Claremont McKenna Rose Institute indicated in its economic study that Liberty Quarry would reduce the value of real estate.

Raspler's comment that Liberty Quarry is a job creator is refuted by the Rose Institute study, which proved there would be a net loss in jobs. The Temecula Valley Chamber of Commerce, a business group, opposed Granite Construction's project "in the best interest of the community at large." Granite is one of their more than 1,000 members.

Raspler stated that Liberty Quarry will provide environmental benefits. The American Lung Association and more than 160 physicians disagree.

The supervisors' hearing is on Jan. 30. Stand up and wear orange. For free bus information, call 951-587-0476.NoGravelQuarry.com.

Marelle Dorsey, Temecula

Mining Site all wrong
The Press-Enterprise, Wed., Jan. 18

When self-appointed expert John Husing, who lives in Redlands, tries to tell me what is best for Temecula it is a real source of irritation (“Quarry rejection is bad news for all,” Perspective, Jan. 15). There is a prevailing wind from the southwest nearly every day that would carry silicone dust right through Temecula. There is no way that granite dust could be mitigated entirely. That’s bad news for those living downwind — all of Temecula — from the proposed quarry.

There are acres of uninhabited land that is very rocky in San Diego County, where most of the rock is supposed to be used. Put the quarry there.

Homer Corrodi, Temecula

Let expert live near quarry
The Press-Enterprise, Wed., Jan. 18

So John Husing wants to point a finger at Temecula residents (“Quarry rejection is bad news for all,” Perspective, Jan. 15): “They want people living elsewhere to have the aggregate mined in their midst,” rather than accepting our responsibility for helping with Riverside County’s economy.

But he lives in Redlands. I wonder how much his opinion would change if they discovered aggregate in his backyard?

Husing says the quarry in Corona did not upset the quality of life there. There is a world of difference between Corona and Temecula. I don’t get why quarry proponents don’t understand how the people who live here feel about the area. The Temecula/Fallbrook/Murrieta area is one of the last remaining unspoiled areas of Southern California. We’re already painfully aware that there isn’t enough industry here so we can work close to where we live. We don’t care.

We’re supposed to sacrifice for the greater good? Mr. Husing, let’s get you a little house about two blocks from the quarry.

Rick Simpson, Murrieta

January 2012 Opinions/Forums

It's back to orange in Riverside
The Californian, Sun., Jan. 29
Phil Strickland

So Monday we get to spend the day with friends and acquaintances in Riverside and maybe even buy an orange.

They once had a lot of them there, says a friend quite intimate with the industry.

But that was then and this is now. And now we're going to Riverside ---- wearing orange ---- to see if the county Board of Supervisors will allow the region's grape/wine/tourism dollars, now thriving and gaining recognition. to survive the "progress" promised by Granite Construction.

We're going to see if the much-promoted Liberty Quarry project, which has been denied by the county planning board, will be allowed to defile land sacred to those who came before us and to see if the lungs of hundreds of thousands, young and old, worker and homemaker, will be put at risk for the next 50 to 75 years. We're going to see if thousands of tourists (as long as they last what with all the truck traffic and the attendant rocks, pebbles and dust) will be willing to deal with the "progress," which Granite swears by all that is right and good (i.e. profit for them) will be manna-like for us bohunks.

In denying Granite's permit request, the planners held exhaustive hearings that included all of the aforementioned topics as well as water contamination. Basically killing the mountain by draining it dry and almost certainly affecting the earth beneath us, and perhaps the increasingly active Lake Elsinore Fault.

Oh yeah, add the effects those heavy, diesel, rumbling haulers, high-intensity lights and concrete and asphalt production plants will have on the only Southern California wildlife link between the Pacific Coast and our inland at the contiguous internationally recognized Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve.

As with the planners, it ought to be a slam dunk "No," but Riverside County is a miner's paradise.

Monday is the first of two supervisor meetings and just as the commission overruled its staff and denied the permit, the supervisors, even given the project's proven grossly overwhelming downside, can overrule the commission and approve it.

The supervisors aren't particularly worried about their political careers. Knowingly or not, they'll recite the same nonsense, some call them "lies" ---- as proven by Granite's disgraced environmental impact report, the traffic portion of which was rejected out-of-hand by the planning staff ---- they've been almost force-fed by Granite.

"And besides, it's Temecula. They don't vote for you."

Thus the real question for the supervisors becomes can they survive ruining a substantial and growing (even in an adverse economy) revenue source and not getting the promised truck-traffic reductions and other "benefits" for their districts? Which they won't.

Politicians don't like ruining strong tax bases. Ever.

A rising tide lifts all boats, yes?

Approving Liberty Quarry will backfire like a blunderbuss blowing up in a cartoon pirate's face ---- with far more disastrous consequences.

Educators want to keep hills pristine
The Californian, Thurs., Jan. 26
Marilee Ragland

This is in response to Adele Harrison's Dec. 6 forum, "Quarry looks like pension solution," which was so adeptly refuted by Marelle Dorsey's Dec. 22 forum, "Pension fund doesn't need quarry."

I want to add an educator's view of why we need to preserve this special land chosen as the site for Liberty Quarry from becoming a mammoth pit mine that would forever alter the landscape, natural resources and habitat.

As a retired teacher with 35 years of teaching experience, I was required to teach local history. This included visiting historical sites and learning about indigenous peoples and their cultures.

The site proposed for Liberty Quarry would obliterate much of the land held sacred to the local Indians and revered as the place of their creation. We owe these Native Americans the preservation of their sacred site, and we need to teach about it with honor and respect.

Also, the school curriculum includes the study of nature, wildlife, natural resources and ecology. This proposed site for Liberty Quarry would cut right into the last remaining wildlife corridor between the Santa Ana and Palomar Mountains. The mining and other industrial activities ---- such as blasting and crushing granite, loading 700 trucks each day and the manufacture of asphalt and cement ---- would cause great havoc for wildlife in the area. The end result would be the extinction of cougars, who are the top predators of this region and secure the wildlife balance.

Our consideration of the wildlife and their needs make this proposed site off-limits. There are other places where aggregate can be mined, including Granite Construction's mine at Rosemary's Mountain, three miles to the south.

San Diego State University owns and operates the large Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve adjacent to the proposed mine site. For many decades, this reserve has acted as an outdoor laboratory for research regarding the flora and fauna, air quality, wildfires, water purity, earthquakes and other natural phenomena of the area. The ramifications of mining activities would no doubt negatively affect the results of their research.

A fourth item of concern is the Santa Margarita River, the last free-flowing river in southern California. Its water is used as a standard for water purity and is a water source for Camp Pendleton. This river flows right below the mine site and would very likely be contaminated by runoff from the mining operations.

Because of these aforementioned reasons, many teachers find this proposed mine to be the wrong project in the wrong location. As educators, we want to preserve this special land which is sacred to the Indians, a wildlife connection, a home for important research and a source of pure California water.

We trust the Riverside County Supervisors will agree with us.

Respectfully submitted by Marilee Ragland and supported by these educators: Maria Wolownick, Marj Freda, Barbara Gordon, Jean Dooley, Barbara Ajello, Karen and Larry Baker, Iris Bourque, Ronne Branson, Joyce Brittain, Karen Jenkins, Phee Sherline, Sally Whitlock and many more.

Marilee Ragland is a Rainbow resident.


Reject propaganda that extols quarry plan
The Press-Enterprise, Sun., Jan. 22
City of Temecula Mayor Chuck Washington

Permit me to voice my appreciation to the Riverside County Planning Commission. Granite’s consultant, John Husing, in his recent opinion piece (“Quarry rejection is bad news for all,” Jan. 15), criticized the Planning Commission and then recycled misleading economic statements.

Years of public relations propaganda and pressure by Granite Construction have attempted to bulldoze the truth and sway public opinion about the horrendous impacts of the massive mine proposed for Southwest Riverside County. I am humbled by the Planning Commission’s careful review of facts and its vote to deny Liberty Quarry based upon the significant negative impacts it will impose upon our region and its residents.

An unfortunate pattern demonstrated repeatedly throughout this process is the misleading information promoted in the marketing, economic, and environmental documents crafted by Granite Construction consultants, including Husing.

Husing’s commentary offers more of the same, again cleverly worded to disguise the truth. For example, the $149.6 million previously referred to as a “regional benefit” to Riverside County is now instead referred to as “economic energy.” Why? More honestly, it should be referred to as “annual profits for Granite Construction shareholders.” This is of no economic benefit whatsoever to Riverside County.

The truth is, Liberty Quarry will not generate new demand for gravel, or new jobs for the region, or new revenue for Riverside County. In fact, Husing told the Planning Commission, “Whether or not you have this facility, demand is demand. All that will change is where the material comes from.” Thus, any claimed “regional economic benefits” to Riverside County would be generated by taking jobs and revenue away from other Riverside County quarries.

Across the range of concerns (traffic congestion, air quality, public health, property value decline), the negative impacts of Liberty Quarry are significant and too numerous to list here. But they pose serious social, environmental and economic risk to Riverside County and its residents.

Granite’s own EIR confirms that Liberty Quarry would double our air pollution and would have immitigable negative impacts on all I-15 freeway offramps leading to Wine Country. Hand-in-hand, the county, Southwest cities, business owners, wineries, and residents have worked hard to build an industry in tourism and a reputation of excellence that attracts tourists and creates local jobs and provides a revenue stream to hotels.

Temecula Valley’s tourism revenue is more than a half-billion dollars annually, a four-fold increase over the past decade. But, with Liberty Quarry, these visitors would first be greeted at the county’s southern gateway by a convoy of 1,600 aggregate truck trips each day. These trucks would enter and exit the I-15 via a four-lane mining road that would be blasted into the beautiful boulder-covered hillside at Temecula’s southern border. It’s understandable that Temecula Valley Chamber of Commerce and Temecula Valley Convention & Visitors Bureau both oppose the Liberty project. They want to foster our county’s continued economic growth, not sacrifice its future to supply San Diego with gravel and Granite shareholders with massive profits at the expense of our economic environment.

The Planning Commission should be commended, and not criticized, for its ability to filter the information provided and discern fact from propaganda and it is my hope the Board of Supervisors will agree with the Planning Commission.

Chuck Washington is the mayor of Temecula.

Liberty quarry not like san antonio quarries
The Californian, Sat., Jan. 21
Linda Bartz

Jackie Raspler's recent forum speaks about personal experience and lack of concerns with quarries in the San Antonio area, and tries to make a comparison to the proposed Liberty Quarry. However, these two totally different quarry situations cannot be compared. The following is based on a telephone interview with officials at San Antonio Cement Products:

• The quarry first referenced by Raspler began in 1907. At that time, the quarry was far away from the city of San Antonio, whereas here, the city of Temecula is well-established. If the proposed Liberty Quarry were approved, it would be directly on the border of Temecula's city limits.

• In San Antonio, homes were built near an existing quarry, and it was the buyer's choice to purchase a home there. Temecula's existing homeowners don't have the same choice if Granite Construction operates Liberty Quarry for the next 75 years in a well-established community.

• There is no 4,500-plus-acre ecological reserve on the border of a San Antonio quarry. Here, Liberty Quarry would be on the border of the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve. This year, our ecological reserve will celebrate its 50th anniversary.

• San Antonio residents and drivers don't have to contend with Liberty Quarry's 1,600 truck-trips per day, which, based on Granite's planned six-day work week, would be more than 480,000 truck-trips annually.

• The San Antonio quarries are known as digging quarries. Liberty Quarry would be a blasting quarry, blasting hard rock up to six times per week.

• Quarries in San Antonio are not known to be in close proximity to an earthquake fault line. The Elsinore fault line is only approximately two miles away from Liberty Quarry's site.

• San Antonio quarries aren't next to a river like the Santa Margarita River, the last free-flowing river in Southern California, which is also the drinking water source for the Marines and family members at Camp Pendleton.

• Granite's Liberty Quarry is proposed to be approximately one mile long, one-half mile wide and more than 1,000 feet deep. This is a mega-quarry, and San Antonio quarries pale by comparison.

• San Antonio quarries aren't located next to a habitat area, or in a "Special Linkage Area," as Liberty Quarry would be.

• Since the quarries in San Antonio were established more than 100 years ago, their employment levels do not affect quarry competitors. Liberty Quarry, however, would be taking work away from other established quarries in northern Riverside County, thus putting some competitor quarry workers out of work.

• If you believe Granite Construction's assertion that Liberty Quarry will reduce 16.5 million truck miles a year, then Liberty Quarry will actually put hundreds of truck drivers out of work. This would make Liberty Quarry a major job-killer and not a "job creator."

You cannot compare the quarries referenced by Jackie Raspler to the proposed mega-quarry called Liberty Quarry.

The final hearings for Liberty Quarry are starting in less than two weeks. The proposed Liberty Quarry is simply the wrong project in the wrong location.

Go to www.nogravelquarry.com for more information.

LINDA BARTZ is a Temecula resident.


Citizen Action alert
temecula.patch.com, Fri., Jan. 20
Paul Jacobs

 

This is a call to arms, and legs—and especially—butts. Your presence is needed for a show of force in the battle royal over Liberty Quarry. On the Mondays of Jan. 30 and Feb. 6, marathon hearings have been scheduled by the Riverside County Board of Supervisors from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Riverside Convention Center located at 3443 Orange Street in Riverside.

The County Board of Supervisors has the power—and possibly the inclination—to overturn the County Planning Commission’s 4-1 vote denying Granite Construction’s application to situate a blasting rock quarry upwind of a populated city and next to an established ecological reserve.

If approved, the quarry would disrupt a rare and active wildlife corridor, damage the unique hydrology of the surrounding mountains and disrespect the birthplace of the Pechanga people. The health of the Santa Margarita River would also be jeopardized by a nearby quarry operation. Liberty Quarry could only be more offensive to people, place, animals, plants and faith if it were proposed for the Garden of Eden.

If anybody thought the quarry matter was resolved, think again, and then get your butt on the bus.

The battle colors have been chosen. Quarry opponents will be wearing orange, the color of warning and danger. Be part of the sea of orange at the convention center. Show the supervisors the sincerity of the citizenry in this showdown. Public comments can be made by voice, in writing, or by your silent presence at the hearing. Be there.

Visit http://www.sos-hills.org/ for information on buses providing the free 40-mile ride to the convention center. The buses will return to Temecula at 1 p.m. because the time and distance of the lengthy hearings will be a hardship for many residents of the Temecula Valley to attend. Carpool arrangements can be made for those hearty enough to sit through the entire hearing.

Liberty Quarry proponents have chosen greedy green, the color of money, as their battle flag. This is appropriate considering the millions of dollars Granite Construction has spent in advertising, consultants and currying political favor up and down the state for this one project. The company stands to gain millions more raping a pristine piece of property.

Granite Construction has the big bucks and influence to fill meeting chambers with union members and the numerous subcontractors they do business with. At a 2009 County LAFCO hearing, Granite provided hot box lunches to their supporters and crowded citizens in favor of city annexation out of the hearing.

Nobody will be crowded out at the convention center so let’s turn the place orange.

The ordinary citizens of Save Our Southwest-Hills don’t have deep corporate coffers to buy influence. That is why the participation of we, the people is vitally important at these two hearings.

It took the extraordinary effort of many, many people to score a win for local control in the victory of the planning commission’s denial of Liberty Quarry. It was a sea of orange that helped carry the day.

This Board of Supervisors hearing is the Super Bowl of the Liberty Quarry decision. Citizens have the lead going into the fourth quarter, but Granite Construction has the ball and is threatening to score. We need an overwhelming orange defense.

The best way to keep the County from throwing Temecula, De Luz, Rainbow, Fallbrook, the Pechanga tribe and the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve under the bus is to get on the bus to the Jan. 30 and Feb. 6 Board of Supervisor’s hearings at the Riverside Convention Center. Make one or both trips, but for every seat filled on the bus, the supervisors are more likely to side with us.

Riverside a Temecula "destination"
The Californian, Sun., Jan. 15
Phil Strickland

Yippee.

Time for my editor's favorite subject: Liberty Quarry.

At one point ---- you don't need the gory details ---- let's just say he appeared to be considering a felonious act of one sort of another involving concrete and shoes if the word "pebble" so much as appeared in my scribblings.

Guess what? It's back.

Not to worry, Chief; Granite Construction's appeal of their permit denial to the Riverside Board of Supervisors hearings shouldn't be the marathon the county planners graciously allowed.

Temecula and its citizens have been bugging the supervisors to hold at least one of the meetings at the Rancho Community Church, where the planning commission practically set up camp.

The supervisors have resisted. They hold their meetings in the county seat, Riverside, and that's that.

They are scheduled from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Jan. 30 and Feb. 6.

One hopes they're not laboring under the assumption that distance will deter opponents from showing up.

Distance will be a hindrance to some, and perhaps they won't be able to stay as long, but they'll be there. In spades. Or rather, Orange.

Sounds quick enough ---- two days ---- but the legal battle that surely will follow (or even a "reapplication"), now that's quite another matter.

In either event, it'll be a far corner around which we'll find the final answer.

At this point, Granite Construction understandably is concentrating on the Board of Supervisors and its appeal of the Planning Commission's denial of a permit for the onerous and destructive proposal to blast gravel and crush and transport it, not to mention the attendant concrete (ugh) and asphalt (double, no, triple ugh) production plants on the 400 acres for 50, or likely more, years and haul all the crushed rock, asphalt and concrete out of there for the same length of time to the tune of 1,600 trips a day.

For the arithmetically impaired, that's 800 in every day and 800 out every day for 20 or more hours daily. For 50 or more years.

That's a groaning, growling truck in or out every 45 seconds or so ---- gotta allow for breakdowns ---- 20 hours a day, for 50 years.

Dat's a lotta trucks, buddypal.

In one of Southern California's growing "destinations."

Will the supers vote for clean dollars and green growth, or just pocket the green and call it a day, all the while promoting the decimation of a booming agriculture and tourism industry including, but in no way limited to, the wineries and antique shops and hot-air balloon rides?

Oh yeah, let's not forget the desecration of land sacred to the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians or filling our lungs with silica or aggravating the structure of that which lies beneath us with persistent blasting or the impact on our water.

It's all good. Right?


The 18th Annual Hunny Awards
The Californian, Sat., Jan. 7
John Hunneman

Good Sunday morning to you. We're off to The Mill for breakfast this morning.

It was an excited, if slightly chilly, crowd that gathered Friday night outside the Temecula Civic Center in Old Town for the presentation of the 18th annual Hunny Awards.

The Hunnies, the region's most prestigious honors, are presented to those judged to have distinguished themselves, for better or worse, in the preceding 12 months.

This year, organizers made use of the skating rink in Old Town and offered a production they called "Hunnies on Ice." The performance drew a mixed response from the audience, some who apparently felt misled and were expecting a more "Vegas type" of entertainment.

The first award of the evening, the "Hit 'Em Where They Ain't, Hunny," was presented to Temecula Chaparral High grad and World Series hero Allen Craig who hit three home runs, had five RBIs and came up with several clutch hits in leading the St. Louis Cardinals to victory in the 2011 Fall Classic.

The "We Are The Champions, Hunny" was awarded to our local nine, the Lake Elsinore Storm, who in 2011 captured their third California League Championship in franchise history.

The "Where Have You Been, Hunny" was given to the Temecula Valley Chamber of Commerce board of directors. City-backed studies showed the proposed Liberty Quarry would damage the environment and harm Temecula's tourism industry, which employs thousands. However, it took until December ---- after the Riverside County Planning Commission had already denied the project ---- for the chamber to take a position opposing the quarry.

The "Like A Good Neighbor, Hunny" was awarded to Murrieta resident John Sennett, his son and two other neighbors on Milkwood Lane. In December, when they heard a desperate mother calling in the middle of the night that someone was stabbing her daughter, the neighbors rushed into her home and helped chase off a punk who had already killed the young woman and was beating up her father. The action of those heroic neighbors may well have prevented an already horrific tragedy from being much worse.

Former Temecula City Manager Shawn Nelson was the recipient of the "Thanks For Everything, Hunny." Nelson retired on Dec. 31 after 21 years with the city, the last 12 as Temecula's top administrator. His positive impact on the city will last for years to come.

Finally the "You're The Citizens Of The Year, Hunny" was presented collectively to the thousands of area residents who wore their orange T-shirts and hats to the numerous Planning Commission meetings on the Liberty Quarry in 2011. There, they let Riverside County planners know Southwest County would not roll over in the face of the slick public relations campaign and dubious environmental studies foisted on them by Granite Construction.

January 2011 News Articles

Battle intensifies over proposed Temecula rock quarry
The Los Angeles Times, Tues., Jan. 31

Conservative politicians rail against corporate arrogance and environmental devastation, while union workers push the project as a job creator. The issue is heading toward a vote before Riverside County supervisors.

A giant rock quarry proposed in the hills above Temecula had politicians from one of the most conservative corners of the Inland Empire railing Monday against corporate arrogance and environmental devastation, while union workers pushed the project as a job creator.

The political twists are intensifying as the five-year-long controversy over the Liberty Quarry barrels toward a vote before the Riverside County Board of Supervisors, which on Monday held the first of two days of public hearings in a packed convention center ballroom.

Hundreds of union members clad in green T-shirts were bused from across Southern California to rally and testify in favor of the quarry, touting the 99 high-paying jobs that the rock mine would bring to the recession-battered Inland Empire.

Temecula Mayor Chuck Washington countered that blasting and dust from the mine would poison the Temecula Valley's air and devastate the region's wineries and tourist-dependent economy, increasing unemployment.

"It's not a partisan issue. It's not about being Republican or Democrat,'' Washington said. "It's about protecting the good jobs we already have ... and preserving quality of life. It's that simple.''

Washington said a yet-to-be-released health study sponsored by the city will show that the quarry would lead to 146 additional deaths in the Temecula Valley, many respiratory-related: "It's tantamount to being a friend of cancer,'' he said.

Gary Johnson of Granite Construction, the Watsonville-based firm proposing the quarry, called Washington's allegations ludicrous.

The Southern California Air Quality Management District determined that the rock mine would reduce highway truck traffic, ultimately improving regional air quality, he said, adding that all studies have concluded that the mine will not endanger the health of residents in surrounding communities.

"This is the right project, in the right place, at the right time,'' he told the supervisors, saying the quarry would bring in $300 million in sales tax over the life of the mine as well as create hundreds of indirect jobs.

Granite's proposed 414-acre quarry, which looms over Interstate 15 on a peak on the San Diego County border, would yield about 270 million tons of granite over 75 years, leaving behind a hole 1,000 feet deep and a mile long.

In September, the Riverside County Planning Commission rejected the application amid strong opposition from Temecula and the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, which has a four-star casino resort nearby and considers the mountain sacred. Granite appealed that decision to the five-member board of supervisors.

More than two-thirds of the aggregate mined from the site would be trucked to San Diego County, where mining permits are tough to come by, a point not lost on several members of the Temecula City Council on Monday.

"Why should Riverside County sacrifice one of its most sensitive and pristine natural areas to feed San Diego's aggregate demand?'' Councilman Mike Naggar asked.

Most of the testimony Monday came from mine supporters, including council members from the nearby cities of Perris and Menifee.

Debate Union member Ray Wetmur, from Corona, drove over with other members of his Laborers' International Union of North America 1184. Wetmur, 38, said he's been out of work for three years.

"We're talking about jobs, about putting people back to work,'' Wetmur said. "This is a job I could get.''

Opponents of the mine, many in neon-orange shirts, were bused from Temecula and are expected to return to offer testimony next Monday, the second day of hearings.

Among them was Bob Alkema, who lives within sight of the mountain Granite wants to mine. "They're misrepresenting the facts," Alkema said as others testified. "They're a billion-dollar corporation that wants its way. People in Temecula want their pristine hillsides the way they are.''

Pechanga tribal chairman Mark Macarro told the supervisors Monday that the mountain is part of a range where the Luiseño people believe life was created, therefore making it a sacred place.

"You have a moral decision to make,'' he told the supervisors. "It's one based on respect for religion and ancient history.''

Liberty Quarry Appeal Hearing Underway
Temecula.patch.com, Mon., Jan. 30

Supervisors to hear appeal of Planning Commission decision to deny permits for the controversial Liberty Quarry project. Patch Blogger Paul Jacobs has updates from the Riverside Convention Center.
UPDATE 5:00 p.m:
As of 4:15 p.m., all advocates for the quarry have spoken. Those opposed to the quarry are now speaking. Kathleen Hamilton of Save Our Southwest Hills had her grandchildren deliver 40,000 cards opposed to the quarry in two wagons.
UPDATE 3:00 p.m.:
Most afternoon speakers are pro-quarry, because Granite's buses arrived first and they were first to submit speaker slips. It's estimated that more than 200 speaker slips have been submitted, but many are missing from the afternoon hearing. Save Our Southwest Hills could only afford buses for half the day.
UPDATE 1:55 P.M.:
Public speakers heard by Board of Supervisors after lunch. Liberty Quarry supporters get free lunch from Granite Construction. Those opposed to the quarry are residents without deep pockets to pay for a free lunch.
UPDATE 12:35 p.m.:
Public speakers for and against Liberty Quarry provide comments to the BOS.
Pro-quarry crowd member admonished by Chairman Tavaglione for hooting after speakers comment in favor of the quarry.
UPDATE 12:05 p.m.:
After the 11:00 break, Pechanga and other Indian Tribal spokespersons oppose Liberty Quarry.
Dignitaries from cities and other agencies speak in favor of quarry.
UPDATE 10:45 a.m. :
Shortly after 10 a.m. Temecula Mayor Chuck Washington and other council members give individual comments in opposition to Liberty Quarry.

Correction from earlier: pro-quarry attendees waving green handkerchiefs.
UPDATE 9:55 a.m. :
Granite Construction is heavily organized for the County Board of Supervisors hearing. Multiple buses brought in supporters of the quarry and Granite Construction had tables set up in front of the Convention Center to hand out green shirts to the union, trade and contract workers bused to the hearing.
With a much smaller budget, Save Our Southwest Hills had fewer buses and had one-fourth to one-third the number of people Granite brought to the hearing.
Before the hearing, Granite Construction supporters loudly chanted "Jobs, Jobs, Jobs" while twirling green shirts in the air.
Gary Johnson of Granite Construction is the first speaker after the Pledge of Allegiance and instructions from Chairman John Tavaglione.
The first of two hearings on the Liberty Quarry appeal is underway at the Riverside Convention Center.
Granite Construction is appealing the county Planning Commission's decision to deny permits to move forward on the project, while local opposition to the quarry is also making their case heard.
Patch blogger Paul Jacobs is at the convention center documenting today's hearing.
Updates will be posted as they come in.

Liberty Quarry Day 1 Analysis
The Press-Enterprise, Mon., Jan. 30

Debate over jobs, land preservation
KABC.com, Mon., Jan. 30

TEMECULA, Calif. (KABC) -- The battle lines over the Liberty Quarry project in Temecula are clearly defined. Supporters wearing green say it's about much needed jobs, while opponents in orange say it's about land preservation.

For those who want the project to go ahead, the hearing is likely their last chance to have their voices heard. "It is time to do the right thing. The right thing to do is to approve this project because we need it. We really need it very bad," said Julio Marroquin of Riverside.

But opponents say the mining operation would not create the jobs as promised. Instead, they believe dust from the operation would harm their health and kill the region's thriving wine industry.
"I don't know how they can decide that this is a good location for this project directly up wind from the Temecula Valley and hundreds of thousands of people that live in the Temecula Valley," said Cindy Myers.

"It's just the wrong project in the wrong place," said Kathleen Hamilton of Save Our Southwest Hills. "Any job that was generated by Liberty Quarry would simply be a shuffle of jobs from some place else, that would be no new jobs."

The project is near territory of the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, who say the land is sacred.
"It's a huge challenge for us because there is only one creation site, absolutely only one, this is it. If it is destroyed, there isn't another one to replace it," said Mark Macarro, tribal chairman from the Pechanga Indian Reservation.

It's a battle that is nearing the end. Granite Construction is making its final appeal to the Riverside County Board of Supervisors in the hope of reversing an earlier decision blocking the proposed quarry. A permit would have allowed the company to mine up to 270 million tons of material used in concrete and road building.

Gary Johnson, the aggregate resource manager for Granite Construction, presented the appeal before the board of supervisors in a meeting that was expected to last all day.

Public hearing over contentious Temecula quarry draws hundreds, SWRNN.com, Mon., Jan. 31

A public hearing today to consider a mining company’s appeal for approval of a quarry project near Temecula drew several hundred people to the Riverside Convention Center, where supporters and opponents voiced their concerns to the Riverside County Board of Supervisors.

2012 01 30 liberty quarry Public hearing over contentious Temecula quarry draws hundreds

Signs posted throughout Temecula encourage to residents to become a part of the Liberty Quarry debate. (Kerri S. Mabee/SWRNN)

“The mine will kill that mountain,” Temecula City Councilman Ron Roberts said. “The quarry will drain away the ground water and just suck the life out of vegetation … The gateway entrance to (southwest) Riverside County will be a dead mountain with a one-mile train of trucks heading toward it. Is it really worth a few jobs?”

He maintained that the operation would increase pollution to levels that threaten the area’s wine vineyards.

“You’re talking about a giant open pit blasting mine,” Temecula City Councilwoman Maryann Edwards added. “It would be the biggest, most harmful project in Riverside County. No corporate business decision is worth the impacts this mine will have on the people and the place itself.”

Watsonville-based Granite Construction is asking the Board of Supervisors to overrule a decision by the county planning commission last year to deny grading and zoning permits for the 414-acre Liberty Quarry.

Homeowner and environmental groups, as well as all of the area Indian tribes, are staunchly opposed to the project. Supporters include virtually all the chambers of commerce located within the county, along with officials from cities throughout the central and eastern county regions.

“We in the Coachella Valley understand the need for the Liberty Quarry,” La Quinta Mayor Pro Tem Terry Henderson said. ‘Liberty Quarry is positioning Riverside County for its future and present needs. Money is not the driving force; good public policy is.”

“Riverside County needs more aggregate … for roads, schools and other public facilities,” Menifee Mayor John Denver said. “Right now, we’re trucking in aggregate from far-reaching places. We’re paying for the higher costs associated with that. Having this (quarry) is vital to the sustainability of our region.”

The project zone would lie just north of the boundary separating Riverside and San Diego counties, east of the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve and west of Temecula, adjacent to Interstate 15 and Rainbow Valley Boulevard.

Opponents argue the quarry would result in noise, pollution, drainage and habitat changes that have lasting repercussions.

“Our tribe has gone to great lengths to communicate to Granite the importance of this area,” said Corrina Sanchez, a member of the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians’ council. “No mitigation will alleviate the effects of this project, other than moving it away from the mountain, which is an essential element of tribal identity.”

Members of the tribe repeatedly emphasized that the escarpment where mining is planned is a “creation place” with great “spiritual significance.”

A final environmental impact report issued last March found that most land-use problems arising from the project could be mitigated. Planning commission staff recommended that the board vote in favor of it, providing various conditions were met.

After determining that the project “footprint” could be shrunk to around 135 acres, commissioners were optimistic that it could move forward.

However, after listening to more than 50 hours of testimony and reviewing several hundred letters and emails — most of them negative — the commission voted against the quarry.

Commissioners cited elevated levels of silica dust and other pollutants in the first two years of the project, the permanent impact on area aesthetics, including nighttime lights, and the adverse effects on area wildlife as reasons for opposition.

Granite Construction is seeking a 75-year operating window, during which it plans to remove an estimated five million tons of construction-grade aggregate — gravel and sand — from hillsides.

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

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

A final public hearing is set for Feb. 6.

Supporters tout job creation at first quarry hearing
The Californian, Mon., Jan. 30

Supporters of Granite Construction's Liberty Quarry project and their union member allies delivered a simple message to the county Board of Supervisors on Monday: jobs, jobs, jobs.

By overturning the county Planning Commission's recent denial of the open-pit mine project, the board could create nearly 300 high-paying, quality jobs in a county that could use a stimulus, they argued.

"Don't make this the Keystone Pipeline project of Riverside County," said Temecula resident Gary Harrison, referring to the Canada-to-U.S. pipeline proposal recently shelved by President Barack Obama.

The commission voted 4-1 late last year to deny the proposed mine, a 135-acre quarry targeted for land on Temecula's southern border and located just northwest of the San Diego County community of Rainbow.

Granite filed an appeal of that decision, and on Monday the supervisors met in the Riverside Convention Center to conduct their first in what is expected to be a series of hearings.

The turnout was robust, with about 1,750 people filling the center for the hearing's early stages.

Chanting for jobs

Many in the audience, a large percentage of whom were union members, wore green in a show of support for the proposed mine. Before the start of the hearing, those union members explained why they showed up with a chant: "We want jobs! We want jobs!"

There also were hundreds of Southwest County residents in the Riverside Convention Center wearing orange, the color of the opposition forces assembled to defeat the rock mine.

Those folks bused north or carpooled. Some said they were disappointed to see so many union members on hand, especially since, they contended, the workers had been told they were attending a "jobs rally."

"It was underhanded," said Jerri Arganda of Rainbow, one of the opposition leaders.

The board decided to stage the hearings, which are scheduled to continue Monday, in the convention center because of the large number of people interested. The center can hold 2,000 people, and the center was nearly filled during the morning portion of Monday's proceedings.

Making a case

At the start, Granite project manager Gary Johnson spelled out the basis for the company's appeal, saying the project would provide high-quality jobs and help satisfy the demand for aggregate rock construction material.

In a bit of theater, Johnson asked 277 people in the audience who were wearing numbers on their green T-shirts to stand up and represent the jobs that will be filled if the quarry is approved. Company officials say the project will create 277 jobs, though not all of them directly through Granite.

Johnson said the project will help keep roads in the county's northern stretches from being torn up by trucks motoring south to serve Southwest Riverside County and San Diego County markets.

After his presentation, elected officials, including all five Temecula City Council members, addressed the board.

Opponents sound off

Explaining their opposition, the Temecula council members argued that the data used by Granite to tout the project ---- including the number of jobs that would be created ---- is flawed or inaccurate.

"They'll just displace jobs from other quarries," said Temecula Councilman Jeff Comerchero.

At the end of the long day ---- the hearing started at 9 a.m. and wrapped at 6 p.m. ---- Temecula area resident Fred Bartz also called into question Granite's job estimates, saying truck driver positions could be eliminated if the company's projections were correct and much of the aggregate produced at the mine was to be shipped south to San Diego County.

Bartz also said the "high quality" part of Granite's employment argument could be misleading, pointing to a battle over wages with union members in the Reno area at one of its quarries.

The part of the meeting reserved for comments from the public attracted request slips from about 175 people.

Since supporters led off Monday, opponents will lead off in the next hearing. They will be followed by any supporters and neutral folks who attend, said county spokesman Ray Smith.

After the board is finished taking public comments, it will begin deliberations, and the individual supervisors could call for expert testimony.

Because of the hearing's format, it was difficult to discern the leanings of the supervisors, who did not ask any questions of the people who spoke. When they did say something, it was generally small talk with the people at the podium.

Hat waving

To keep the hearing moving briskly, board Chairman John Tavaglione asked audience members to refrain from applause or catcalls.

That request was largely heeded, and the audience, at Tavaglione's urging, waved hats or rally towels to show their support for a speaker's comments.

That behavior stood in stark contrast to those at the first Planning Commission hearing on the quarry in April. That audience frequently interrupted the proceedings with shouts and vocal critiques of speakers and commission members.

The bulk of Monday's meeting ---- because of the format adopted by the board ---- was devoted to supporters' arguments. On Feb. 6, opponents should have their say, as many did not get a chance to speak Monday because of time constraints.

Touting the project's benefits, the supporters said a lot of money has been wasted to date fighting the Liberty Quarry project. They argued that the delay has hindered growth itself.

"Growth begins with aggregate," said Max Miller, a Murrieta-area resident.

Others said the county could, by approving the project, help shatter the perception that the state and the county are hostile to businesses and spur a regional economic boom.

"Decide what is best for the county, and not just for a select few," said Jim Welker, a De Luz resident.

Those who were focused on other reasons to support the project included former San Antonio resident Jackie Raspler.

Showing slides of former quarry sites that have been transformed into Japanese gardens, parks and retail centers, Raspler said the Liberty Quarry site could be a boon for the area in the short and long terms.

"If we are to have progress ... industries and communities must learn to live together," she said.

Opponents cap day

After supporters had their say, about a dozen opponents addressed the supervisors before the meeting ended.

Kathleen Hamilton, one of the opposition leaders, came with her two grandsons, who were leading wagons filled with petition cards.

"40,000 signed cards and petitions," Hamilton said.

Howard Omdahl, a developer who was a key figure during the commission's review of the project, said the mine could end up "dewatering" the mountain, destroying an ecosystem that supports oaks, other types of vegetation and migrating animals.

That special ecosystem, he added, was one of the reasons why San Diego State University decided to create a large ecological reserve to the west.

"This area is unique and needs to be preserved," he said.

About 40 rally opposition to quarry
The Press-Enterprise, Wed., Jan. 25

About 40 people waved signs to honking drivers Wednesday afternoon trying to rally opposition to the proposed Liberty Quarry.

Quarry opponents, many from a local group called Save Our Southwest Hills, are trying to drive turnout to the first of two Riverside County Board of Supervisors hearings on the proposed open-pit mine, which would be built just outside Temecula.

Supervisors will consider developer Granite Construction's request to overturn the county Planning Commission's decision rejecting the quarry. Doors to the Riverside Convention Center, 3443 Orange St. in Riverside will open at 7:30 a.m. Monday for the 9 a.m. meeting.

The session will begin with a report from the county planning director. Granite Construction, which is seeking to build the mine, will then have an hour to speak, followed by elected officials.

1st hearing Monday on quarry appeal
The Californian, Wed., Jan. 25

The moment that thousands of people in Southwest County have been awaiting for years arrives next week.

On Monday morning, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors will hold the first of what is expected to be multiple meetings to consider the appeal of the county Planning Commission's denial of Granite Construction's Liberty Quarry project.

"I think everyone is looking forward to hearing the arguments on both sides," said Board Chairman John Tavaglione, addressing the widespread anticipation for Monday's meeting among both project supporters and opponents.

The commission voted 4-1 late last year to deny Granite's bid to dig an open-pit aggregate rock mine on acreage near the city of Temecula's southern border, a swath of Riverside County land just northwest of the San Diego County community of Rainbow.

That vote wrapped up a long series of meetings that found the commission listening to dozens of hours of testimony from project foes and supporters.

Because of the intense interest in the appeal proceedings, which will be streamed live on the Internet at www.countyofriverside.us, the board has scheduled the meeting for the Riverside Convention Center, 3443 Orange St. in downtown Riverside.

The center can accommodate about 2,000 people. The meeting is scheduled to start at 9 a.m. and it could last until 6 p.m.

County officials have said the center's doors will open at 7:30 a.m.

If the board does not wrap up the appeal hearing on Monday, the meeting would continue at 9 a.m. Feb. 6 at the center.

To help stoke the turnout for the meeting, opponents have erected a billboard, set up signs around Temecula and scheduled a rally for Wednesday.

There also will be buses ferrying people north for the meeting.

Many of the opponents have said they don't like the proposed location of the mine because, they argue, it could degrade air quality, harm the area's tourism industry and destroy land sacred to the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians.

Opponents are also concerned about how the mine could affect research on a nearby ecological reserve and traffic on Interstate 15 in Temecula.

Granite and its allies have erected their own billboard, and there is talk of a coordinated appearance by union members who have touted the jobs the mine could produce and the project's associated economic benefits. They contend the quarry will help spur development in the area because of a nearby source of aggregate.

About 1,400 people attended the first commission hearing on the project, and hundreds of them signed up to speak at that meeting.

Anticipating a similar urge to address the board, the county released a statement that spelled out how the process would unfold.

At the start of the hearing, Granite representatives will be allowed to speak for up to an hour, laying out their case.

That presentation will be followed by elected officials who wish to address the board.

Then a time will be set aside for public comment, with supporters leading off, followed by people claiming to be neutral and then opponents.

After the public has weighed in, Granite will be provided time for a rebuttal.

During the first commission hearing last year, Chairman John Roth spent a lot of time trying to quiet the audience, which included some folks who were applauding, jeering and making catcalls during presentations.

Some people were removed from the chambers for unruly behavior.

Tavaglione said Wednesday that he plans to lay out the audience rules at the start of Monday's meeting, and he is hoping everyone will be respectful.

"I will be respectful and I hope they will be respectful, too," he said. "We want to hear the arguments on both sides. The clearer that we can hear that and digest it, all the better it will be for those of us that have to make that decision."

People who wish to speak will be required to fill out a form, a copy of which is available at www.rivcocob.com. The form also will be available at the meeting, but people who wish to comment are encouraged to download the form and fill it out ahead of time. Forms may not be mailed in to the county, but rather submitted during the hearing.

Folks who sign up to comment will be limited to one appearance during the course of the meetings. Each person will have three minutes to address the board.

Up to two people may give their time to another individual to extend a speaker's total minutes to nine. But those who give up their time must be present at the meeting when the person receiving their time is called to speak.

To keep sight lines clear for audience members, the county is prohibiting signs and placards. Backpacks, other large bags and large purses also will be prohibited.

If more than two meetings on the appeal are required, the clerk will determine any future date, time and location.

Anti-quarry group releases book
temecula.patch.com, Tues., Jan. 17

An anti-quarry group activist created a coffee table book that documents the hearing that led to the rejection of the Liberty Quarry plan.

The hardback book, created by SOS-Hills member Ken Johnson, is available by calling or emailing fellow activist Fred Bartz at 951-216-3030 or emailing him at fjbartz@verizon.net. The cost is $30.

How to address supervisors during quarry meetings
temecula.patch.com, Wed., Jan. 11

Each member of the public can address the Board of Supervisors during the hearings that will decide the fate of Liberty Quarry.

To talk to the board, fill out a request to speak form and give it to the County Clerk's staff shortly before or during the meeting. They will not be accepted if they are mailed in, according to Ray Smith, a spokesperson for the county.

For the location of the meeting, click here.

The form will be available during the meetings, though it can be downloaded from the county's website, which is available by clicking here.

Up to two people may give their time to somebody else to extend that person's time. Anybody giving up their time must be present at the meeting when the person taking their time is called to speak, Smith said.

The meeting is scheduled to break around noon for a lunch break.

The audience is prohibited from holding signs or placards that might obstruct another person's view. Large bags and backpacks are also prohibited, the spokesperson said.

County sets quarry appeal dates
The Californian, Tues., Jan. 10

County officials have scheduled two dates for an appeal before the Riverside County Board of Supervisors on the proposed Liberty Quarry open-pit mine near Temecula.

Both meetings are to be held at the Riverside Convention Center, which can accommodate up to 2,000 people, county spokesman Ray Smith said.

The decision to hold meetings in downtown Riverside disappointed local officials and activists who had called for meetings in Southwest County.

"That's too bad," said Matt Rahn, director of the field stations program at San Diego State University's Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve. "Ideally, we'd like to have the hearings local just for convenience. But it is what it is."

Granite Construction filed an appeal in late December after the Riverside County Planning Commission finalized its denial of the company's proposed 155-acre quarry just south of Temecula, near the San Diego County line.

Because a large crowd is expected for the appeal hearings, the Riverside Convention Center at 3443 Orange St. in Riverside has been reserved for Jan. 30 and Feb. 6.

The meetings are scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. and end at 6 p.m., with breaks for lunch.

Smith said the center was selected not only because of its ability to accommodate many people, but also because it is the Board of Supervisors' practice to meet in Riverside.

Riverside is the county seat.

In recent days, the county received a pair of letters from Temecula groups urging that hearings be held there.

One of those was a letter dated Jan. 2 and written by Kathleen Hamilton, president of the environmental group Save Our Southwest Hills.

Hamilton wrote that the hearing should be closest to those who would be affected most if the project were built. She said that primarily would be residents of Temecula, Murrieta, Fallbrook and Rainbow.

But Hamilton said by telephone Tuesday she wasn't surprised to learn the Riverside Convention Center was selected.

"I think I just won a lobster dinner," Hamilton joked, saying she had bet a friend the hearings would be held there.

"They (county officials) want to get it over with," she said. "I think that's what this is all about. We'll just do what we do best, which is rally the troops."

Hamilton said Save Our Southwest Hills already was preparing to rent buses to transport quarry opponents to Riverside.

"It will be impressive with buses rolling in," she said.

The board also received a letter dated Jan. 9. It was signed by Rahn, Temecula Mayor Chuck Washington, and Mark Macarro, tribal chairman of the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians.

The three men asked that at least one board meeting be held at Rancho Community Church, which was the site of several Planning Commission hearings.

"Holding the public hearing in Temecula thus would afford a greater opportunity for public participation and would facilitate the attendance of many citizens who may be unable to travel to Riverside," they wrote.

But Smith said that's not the supervisors' practice.

"The board meets in Riverside and does not move its meetings to other sites in the county as the Planning Commission does," he said.

Smith said the only time in the last decade the board met elsewhere was when it scheduled a joint meeting with supervisors from San Diego, San Bernardino and Imperial counties.

To accommodate people who can't travel to Riverside, the county plans to stream meetings live via links on the county's website:www.countyofriverside.us.

People wishing to speak at the hearings will be required to fill out forms, Smith said. Copies of those forms will be available in advance online at www.rivcocob.com, a week before the hearings. Forms will need to be submitted to a board clerk at the meetings.

As for ground rules, each speaker will be limited to three minutes, Smith said. He said a maximum of two speakers may donate time, giving someone a maximum of nine minutes to address the board. Those who donate time must be present.

Smith said signs that obstruct others' view and large bags won't be allowed into the center.

Quarry meeting to be held in Riverside
temecula.patch.com, Tues., Jan. 10

A series of hearings to decide the fate of Liberty Quarry will be held at the Riverside Convention Center.

The first two meetings are set for 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Jan. 30 and Feb. 6 at the center, at 3443 Orange St. in downtown, according to Ray Smith, a spokesperson for the county.

The Board of Supervisors will consider applications for a mining permit and an exception to the county's noise ordinance to build a quarry just south of Temecula.

The applications were denied by the county Planning Commission in August, though the Watsonville-based company appealed the decision. To read about the appeal, click here.

Temecula residents gathered at the County Administrative Center to urge the board to schedule the meetings for Temecula. To read what they said, click here.

The numerous Planning Commission meetings that dealt with the quarry were held at Rancho Community Church in Temecula, and the meetings likely broke records in terms of turnout and meeting length. To read what officials said, click here.

The supervisors decided against holding the meetings in Temecula. Board members were unavailable for comment by publication time.

Some residents were disappointed by the location. "I am disappointed that it won't be where the people this project will affect live," said Jerri Arganda, a member of SOS-Hills, an anti-quarry group. "But, we will make the best of it and get the busses rolling to Riverside."

The county is trying to make concessions for people who cannot attend by streaming the meeting online, Smith said.

"To make the meetings available to as many people as possible, they will be streamed live on the Internet via links that will be available on the County’s home page," he said.

The county's webpage is available here. The Planning Department's website is available here.

The board is the highest decision-making body in the county and will decide the fate of the quarry project.

If the board denies the project, the company has only two other options to move it forward: to sue the county, or to reapply. To read about those possibilities, click here.

Editor's note: This story was updated at 11:39 p.m. Jan. 10 with feedback from a Temecula resident about the hearing's location.

Public gets first chance to speak to supervisors about quarry
Temecula.patch.com, Mon., Jan. 9

The public will get its first chance to address the County Board of Supervisors about Liberty Quarry tomorrow.

The county is scheduled to accept and file a decision by the County Planning Commission denying the plan to mine at 1:30 p.m. at the Riverside County Administration Center. Click here for the location.

The meeting is routine, but it will give the public its first chance to tell the supervisors how they feel about the quarry, according to Ray Smith, a spokesperson for the county.

The board will vote on whether to accept and file the Planning Commission's decission to deny the quarry's permits, according to county records.

"Anybody can speak, but tomorrow, no substantive issues will be dealt with," Smith said. "It's just a formality."

To address the supervisors, go to the meeting and fill out a "request to speak" slip, which are available in the meeting room. Hand them to the county clerk, who will be seated at the front of the room.

The quarry plan was denied by the Planning Commission last year, though it was appealed and will now go to the Board of Supervisors for a final vote.

Though the board's decision is the final step in the process, a denial may not stop the quarry from being built, officials said. To read what they said, click here.

GRANITE HAS OPTIONS IF PROJECT IS DENIED AGAIN
TEMECULA.PATCH.COM, MONDAY, JAN. 2

Even if the County Board of Supervisors denies Liberty Quarry, that may not stop the project.

Granite Construction, the company planning to build a 135-acre mine just south of Temecula, has at least two options, according to the Californian.

It could sue the county, or it could submit an amended application.

If it chose to sue, it would have nearly no chance of winning in court, Ray Johnson, an environmental attorney, told the Californian.

Submitting another application would be expensive, especially considering the mining company dumped more than $10 million into the project already, Gary Johnson, a Granite official, told the newspaper.

The new application would need to be different from the original and include an environmental impact report, which takes time and money to produce.

The company was unsure whether it would do that, Johnson told the newspaper.

The project applications were rejected 4-1 by the Riverside County Planning Commission in August, and the company appealed the decision last month.

Poll: What events impacted Temecula the most?
Temecula.patch.com, Sun., Jan. 1

A lot happened in Temecula in 2011.

A planned mine, called Liberty Quarry, was denied by the County Planning Commission. Click here to read about it.

A mosque planned for Nicolas Road was given the go-ahead by the City Council. To read about it, click here.

A plan that will guide future development in Wine Country was finished. The final draft of the plan is available here.

The city and law enforcement, through various means, closed down two marijuana dispensaries -- Closed Circuit Collective and Temecula Caregivers Collective -- and fought a lawsuit against a third.

The state legislature passed a plan to take money from Temecula's -- and other cities' -- redevelopment agencies. To read about the plan, click here.

Longtime City Manager Shawn Nelson announced his retirement. To read why he decided to retire, click here.

  • What events impacted life in Temecula the most in 2011?

    (Voting has been closed for this question)
    • Liberty Quarry being rejected
      47(81%)
    • Mosque plan being approved
      6(10%)
    • Wine Country master plan being completed
      0(0%)
    • City pushing to close marijuana dispensaries
      0(0%)
    • State taking city's redevelopment funds
      5(8%)
    • City manager's retirement

 

Quarry appeal could be heard in February
The Press Enterprise, Mon., Jan. 2

An appeal on the Liberty Quarry project could be taken up by Riverside County supervisors in early February, the board’s new chairman said.

In an email Thursday, Supervisor John Tavaglione wrote that county officials are still working out the hearing’s logistics and nothing has been finalized. Quarry developer Granite Construction wants the Riverside County Board of Supervisors to overturn the county Planning Commission’s decision rejecting the open-pit mine planned for the hills south of Temecula.

Tavaglione, whose district includes Riverside, Corona and Jurupa Valley, wrote that he thought two appeal hearings would be held. Between April and August of last year, the commission held six quarry hearings and listened to more than 50 hours of public testimony.

The board proceedings are likely to be heavily attended by quarry supporters and opponents. Granite contends its project would be an environmentally friendly economic boon, while critics argue it would be the opposite.

One decision facing county officials is where to hold the hearing. Quarry foes successfully got the commission to meet in Temecula. The five supervisors usually meet in the County Administrative Center in downtown Riverside.

Overflow seating was needed to handle the crowd at a June 2009 quarry-related hearing at the center. A boundary-setting panel denied Temecula’s bid to annex the quarry site.

The board is expected to formally receive the commission’s quarry denial on Jan. 10. An appeal hearing would be scheduled after that.

 
December 2011 Letters to the Editor

The right decision for Temecula
The Californian, Wed., Dec. 21

Kudos to the Riverside Planning Commission for denying Granite Construction's planned quarry on the southern boundary of Temecula. We have lived in Temecula for 25 years. Along with our neighbors and friends, we cherish the quiet, beautiful surroundings of this area.

We spent the weekend strolling through Old Town Temecula, watching skaters and shoppers enjoying the holiday season. It would be a travesty to introduce a mine quarry close to a city whose residents enjoy outdoor recreation, wildlife, natural beauty and wineries --- all of which could be adversely affected by a mine.

We offer our heartfelt thanks to the members of the Planning Commission for making the right decision for the city of Temecula and its residents.

Lynn Cude, Temecula


December 2011 Opinions/Forums

Pension fund doesn't need quarry
The Californian, Wed., Dec. 21
Marelle Dorsey

Adele Harrison's Dec. 5 article, "Quarry looks like pension fund solution" has problems with those darn pesky facts. Let's examine all the fallacies.

First, it is not true that the California State Teachers Retirement System, has a 30-year shortfall of $150 billion.

Adele, a retired teacher and strong quarry proponent, took this fact from an Oct. 18, 2011, announcement by the Government Accounting Standards Board. However, she left out an Oct. 25, 2011, letter by CalSTRS Chief Executive Officer, Jack Ehnes, posted on the CalSTRS website. Addressed to the California State Assembly and Senate, it explained that the shortfall is just $56 billion. The GASB had used an accounting approach "that will not change the actual amount of the shortfall but will significantly increase its amount on paper."

Second, it is not true that educators in the state have to worry about the shortfall.

CalSTRS also posted a news article Dec. 2, 2011, announcing a plan of action to address the system's $56 billion long term funding shortfall, and promising to continue to work with the legislature and its stakeholders to develop a plan that addresses gradual proposed contribution increases to ensure predictability and fairness to all parties.

Active members currently contribute 8 percent of their income to the retirement plan. Teachers will be asked to modestly increase their contributions over time. CalSTRS is the largest teacher pension fund in the United States, serving 852,000 public school educators.

Third, it is not true that "Liberty Quarry Project will generate significant funding for CalSTRS."

If an estimated royalty is $100 million, that would equal a total of $117.00 per CalSTRS member. Dividing by 75 years, the length of the project, you get $1.56 per each member, per year. Any self-respecting educator would find amounts in that range insignificant.

Fourth, it is not true that the Legislature has the right to force all new mining projects to pay similar royalties.

Most of Liberty Quarry's site is part of a large 1853 federal land-grant, provided to all states. Any money generated had to be spent for certain school purposes. The mineral rights were retained by the state when this quarry site was originally sold.

After five long public hearings with multiple experts testifying, the Planning Commission voted 4-1 to formally deny the Liberty Quarry project on Dec. 7.

The commission obviously disagreed with Adele Harrison and decided that the quarry was not important for jobs and the economy. Liberty Quarry will currently just take jobs away from other county quarries. Trucks off the road means fewer jobs.

The commission found the quarry would cause unhealthy long term poor air quality. Over 160 local physicians and the American Lung Association had expressed great concern and opposed the quarry.

As a former teacher myself, I am surprised by Adele Harrison's lack of concern for the lungs of our children.

Go to NoGravelQuarry.com for updates on Granite Construction's upcoming appeal to the supervisors and to add your opposition.

December 2011 News Articles

Options for Granite if board denies Liberty Quarry project
The Californian, Sat., Dec. 31

Some of the people following the debate over a quarry proposed south of Temecula recently posed an interesting "what if" question.

If the Riverside County Board of Supervisors votes to reject the appeal filed by Northern California-based Granite Construction, would that sound the death knell for the company's Liberty Quarry project?

The answer, according to a Granite representative, a Temecula environmental attorney and the county: Not exactly.

Last month, Granite filed an appeal of the county Planning Commission's recent denial of the project, a 135-acre open pit mine proposed for land near the unincorporated area of De Luz, the city of Temecula's southern border and the San Diego County community of Rainbow. That appeal will be considered by the board early this year.

If the board rejects the appeal, it would be difficult for Granite to challenge the board's decision via a lawsuit, said both Granite project manager Gary Johnson and environmental attorney Ray Johnson.

"The likelihood of winning that would be less than 1 percent," Ray Johnson said. "Basically, you'd have to prove the board's decision was made without any factual backup at all. ... There's virtually no chance it could be challenged in court."

But there is another option for the company: Gary Johnson said Granite could file an amended application.

In that scenario, there's a possibility the new application would need to be accompanied by some fresh technical studies, or edits of existing studies and environmental reports.

Addressing that possibility, county spokesman Ray Smith said a new environmental impact report would have to be done.

"The same studies could be resubmitted, with some caveats. But they would have to be reviewed by staff as completely new studies," he said.

When Gary Johnson was asked whether Granite was willing to invest money in a new application ---- the company already has spent about $10 million to date ---- he said the company hasn't yet made a determination.

He said the company's focus is on seeing the project approved and putting people to work.

Granite has said the quarry will create 100 high-quality jobs and start a positive economic ripple effect in Southwest County because the mine will provide a new local source of aggregate rock material.

Opponents of the project, a group that now includes the Temecula Valley Chamber of Commerce, say the economic benefits of the project are trumped up and largely illusory, because the mine could end up hurting the area's vibrant tourism industry, in part because of air pollution produced by the mine.

If the board ends up overruling the commission and approving the project, Ray Johnson said the course of action is clear.

Opponents would file a suit challenging the county's environmental review of the project, and Johnson, the attorney, said he is confident the suit would have a good chance of succeeding.

The environmental documentation, he said, is woefully insufficient with regard to the cultural issues that have been brought up by the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians and the traffic studies that have been challenged by city of Temecula consultants.

On the cultural issues, Pechanga leaders have said that the mine project would destroy land tied to its creation story.

Granite has said the mine is proposed for land well away from the confluence of the Murrieta and Temecula creeks that is referenced in the story as the wellspring of the Pechanga people, essentially its "Garden of Eden."

Ray Johnson said that argument probably will not prevail because there is documentation that shows the swath of land that the tribe considers sacred extends far beyond that confluence.

"It's a much, much broader area than that," he said.

The county Planning Department has defended its review of the project, saying that the large body of documentation produced meets both county and state requirements.

Proposed quarry creates stir throughout the year
The Californian, Fri., Dec. 30

In late April, more than 1,000 people packed into a church in Temecula to witness the start of the Riverside County Planning Commission's review of Granite Construction's Liberty Quarry project.

That review, which featured 50 hours of public testimony presented during six meetings held over the course of eight months, riveted thousands of people in Southwest County for much of the year.

Most of those in attendance were passionately opposed to the project, and they made that abundantly clear by their comments, saying the quarry would sink property values and degrade the area's air quality.

Late in the year, the Temecula Valley Chamber of Commerce voted to oppose the project, a victory for opponents who had long sought the chamber's help.

There also were fans of the project, a group that included union members, who urged the commission to create jobs and boost the economy by approving the mine, a 135-acre aggregate rock quarry proposed for land on Temecula's southern border.

To accommodate all of the people who wanted to speak and to allow the commission members to question experts, the commission scheduled follow-up hearings and meetings.

This review process was eventually wrapped up in December, with the commission voting to finalize the denial of the project.

After the vote, there was a round of applause by the small number of people who had driven to Riverside for the meeting. Granite representatives have appealed, setting the stage for a review of the project by the county Board of Supervisors in 2012.

Although the crowd for that final meeting ---- the culmination of days of testimony and debate ---- was small, opponents predict the crowd that greets the board will be massive.

Jerri Arganda of Rainbow, one of the leaders of the opposition forces, said people will be coming out of the woodwork to line up against the quarry, no matter where the first meeting is held.

She's predicting a crowd that rivals or surpasses the audience for that first commission hearing, which she estimated at close to 2,000.

"I don't think that's going to stop anyone," she said, talking about the possibility of the hearing being held in Riverside. "If we have to, we'll get buses and send them up to Riverside. ... I think people are going to make the difference."

In addition to the folks expected to show up, Arganda said opponents will deliver thousands of signature cards from people opposed to the project.

With the crowd and the cards, Arganda said she hopes the board sees the depth of opposition and votes to defeat the project.

"That would be the perfect ending," she said.

Granite representatives would beg to differ, however, and they said the company is looking forward to getting a "fair hearing" by the board in 2012.

Asked about its strategy going forward, Granite project manager Gary Johnson said all the ammunition the company needs to see the project approved is in the environmental impact report prepared by the county.

That report recommended approval of the project, a recommendation that was not heeded by the commission.

"It's all in there," he said, talking about the huge stack of technical studies and reports that made up the environmental report.

Top 10: Quarry debate rocks 2011
The Californian, Thurs., Dec. 29

The year 2011 may well be remembered as 12 months when Southwest County residents found themselves stuck between rocks and some pretty hard places.

Each December, the editors and reporters at The Californian nominate stories about issues and events we covered in the past year that affected ---- for better or worse ---- the lives of the people who live and work in the region.

The list is whittled to a Top 10, which over the next two days we'll present along with an updated look, when appropriate, at what's happening at year's end with the issue.

Although these are offered in no particular order, we always pick a top story of the year.

In 2011, the long-simmering ---- and still active ---- debate over Liberty Quarry, a 135-acre aggregate mine proposed just south of Temecula, led the way.

Thousands of quarry opponents, along with far fewer backers, packed a series of Riverside County Planning Commission hearings conducted in Temecula to review the project, which was first proposed and first protested in 2005.

In December, the commission voted 4-1 to deny the quarry. Builder Granite Construction appealed that decision to the Riverside County Board of Supervisors, which is expected to take up the issue in January. That makes it likely that our top story of 2011 will make the list once again in 2012.

Hard places and hard choices abounded in 2011 as local governments ---- faced with uncertainty over tax money coming from Sacramento ---- cut budgets, closed parks, reduced police patrols, laid off workers and limited city hall hours.

In Riverside, county officials and public employee union leaders hurled accusations at each other over pension reform and other efforts to trim expenses in the face of dwindling revenues.

Meanwhile, voter-backed measures in Murrieta and Menifee were implemented ---- some more than others ---- with activists promising there would be more "taking on city hall" to come in 2012.

And other stories emerged from the rubble in 2011.

Work finally began on the long-anticipated widening of Interstate 215.

After years of delays and failed inspections, state hospital officials allowed Southwest Healthcare to open a $53 million expansion at Rancho Springs Medical Center in Murrieta and a $24 million addition at Inland Valley Medical Center in Wildomar. Across town, the new Loma Linda University Medical Center - Murrieta opened, becoming the fourth hospital in Southwest County. In Temecula, the first rocks were moved after ground was broken to build the hospital, which had been in the planning stages for years.

Finally, we round out our list with some of the region's more notorious crimes committed in recent years finally being prosecuted in 2011, and ---- on the opposite end of the news spectrum ---- the success of five talented area singers who rose to fame on reality television shows, adding a positive voice to an otherwise rocky year in Southwest County.

Chamber of Commerce votes to oppose Liberty Quarry
The Californian, Fri., Dec. 23

In what was called a "major development" by city officials, theTemecula Valley Chamber of Commerce voted this week to oppose Granite Construction's Liberty Quarry project.

"It was a difficult and well thought out decision," wrote chamber President/CEO Alice Sullivan in a release. "Based upon the chamber's mission statement, the majority of the TVCC Board of Directors felt it was in the best interest of the community at large to oppose this project."

The vote was cast as a special board meeting on Thursday.

Granite Construction has been working for years to win approval of its plans to dig an open pit mine on land near the city of Temecula's southern border, acreage just northwest of the San Diego County community of Rainbow.

Granite's efforts were dealt a blow this year by the county Planning Commission, which voted 4-1 to deny the project following a lengthy review that covered much of the summer.

An appeal of that decision to the county Board of Supervisors has been filed and the board is expected to rule on the project, following its own hearings and meetings, in 2012.

The chamber's action, which comes after years of not taking a position on the project, was greeted with cheers by opponents of Liberty Quarry, a group that includes the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, some local environmental groups and the city of Temecula.

The Pechanga have said the proposed location of the mine will destroy land it considers sacred.

Environmental groups have said the mine will harm the area's air quality, disturb research at a nearby ecological reserve and forever destroy a hillside that serves as the gateway to the Temecula Valley.

The city has said the quarry will burden the Temecula area with additional traffic, road damage and air pollution and the city has said the mine could drive down property values and harm the area's tourism industry.

The quarry is supported by some public officials in Riverside County cities who say it will remove pollution-belching trucks from county roads since most of the aggregate will be shipped to San Diego County.

It also is supported by some economists, unions and business owners who say it will provide new jobs and create a positive economic ripple effect.

The chamber counts more than 1,000 local businesses as members, including The Californian, which has been a member since 1979.

The vote to oppose the quarry project was made by the board, which does not include a representative of the newspaper.

Granite Construction has been a member of the chamber since 2004.


Granite Construction's Liberty Quarry appeal filed
The Californian, Fri., Dec. 16

Granite Construction this week filed an appeal of the Riverside County Planning Commission's denial of its Liberty Quarry project, an open-pit mine proposed for 135 acres of land near the city of Temecula's southern border.

The commission voted 4-1 earlier this month to make final the denial of the hotly contested project, a decision backed by a long list of findings that called into question most of the benefits of the mine that were touted by Granite and the county's environmental impact report.

The county's planning department, using the report as its guide, recommended approval of the project, but that recommendation was disregarded by the commission.

After the commission's decision, Granite vowed to appeal the ruling to the county Board of Supervisors, an action that was initiated with the filing of the necessary paperwork on Thursday.

County spokesman Ray Smith said Friday that the board, which is the county body that will have the final say on the project's future, is expected to schedule a hearing to consider the appeal at its Jan. 10 meeting.

The hearing, according to Granite representatives, is expected to feature many of the elements that turned the commission's review of the project into an epic, months-long series of hearings and meetings that were attended by thousands of area residents.

Those elements include presentations by Granite, supporters and opponents of the project and comments by the public.

To prepare for the hearing, or possibly multiple hearings, Granite spokeswoman Karie Reuther said the company would be working through the holiday season to assemble data and presentations for the board.

"We don't sleep here!" she joked.

Asked whether the company would be presenting some new findings to back the project, Reuther said all of the information already is in the environmental impact report.

Some opponents of the project have criticized that report, saying it read like a public relations document produced by Granite. Others said the studies and information in the report were flawed and unable to withstand serious scrutiny and a legal challenge, which is eventually expected no matter how the board rules.

Supporters of the project have defended the project and the report, saying it satisfies ---- and in some cases, more than satisfies ---- the state's standard for environmental review.

The report details the various ways the project is expected to affect the environment, from air quality to traffic to habitat for animals.

To approve the project, the commission would have had to make the determination that the project's benefits outweighed the significant and unavoidable effects listed in the report.

Instead, the commission said that it could not state as fact the benefits listed in the report and that the project was incompatible with surrounding land uses.

Quarry rejection appealed
Temecula.patch.com, Fri., Dec. 16

Granite Construction appealed a decision that would kill its plan to build a mine near Temecula.

A mining company appealed a decision that would stop it from building a quarry near Temecula.

Granite Construction filed the appeal this week, according to Ray Smith, a spokesperson for the county said on Thursday.

The plan was rejected 4-1 by the Riverside County Planning Commission first in a vote on Aug. 31, then with a finalizing vote on Dec. 7.

The appeal means the decision will go over the heads of the planning commission and into the hands of the Riverside County Board of Supervisors.

The company vowed to appeal the decision, but the appeal could be filed only after the plan's rejection was finalized, Granite officials said. To read about the company's plan, click here.

The plan will build a 115-acre mine on a property spanning more than 400 acres in the hills just south of Temecula and just east of the Santa Rosa Ecological Preserve. To read details about the plan, click here.

Granite's Liberty Quarry appeal filed Thursday
The Californian, Thurs., Dec. 15

Northern California-based Granite Construction on Thursday filed an appeal of the county Planning Commission's denial of itsLiberty Quarry project.

Granite representatives have long been on the record saying they had planned to file the appeal and that the company is looking forward to the hearing that will be conducted by the county Board of Supervisors.

The commission voted 4-1 in late August to deny the quarry project, an open pit aggregate mine proposed for land on the city of Temecula's southern border.

Earlier this month, the commission voted 4-1 to finalize that action, presenting a long list of denial findings that did not include many of the benefits of the project that have been touted by Granite and detailed by county planning staff in the project's environmental impact report.

Opponents of the project say it will harm the area's air quality, negatively impact the region's tourism industry and destroy land tied to the creation story of the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians.

Supporters say the mine will bring good jobs and produce an economic virtuous circle because the area will be able to tap a local source of high-quality aggregate.

Commission completes denial of quarry
The Californian, Wed., Dec. 7

Wrapping up months of review, the Riverside County Planning Commission voted Wednesday morning to make final its denial of Granite Construction's Liberty Quarry project, a 135-acre mine proposed for land on the city of Temecula's southern border.

The mine, which was hotly debated in Southwest County for the past six years, was expected to produce up to 5 million tons of aggregate rock material at maximum production.

The vote was 4-1, with Commissioner James Porras dissenting. The decision was reached after the commission went page by page through the draft copy of its denial findings.

Most of the changes were cosmetic ---- a changed word here, adding context there ---- but there was a more serious discussion related to the benefits of the project listed in the findings. After some debate, the commission scrubbed most mention of the benefits from the document.

Those benefits, the commission argued, should not be included because they couldn't be verified as fact. Nor did they reflect the commission's conclusions, which held that the project is incompatible with neighboring land uses and would be an environmental injustice against the county because most of the aggregate would be headed to San Diego County.

Petty said he didn't think there were any benefits that should be included in the commission's document.

"If it was up to me ... I'd delete all of the alleged benefits," he said.

Other members, however, felt the section should be reworked instead of scrapped. A compromise was reached: The section heading was changed so that it read, "benefits as listed in the (Environmental Impact Report) and by the applicant."

And many of the specific numbers were removed.

For example, instead of stating that the "mine would meet 40 percent of all Western Riverside County aggregate needs" the document now reads "the mine would meet some of Western Riverside County's aggregate needs."

After the 33 pages of findings were edited to their satisfaction, the commissioners voted on the denial. In a separate action, the panel decided not to send a letter to the Board of Supervisors explaining its rationale.

Instead, the individual members, if they so desire, will be sending letters that contain their thoughts on the project and the findings.

Commissioner John Petty made it clear that his letter would be quite lengthy, adding in his comments and information that was provided by the city of Temecula and the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians.

The tribe has said the mine would destroy land that is tied to its creation story. It has introduced legislation that would allow it to block mining projects near its sacred sites.

Granite officials met with tribal leaders in an attempt to address the tribe's concerns, but no agreement was reached.

No one from Granite spoke at the meeting.

Company spokeswoman Karie Reuther said earlier this week that Granite was looking forward to seeing the denial made final so it could appeal the decision to the Board of Supervisors, which will have the final say.

The crowd for Wednesday's hearing numbered in the dozens, a far cry from the thousand-plus people who attended commission meetings that were held in Temecula earlier this year.

Fred Bartz, president of Clean Air Temecula, said he and the other folks who drove north for the meeting were happy with the outcome, which was clear by their applause after the vote

"I really thought they wanted to be very careful the proper benefits and conclusions were included in the draft," he said, talking about the commission's lengthy review of the denial findings.

Totaling the commission's various hearings and meetings, county planning staff determined that the commission listened to more than 50 hours of public testimony and received hundreds of pieces of mailed correspondence.

That information was boiled down in the findings so that what was included was the testimony that led the Planning Commission to their conclusions, said Matt Straite, a county project planner.

Reuther dismissed those conclusions in a telephone interview Wednesday afternoon, saying the commission's findings are not supported by the county's planning staff, technical reports and scientific studies.

"They all show the project would clearly benefit Riverside County with new jobs, additional revenue and cleaner air," she said.

According to the county's report on the project, trucks that now stream south through Riverside County to the San Diego market from quarries in the Corona area and other points north of Temecula/Murrieta would be removed from the county's roads, removing the pollution produced by those rigs.

Project opponents and members of the commission dispute that finding, saying it is based on flawed traffic studies and assumptions that might change when the market for aggregate changes.

During the meeting, Porras said he didn't give much weight to worrying about changing market forces, noting that all projects brought before the commission could see their business models or results change in the future.

Reuther said Northern California-based Granite is looking forward to having its appeal heard by the Board of Supervisors, which will conduct hearings allowing folks for and against the project to weigh in once again.

"It's as if the Planning Commission hearing never happened. Essentially, it all starts over," she said.

Granite project manager Gary Johnson said the appeal will be filed within a week.

County Planning Commission set for final denial of Liberty Quarry
The Californian, Mon., Dec. 5

Although they stand on opposite sides of the issue, supporters and foes of Granite Construction's Liberty Quarry each have their reasons to look forward to Wednesday's meeting of the Riverside County Planning Commission.

At the 9 a.m. meeting in Riverside, the commission is scheduled to make final denial of the project, a 135-acre mine proposed for land just northwest of the community of Rainbow that could generate up to 5 million tons of aggregate rock at maximum production.

The commission voted 4-1 in August to tentatively deny the project and asked county staff members to write up findings backing its action, a task that took around three months.

For supporters ---- a group that includes Granite officials, some area unions and folks who point to the jobs the mine will produce ---- getting the denial wrapped up means Granite can file its appeal of the decision. That action will trigger a hearing before the county Board of Supervisors.

The board has the final say on the fate of the hotly contested project.

During a phone interview Monday, Granite spokeswoman Karie Reuther said the company is looking forward to the appeal hearing so that it can explain, once again, the project's many benefits.

Asked whether Granite planned to object to or try to rebut the denial findings produced by the county, Reuther said, "I don't think we plan on it. I think everything has been said."

The commission conducted multiple hearings on the project this year, including some marathon sessions in Temecula that were attended by thousands of area residents.

Opponents ---- a group that includes San Diego State scientists, local doctors and environmental organizations ---- also are looking forward to the hearing because it will mean a public airing and ratification of the findings. Those findings are essentially a list of legal determinations made by the commission that explain why it believes the project should not be approved.

According to that list, the project is "incompatible with the surrounding area and inconsistent with neighboring uses."

The commission made that determination, according to the draft copy of the findings that will be considered Wednesday, because most of the aggregate produced by the mine is projected to be shipped to San Diego County.

From the findings: "Based on the information presented by the public, ample aggregate deposits exist in San Diego County ... this represents an environmental injustice to Riverside County."

In addition, the findings state that, based on the information in the county's voluminous environmental review of the project and evidence presented at the public hearings, the effects on air quality, aesthetics, traffic, noise, geology/hydrology, biological resources and the heritage of the Pechanga are not outweighed by the project's benefits.

The Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians has said the mine would destroy land it considers sacred, and it has proposed legislation that would allow it to block quarry projects near its sacred sites.

That legislation is in limbo in Sacramento, but it could be revived next year.

Reuther dismissed the denial findings Monday, saying the commission's decision isn't supported by "county staff, the technical experts, scientific studies ... none of it."

The county's environmental impact report on the project recommended its approval, in part, because the mine's location on the southern edge of Riverside County would reduce the amount of miles that pollution-emitting diesel trucks drive on county roads.

Those trucks, according to the report, drive through Murrieta and Temecula on their way to deliver loads of aggregate to San Diego County.

During the public hearings, project opponents criticized both the report's findings and its methodology.

The commission will meet in the County Administrative Center, 4080 Lemon St.

November 2011 Letters to the Editor

Granite's operations like office politics
The Californian, Tues., Nov. 22

Our rural property has been our escape from the "rat race." Somehow, "it" found us. Its name? Liberty Quarry.

Our dealings with Granite reminds me of office politics, with a sly co-worker endangering your job to suit his personal agenda, as he entices the boss (county officials) with his bogus report of grandeur.

The co-worker always wants to chat. He's always fishing, sometimes offering favors of persuasion. He's your "buddy," though; be careful of what you say and beware of his slippery wording. Your job is under attack.

Every function (hearings) requires your attendance or he'll dodge important issues, jeopardizing your job. Researching his shoddy report to protect your family's security becomes homework, diminishing your family life. When defects are discovered, the co-worker, who's never wrong, sticks to his tale.

"There are no adverse impacts."

"You preach it, then guarantee it."

"Let's talk (mitigate)."

"Why, if there are no adverse impacts?"

"Hey, buddy! What's wrong?"

"Sign the guarantee."

He dodges it, leaving the boss to bear the burden of signing. Find another job? The co-worker offers ways to show you the door. Except this isn't a job, it's our home, and we don't work for Granite Construction. And we're not leaving.

Mike Jurkosky, Temecula


November 2011 Opinions/ Forums

Liberty Quarry hardly an "ideal" location
The Californian, Thurs., Nov. 17
Fred Bartz

Recently, I read the Wildomar Chamber of Commerce November Newsletter, where their CEO Mr. Scott Mann starts out by stating: "I'm taking the opportunity in this month's CEO Message to tout the Wildomar Chamber's support of the Liberty Quarry Project."

Mr. Mann also states: "Ideal Location ---- Aggregate quarries can only be located where the aggregate minerals are located."

Is Liberty Quarry really an "Ideal Location," especially when the proposed mega-quarry would:

• Possibly damage the nearby San Diego State University's Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve;

• Potentially pollute the Santa Margarita River, a major source of drinking water for Camp Pendleton's Marines and family members;

• Be adjacent to the Rainbow gap, where daily winds would carry crystalline silica quarry dust into the Temecula Valley.

Further, how can this location be "Ideal," especially since Granite Construction has stated that approximately 70 percent of the aggregate will go to meet demands in San Diego County?

In the recent joint SANDAG and Caltrans study titled "San Diego Region Aggregate Supply Study," it states: "The analysis showed that there are about 550 potential aggregate supply sites of 60 acres or more and 390 potential supply sites of 100 acres or more. Most of the sites are located in the unincorporated parts of the region." And yes, a Granite Construction representative was part of the aggregate study's Expert Review Panel.

In the Chamber's Newsletter, Mr. Mann also states: "CalTrans supports the development of Liberty Quarry." I am not sure what information source Mr. Mann used, as in 2010 Caltrans issued a letter stating: "we (Caltrans) have not endorsed the Liberty Quarry project." Recently, Caltrans again issued a letter stating: "Caltrans is not taking a position on the Liberty Quarry project."

Mr. Mann also talks about eliminating hundreds of truck trips daily, even though the numbers he references have been challenged by several experts in the recent Planning Commission hearings. If you accept Mr. Mann's numbers as correct, decreased truck trips mean the Wildomar Chamber indirectly supports putting hundreds of aggregate-hauling truck drivers out of work. Further, without increased aggregate demand, approving Liberty Quarry would actually put quarry workers out of work in cities north of Wildomar.

Finally, Mr. Mann states: "Additionally, Liberty Quarry has direct access to the I-15 freeway and its isolated location will keep it from being seen, felt or heard by area residents."

First, there is no access road from the proposed quarry to the I-15 freeway. Granite's own documents state the road would have to be constructed by blasting into the hillside immediately adjacent to the I-15 freeway.

Second, the access road would be clearly visible to traffic on the I-15. When the quarry is operating at full production, there will be 1,600 truck trips daily from I-15 to and from the quarry, or on average, 80 truck trips per hour, and blasting daily using 10,000 pounds of explosives, operating up to 75 years. Are we really to believe Liberty Quarry will not be "seen, felt, or heard"?

An "ideal location"? The facts say otherwise.

Urge supervisors to reject quarry
temecula.patch.com, Thurs., Nov. 10

Warning! We need everyone's attention in this matter. This is a huge gain for them, and a complete disaster for us.

Although the Planning Commissioners denied the mining permit, Granite Construction is appealing the decisin to the Riverside County Board of Supervisors.

To read about the plan, click here.

The concerned citizens and the grass root movement SOS-Hills is screaming from the top of their for-now-healthy lungs to deny Liberty Quarry in Temecula.

This is the time where we cannot let our guard down and more than ever create the unity needed for the last big push.

The date of the hearing in front of the supervisors hasn't been established at this time, but stay tuned, and I will post when it will take place.

A hearing finalizing the decision to reject the quarry is scheduled. For details, click here.

In the meantime, we are gathering support signatures against this project; come to see us in Temecula at the Farmers Market on Saturday from 9-11 a.m. and in Murrieta on Saturday as well in front of Walmart from 9-11 a.m., we will have tables there with volunteers that will solicit your support against Liberty Quarry.

Show your support against it by signing a 5-1/2 X 8-1/2 orange card directed to the supervisors suggesting they to vote no.

Protect your local economy and local jobs, air quality, the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve, the Santa Margarita River, water supply to our Marines at Camp Pendleton and the lungs or our children.

Quarry propaganda unfair to commissioners
The Californian, Tues., Nov. 8
Marelle Dorsey

Granite Construction's persistent propaganda for it's proposed open-pit blasting mine is unfair to the Riverside County Planning Commission.

Granite continues to imply that the 4-1 decision against them was caused by a lack of a fair hearing. They imply that when the Riverside County Board of Supervisors hears the same evidence, the outcome will be the opposite.

An example is found in the Oct. 27 Californian article by Aaron Claverie, "Panel postpones final quarry denial." Aaron quoted Karie Reuther, a Granite spokeswoman. She acknowledged the "six hearings and dozens of hours of testimony", but she added, "that Granite, a Northern California based company, is looking forward to presenting the project and its many benefits to the board as soon as possible."

Having attended all the hearings, I witnessed the fact that Granite was given every opportunity to fairly and completely present their case and the commissioners did a great job getting to the truth.

Granite propaganda had suggested that since the project had approval by the Planning Department Staff, it should be approved.

However, in his April 4 Californian article,"Opponents unswayed by Liberty Quarry data," Aaron Claverie quoted from a written statement from the county's Planning Department, "......we can not analyze, and are not legally required to analyze, or in some cases control, every conceivable project permutation."

It is the commissioners who have the legal responsibility to analyze all available data and all potential outcomes.

Another example of their propaganda concerns the economy. One is found in Aaron Claverie's Oct. 27th article, where Scott Mann, a Granite proponent, argued that a quick approval of the quarry would help the economy.

The hearings, however, showed just the opposite. Liberty Quarry's EIR has assumptions which are based on reducing county truck driving jobs. Low demand for aggregate means quarry jobs will not be added, but just relocated.

However, tourism, agriculture and existing businesses will be harmed because of polluted air and I-15 congestion from 1,600 daily local truck trips (most making southern deliveries).

The same reasons will also harm future progress. The quarry is not compatible with the high-tech, bio-tech and green jobs which our recent inclusion into the San Diego Innovation Hub promises to bring.

More proof that the quarry is bad for our economy is found in a July 10 Californian article, "Study challenges '07 quarry report." Aaron stated that economists from Claremont McKenna Rose Institute had calculated a net loss of $3.6 billion dollars for the county over the quarry's life.

As a real estate agent since 1980, I believe that the Rose Institute's predictions for losses in housing values caused by Liberty Quarry were conservative. I and many other local agents are already noticing buyers becoming concerned.

The first hearing last April was also the 25th anniversary of Chernobyl nuclear disaster. I prayed that we would not also face long term unnecessary devastation of our health, environment and economy.

November 2011 News Articles

Granite Spends $138,000 to Beat Pechanga
temecula.patch.com, Wed., nov. 23

Granite Construction increased its spending more than six-fold after the Pechanga Tribe introduced legislation that would kill the company's plan to build a quarry near Temecula.

To read about the quarry, click here.

Granite spent $138,000 on lobbyists from July to September, which was almost six times what it spent during the previous six months combined, the Press-Enterprise reported.

To read about Pechanga's proposed legislation, click here. To read the bill, click here.

The company's biggest expenses went to KP Public Affairs and Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck LLP, which each got $40,000 in August, shortly after the tribe announced the legislation, according to the report.

The Pechanga Tribe also spent heavily on lobbyists. During the third quarter, it spent $103,000, it spent $63,000 in the second quarter and $122,000 earlier in the year.

 

October 2011 Letters to the Editor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mariann Byers, Temecula

October 2011 Opinions/Forums

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

I am opposed to Liberty Quarry in Temecula.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

October 2011 News Articles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To read about the vote, click here.

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

 

 

 

 

 

May 2012 Letters to the Editor

The Californian, Tues., May 29
We need to re-elect Supervisors Buster and Stone

It was very reassuring to see The Californian, and the other leading Riverside County newspaper, both coming out to endorse Supervisors Bob Buster and Jeff Stone for re-election ("Buster, Stone for supervisor," May 23).

Both supervisors have done a fine job keeping costs in check for Riverside County in these trying economic times. The Californian said that both Supervisors "should be re-elected because they offer the best combination of philosophy and experience to meet the needs of the county's residents."

It was Supervisor Bob Buster who first put out the "early warning about the need to scale back the overly generous pensions," said The Californian editorial staff. Further, The Californian stated, "we see no compelling reason not to return Buster to office. Stone is equally committed to fiscal restraint, and also brings a real focus on local issues."

Personally, I don't think I could say it any better than The Californian already has. We need to re-elect Supervisors Buster and Stone helping to lead our county government.

Linda Bartz, Temecula

The battle continues; vote for Buster, Stone

To the citizens who helped defeat Liberty Quarry (before John Tavaglione flip-flopped with his "schizophrenic" vote approving the totally flawed environmental impact report): Thanks for all of the time and energy these citizens put forth this past seven years to keep our pristine area a show-piece of natural beauty.

Because of Tavaglione's recent vote, we must all continue our battle, and one way we can do this is to vote for Bob Buster and Jeff Stone on June 5 so they can continue to work with and for us. Both of these supervisors have been steadfast in supporting the needs of their constituents and encouraging projects that will benefit the local economy and infrastructure. They are men of integrity with open minds and listen to what the people want and need. They will not be bought off with the big money Granite Construction has to offer.

I am sorry I live in Rainbow and am not able to vote for a Riverside County Supervisor, but these two men would definitely get my vote if I lived in Temecula. Bob Buster was thoughtful enough to mention how negatively the proposed Liberty Quarry would affect residents of Rainbow. He cares about people and their needs.

Marilee Ragland, Rainbow

 

May 2012 Opinions/Forums

 

 
May 2012 News Articles
 
April 2012 Letters to the Editor
 
 

April 2012 Opinions/Forums

 

 
April 2012 News Articles
 
March 2012 Letters to the Editor

The Californian, Fri., Mar. 9
Supervisors made the right decision

I want to thank Supervisors John Tavaglione, Jeff Stone and Bob Buster for voting to oppose the Liberty Quarry project. They, along with others, listened to four days of testimony and rebuttal before making their decision.

Over these four days, there was significant testimony from the general public, the city of Temecula, San Diego State University, Pechanga and a number of experts. At the end of the testimony, it was Granite's job to rebut opposition testimony and show why the appeal should be granted.

At the end, even the supervisors who supported the project questioned the 75-year project life and recommended other conditions should be required. Even before the supervisors' vote was taken, it was clear that the applicant had not met the burden of proof to overturn the Planning Commission's project denial. ...

It's unfortunate that individuals who supported the project, and lost, feel it is necessary to write in and slam any politician who opposed the project. To me, it is sad that some cannot accept the decision made, and move on.

Fred Bartz, Temecula

The Californian, Tues., Mar. 6
Opinions and Mind Readers

Regarding a recent letter by Adele Harrison, "Denying quarry a disappointment," Feb. 16: For some, I'm sure it was a disappointment; for others, a victory.

However, Mrs. Harrison stated that "our so-called 'pro-business' conservatives ... will not stand up for what is right." I guess her assumption is that she has acquired the domain of what is "right." She then continued on by reading Supervisor Tavaglione's mind: "he's more interested in getting funding from the tribes and the support of the extreme environmentalists." I wonder if she ever met a moderate or liberal environmentalist?

She then continued on to thank Supervisors Ashley and Benoit because they did not worry about their own self-interests and politics. More mind-reading.

In conclusion, she stated that our air would be cleaner. Whew, we should have these aggregate plants in San Francisco, New York City, Boston and each and every city that needs cleaner air. Forget what our local doctors know about the potential injurious impact Liberty Quarry would have on our youth; Mrs. Harrison has the inside track on what is "right."

Edward Filardo, Temecula


March 2012 Opinions/Forums
 
March 2012 News Articles
 
February 2012 Letters to the Editor

THE CALIFORNIAN, SUN., FEB.5

Still the wrong project in the wrong location

In Jackie Raspler's response (Feb. 3) to my Community Forum ("Liberty Quarry not like San Antonio quarries," Jan. 22), she says, my "listed reference source is invalid." So getting information directly from the actual quarry company is an invalid source? Would that mean getting information directly from Granite Construction is also an invalid source?

Apparently, Ms. Raspler does not understand the importance of designated habitat areas in California and especially Riverside County. There is a difference between "habitat" and areas with a special habitat designation. If Riverside County did not have these protected designated habitat areas that it does have, legally, further development would be highly restricted.

Also, I did not state or imply "that Liberty Quarry will create destruction to the 4,000-acre reserve." However, it has been shown that the quarry being on the border will impact the reserve's future as a university outdoor educational laboratory.

While Ms. Raspler references that Liberty Quarry could be transformed into a "beautiful natural lake and park," who wants a lake with a thousand-foot-deep bottom and pit sides with 60-foot sidewall steps? ...

Let's remember, the Riverside County Planning Commission voted 4-1 to deny the proposed Liberty Quarry project.

Linda Bartz, Temecula

Liberty's dust blanket

Granite's own environmental impact report indicates the Liberty Quarry site will release 27.4 tons of microscopic particulate matter into the air per year. That's a big number, 27.4 tons. I want to put that into perspective.

What would you feel is a downright filthy surface? For the sake of discussion, let's say we've got a 1/64-inch thick layer of dust for our filthy surface. If we take the bulk density of the dust in question to be that of concrete dust, it weighs about 50 pounds per cubic foot. Spread out to make a 1/64-inch layer, 27.4 tons of dust would cover an area of nearly 900,000 square feet or about 15 football fields' worth. This is dust that has two Proposition 65-listed, known carcinogens in it: hexavalent chromium and silica.

Sure, this stuff is small and won't all settle to the ground. That just means it's floating around in the air for us all to breathe. This all reminds me of the TXI Riverside cement plant problems and lawsuits from 2008. Surely, our elected officials can learn from history.

Mark Herndon, Temecula

We don't need Granite in our community

Re: "If it is orange, vote it out," Community Forum, by Jim Welker, Feb. 2: I have just read Jim Welker's diatribe. I have never, in my life, read such a piece of uninformed and misleading nonsense.

He claims physicians don't know how to use a shovel. I'm a physician, and he couldn't have held a candle to my ability with a shovel prior to medical school. We treat diseases caused by companies like Granite Construction Company and they are not pretty. ... We don't need this company in our community.

Alexander Watts, Temecula

Take a deep breath

Re: "If it is orange, vote it out," Community Forum, by Jim Welker, Feb. 2: Whew, Jim, take a deep breath. One hundred and sixty doctors turning shovels, San Diego State University scheming for research dollars, Pechanga tribe dreams of an empire, reserve water stinks, stores empty in Temecula, housing costs exploding, U.S., Greece, Italy going into bankruptcy ---- all due to a few Red Hawk elitists. Who knew? Barack Obama said it was all due to President Bush, but he thinks this will happen without the quarry.

What do we know? The wind blows from west to east about 2 p.m. just about each and every day. Any and all dust will affect those in its path, some more than others, increasing the need for doctor visits (hopefully they will not be turning over shovels). Our children will be the most vulnerable and most affected.

With the government's Congressional Budget Office release of quite a dismal outlook for 2012, 2013 and beyond, does Mr. Welker really think we're on the verge of a housing boom that requires such vitriolic rantings?

Again, Jim, take a deep breath of our pristine air (when he's in Temecula), have a beer, and I hope his Super Bowl team wins.

Edward Filardo,Temecula

The Press-Enterprise, Thurs., Feb. 2

Keep Liberty Quarry out

We live on a small hill on the far side of Temecula. Every day at 1 o’clock the ocean breezes start flowing in through the same gap where the Liberty Quarry would be built (“Supervisors’ vote could come next week,” Jan. 31).

All the tiny particles from the quarry dust would ride in on those breezes and be deposited on Temecula. Good for the area? I don’t think so. It just cannot happen.

Anna Mills, Temecula

Spare our air, wineries

I grew up in Temecula, taking for granted its clean air. Now that I no longer live there, I realize how fortunate I was to be in a place where the air quality has not been compromised.

Permitting the operation of Liberty Quarry would most assuredly compromise Temecula’s clean air (“Supervisors’ vote could come next week,” Jan. 31). The environmental impact report clearly states the implementation of this open pit mine would add to air pollution.

This, in turn, would impact the wineries, adversely affecting the grapes and deterring tourists. Does anyone really want to tour Wine Country if it requires seeing and breathing dirty air?

Granite Construction has spent millions touting the benefits its gravel pit will bring to the economy. I, too, care about the region’s economy — the economy that is already in place, a tourist industry dependent on the 30-plus wineries of the Temecula Valley. Wineries cannot coexist with a project that destroys air quality.

Mary Hamilton, Riverside

February 2012 Opinions/Forums

A time to heal
The Californian, Sun., Feb. 19

Now that the Riverside County Board of Supervisors has upheld the Planning Commission's denial of the Liberty Quarry, it's time for healing to be the new theme for the area.

With labor and business interests having enthusiastically supported the now-defeated quarry proposal, and many nearby residents and the American Indian community having been every bit as vociferous in opposing it, feelings have been running high since Granite Construction began working to develop a rock and gravel quarry on the site just west of Interstate 15 on the north side of the county line.

Although Granite could conceivably revive the Liberty Quarry proposal, it would probably need major revisions to warrant reconsideration from the county ---- much less a different outcome to the permitting process.

It seems to us that it is time for both sides to move on. The democratic process ran its course, and a controversial proposal was defeated.

However, Granite expended quite a few resources in developing its proposal ---- a proposal that was made in good faith, based on an established local need for building materials.

Should Granite find an alternative site to provide these needed materials, we would hope that those who opposed the Liberty site would approach any new proposal with an open mind. And we would urge those labor and business interests that supported Liberty to help ensure that those who opposed Liberty are included in siting decisions of any future proposals at the earliest possible time.

Finally, should Granite decide to relieve itself of the Liberty site, we think it would be a wonderful gesture for the Pechanga community ---- which opposed the quarry because it would have infringed on the tribe's sacred lands ---- to quickly come to agreement with Granite on a fair price to preserve the land in Pechanga hands in perpetuity.

But the heated debate should come to an end at this point. Both sides need to take a deep breath and acknowledge that their opponents acted in good faith, with the best of intentions and the interests of the community at heart.

That kind of community commitment is something we ought to be able to recognize, even in those who see the betterment of the community as traveling a very different route.

Process is flawed to the max
The Californian, Sun., Feb. 12
Phil Strickland

As we sit here fidgeting while we wait for the Riverside County Board of Supervisors to decide whether Granite Construction can blast the hell out of our countryside with consequences so grim for so long that to take a chance on any one of them ---- much less the whole passel ---- would be inviting disaster to take up residence, how, one might ask, did we end up in this mess?

Easy: We, as a county, have a consultant-approval process that is laughable at best.

The unfunny thing for some people might be that the whole thing hinges on documents sworn to under threat of perjury by the applicant and consultant that there will be no hanky panky.

That document, in turn, is approved by the county's planning director, Carolyn Syms Luna.

It sounds intimidating and all that, but frankly it's all bark. It says nothing about the substance of the relationship between applicant and consultant.

Take San Diego County for example: Once a consultant is chosen, it's hands-off for applicant and consultant alike.

And you have to ask why that patch of wildness just at the county line is so desirable?

It's not so much the location being contiguous to San Diego County as it is being contiguous to the county and located in Riverside County, a much friendlier county when it comes to handing out mining permits.

As everyone knows, there's plenty of that very same granite in San Diego County. In fact, something like 80 percent of the county's land mass is ---- that's right ---- granite.

So now, with a meeting scheduled for Tuesday at 9 a.m. at the supervisor's chambers in Riverside, the county drama that is Liberty Quarry may play its final show.

Not likely, but one can hope.

But what can happen, and with relative ease (given the political will), is the re-evaluation of the county's procedure for hiring consultants and their actions once assigned to a project.

If nothing else, Liberty Quarry has given county residents only the merest of glimpses into how the system works: Use a trusted consultant, add some slapdash "science" and utterances so easily discredited that it's embarrassing for some regional "experts."

The state and marriage: In yet another setback for Prop. 8 advocates, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court and ruled that the citizen-backed proposition declaring that marriage is between a man and a woman is unconstitutional.

It had been my opinion for quite some time now that two or more people can join in whatever relationship they find fulfilling without any interference from the government.

A colleague of the feminine persuasion asked me why government should be involved in marriage at all ---- except, perhaps, for atheists ---- and she's right.

If a church wants to marry homosexuals, fine, let them do it. If not, no biggie.

The biggest question for the state is how to replace the marriage-license fees.

RivCo Supes face a mine-blowing decision
The Press-Enterprise, Sat., Feb. 11
Dan Bernstein

There have been hours upon days of testimony from busloads of color-coordinated proponents, opponents and exponents. Entire forests may have sacrificed their lives for environmental impact reports.

So it might sound strange that, after all this and after more testimony to come, RivCo’s board of supes might actually find it quite easy to deprive Granite Construction of the permit it needs to operate Liberty Quarry.

It might sound snotty and selfish, but why rip up them thar hills so San Diego County can gulp down its fill of aggregate — especially when an aggregation of Temecula-area peeps thinks this is such a loopy idea? If you are a county supe, do you really want to fall on your sword to export a key ingredient of cement and asphalt for someone else’s roads?

I do not mean to minimize the complexity of this matter, which becomes more complex with each orating expert: It’s dirty. It’s clean! It’s a money-maker! Is not! Is too! Enough of that could crush a supervisor’s brain into a key element of asphalt.

The trouble with aggregate is that it is not sexy. It is not energy harnessed by solar farms in the desert. It is tiny pebbles aggregated by blowing up a hilltop. Even the specter of an aggregate shortage does not strike fear into the hearts. But the prospect of mining aggregate strikes fear into the lungs.

It might be different if we were talking about water or oil or some other resource whose occasional scarcity has required rationing. But aggregate rationing? We are not likely to see even-odd aggregate days any time soon.

A tl

What quarry approval will come to, warns Temecula Mayor Chuck Washington, is exactly 146 pollution-related deaths over the life of the mine. I hear the mayor can read palms, too.

But there is a Bookends Problem. Well north of the envisioned quarry, RivCo is in a committed relationship with large trucks drawn like bees to the honeycomb of inland warehouses. Experts differ (surprise!) over levels of noxious perfumery likely to be expelled by aggregate-bearing fleets. But do supes really want to bookend RivCo with belching hubs — a legacy that might not be so fleeting? Where will they come down if the chorus chants, “Give me Liberty or give me breath”?

Even the promise of jobs in an economy blown to aggregate has a sketchy ring. Skechers promised double the number of jobs now in place at MoVal and its Empire warehouse workforce actually shrank. March Healthcare promised lots of jobs, but the medical “campus” remains stubbornly, joblessly unbuilt.

This could be a no-brainer for supes. Although some job-hungry Temeculans back the quarry, support seems to gather strength the farther the backers (including Perris and Menifee electeds) reside from the site.

I keep coming back to the notion of being a bedroom mine to San Diego. Can’t Granite find another hill to climb? Or if we must export, let’s export: Ship our aggregate to China where it can be ground up to make computers or phones and shipped back here so we’d have something nice to show for it. Do I hear a motion?

A search for the truth about the quarry
The Californian, Sat., Feb. 11
Marelle Dorsey

At the Feb. 6 Riverside County Board of Supervisors Appeal hearing for Liberty Quarry, I represented hundreds of area real estate professionals on record against the quarry, stating that it would lower property values. The Rose Institute economic study supported our position.

I questioned the board: "How could you even consider changing the site's Rural and Residential zoning to Mining and Manufacturing?" Many area housing developments, such as Redhawk, were created under the county and incorporated years later. On Jan. 30, Betty Johnson presented copies of approximately 2,200 Redhawk anti-quarry petitions gathered in 2006.

I also gave each supervisor my notebook titled, "A Search for Truth: Publicized Background Information for State and County Hearings." Included were supporting documents concerning real estate. One was a copy of the buyer disclosure that the San Diego Real Estate Board demanded be used for the Fallbrook area as early as 2004, when Granite Construction's Rosemary Mountain, a smaller blasting quarry project, was just proposed. Buyers of properties had to acknowledge that a quarry would have occasional "explosion sounds, equipment sounds, and dust."

Liberty Quarry would have to disclose additional health concerns, as well as increased traffic congestion from the heavy truck traffic caused by 1,600 daily truck trips on I-15.

In 1991, Temecula recorded a Sphere of Influence to the county line for the purpose of giving Temecula some control over the southern entry's scenic escarpment.

Granite and the county proceeded in 2005 with quarry plans. Temecula spent a total of $644,000 in its 2009 LAFCO annexation bid, the later appeal, and then in winning a partial annexation in 2010, which did not include the quarry site. Granite supported LAFCO's decision to demand Temecula had to first give up its Sphere of Influence over the quarry site. This sparked calls for a grand jury. Granite spent heavily to stop the annexation.

LAFCO, or the Local Agency Formation Commission, in charge of local boundaries, is a state legislative agency with county members. They are supposed to promote orderly development, but also to preserve agriculture and open space.

Concerns about water and a study of area earthquakes, including the nearby huge fault line, and Granite's inaccurate economic report are documented, as are examples of Granite's propaganda and bad conduct.

The EIR is at times itself the proof of insufficient and misleading data.

The exaggerated traffic studies and the minimizing of accident risks associated with loss of truck brake control are examples.

The air-quality concerns of physicians and the American Lung Association, such as silicosis, poor health and death are examined.

The nonstandard data collecting, which determined levels of predicted air quality, is found in the EIR. Granite's own expert at the August Planning Commission hearing admitted that the wind data should have been collected at the top of the mountain, not 600 feet below.

However, even with wind numbers that are too low, the EIR shows that the maximum pollution credits, emission-reduction credits and additional RECLAIM credits for excessive nitrous oxide, must be purchased. How bad would the the actual truth be?

Wear orange and attend the 9 a.m. Feb. 14 final hearing in Supervisors' Chamber.

A talk with Abe
The Californian, Sat., Feb. 11
John Hunneman

Good Sunday morning to you. We're headed for breakfast at The Mill.

Browsing through this newspaper's archives recently, I discovered it had been five years since I last sat down withPresident Abraham Lincoln and, using his words from 150 years ago, discussed some of the current issues of the day. Today, on Lincoln's 203rd birthday, it seemed a good time for another interview.

President Lincoln, late last year Riverside County planning commissioners heard days of expert testimony for and against a proposed granite quarry near Temecula before deciding the project was a bad idea.

Abe: "I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to give them the real facts."

Even so, Granite Construction is continuing its marketing campaign trying to convince people that the quarry will be great for everyone.

Abe: "What kills a skunk is the publicity it gives itself."

The quarry project has now been appealed to the county Board of Supervisors for a final decision.

Abe: "You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time."

Switching to the national scene, do you have an opinion about the upcoming presidential election?

Abe: "The time comes upon every public man when it is best for him to keep his lips closed."

But aren't you concerned that instead of small donations from many Americans, political campaigns now seem to be bankrolled by only a few large companies and rich people?

Abe: "These capitalists generally act harmoniously, and in concert, to fleece the people."

The country is so divided these days. Nobody in Washington can seem to agree on anything. Meanwhile, many Americans are hurting.

Abe: "America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."

Closer to home, I realize you may not have seen the movie "Forrest Gump," but the actor who played Lt. Dan is bringing his rock 'n' roll show to Temecula on March 1 to raise money for a wounded war veteran. You must appreciate that.

Abe: "With malice towards none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and among all nations."

Finally, do you have any words to offer today, on your 203rd birthday, to future generations of Americans as they make their way in the world?

Abe: "You have to do your own growing no matter how tall your grandfather was."

Thank you, Mr. President, and happy birthday.

No need to desecrate Temecula for quarry
The Californian, Thurs., Feb. 9
Ken Johnson

Temecula neighbors, are you thankful for your city? I believe most of you are. If so, there's a situation going on at "final hearing" sessions on the Liberty Quarry that I think should alarm you and cause you to ask what you can do about it.

After Granite Construction failed to convince Temeculans that the Liberty Quarry was a good idea for Temecula, they switched tactics and set out to pit neighbors against each other by styling Liberty Quarry as a regional issue. They have gone to city councils across the county and influenced them (how, would you imagine?) to call for Liberty Quarry to be imposed on Temecula without even offering Temeculans a chance to defend themselves in these forums ... a bad-neighbor policy on steroids.

The current final hearings in Riverside have taken on a tawdry hue. Granite is bringing AFL-CIO workers from all over Southern California by the busloads to arrive early at these sessions and occupy the center of the auditorium. These workers have been told they are going to a "jobs rally." They know little or nothing of the issues of Liberty Quarry. They are outfitted with green shirts and a green hats. They are given vouchers for a free lunches. They are trotted out for newspaper photos.

At the Feb. 6 session they found themselves listening to our local opponents of the quarry absolutely demolish Granite Construction's purchased Environmental Impact Report. By the end of the day, the EIR had been reduced to a shambles (just as was the case at the commission level) and stripped naked of its deceptive clothing of misinformation. The EIR was in critical condition. It was on life support and needing to be put out of its misery.

All this was lost on the green shirts occupying the center of the room, surrounded by the anti-quarry orange shirts. They soon lost interest in the proceedings and were found in long lines getting their free lunches and lounging at all the tables in the dining room, leaving an embarrassing sea of empty seats in the middle of the meeting hall ---- possibly wondering, where are the jobs?

These job-seekers had been deluded. Granite's Rosemary's Mountain quarry is the test case for the validity of Liberty Quarry's boast of "Jobs, Jobs, Jobs." Its anemic employment rate shows that the jobs supposed to come from servicing San Diego's aggregate supply needs are missing in action. It is clear, on top of this, San Diego has plans to meet its own aggregate needs with its own resources when the building market revives. No need then to desecrate Temecula!

I've coined a new word to describe the Liberty Quarry EIR, the EIR process, and the green mercenary tactic. The word is spelled F-L-A-W-E-D-U-L-E-N-T ... flawedulent! What think you?

A 'fanning the flames of democracy' rose
The Californian, Mon., Feb. 6

Roses all around to the 1,700-some residents who attended the Liberty Quarry hearing before the Riverside County Board of Supervisors last week. No matter where one stands on the proposed quarry, that so many people were willing to take time out of their busy schedules, find parking and then sit through a lengthy hearing in order to have their viewpoint considered was heartening. Representative democracy requires an involved citizenry to work, and that so many area residents were so very willing to become personally involved is a positive sign of the health of our system.

Re-site quarry
The Press-Enterprise, Sun., Feb. 5

The proposed Liberty Quarry near Temecula is a case of a promising project in the wrong location. The quarry proponents have not made a convincing case that the potential benefits of the mine in this spot outweigh the drawbacks to the nearby region. So Riverside County supervisors should uphold the Planning Commission’s rejection of the quarry plans.

Granite Construction Company proposes to put a 135-acre mine on a 414-acre site south of Temecula and west of Interstate 15, just north of the San Diego County line. The Liberty Quarry would produce aggregate, a type of rock used in construction materials such as cement and asphalt. But neighbors of the proposed mine site, including the city of Temecula and the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, adamantly oppose the project.

The county Planning Commission rejected the quarry proposal last year after five public hearings and nearly 52 hours of testimony. The company appealed that decision to the Board of Supervisors, which could make a decision on the issue on Monday.

Opposing the quarry location is not an easy call. The Press-Enterprise editorial board generally supports business growth and grasps the need for a sufficient source of building materials. The editorial board met with a range of stakeholders in the issue, and understands the concerns on all sides. And much of the discussion is a debate between dueling expert testimony that offers contradictory analyses of the need for and effects of the quarry.

On balance, however, the arguments for the quarry are insufficient to justify a hilltop site surrounded by a tribal reservation, an ecological preserve and a city of more than 101,000 people. Nor should anyone be comfortable with the prospect of a sensitive swath of Riverside County shouldering the burdens of a mine that mainly would serve San Diego County needs: Granite says two-thirds of the materials from the quarry would go to construction south of the county line.

The demand for necessary building materials does not offer a convincing justification for the proposed site. The region will need more sources of aggregate in the future, but just how much and how soon is a subject of dispute. Granite and Temecula officials, for example, offer competing analyses of the immediacy and need. But even a pressing shortage does not mean that the proposed quarry site is the right solution. The long-term projections assume no other new sources open up, which seems unlikely. And the Temecula location is hardly the only spot in the region where such rock exists.

Nor are the potential economic benefits of the quarry persuasive. The quarry’s study points to a more than $200 million boost to the economy from the project by 2021, and hundreds of millions in new government revenue over the 75-year life of the mine. Yet a competing study says the quarry will result in a cumulative $3.6 billion cost to the region over the next 50 years — leaving residents to guess at which figure is right.

Jobs also are not a reason to push ahead with the current plan. Granite says the quarry will create 99 jobs on site and another 178 related jobs elsewhere. Jobs are welcome, given the region’s high unemployment levels. But there is no guarantee those would be new jobs, and not workers shifted from elsewhere. Nor is there any certainty those would go to local residents.

Riverside County should not chase business away, certainly. But the need for jobs and commerce should not mean abandoning careful planning. Quarries are necessary operations for a growing region — but only if the site makes sense.

Granite plays the jobs card
The Californian, Sun., Feb. 5
Phil Strickland

It wasn't long before pro-Liberty Quarry union members fresh from the 7:30 a.m. Jobs Rally and hangin' for the real reason their leaders dragged them out ---- to show the supervisors clout at the ballot box ---- got to go into action.

In rather quick fashion following the warning from 2nd District supervisor and candidate for the new 41st Congressional District seat John Tavaglione that hoots and hollers would result in the violators' removal, the pro-quarry unionists gave way to waving green rags.

Quick learners, the opponents of Granite Construction's appeal of the Planning Commission's denial of a permit for the quarry, known by their orange garb, responded by waving their suitably hued hats.

Eventually it was all mime (except the testimony), a rather odd spectacle to be sure.

Before the meeting, at least one member of the AFL-CIO asked quarry opponent Jerri Arganda what all the fuss was about. He said he had been told to show up for a Jobs Fair (complete with free lunch) and confessed to knowing nothing about the subject project.

You know Granite's feeling the heat when it plays the jobless card ---- over and over.

Imagine, passing off a supervisors meeting as a job fair.

In fact, a man of character has confirmed that he saw a letter, a copy of which was forwarded to me, inviting members to just such an event.

You know you're in trouble when you have to scam your own workers/members.

And so began the first day of the recitation of Granite's well-rehearsed make-it-sound-like-science "science," i.e., the Granite litany that might normally skate through the approval process.

This attempt to desecrate the public trust ---- not to mention the sacred land of the Pechanga ---- all in the name of profits that are unimaginable to you and me and about 99.99 percent of everyone else ---- even the "wealthy" ---- has the feeling of a cosmetic surgery gone terribly wrong.

Granite came prepared with some gussied up arguments, but little supported its contention that a gargantuan open-pit blasting mine directly upwind of hundreds of thousands of people and dozens of successful wineries and growers ---- not to mention right next to an internationally recognized ecological reserve ---- would be a boon to all.

The case Granite put forth was more a matter of trying to prop up its eroding position while the opposition continued bit by bit to get closer to the truth of the matter.

Take, for instance, when resident Stella Stevens presented the supervisors with a binder laden with government studies refuting Granite assertions regarding blasting near faults.

Or when Fred Bartz discussed the safety of the road grade from the pit back to the freeway: a grade of about 9 percent, which could result in a runaway loaded hauler plunging to the interstate.

Or pictures taken of enormous dust clouds lingering hours after a single blast.

Granite's biggest problem is credibility.

It's a recurrent theme.

Nothing plus nothing is nothing.

February 2012 News Articles

Dust settles following county quarry decision
Valley News, Fri., Feb. 24

Members of a grassroots coalition staged an impromptu celebration Thursday night, Feb. 16, following the narrow defeat of a bid to open a granite mine between Temecula and Rainbow. The spirited Temecula gathering came hours after a 3-2 vote by Riverside County supervisors to deny Granite Construction Co. permission to operate Liberty Quarry south of Temecula.

"I can’t remember ever seeing smiles on this many faces," Jim Mitchell, chairman of the local Sierra Club chapter, said at the start of the group’s general meeting last Thursday. "We are celebrating."

The meeting attracted about 50 people, and participants congratulated each other and feted the efforts of a broad coalition of environmentalists and local leaders and officials. They sipped sparkling cider and munched on oatmeal and macadamia cookies as they pondered the pivotal vote and the likely path ahead for the highly-controversial mine project.

"Liberty Quarry is now no quarry," exclaimed Fred Bartz, a leader of the Save Our Southwest Hills environmental group. "It’s basically done."

Bartz stood in front of a projected slide he said quoted county Supervisor Jeff Stone’s speech in the board hearing that ended with Liberty Quarry’s denial. In his remark, Stone noted that his supervisorial district would suffer the mine’s impacts while Granite reaped a profit and San Diego County purchased the lion’s share of the product.

Bartz and other quarry foes then went on to note that county supervisors must reaffirm that denial soon in a second reading. They wondered whether the swing vote cast by Corona-area Supervisor John Tavaglione might change. They also discussed Granite options of a court challenge or the submittal of a revised development plan.

"We don’t know what they’re going to do," Bartz said. "(But) I’m happy where we’re at. Let’s celebrate for a few days and then take another look at it."

Mitchell, whose Sierra Club chapter opposed the mine plan, quoted a Granite representative as saying it cost the company $10 million to plan, study, and promote the project since it was proposed more than six years ago.

Granite initially sought 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 was identified by county planners as a favored development alternative.

If approved, the 414-acre project could have included 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 helped fuel criticism of the mine plan.

The project was one of the most controversial development plans to surface in the area in recent decades. Thousands of area residents who opposed the project or sought the jobs and taxes it would provide packed public hearings that played out over many years.

The land use proposal and subsequent backlash sparked community rallies and aerial photographs, billboard campaigns, and bus trips to Riverside hearings.

Capping the post-vote celebration, Bartz and other mine foes praised SOS, SDSU, the Sierra Club, Temecula city officials, Pechanga tribal leaders, and others for forming a unified front.

"It was a large effort of people working together," Bartz said.

Quarry Vote came down to quality of life
The Press-Enterprise, Sat., Feb. 18

Quality of life.

When it comes to the Temecula-area quarry, those three words boil down far too many years of studies, lobbyists, protests, public hearings, speeches, orange shirts, green shirts, sacred grounds, campaign contributions, news releases, politics, politics and more politics.

Those three words — what the modern-day community of Temecula was founded upon — triumphed yet again when Riverside County supervisors momentously rejected the Liberty Quarry.

Temeculans didn’t move here by the hundred thousand in the past quarter century to create just another Southern California suburb crammed with tract homes and strip malls. No, they’re better than that, haughty and misguided as it may seem to some. Sure, other communities have quarries that haven’t thrashed their property values (i.e. high-end Corona), but they’re not the all-mighty Temecula.

To paraphrase their hero Ronald Reagan, Temecula residents are that shining city upon a hill he spoke of. To the zillions of quarry critics, all of its dust, noise and congestion wouldn’t have just blurred that idyllic image, it would have destroyed it.

And so the supervisors voted 3-2 to preserve Temecula and all of its glory. And it was no accident that the two guys who most speak for us — Bob Buster and Jeff Stone — voted no. They know all too well what the quarry meant to local voters.

So what if Temecula, with its tract homes, massive commerce and congested freeway, is a sea of concrete, a quarry’s sole reason for existence. So what if Temecula residents are more than happy to build themselves silly with aggregate from other people’s quarries. They’ll be darned if they’re going to do their fair share. That’s some other sappy community’s headache, not Temecula’s.

Yes, in a tough economy, with claims by quarry boosters that it would support about 300 jobs and generate $300 million in sales tax revenue over the life of the project, Temeculans en masse said no, it’s not worth our — all together now — quality of life!

To them the quarry was the great unknown. Yes, the developer produced study after study after study after (OK, you get the point) that said those concerns were overblown, that other communities are doing just fine environmentally with a quarry in their midst. But Temecula residents weren’t willing to take that risk.

The quarry’s demise also was a rejection of Temecula’s idol, San Diego County. We in southwest Riverside County drool over all things San Diego, from the beaches to the sports teams to the big-city culture.

Yet when it came down to our precious quality of life, our county supervisors essentially told our neighbors to the south, “Take this quarry and shove it!”

Time after time supervisors hammered the point: If much of the aggregate mined from the quarry is going to be trucked down to San Diego, build the thing there. No matter their beaches, we’re tired of being their whipping boy.

We close with this thought, compliments of the Temecula-area Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians. They say the quarry would have obliterated a tribal site on par with the Bible’s Garden of Eden.

To the typical Temeculans and their hallowed quality of life, that says it all.

Riverside county supervisors reject massive Temecula quarry
The Los Angeles Times, Fri., Feb. 17

The fastest-growing county in California rejected a massive, mountaintop rock quarry Thursday that supporters called an essential source of the ingredients that fed the region's economic ascent.

In the end, however, neighborhood objections to increased traffic, possible health hazards and environmental destruction won out, a rare outcome in the pro-development frontier of the Inland Empire.

Fierce opposition in Temecula, a city known for its vineyard-covered valley and rock-ribbed conservative politics, persuaded the Riverside County Board of Supervisors to vote down the proposed rock mine by a 3-2 vote, despite the promise of hundreds of new blue-collar jobs to the recession-flattened region.

Temecula City Councilman Jeff Comerchero called the vote a "watershed" moment for a county that had been used as Southern California's back lot for mining, landfills, prisons and other less glamorous necessities.

"I don't think the county of Riverside was strong enough politically or economically to really understand our image, of what we wanted to be, 20 years ago,'' Comerchero said. "This vote says that we really do have the right to determine what happens in our communities.''

Veteran Inland Empire economist John Husing, a consultant for the mining company, offered a less charitable assessment. He said the influx of upscale housing in Riverside and San Bernardino counties over the last decade coincided with rising opposition to major mines, jails and similar employers — sources of blue-collar jobs in a region where nearly half the workforce has only a high school diploma.

"The people who moved out here think of themselves as upper crust,'' Husing said. "And the NIMBY (Not in My Back Yard) attitude is very strong.''

Watsonville-based Granite Construction had proposed a 414-acre rock mine, known as Liberty Quarry, on a mountain that looms over the 15 Freeway in the southwest corner of the county, an upscale suburban haven that has attracted thousands of new families drawn by the quiet neighborhoods, good schools and gentle hills east of the Santa Ana Mountains.

The company would have mined about 270 million tons of granite over 75 years, supplying building material to northern San Diego County and southwest Riverside County.

Four days of marathon testimony and deliberations drew busloads of union members in favor of the mine and busloads of Temecula community groups against it.

"There are just too many uncertainties to me,'' said Supervisor John Tavaglione, whose district includes several similar mines in Corona.

Tavaglione appeared to be the swing vote against the project, siding with Supervisors Jeff Stone of Temecula and Bob Buster of Riverside. Voting in favor were Supervisors John Benoit of Indio and Marion Ashley of Perris.

In a statement, the company said it was "very disappointed by today's decision by the board as the environmental studies clearly show this project would be good for Riverside County.''

Gary Johnson, project manager for the proposed quarry, said one option for Granite may be to submit a revised proposal.

Granite won support from business leaders and chamber of commerce groups outside the city in part by stressing that the quarry would create 99 mining-related jobs and hundreds of more indirect jobs with local suppliers and support companies.

The argument was not lost on the supervisors, who oversee a county decimated by the economic downtown and a 12.5% unemployment rate, one of the highest in California. Earlier this month, medical device manufacturer Abbott Labs, the Temecula area's largest employer, laid off 300 workers.

Roger Wright, an unemployed 29-year-old laborer who lives a mile east of the proposed mine site, told the supervisors earlier this week that he was two weeks away from losing his house and car.

"To say we are currently scraping by is an understatement,'' Wright said. "We, like so many others in our situation, need the project to happen.''

Opponents included the city, Temecula wineries, local school districts, the regional tourism council, area avocado growers and the local chapter of the Sierra Club.

The Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians also launched an aggressive campaign against the mine, which would be a few hundred yards from the reservation and loom over the tribe's four-star resort casino.

Tribal Chairman Mark Macarro said Granite's proposed mine was on a mountain where Luiseño people believe all life was created, akin to the Garden of Eden.

"We only have one creation site. Only one," Macarro told the supervisors shortly before the vote. "Once it's destroyed, once it's eviscerated by a mine ... it's gone."

Liberty Quarry near Temecula rejected
The Union-Tribune, Thurs., Feb. 16

A large open-pit rock quarry to be built just over the San Diego County line near Temecula was denied by a 3-2 vote of the Riverside County Board of Supervisors today following three days of lengthy and often passionate testimony.

Granite Construction’s Liberty Quarry has been the object of intense debate since it was first proposed in 2005. In August, the Riverside County Planning Commission voted 4-1 to deny the project. Granite appealed the decision to the supervisors.

Supervisors Chairman John Tavaglione cast the deciding vote.

“There are just too many uncertainties for me,” he said as audible gasps were heard in the supervisor’s chambers. “I just cannot support this project at this time.”

Thousands of people attended the marathon-like meetings held this month and six earlier ones held last year before the Planning Commission. Most opposed the project.

The quarry would have produced 500 million tons of aggregate — tiny rocks used to make asphalt and concrete — over the 75-year life expectancy of the project.

It would have been built on a 414-acre site just west of Interstate 15, of which 110 acres would have been the actual mine.

The environmental report on the project contained more than 8,500 pages.

Granite maintained the quarry would create nearly 100 permanent jobs and more than 900 temporary construction jobs, and would generate more than $1 million in sales tax revenue to the county annually.

“The county is better off with this project than without this project,” Granite’s Gary Johnson told the supervisors Tuesday. “Now is your opportunity to say yes to this project. Say yes to unprecedented environmental protection. Say yes to less traffic and cleaner air. Say yes to clean trucks and more tax revenue. Say yes to private investment. Say yes to jobs. Say yes to Liberty Quarry.”

Opponents included environmentalists, nearby residents and the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, who say the quarry would be built in an area that represents the origins of their people.

Concerns centered on noise that could be caused by blasting, dust, truck traffic, the possibility the operations could damage residents’ health, and the harm the quarry could have on tourism and housing prices.

Supervisors Bob Buster and Jeff Stone, both representing southwest Riverside County, also rejected the project. Buster, citing studies that show 60 to 70 percent of the material mined would be trucked to San Diego County, called the quarry an “environmental injustice.”

Stone said he found fatal flaws with the environmental report that the county’s planning department oversaw and upon which recommended approval of the project.

“We get all the impacts of the project,” Stone said, “Granite gets all of the profits, and San Diego gets most of the aggregate needs at the expense of our cherished quality of life for the next 75 years.”

Voting for the project were supervisors John Benoit and Marion Ashley.

“I am persuaded that any adverse effects of this project will be minor,” Benoit said, “and will never come close to the catastrophic levels envisioned or argued here before us. The benefits of this project to the community at large significantly outweigh any negative impacts.”

It wasn’t until Tavaglione announced his decision that anyone in the chambers knew what the outcome would be. Loud applause followed the official vote.

 

Controversial quarry voted down by board
The Californian, Thurs., Feb. 16

Overcome by emotion, opponents of Granite Construction's Liberty Quarry project cried tears of joy after the Riverside County Board of Supervisors voted Thursday to uphold the denial of a controversial hard rock mine.

Others cheered from their seats, and a few surged forward to applaud the decision, shouting "Thank you! Thank you!" to the supervisors.

The vote was 3-2 with board Chairman John Tavaglione and fellow Supervisors Jeff Stone and Bob Buster voting yes to uphold the decision. Supervisors Marion Ashley and John Benoit voted no.

The county Planning Commission voted 4-1 last year to deny the project. Granite appealed that decision, sparking a series of meetings conducted by the supervisors.

Granite has been working since 2005 to secure approval for the mine, and has encountered strong resistance from the beginning.

Opponents, who have waged an epic battle against the mine, hope the supervisors' vote serves as a death blow for the project.

Thursday's meeting came on the heels of three public hearings that attracted crowds of more than 1,000 people.

After the vote was taken, opponents congregated in the lobby of the Riverside County Administration Center to hug each other, shake hands and fix makeup that had been marred by tears.

Granite Construction officials, green-clad union members and project supporters quickly left the building.

The chairman of the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, Mark Macarro, said the tribe was very happy with the decision and he translated a Pechanga word to sum up his feelings.

"Our heart, my heart, is well," he said.

The tribe had argued that the entire mountain eyed by Granite for its 135-acre hard rock quarry was sacred, a site akin to the Garden of Eden for them.

Granite attorney Mark Harrison had worked to undercut that argument by saying the site could be developed carefully to avoid damaging landscape "features" that were culturally significant, much as the tribe spared its Great Oak during construction of its golf course.

Macarro told the supervisors that any development on the mountain would not be supported.

"The mountain is the feature," he said.

Project debated

Buster and Stone, who represent portions of Southwest County, dominated the discourse on the project before the final vote. They said the benefits of the mine did not outweigh its potential negative cultural and environmental effects, which they said included risking the health and welfare of area residents.

"I don't see how a quarry of this size, with this number of tons per year, designed for a distant marketplace in mid-San Diego County ---- even with the paltry additional mitigation that has been proposed ---- is an appropriate thing for us to approve today," Buster said.

Benoit had argued that an oversight board could be established that would allow the public to closely monitor the quarry's operations, and he proposed a slate of conditions that would require creating programs to monitor noise, air quality and water quality.

Benoit's motion to approve the project with those conditions, seconded by Ashley, was defeated, however.

Reading from 17 pages of notes, Stone offered an expansive criticism of the project and the county's environmental review of the project, which was proposed for land near an ecological reserve and the San Diego County community of Rainbow.

"I believe a flaw in Riverside County's permitting process is allowing companies to pick their consultants," he said. "You can hire a consultant to give you any result you want."

After saying he would like to change that process, Stone proceeded to go down a checklist of the issues that he felt were troubling about the project.

One of the most serious, he said, was the possibility that air quality, and residents' health, would be affected.

He also wondered aloud what the county could possibly do with the mine site after Granite finished with its excavation work in 50 or 75 years.

"A landfill maybe? More blue-collar jobs, Mr. Husing?" he asked.

Earlier during the series of meetings, Inland Empire economist John Husing had appeared to lobby on behalf of "blue collar" jobs, saying industries that could support those sort of jobs have repeatedly been opposed in Riverside County, to the detriment of the county's unemployment rate.

On the jobs issue, Stone said he wasn't sure any would be created. Instead, he said the likelier scenario was a redistribution of jobs from quarries in the northern part of the county to Liberty Quarry.

"More studies should have been done," he said.

Talking about the cultural issues raised by the tribe, Stone asked why the Pechanga wouldn't support a project that would create jobs and workers who might spend money at its resort and casino.

Answering his own question, he said, "Because this site cuts to the soul of our Native American friends.

"Haven't our Native American friends suffered enough over the decades and centuries?"

Benoit's support

Benoit, meanwhile, said he was motivated to support the project because he believes property owners have a right to use their property to its best and highest use.

And he said that in this case, satisfying a regional need for more aggregate material qualifies.

"I don't think there's any question ... I'm convinced there is, or will be, a serious demand for aggregate in excess of what's available in our region," he said.

Talking about the health concerns expressed by project opponents, Benoit said he believed there would be "very little dust" that would leave the quarry site, and he said regional air quality would improve when pollution-emitting trucks are removed from county roads.

"That's very, very important to tens of thousands of children throughout the region," he said. "Aggregate no longer will be trucked from Corona, Coachella Valley ... regional air quality will be vastly improved, highways will be safer if this project is approved."

A traffic study used by Granite to promote the project stated the mine could remove 9 million to 16 million in truck miles from county roads because trucks that now carry aggregate from Corona and other quarries north of Temecula would be buying from Liberty Quarry instead.

Before casting his vote, Ashley asked county planning staff members whether their opinions of the project had been changed after listening to around 70 hours of testimony at both the Planning Commission and board level.

That testimony often included "dueling experts" who offered contradictory comments about the proposed mine and its potential environmental effects.

County Planning Director Carolyn Syms Luna said the California Environmental Quality Act does allow for "other opinions," and that the county's stance was unchanged.

"I don't believe there is any reason to change our recommendation (for approval). The conclusions we arrived at in the (environmental impact report) still stand," she said.

In a statement, Granite officials said the company is "disappointed" with the board's decision.

"Unfortunately, this region still faces a looming shortage of aggregate that will have to continue to be met by importing materials from distant sources," said Granite spokeswoman Karie Reuther. "This is not a sustainable practice and will come at a growing cost to the region's traffic conditions, air quality and economy."

Granite officials have speculated on potential next steps if the project were denied, saying filing an amended application was a possibility.

Syms Luna said after Thursday's meeting that she hasn't talked with Granite about any amended application and couldn't comment on what that might look like or entail.

A celebration

An hour and a half after the vote, about 150 people gathered at the Temecula Civic Center to celebrate with an impromptu rally that featured hugs, cheers and a few tears.

The crowd, which included all five Temecula City Council members, gathered near the front steps, many wearing the orange shirts and hats they'd worn for years at meetings and hearings to illustrate their opposition to the project.

"I have never been so proud of this city as I am today," Councilman Jeff Comerchero told the enthusiastic crowd.

Each elected official, and several of the anti-quarry organizers, took a brief turn speaking. They often were interrupted by horns from passing cars that were filled with opponents who were just arriving from the meeting in Riverside.

All the speakers praised the cooperation among the grass-roots group that opposed the project, the city and the Pechanga band of Lusieno Indians as helping influence the Board of Supervisors' decision.

"We all did this together," said Mayor Chuck Washington.

However, Washington and several colleagues cautioned that Granite Construction might again try to build a quarry at the site.

Pointing south toward the mountain where the quarry had been proposed, he urged the crowd to be vigilant.

"It may not be over yet," Washington said. "But we're not going to let them put a quarry up there."

 

Quarry Defeated
Temecula.patch.com, Thurs., Feb. 16

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors during a meeting today at the County Administrative Center voted to block the proposed Liberty Quarry.

The 115-acre mine would have been placed just south of Temecula's city boundary. To read more about the plan, click here.

Supervisors Bob Buster, Jeff Stone and John Tavaglione voted against the project, and Marion Ashley and John Benoit voted in favor of it.

Stone earlier in the meeting said Granite Construction, the company proposing the plan, misled the public with inaccurate information in an attempt to get its project approved.

To read about what he said, click here.

The project would be an economic boon to the county, said Benoit, who praised the project.

To read what he said, click here.

The crowd erupted into applause and cheers in the board chamber as opponents of the quarry, wearing orange shirts and hats, embraced each other, many with tears in their eyes, while quarry supporters quickly and quietly filed out of the room.

"I'm over the top. I'm shaking, I'm so excited," said Chuck Washington, Temecula mayor.

"Personally, I feel very gratified, but on behalf of the Pechanga (tribe), I'm glad the (board) landed in the right place," said Mark Macarro, chair of the Pechanga Tribe of Luiseno Indians.

The site of the mine is a spot sacred to the Pechanga people, he said during previous hearings.

To see a video where he explains about the site's sanctity, click here.

This may not be the last the county has seen of this project though, and he was still leery, he said.

"I don't believe the fight's completely over ... we remain on guard for future threats," Macarro said.

The company can still try to get the project approved, but it will be an uphill battle, experts agreed.

To read about what Granite could do, click here.

The project was already denied by the County Planning Commission, though Granite appealed the vote. To read about that process, click here.

For Kathleen Hamilton, the head of SOS-Hills, a group that took the lead in opposing the quarry, the vote was a huge relief, she said.

"I feel incredibly fantastic," she said.

She and her husband plan to take a much-awaited vacation. "We were arranging to go (to Paris) before, then this came up," she said.

Opponents of the project planned to meet at the Civic Center in Old Town after the meeting, according to Temecula officials.


Quarry vote prediction: 2 - 2 with one tie-breaker
temecula.patch.com, Sun., Feb. 12

Boxing matches are known to begin with a tale of the tape. After sitting through multiple rounds of the fight over Liberty Quarry, my scorecard indicates a split decision. Let's review the five ringside judges, this time known as the county supervisors, alphabetically.

Supervisor Marion Ashley is likely to vote for approval of Liberty Quarry as evidenced by his fast-track approval of a private military training facility in an area of Homeland zoned for rural agricultural use. Any development anywhere seems to be Ashley's modus operandi.

Supervisor John Benoit also appears to favor the project, and a flurry of support for Liberty Quarry comes from his district, which is far from Temecula. Ben Benoit, son of John and current member of the Wildomar City Council, has written letters in support of Liberty Quarry. As the adage goes, the acorn does not fall far from the tree.

Supervisor Bob Buster has been an environmental protection advocate for years. Considering Liberty Quarry would not be a good neighbor for the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve and would interrupt an established wildlife habitat corridor, Buster’s opposition to the quarry seems a safe bet.

Supervisor Jeff Stone gained much of his political experience on the Temecula City Council, and his constituents are overwhelmingly against the quarry. On the other hand, Stone does not shy away from the political limelight, and he wears his pro-business, conservative leanings on his sleeves.

Although Stone is a potential wildcard in the deck, it is hard to imagine him throwing his community and constituents under the Liberty Quarry bus, so the expectation is that he will also oppose the project.

Chairman John Tavaglione appears to be the tiebreaker vote. I would not want to play poker with Tavaglione, because he's hard to read. There are no tells to know what hand he is holding. His officiating of the Liberty Quarry hearings has been extremely evenhanded. The Tavaglione scorecard is just too close to call going into the final round.

The third board of supervisors hearing on Liberty Quarry begins at 9:00 a.m. on February 14 at the Riverside County Administration Center, 4080 Lemon Street. Granite Construction will spend most of Valentine's Day "romancing the stone," and the board’s vote could come by nightfall.

The supervisors are voting on an appeal of the County Planning Commission's 4-1 denial of the Liberty Quarry project. Granite Construction was unable to convince the Planning Commission to approve the quarry, and has yet to offer the supervisors a compelling argument why that decision should be reversed. Perhaps Granite is hoping to land a Sunday punch in the final round.

Whatever decision the supervisors arrive at is likely to be contested by the losing side, and that is when lawyers will start duking it out in courtrooms. In that venue, not only will the decision be scrutinized, but also, the entire public hearing process of Liberty Quarry will be put on trial.

Supervisors face political backlash
The Press-Enterprise, Sat., Feb. 11

A political rock-and-a-hard-place scenario faces Riverside County supervisors as they decide the fate of a proposed Temecula-area quarry.

Approve Liberty Quarry, and the five supervisors will anger a wide range of opponents, including a politically active Indian tribe. Deny the open-pit mine, and they risk the wrath of business groups and union members desperate for jobs.

On both sides are voters who traveled by the busload to deliver emotional pleas for and against the project. More than 1,000 attended each hearing, with supporters wearing green and opponents wearing orange.

“These guys have a problem,” UC Riverside political science professor Shaun Bowler said. “This is what democratic politics is about, deciding who you make unhappy. It is one of the components of politics.”

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday will hold a third special hearing on quarry developer Granite Construction’s appeal of a county Planning Commission decision denying the quarry a surface mining permit and related approvals.

It’s possible, but not guaranteed, that a vote will take place. Planning commissioners needed six hearings and heard nearly 52 hours of public testimony before voting 4-1 against the quarry. So far, supervisors have spent more than 16 hours on the matter.

So far, none of the supervisors has said publicly how he’ll vote. They’ve remained silent during the first two quarry hearings in the Riverside Convention Center.

DUELING EXPERTS

At issue is a quarry sought for a 414-acre site between Temecula’s southern border and the San Diego County line. Using explosives, Granite wants to extract up to 270 million tons of aggregate — tiny rocks used in construction — from a 135-acre portion of the site over 75 years.

Granite and its backers say the quarry will support nearly 300 jobs and generate $300 million in sales tax revenue over the life of the project.

It won’t be noticed by surrounding residents as it provides a much-needed local aggregate source and improves air quality by taking diesel trucks off the road, say supporters, who include five city councils, construction unions and Inland chambers of commerce.

Critics say the quarry would increase truck traffic and air pollution. It would harm local tourism, lower property values and ruin the environment, they argue.

The Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians says the quarry would obliterate a sacred tribal site. Other opponents include the Temecula City Council and environmental groups.

Granite and Pechanga, as well as pro- and anti-quarry residents, have donated tens of thousands of dollars to all five supervisors’ campaigns. All have said the donations will not influence their quarry votes.

Granite and quarry opponents have hired professors, lawyers and technical experts who reach detailed, yet totally opposite conclusions on air quality, traffic, the quarry’s economic impact and other topics.

“I think the biggest challenge for the board is each side has employed true professionals in their fields,” said Supervisor Jeff Stone. “Which studies does the board look at?”

For Stone and Supervisor Bob Buster, the issue could prove difficult. Bowler said Stone is in a particular bind. The quarry is his district, and he is seen as a pro-business, pro-growth official.

Stone also faces re-election this year. So does Buster and he faces two well-funded opponents. Together, the two represent all of southwest Riverside County.

WEIGHT TO STONE?

Typically on land-use matters, board members defer to the supervisor who represents the area, giving a great deal of weight to Stone’s comments on the issue.

“Hopefully, the board will honor that unwritten rule, but this is a huge issue and I know the board wants to weigh in, and I look forward to their comments,” Stone said.

Stone said he has “at least an hour’s worth of questions” for those on both sides of the quarry issue.

Buster said he’s not feeling any real pressure. It’s very useful, he said, that the quarry hearings have featured expert comments from both sides. “It’s really taken the process, I think, to a whole new level,” Buster said.

Buster said he’s surprised at the “stunning silence” from San Diego County about the quarry, especially since most of the quarry’s aggregate would head south. Riverside County weighs in on projects in other counties that could affect its residents, he said.

Board Chairman John Tavaglione said the quarry is “probably the toughest decision we have faced.”

The only other issues that have come close in recent decades are the El Sobrante Landfill expansion near Corona and the proposed Eagle Mountain landfill proposed for the county’s desert in the mid 1990s.

Supervisors approved both projects despite strong opposition from environmentalists. But Eagle Mountain, which would have been the nation’s largest trash dump, was never built after a series of court defeats.

“I think this (the quarry) has had much more public concern on both sides,” Tavaglione said. “I am sensing that every board member sees the pros and cons on both sides. I know I do.”

QUARRY HEARING

What: The Riverside County Board of Supervisors will hold its third meeting on the proposed Liberty Quarry.

When: 9 a.m. Tuesday.

Where: Board chambers, County Administrative Center, 4080 Lemon St., Riverside.

Granite's plans for quarry site don't include reservoir
The Californian, Fri., Feb. 10

One of the talking points for supporters of Granite Construction's Liberty Quarry project has been the site's potential as a reservoir.

During public meetings and interviews, supporters have said the mine, once it is exhausted, could be used as a recreational lake or help stabilize the region's water situation, which is complicated by the murkiness related to the long-term availability of water from Northern California and the Colorado River.

Opponents have worked to undercut this argument. They say there's no way the site would work as a reservoir or lake because the blasting chemicals that would be used during excavation would affect water quality. Opponents also argue that the geology of the site is too porous and fragmented to support a 1,000-foot-deep body of water.

During a phone interview this week, Granite project manager Gary Johnson addressed the reservoir debate and a recent report in a San Diego publication stating that the site, if the quarry project were eventually approved, would be turned into a "lake" after the aggregate material is mined.

"It's very clear in the reclamation plan," Johnson said. "(The site is) going to be left as open space."

As the company goes down into the soil and mines the aggregate it contains, the benches left behind would be replanted with vegetation, he said.

Weighing in on the technical challenges of turning the site into a lake or a reservoir, Johnson said, "I'm not sure how it would work because we haven't looked at.

"It may make sense in the future, but it's not something we're proposing."

As for the site becoming a lake via natural circumstances ---- water collecting in the basin due to seepage or rainfall ---- Johnson said the area averages about 12 inches of rainfall a year.

"The evaporation rate is seven or eight times that," he said.

If water ends up collecting in the basin, it would only remain for a short period, Johnson said.

Fred Bartz, one of the leaders of the groups who oppose the quarry, said that based on the testimony of geologists, there's no way the site would retain water and he's not sure where it would come from if it could.

"We need reservoirs, but you have to have something to put in them," Bartz said.

There's also the issue of the chemicals that will be used during blasting of the mine.

If the project is approved and the site is eventually exhausted, Bartz said, it would not be practical to use a place filled with "dangerous chemicals" as a reservoir.

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors is in the process of ruling on an appeal of the project's denial by the county Planning Commission.

If the commission is overruled and the supervisors approve the mine, opponents have said they will file a lawsuit to block the project.

If the supervisors uphold the commission's decision, Johnson said Granite could consider filing an amended application.

Ever since the project was proposed in 2005, it has been a lightning rod for controversy in Southwest County.

Supporters claim the mine will produce high-quality jobs and spark a regional economic boom. Opponents claim the mine could end up destroying the area's tourism industry, create health issues because of added air pollution and desecrate a site sacred to the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians.

County to stay course with quarry hearing
temecula.patch.com, Thurs., Feb. 9

County officials decided today against changing the date of a hearing on the controversial Liberty Quarry plan.

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors decided to meet on Tuesday, as they previously scheduled, instead of take a trip to Washington D.C. to meet with federal officials about an unrelated subject.

"There is no need to cancel the meeting for next Tuesday," said Supervisor John Taglione during an emergency meeting today, which was answered by a round of applause at the County Administration Center.

To read about the planned quarry, click here.

Taglione and Jeff Stone, a former Temecula City Council member and the supervisor of the district where the quarry is planned, were planning to meet with federal officials from the Department of Transportation to urge them to give Riverside County money for infrastructure projects, Stone said today.

"It was very important not to squander the opportunity," he told the audience, numerous of whom wore orange anti-quarry shirts and hats.

The supervisors found another official to go to the meeting in D.C. in their place, Stone said.

The quarry plan was rejected by the County Planning Commission late last year after numerous meetings that drew hundreds of residents -- both for and against the plan -- to Rancho Community Church in Temecula.

To read about the rejection, click here.

Granite Construction, the Watsonville-based mining company planning the quarry, filed an appeal, leaving the decision in the hands of the Board of Supervisors. So far, the board held two meetings on the quarry, and at least one more is planned.

To read about the appeal hearings, click here.

He was thinking with clouded judgement when he made the plan to reschedule the quarry hearing in favor of the D.C. meeting because he feels so passionately for the infrastructure projects, he said.

"Our citizens are watching our infrastructure age and crumble before their eyes," he said. "I often lead with my heart, not with my political logic."

He then gave an apology couched to emphasis the importance of the county's infrastructure to him. "I regret my passion for this county has caused any inconvenience," he told the audience.

Taglione was also sorry for the inconvenience, because many audience members came from Temecula on short notice for what turned out to be a meeting lasting fewer than 15 minutes, he said.

"This is the process we have to go through, and it took us a little while to find a replacement (to go to D.C.)," he said to the crowd.

Some anti-quarry activists were glad the meeting will be unchanged.

"We're pretty excited about rolling it along," said Kathleen Hamilton, the head of SOS-Hills.

"I'm very happy with the result, because we get to move forward as a community," she said.

Supervisors don't postpone Tuesday's meeting
The Press-Enterprise, Thurs., Feb. 9

Tuesday’s Riverside County Board of Supervisors hearing on the proposed Liberty Quarry will be held as scheduled.

At the start of a special session late Thursday, board Chairman John Tavaglione said the hearing would not be postponed. It remains scheduled for 9 a.m. in the board’s chambers at the County Administrative Center, 4080 Lemon St., Riverside.

The announcement was greeted with light applause from about a dozen anti-quarry activists. Many of them made the trip from the Temecula area to Riverside for Thursday’s meeting.

Supervisor Jeff Stone asked for the special meeting to consider a postponement because he was to join county officials to discuss transportation needs on a Tuesday trip to Washington, D.C. Word of the special meeting came Wednesday afternoon.

Since then, Stone said Corona City Councilman Eugene Montanez agreed to go to Washington instead. Supervisor Marion Ashley also was originally scheduled to attend the trip.

Stone said the Washington trip is a rare chance for the county to talk about its transportation issues with high-ranking officials controlling federal funding.

“I felt it was very important not to squander this important opportunity,” he said. “I regret that my passion for this county caused any inconvenience or confusion for my fellow board members … or the public.”

The board has held two special hearings on the quarry, planned for a 414-acre site between Temecula and San Diego County. Supporters say the quarry would bring much-needed jobs; opponents warn it would bring environmental and economic ruin.

Tuesday’s hearing is expected to feature a rebuttal of quarry criticism by quarry developer Granite Construction. The board could vote after that on Granite’s appeal of the county Planning Commission’s denial of the project.

Board going ahead with quarry appeal hearing on Tuesday
The Californian, Thurs., Feb. 9

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors will meet Tuesday morning for the third in a series of hearings on Granite Construction's appeal of the denial of the company's Liberty Quarry project, it was decided Thursday during a special meeting.

The board had considered postponing the third hearing in case a county supervisor was interested in going to Washington, D.C., to meet with transportation officials about the need for hundreds of millions of dollars in infrastructure improvements.

County spokesman Ray Smith said Eugene Montanez, a member of the Corona City Council, will make the trip instead, allowing the full board to meet Tuesday as previously scheduled.

About 15 or 20 people politely applauded the board's decision after it was announced, he said.

Project opponents favored holding the third hearing Tuesday, in part, because they felt they had gained momentum during Monday's hearing.

Granite project manager Gary Johnson said the company also wanted the third hearing held as soon as possible, but that the Washington, D.C., trip was important as well because the region needs the federal money for infrastructure, which will require large supplies of aggregate materials.

"Everyone in Riverside County should want it," he said.

The third hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday in the County Administration Center, 4080 Lemon St. in Riverside.

The first two hearings were held in the nearby convention center, a venue that can hold around 2,000 people, and the crowd for each eclipsed 1,000.

The administration center, in contrast, can only seat around 300, which may make space a premium.

Smith said the doors will open at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday and the county would provide overflow seating if the chambers fill to capacity.

During the upcoming hearing, the county will listen to anyone who signs up to address the board who has not spoken at the previous hearings and to a rebuttal by Granite representatives.

At the second hearing, dozens of speakers blasted the proposed quarry, Granite and the county's environmental review of the project. Granite plans to defend the project and provide counter arguments to the information offered by opponents.

Granite has proposed digging a 135-acre hard-rock quarry just south of Temecula.

The company's supporters say the project will deliver high-paying jobs, help satisfy the need for aggregate in Southern California and spark a regional economic boom.

Opponents say the mine will worsen air quality in the Temecula area, desecrate land considered sacred by the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, forever mar a nearby ecological reserve, sink property values and harm the area's tourism industry.

The county Planning Commission voted 4-1 last year to deny the mine project, saying its benefits did not outweigh the environmental costs detailed in the county's review.


Opponents hit project; next meeting set
The Press-Enterprise, Mon., Feb. 6

Liberty Quarry foes launched a sometimes emotional verbal assault on the proposed open-pit mine during an all-day hearing on Monday.

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors will need at least one more meeting to decide the fate of the quarry planned for a site bordering Temecula. A third hearing was set for 9 a.m. Feb. 14 at a special supervisors’ meeting at the Riverside County Administration Center, 4080 Lemon St., Riverside.

Supervisors are considering quarry developer Granite Construction’s appeal of the county Planning Commission’s denial of the project. Granite executives will begin next week’s meeting with their rebuttal, but others who have not addressed the board could have a chance to speak. When the public hearing closes, supervisors will deliberate in public. A vote could occur after that.

Opponents took nearly all of Monday’s proceedings, which again drew more than 1,000 people and included chartered buses transporting supporters and foes. As last week, opponents wearing orange and backers clad in green filled a Riverside Convention Center auditorium.

French Valley resident Boyd Roberts vowed to fight the quarry using the courts, the state Legislature, the ballot box and “very civil disobedience.”

“Go home before you lose more money,” he told Granite executives seated nearby. “Do you think that we are stupid? You want to rape our land, pollute our air and tell us we are better off for it? It is insulting.”

Gary Johnson, Granite’s aggregate resource development manager, said he looked forward to responding next week to opponents’ criticism.

“Today’s testimony did not offer any new information that has not already been clearly refuted by scientific studies in the” environmental impact report, Johnson said in a statement. “The EIR was prepared by experts certified in their field of study and the document was fully vetted by county planning staff.”

Foes at podium

Opponents included Temecula-area real estate agent Marelle Dorsey. She told supervisors that the quarry, planned for a 414-acre site between Temecula’s southern boundary and San Diego County, would make it harder to sell homes.

“Clients do not want to purchase a home near a mega-quarry,” Dorsey said.

Robbie Adkins, who said she used to work for a real estate data firm, said the county stands to lose $1 million in property tax revenue because the quarry would depress home values.

Granite executives have argued that the project will not harm property values and have cited studies that found quarries near Corona did not de-value homes.

Granite says its project will support nearly 300 jobs in a down economy. Labor union members attended both hearings to support the quarry.

Referring to pro-quarry T-shirts with the words “Jobs Jobs Jobs” on the back, Temecula resident Ann Loree said, “They’re not putting ‘Greed Greed Greed’ on those T-shirts … or anything else that is true.”

Granite insists the quarry would improve air quality by taking diesel trucks off the road. Technology and practices in place will ensure hazardous silica dust would not escape the quarry site, the company says.

Mary Beth McLaughlin, of Temecula, said lung disease forced the removal of one of her lungs last November.

“I don’t want to move,” McLaughlin said, adding that she did not want to use a breathing mask “just to enjoy my property.”

Experts testify

Comments in the afternoon session included testimony from opposition experts and professionals such as Matt Rahn, who oversees a San Diego State University ecological reserve adjacent to the quarry site.

He criticized the 8,500-page environmental study cited by Granite’s Johnson by saying it lacked “scientific rigor and legitimacy.” Rahn said the project provides “a playbook for how to kill a mountain.”

Granite officials said they stand by the environmental report, which following standard county practice, was paid for by Granite and vetted by county officials.

Temecula City Manager Bob Johnson and city-hired experts said Granite drummed up a false aggregate crisis to justify the quarry. Aggregate tiny rocks used in construction would be the quarry’s main product.

Granite maintains new aggregate supplies are needed to support future growth. Johnson and opposition experts said Granite failed to adequately consider alternate mine sites or the possibility of extending permits for existing quarries.

Reaching depths of up to 1,020 feet, the quarry would use explosives to mine 270 million tons of aggregate over 75 years. Asphalt and concrete would be made on-site and once shut down, the quarry would become a lake.

Quarry supporters include Inland chambers of commerce and the city councils of Eastvale, Banning, Beaumont and Moreno Valley. Granite insists the quarry would generate $300 million in sales tax revenue in its lifetime while respecting the environment and operating unnoticed by surrounding communities.

Critics say the quarry would not create jobs, but take them from other quarries. Most of the aggregate would go to San Diego County and the project would damage a tourism industry worth more than $600 million annually, they contend.

They also warn the quarry would clog roads with truck traffic, dry up groundwater needed by hillside vegetation and desecrate a sacred site that the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians compares to the biblical Garden of Eden.

The tribe and Temecula City Council oppose the quarry, as does a grassroots citizens’ network, two San Diego County planning groups and environmental organizations.

The Planning Commission held six hearings and listened to nearly 52 hours of public comments before voting 4-1 last August to deny the quarry a surface mining permit and related approvals.


Opponents slam quarry project during 8-hour plus hearing
The Californian, Mon., Feb. 6

Opponents of Granite Construction's Liberty Quarry slammed the proposed mine Monday during the second in a series of hearings being held by the Riverside County Board of Supervisors.

The series, which stems from the company's appeal of the county Planning Commission's denial of the project late last year, is scheduled to continue Feb. 14 at the County Administrative Center in Riverside.

Then Granite will present its rebuttal to the criticism heaped on the project during Monday's eight-hour-plus meeting at the Riverside Convention Center.

Granite is proposing a 135-acre rock mine for land near the Temecula's southern border.

"We're here because of greed, greed, greed," said Temecula resident Ann Loree, lampooning Granite's claim that the project would bring "jobs, jobs, jobs."

According to Loree, and a host of other project opponents who addressed the board Monday, Granite is trying to line its pockets at the expense of residents' health, research conducted at a nearby reserve and the sanctity of the Pu'eska mountain that is considered holy by the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians.

"The ancestral origin landscape is comprised of a number of different places," said Lisa Woodward, a tribal archivist, adding that some of those places are on the proposed quarry site, next to the site or surrounding the site.

"All will be impacted either directly, indirectly or cumulatively by the proposed quarry. That's pretty simple," she said.

Other folks argued that the mine would sink the worth of area homes, depressing an already difficult real estate market.

"Property values would decrease," said Marelle Dorsey, a real estate agent.

She said she is joined in opposition to the project by hundreds of other area real estate professionals and the Temecula Valley Chamber of Commerce, which voted last year to oppose Granite's project.

That land also is near an ecological reserve managed by San Diego State University scientists, and near the North San Diego County community of Rainbow and land belonging to the Pechanga.

To support her claim that property values would fall, Dorsey pointed to data in a Rose Institute study commissioned by the city of Temecula.

Granite has cited competing research that said property values wouldn't be affected by the quarry, but Dorsey contended that the research didn't take into consideration the strong winds that blast into the community from the direction of the quarry.

Opponents say wind from Rainbow Gap will carry dust from the project into the city and harm the health of residents, especially seniors and young children.

Other speakers Monday criticized Granite, saying residents will do "whatever it takes" to oppose the company's project, which they called a "proposed holocaust."

"Liberty Quarry will not stand; it is not going to happen," said Boyd Roberts, a real estate professional, looking toward Granite officials in the front row of the audience. "Go home before you lose more money."

Granite officials have said that the company has invested millions to date while seeking approval for the mine, a project proposed in the middle of the last decade.

Ray Johnson, a Temecula-area environmental law attorney, told the board that Granite has turned the review of the project into a public relations campaign threatening to make a mockery of the state.

"Tell Granite to find a new location," Johnson said, saying the project makes more sense in San Diego County, where Granite has said it plans to ship about two-thirds of the material the mine would produce.

In denying the project, county planning commissioners said its benefits would not outweigh the costs associated with the environmental issues identified in the county's lengthy review.

Granite promptly appealed that decision, spurring a series of hearings that started last week in the convention center, which can seat about 2,000 people.

Many of those who spoke, especially consultants hired by the city and SDSU scientists, cited the commission's denial findings to buttress their respective cases that air quality issues and the effects of the project on wildlife, vibrations from blasting, the danger of landslides and more were under-represented in the county's environmental review.

Late in the day, a consultant with PCR Services Corp.,Heidi Rous, told the board that this alleged under-representation, when examined to determine the health effects of the quarry on Temecula-area residents, adds up to $12.8 million in annual losses from illness, death and lost work days.

The county and Granite have defended the project's environmental review, and both entities will be given a chance to answer questions posed by the board and to defend their work.

At the first hearing, supporters of the project, a group bolstered by area union members, urged the county to overturn the commission's decision and approve the quarry.

They said it will bring much-needed jobs to the area and spark a local economic boom. They also said the area desperately needs the construction aggregate material the mine would produce, an essential part of large-scale infrastructure projects such as the widening of Interstate 215.

At full production, Granite has said, the mine could produce about 5 million tons of aggregate per year and help satisfy the long-term needs of Southern California.

Many green-shirt-wearing union members attended Monday's hearing as well, arriving on union-provided buses well before the start of the meeting and eating union-provided meals.

The union members sat for hours and listened to opponents calling the mine a terrible thing that would exacerbate health issues, snarl traffic and "destroy Temecula."

Bill Smith, president of Laborers International Union-Riverside, said he was unswayed from his support of the project.

"Take a look ---- not with your heart, but with your brain," he said.

He contends that the project will pump hundreds of millions of dollars into the coffers of the state and the county, and provide high-paying union jobs in the $48- to $50-per-hour range with benefits.

About 1,800 people attended the meeting, an audience that included hundreds of the union members who had been bused into town, and folks who drove up, or rode in buses, from the Temecula area.

New Silica rules languish in regulatory black hole
NPR.org, Wed., Feb. 1

Any job that involves breaking up rock or concrete or brick can potentially expose workers to dangerous silica dust, and last year it looked like the Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration was about to put stricter controls in place to limit this health hazard.

But for almost a year, the proposed regulations have been stalled at the White House Office of Management and Budget. Worker safety advocates are growing increasingly frustrated. They say instead of having a public debate, officials are meeting behind closed doors with industry stakeholders who want to stop new rules.

Breathing tiny particles of silica, which is basically sand, can damage the lungs and cause silicosis. Sufferers can't get enough oxygen; they become weak. There's no cure.

Workers can encounter silica dust while doing all kinds of jobs, from mining to manufacturing to construction. Experts estimate that there's thousands of new silicosis cases each year, and hundreds of deaths. Silica has also been linked to other diseases like lung cancer.

"It's almost unbelievable that we have allowed something like this to go on for so long, without an effective means of controlling it," says Tee Guidotti, a physician in Washington, D.C., who specializes in occupational health.

The government does limit the amount of silica workers can be exposed to, he says, but that exposure limit dates to the 1960s. Guidotti says a safe limit would be half of what's currently allowed.

So he was pleased when, last Valentine's Day, the Department of Labor sent the OMB a new proposal for regulating silica. That office has to review the proposal before it is made public, and that review was supposed to take only 90 days.

As the one-year anniversary approaches, many safety advocates wonder what's holding things up. Records show that officials have held nine private meetings on the issue.

Guidotti went to one, which was requested by a medical group, the American Thoracic Society. He says officials didn't ask too many questions. "But you could tell from what they did ask that they were very well-briefed," Guidotti says. "So they know about this. They know it well."

Most of the other meetings were with industry groups, like the American Chemistry Council's Crystalline Silica Panel.

Jackson Morrill, who heads this coalition of companies and industry associations, says they asked officials not to lower the level that workers can be exposed to. Morrill says the current level is adequate to protect worker health and safety, and that any changes could cost billions. In his view, the real problem is employers who ignore the current rules and the answer is better enforcement.

"I think that's the way forward and if we can reach universal compliance, it's certainly our hope that that would lead to an end to the silicosis issue," Morrill says.

One member of this coalition, the National Industrial Sand Association, also opposes lowering the current exposure limit but would support some new regulations.

Mark Ellis, the head of the association, says they argued for mandatory exposure monitoring and medical surveillance at certain silica levels — the kind of measures that his industry is already doing voluntarily.

"We have been using this program since 1977 and it's proved successful in virtually eliminating silicosis from our workforce," Ellis says.

Government officials also have heard concerns from representatives from the construction industry.

Robert Matuga, with the National Association of Home Builders, says construction sites shouldn't be regulated in the same way as mines or manufacturing plants because in construction, silica exposures can change from day to day.

"One of the things about the construction industry is that the job sites are constantly changing," he says. "The tasks and activities are really variable as the project progresses."

But Scott Schneider, with the Laborers' Health and Safety Fund of North America, says there are plenty of studies showing how to control silica in common construction tasks. And he says there's a clear need to act: "You know, anyone that walks by a construction site, you can often see someone cutting concrete or cutting brick or block and huge clouds of dust coming from the saw."

Schneider attended one meeting with officials at the OMB that was requested by union groups and safety advocates so that they could express their dismay at the long delay.

Chris Trahan, with the Center for Construction Research and Training, was at that meeting as well, and she says their message was simple: Let the Department of Labor go public with its proposal and start a real debate, rather than holding discussions behind closed doors.

"It's not consistent with transparency; it's not consistent with open government," Trahan says. "What would be consistent with that would be to allow the agency just to propose it. And let the process move forward."

The National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health issued a statement in December saying it was "deeply distressed" that the proposed new regulations had been under review for so long.

"The current standard is many decades old and is insufficient to protect workers from this serious occupational health hazard," the advisory committee noted. "The silica rule delay is extraordinary and without explanation, and there is no indication as to when the review will be concluded."

Michael Silverstein, the chairman of the committee, says having the rule tied up behind closed doors is irresponsible. "Whether or not the current standard is being entirely complied with — and it's not — does not change the fact that the current standard is too weak," he says. "The acceptable baseline needs to be lowered."

Those concerns were echoed by Steven Fess, who serves as the chairman of the construction committee for the American Industrial Hygiene Association.

"American construction workers shouldn't have to rely on 35-year-old science for protection," says Fess. "The standard is out of date, and OSHA itself acknowledges that the standard is obsolete."

An OMB spokeswoman said the office doesn't comment on regulations under review, but it's not uncommon for reviews to be extended. She said the office grants meetings to all parties and individuals who request them.

A Labor Department spokesman said that OSHA was working with the White House office "to address complex issues related to the costs, benefits and economic impact analyses." This has required "extensive new analyses by OSHA" and additional review, he said, but OSHA would "continue to complete the required steps in the rule-making process as quickly as possible."

January 2012 Letters to the Editor

Quarry poses health risks
The Press-Enterprise, Fri., Jan. 27

I represent more than 160 local physicians who oppose the location of a giant, blasting pit mine upwind of hundreds of thousands of our patients (“Doors open at 7:30 a.m. for quarry hearing,” Jan. 23).

The Riverside County Planning Commission concluded that there will be unavoidable health impacts if Liberty Quarry is approved. After listening to expert testimony, including concerns from the American Lung Association, the commissioners denied the project.

It would be outrageous for the county supervisors to ignore this testimony and overturn the ruling. Please attend the hearing on Monday at the Riverside Convention Center and wear orange if you oppose the project.

Daniel Robbins, Temecula

Mining full of negatives
The Press-Enterprise, Fri., Jan. 27

Liberty Quarry isn’t about right versus left, or conservatives versus liberals; it is simply about right versus wrong (“Doors open at 7:30a.m. for quarry hearing,” Jan.23).

Establishing a blasting quarry and an asphalt plant in a rare, pristine environment would sound like a bad idea to most people. If you told them that this would also desecrate sacred tribal lands and might cause health problems, they would probably think it is a really bad idea. If you then shared that this also happens to be in the middle of a wind channel that feeds a beautiful valley with fresh ocean air, an objective person might start to question why anyone would do such a thing.

Now if you told them that it will compromise a wildlife preserve, they might start to get angry about it. If you also reveal that the area will become a major trucking hub and visitors will come to know our city as the place with the stench of bubbling asphalt and diesel fumes, the average person might think that we have lost our minds.

I trust that the proponents of this project believe in their hearts that it has its virtues, but the potential gains could never offset the potential losses to the Temecula Valley.

Dan Brunell, Temecula

This giant must not win
The Press-Enterprise, Fri., Jan. 27

Granite Construction, sponsor of the proposed Liberty Quarry (“Doors open at 7:30 a.m. for quarry hearing,” Jan. 23), is a giant with far more in resources than residents in southwest Riverside County.

But Granite must not be permitted to disregard local communities’ interests and the well-being of thousands of families in Riverside County merely for the sake of its profit motivation.

The proposed Liberty Quarry should be rejected.

Jackie Lopez, Temecula

Not just Temecula's fight
The Press Enterprise, Fri., Jan. 27

Real liberty is having local control over a local project (“Doors open at 7:30 a.m. for quarry hearing,” Jan. 23).

The Riverside County Planning Commission voted 4-1 to deny Liberty Quarry’s project, based on facts and years of experience making land-use decisions.

The Board of Supervisors’ hearings Monday and Feb. 6 at the Riverside Convention Center are important for all communities that might have an unpopular project imposed immediately outside their city’s border. If it’s OK today that Temecula gets stuck with a quarry, don’t complain tomorrow should the county approve an organic fertilizer processing plant just outside and upwind of your community.

Wine Country is a vacation destination of Riverside County. The I-15 gateway to Riverside County should not be turned into Mine Country.

Don’t let Granite Construction turn this place into the pits.

Paul Jacobs, Temecula

Grant us from Liberty Quarry
The Californian, Fri., Jan. 27

The quarry issue is heating up again with the supervisor meetings, the first of which is set for Monday in Riverside. After the truth came out last summer during lengthy and painful commission hearings, we residents are confident that the rhetoric repeated by Granite Construction to buy their way in will be correctly interpreted as fiction by our county supervisors. Falsehood can only go so far, limiting those who speak it.

Anyone who attended even a single hearing last year can plainly see that a mountain of truths reveals the damage this quarry would do to our pristine area. It would devastate our health, our economy (real estate, business, jobs), our environment, including wildlife, the morale of our residents and many other things we value.

The false information has been blatantly twisted and exaggerated by Granite. Our experts proved them wrong on every point, including the number of jobs our residents would get, the number and path of truck trips, the extensive damage and noise, health concerns and the revenues it would generate for our area.

All of the proof is on our side. The commissioners saw it. We don't want a quarry, and we are not going to give in.

Jan Tucker, Temecula


Quarry: juice not worth the 'squeeze'
The Californian, Fri., Jan. 27

I support jobs where they make sense. Therefore, I stand solidly against Liberty Quarry.

The Riverside County Planning Commission already voted overwhelmingly to deny this project. They cited numerous negative impacts. Air quality is one concern already addressed by hundreds of medical professionals in the area.

Economically, the negative impact on our tourism and agricultural industries simply cannot be overlooked. Perhaps that's why the Temecula Valley Chamber of Commerce (typically pro-business) also opposes the project. Also important, how many current and potential businesses will locate elsewhere each year rather than risk exposure to the negative impacts of this project? Multiply that number by 75 years, and you'll see that Granite's own jobs claims are a mere drop in the bucket. Also, how many of those would simply be transfers from other less profitable mines?

I recently read that a local auto dealership employs 150. Should we risk our entire community's long-term physical and economic health on what amounts to less than two-thirds of a single car dealership?

Having held national marketing positions for years, I know "spin" and "PR" when I see it. Simply put: Regarding Liberty Quarry, the juice is not worth the "squeeze."

Pete Friederich, Temecula

Support jobs: Say no to Liberty Quarry
The Californian, Fri., Jan. 27

If you want to really support jobs, then you have say no to Liberty Quarry. The quarry will not create jobs, but rather take jobs away from other quarries in Riverside County. This is not job creation, but rather job relocation.

The problem also is that Liberty Quarry will actually cause job losses. Losses to numerous truck drivers employed at other quarries, which Liberty Quarry won't need. Losses to tourism in the Temecula Valley, which, according to the Temecula Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau, employs more than 6,000 people. In addition, high-tech firms looking to locate in a community first look to the area's quality of life. Without a good quality of life, you cannot attract companies and the talent needed to compete.

The proposed Wine Country expansion is planned to triple the number of wineries in the Temecula Valley. County officials already have said there are companies eager to purchase and develop land in Temecula's Wine Country. If each new winery added just 15 to 20 jobs, this would create more than 1,000 new jobs in the area and still preserve the quality of life.

Why would anyone want to risk ever-increasing tourism jobs for just 99 quarry jobs?

Fred Bartz, Temecula

What is gained by quarry?
The Californian, Fri., Jan. 27

Regarding the placement of a gravel pit on the Riverside/San Diego County border: We live in an area of variable winds and air that is loaded with fine particulates and allergens. Granite Construction intends to make two explosions a day and then grind up the resulting rocks into gravel.

Only the lucky people who live in established homes nearby the site will hear and feel the explosions. The entire region will get the resulting increase in fine particulates on the daily variable winds. What we have is a few jobs, as opposed to the air breathed by thousands of people living in the region.

Other than as a political football, the positive results that might enrich a few people in local government, what, really, is to be gained by blowing up and grinding up local soil and rock?

Patricia Giglioli, Murrieta

Reject proposed Liberty Quarry
The californian, Thurs., Jan. 26

Granite Construction Company's Liberty Quarry, a proposed massive open pit mine at the southwest entrance to Riverside County, should be rejected by the county supervisors.

As presented in the Environmental Impact Report, the unmitigated negative effects of the project far outweigh its benefits. The vast majority of the local residents do not want the increased pollution and traffic congestion that the open pit mine will create. It is unconscionable that Granite Construction would disrespect and discount the interests of the region's residents and at any cost sacrifice, abuse and degrade Southwest Riverside County for its own profit motives.

The company, under the disguise of creating jobs (the EIR does not mention "jobs loss" or jobs that will not materialize because of the mine) and "clean air" (despite that, the EIR states the pollution cannot be mitigated), is only truly interested in making profit at any cost over the well-being of the residents of Riverside County and the long-term future of the county.

Armondo Lopez, Temecula

This is not what Temecula should be
The Californian, Thurs., Jan. 26

I would like to respond to David Thompson and Christy Haldeman ("Jobs available with Liberty Quarry" and "Need for quarry is overwhelming," Jan. 24). As a heavy-equipment owner/operator, I have worked next to the Vulcan quarry and American Asphalt plant off Interstate 15 and 91 in Corona from June until December 2010.

I have inhaled, through my mask, the fine particles of dust that covered our crew daily. I have coughed up nasty phlegm that was full of the dust particles. My lungs ached from the extra labor to breathe. I had globs of dust in the corners of my eyes. I don't want to mention what I blew from my nose.

My opinion of the area around the I-15 and 91 freeways is that it is a disgusting dust bowl. The area has a layer of dust all over it. I have lived in Temecula for 24 years and I don't think this is what Temecula should be.

As a person who has been in the construction industry for 38 years, I do not support the Liberty Quarry.

Robert Anderson, Temecula

Quarry Won't create jobs
The Californian, Thurs., Jan. 26

It says a lot about Liberty Quarry's mindset that it has been overwhelmingly voted down, and Granite Construction continues to jam it down our throats. It is amazing that people continue to say it will create jobs. I say, what created jobs is the Loma Linda hospital that opened up and the new one in Temecula that will create even more jobs. Real jobs that employed many people in need.

The quarry? They already have their limited number of employees and won't hire any more if they were to open. The bottom line is this: The majority of intelligent people don't want Liberty Quarry here. It's just not going to happen.

Jeff Miller, Murrieta

We are not paid to be there
The Californian, Thurs., Jan. 26

Does the color green stand for "money" or "green with envy"? How interesting that, over the past years, whatever the quarry opponents do, Granite follows suit. Now, with bright yellow signs opposing Liberty Quarry appearing around town, here come the drab green signs from Granite. Now, while it is true that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, they just may have gone a step too far this time.

Last Sunday, after being "tipped off," I drove to some of the areas where I had placed signs (in opposition) Saturday afternoon. Where my signs previously stood, they had been removed and a Granite sign stood in its place. Now, I have to admit, my first reaction was to remove it, but that would have been childish and spiteful. Consequently, I simply put another yellow sign beside the drab green Granite sign.

The people already know the truth. When you put on your orange to attend the final supervisors' hearings about Liberty Quarry on Monday and Feb. 6, just remember, none of the people there in orange are paid to be there.

Go to www.nogravelquarry.com for more information.

Jerri Arganda, Rainbow

Residents oppose mining
The Press-Enterprise, Wed., Jan. 25

I don’t know where letter writer Rick Kellogg gets the idea that “more and more people” are coming out in support of Liberty Quarry (“Cut the truck traffic,” Your Views, Jan. 19). The Temecula Valley Chamber of Commerce voiced its opposition, the Temecula City Council is against it, more than 100 doctors in the Temecula Valley are against it, and the Pechanga band is against it.

Kellogg should attend the Board of Supervisors hearing on Jan. 30 and hear the true voice of the people. We don’t want a quarry in or near Temecula. The reasons are myriad, not the least of which is that air quality will be corrupted.

Mary Jean Gordon, Temecula


No Liberty Quarry
The Californian, Wed., Jan. 25

After reading letters from the same old supporters who would have you believe that Liberty Quarry would be the second coming of the Garden of Eden, here is my take: Would you rather have honey bees flying through your backyard to get to their hives, or would you rather have the hives on your back porch?

Bud Ogletree, Temecula

Reject quarry proposal
The Press-Enterprise, Sun., Jan. 22

John Husing, who lives in Redlands and whose company prepared the economic analysis portion of the Environmental Impact Report for the Liberty Quarry project, is obviously biased toward having the quarry approved (“Quarry rejection is bad news for all,” Perspective, Jan. 15).

If the quarry were in his “backyard,” would he still want to see it approved?

This is an issue affecting every person living in the area of the quarry, and everyone outside the north San Diego, Temecula and Murrieta area needs to butt out, especially those who have an interest in seeing this project approved.

Thank goodness for the Riverside County Planning Commission’s common sense in turning down this horrific project.

We hope the Riverside County Board of Supervisors exhibits the same common sense in siding with the majority of residents.

Richard Berbiar, Murrieta

Battle of Liberty Quarry almost over
The Californian, Sun., Jan. 22

After six absurdly long years, the battle of Liberty Quarry should end in the next several weeks (two years longer than American participation in World War II). But if you think that this six-year period was long, imagine what 75 years of having Liberty Quarry in our backyard would be like.

If you'd like to close out that possibility, it's extremely important to get up to the Supervisors' hearing on Monday, Jan. 30, at the Convention Center in downtown Riverside. After the Planning Commissioners' 4-1 denial of the project last year, Liberty Quarry is on the ropes. A mammoth turnout of our orange shirts on the 30th would be the coup de grace needed to end this struggle. Our city leaders, the Pechangans, the ecological reserve and their experts, along our our intelligent citizenry, will further demolish the deceptions of the environmental impact report.

Please, good citizens, get on the buses that will be leaving Reagan Sports Park that morning at 7:45 a.m. sharp. Save Our Southwest Hills needs to know how many buses to provide. Call 951-587-0476 to make your reservations for this epic ride to protect our future vision for this extraordinary city.

Ken Johnson, Temecula


Who thought the Liberty Quarry was dead?
The Californian, Sat., Jan. 21

you ever experienced long-term pain, with no cure? Pain you've lived with so many years, it becomes the norm? So you try trial drug tests. The test drug makes you feel great, normal again. You rejoice, you get lost in your newfound youth and vitality, you dance the night away, forgetting there are no guarantees. You need to believe it's over. Then the pain creeps back in.

Think of the Planning Commission hearings as a test drug. It may or may not take hold. Don't get overly excited in believing it's all over. So don't put on your dancing shoes yet. Life's funny that way, and I personally think God sometimes has an ironic sense of humor.

The Liberty Quarry is not over yet. The last and final test drug is the public hearing that starts at 9 a.m. Jan. 30 at the Riverside Convention Center. Help finally bury Liberty Quarry and let's get back to our lives. Charter buses are available for half-day field trips. The buses return at 1 p.m. For info, call 951-587-0476. Mark your calendars.

This is a great experience for teens to see how a community works together and how our government makes decisions. This stuff is not learned in textbooks or computer games. Also, Liberty Quarry's kryptonite is the color orange.

Mike Jurkosky, Temecula

Pro-quarry arguments are misleading
The Californian, Thurs., Jan. 19

The Jan. 15 Community Forum by Jackie Raspler, "Quarry concerns not part of San Antonio experience," was misleading. Ms. Raspler's main point was that a 1907 quarry in Alamo Heights, Texas, "did not have negative effects on the real estate values" of homes that were built later.

As a longtime Realtor, I know that you can't prove that a quarry did not and will not cause a lowering of real estate prices unless you can compare records of home values before a quarry and after a quarry. The Claremont McKenna Rose Institute indicated in its economic study that Liberty Quarry would reduce the value of real estate.

Raspler's comment that Liberty Quarry is a job creator is refuted by the Rose Institute study, which proved there would be a net loss in jobs. The Temecula Valley Chamber of Commerce, a business group, opposed Granite Construction's project "in the best interest of the community at large." Granite is one of their more than 1,000 members.

Raspler stated that Liberty Quarry will provide environmental benefits. The American Lung Association and more than 160 physicians disagree.

The supervisors' hearing is on Jan. 30. Stand up and wear orange. For free bus information, call 951-587-0476.NoGravelQuarry.com.

Marelle Dorsey, Temecula

Mining Site all wrong
The Press-Enterprise, Wed., Jan. 18

When self-appointed expert John Husing, who lives in Redlands, tries to tell me what is best for Temecula it is a real source of irritation (“Quarry rejection is bad news for all,” Perspective, Jan. 15). There is a prevailing wind from the southwest nearly every day that would carry silicone dust right through Temecula. There is no way that granite dust could be mitigated entirely. That’s bad news for those living downwind — all of Temecula — from the proposed quarry.

There are acres of uninhabited land that is very rocky in San Diego County, where most of the rock is supposed to be used. Put the quarry there.

Homer Corrodi, Temecula

Let expert live near quarry
The Press-Enterprise, Wed., Jan. 18

So John Husing wants to point a finger at Temecula residents (“Quarry rejection is bad news for all,” Perspective, Jan. 15): “They want people living elsewhere to have the aggregate mined in their midst,” rather than accepting our responsibility for helping with Riverside County’s economy.

But he lives in Redlands. I wonder how much his opinion would change if they discovered aggregate in his backyard?

Husing says the quarry in Corona did not upset the quality of life there. There is a world of difference between Corona and Temecula. I don’t get why quarry proponents don’t understand how the people who live here feel about the area. The Temecula/Fallbrook/Murrieta area is one of the last remaining unspoiled areas of Southern California. We’re already painfully aware that there isn’t enough industry here so we can work close to where we live. We don’t care.

We’re supposed to sacrifice for the greater good? Mr. Husing, let’s get you a little house about two blocks from the quarry.

Rick Simpson, Murrieta

January 2012 Opinions/Forums

It's back to orange in Riverside
The Californian, Sun., Jan. 29
Phil Strickland

So Monday we get to spend the day with friends and acquaintances in Riverside and maybe even buy an orange.

They once had a lot of them there, says a friend quite intimate with the industry.

But that was then and this is now. And now we're going to Riverside ---- wearing orange ---- to see if the county Board of Supervisors will allow the region's grape/wine/tourism dollars, now thriving and gaining recognition. to survive the "progress" promised by Granite Construction.

We're going to see if the much-promoted Liberty Quarry project, which has been denied by the county planning board, will be allowed to defile land sacred to those who came before us and to see if the lungs of hundreds of thousands, young and old, worker and homemaker, will be put at risk for the next 50 to 75 years. We're going to see if thousands of tourists (as long as they last what with all the truck traffic and the attendant rocks, pebbles and dust) will be willing to deal with the "progress," which Granite swears by all that is right and good (i.e. profit for them) will be manna-like for us bohunks.

In denying Granite's permit request, the planners held exhaustive hearings that included all of the aforementioned topics as well as water contamination. Basically killing the mountain by draining it dry and almost certainly affecting the earth beneath us, and perhaps the increasingly active Lake Elsinore Fault.

Oh yeah, add the effects those heavy, diesel, rumbling haulers, high-intensity lights and concrete and asphalt production plants will have on the only Southern California wildlife link between the Pacific Coast and our inland at the contiguous internationally recognized Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve.

As with the planners, it ought to be a slam dunk "No," but Riverside County is a miner's paradise.

Monday is the first of two supervisor meetings and just as the commission overruled its staff and denied the permit, the supervisors, even given the project's proven grossly overwhelming downside, can overrule the commission and approve it.

The supervisors aren't particularly worried about their political careers. Knowingly or not, they'll recite the same nonsense, some call them "lies" ---- as proven by Granite's disgraced environmental impact report, the traffic portion of which was rejected out-of-hand by the planning staff ---- they've been almost force-fed by Granite.

"And besides, it's Temecula. They don't vote for you."

Thus the real question for the supervisors becomes can they survive ruining a substantial and growing (even in an adverse economy) revenue source and not getting the promised truck-traffic reductions and other "benefits" for their districts? Which they won't.

Politicians don't like ruining strong tax bases. Ever.

A rising tide lifts all boats, yes?

Approving Liberty Quarry will backfire like a blunderbuss blowing up in a cartoon pirate's face ---- with far more disastrous consequences.

Educators want to keep hills pristine
The Californian, Thurs., Jan. 26
Marilee Ragland

This is in response to Adele Harrison's Dec. 6 forum, "Quarry looks like pension solution," which was so adeptly refuted by Marelle Dorsey's Dec. 22 forum, "Pension fund doesn't need quarry."

I want to add an educator's view of why we need to preserve this special land chosen as the site for Liberty Quarry from becoming a mammoth pit mine that would forever alter the landscape, natural resources and habitat.

As a retired teacher with 35 years of teaching experience, I was required to teach local history. This included visiting historical sites and learning about indigenous peoples and their cultures.

The site proposed for Liberty Quarry would obliterate much of the land held sacred to the local Indians and revered as the place of their creation. We owe these Native Americans the preservation of their sacred site, and we need to teach about it with honor and respect.

Also, the school curriculum includes the study of nature, wildlife, natural resources and ecology. This proposed site for Liberty Quarry would cut right into the last remaining wildlife corridor between the Santa Ana and Palomar Mountains. The mining and other industrial activities ---- such as blasting and crushing granite, loading 700 trucks each day and the manufacture of asphalt and cement ---- would cause great havoc for wildlife in the area. The end result would be the extinction of cougars, who are the top predators of this region and secure the wildlife balance.

Our consideration of the wildlife and their needs make this proposed site off-limits. There are other places where aggregate can be mined, including Granite Construction's mine at Rosemary's Mountain, three miles to the south.

San Diego State University owns and operates the large Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve adjacent to the proposed mine site. For many decades, this reserve has acted as an outdoor laboratory for research regarding the flora and fauna, air quality, wildfires, water purity, earthquakes and other natural phenomena of the area. The ramifications of mining activities would no doubt negatively affect the results of their research.

A fourth item of concern is the Santa Margarita River, the last free-flowing river in southern California. Its water is used as a standard for water purity and is a water source for Camp Pendleton. This river flows right below the mine site and would very likely be contaminated by runoff from the mining operations.

Because of these aforementioned reasons, many teachers find this proposed mine to be the wrong project in the wrong location. As educators, we want to preserve this special land which is sacred to the Indians, a wildlife connection, a home for important research and a source of pure California water.

We trust the Riverside County Supervisors will agree with us.

Respectfully submitted by Marilee Ragland and supported by these educators: Maria Wolownick, Marj Freda, Barbara Gordon, Jean Dooley, Barbara Ajello, Karen and Larry Baker, Iris Bourque, Ronne Branson, Joyce Brittain, Karen Jenkins, Phee Sherline, Sally Whitlock and many more.

Marilee Ragland is a Rainbow resident.


Reject propaganda that extols quarry plan
The Press-Enterprise, Sun., Jan. 22
City of Temecula Mayor Chuck Washington

Permit me to voice my appreciation to the Riverside County Planning Commission. Granite’s consultant, John Husing, in his recent opinion piece (“Quarry rejection is bad news for all,” Jan. 15), criticized the Planning Commission and then recycled misleading economic statements.

Years of public relations propaganda and pressure by Granite Construction have attempted to bulldoze the truth and sway public opinion about the horrendous impacts of the massive mine proposed for Southwest Riverside County. I am humbled by the Planning Commission’s careful review of facts and its vote to deny Liberty Quarry based upon the significant negative impacts it will impose upon our region and its residents.

An unfortunate pattern demonstrated repeatedly throughout this process is the misleading information promoted in the marketing, economic, and environmental documents crafted by Granite Construction consultants, including Husing.

Husing’s commentary offers more of the same, again cleverly worded to disguise the truth. For example, the $149.6 million previously referred to as a “regional benefit” to Riverside County is now instead referred to as “economic energy.” Why? More honestly, it should be referred to as “annual profits for Granite Construction shareholders.” This is of no economic benefit whatsoever to Riverside County.

The truth is, Liberty Quarry will not generate new demand for gravel, or new jobs for the region, or new revenue for Riverside County. In fact, Husing told the Planning Commission, “Whether or not you have this facility, demand is demand. All that will change is where the material comes from.” Thus, any claimed “regional economic benefits” to Riverside County would be generated by taking jobs and revenue away from other Riverside County quarries.

Across the range of concerns (traffic congestion, air quality, public health, property value decline), the negative impacts of Liberty Quarry are significant and too numerous to list here. But they pose serious social, environmental and economic risk to Riverside County and its residents.

Granite’s own EIR confirms that Liberty Quarry would double our air pollution and would have immitigable negative impacts on all I-15 freeway offramps leading to Wine Country. Hand-in-hand, the county, Southwest cities, business owners, wineries, and residents have worked hard to build an industry in tourism and a reputation of excellence that attracts tourists and creates local jobs and provides a revenue stream to hotels.

Temecula Valley’s tourism revenue is more than a half-billion dollars annually, a four-fold increase over the past decade. But, with Liberty Quarry, these visitors would first be greeted at the county’s southern gateway by a convoy of 1,600 aggregate truck trips each day. These trucks would enter and exit the I-15 via a four-lane mining road that would be blasted into the beautiful boulder-covered hillside at Temecula’s southern border. It’s understandable that Temecula Valley Chamber of Commerce and Temecula Valley Convention & Visitors Bureau both oppose the Liberty project. They want to foster our county’s continued economic growth, not sacrifice its future to supply San Diego with gravel and Granite shareholders with massive profits at the expense of our economic environment.

The Planning Commission should be commended, and not criticized, for its ability to filter the information provided and discern fact from propaganda and it is my hope the Board of Supervisors will agree with the Planning Commission.

Chuck Washington is the mayor of Temecula.

Liberty quarry not like san antonio quarries
The Californian, Sat., Jan. 21
Linda Bartz

Jackie Raspler's recent forum speaks about personal experience and lack of concerns with quarries in the San Antonio area, and tries to make a comparison to the proposed Liberty Quarry. However, these two totally different quarry situations cannot be compared. The following is based on a telephone interview with officials at San Antonio Cement Products:

• The quarry first referenced by Raspler began in 1907. At that time, the quarry was far away from the city of San Antonio, whereas here, the city of Temecula is well-established. If the proposed Liberty Quarry were approved, it would be directly on the border of Temecula's city limits.

• In San Antonio, homes were built near an existing quarry, and it was the buyer's choice to purchase a home there. Temecula's existing homeowners don't have the same choice if Granite Construction operates Liberty Quarry for the next 75 years in a well-established community.

• There is no 4,500-plus-acre ecological reserve on the border of a San Antonio quarry. Here, Liberty Quarry would be on the border of the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve. This year, our ecological reserve will celebrate its 50th anniversary.

• San Antonio residents and drivers don't have to contend with Liberty Quarry's 1,600 truck-trips per day, which, based on Granite's planned six-day work week, would be more than 480,000 truck-trips annually.

• The San Antonio quarries are known as digging quarries. Liberty Quarry would be a blasting quarry, blasting hard rock up to six times per week.

• Quarries in San Antonio are not known to be in close proximity to an earthquake fault line. The Elsinore fault line is only approximately two miles away from Liberty Quarry's site.

• San Antonio quarries aren't next to a river like the Santa Margarita River, the last free-flowing river in Southern California, which is also the drinking water source for the Marines and family members at Camp Pendleton.

• Granite's Liberty Quarry is proposed to be approximately one mile long, one-half mile wide and more than 1,000 feet deep. This is a mega-quarry, and San Antonio quarries pale by comparison.

• San Antonio quarries aren't located next to a habitat area, or in a "Special Linkage Area," as Liberty Quarry would be.

• Since the quarries in San Antonio were established more than 100 years ago, their employment levels do not affect quarry competitors. Liberty Quarry, however, would be taking work away from other established quarries in northern Riverside County, thus putting some competitor quarry workers out of work.

• If you believe Granite Construction's assertion that Liberty Quarry will reduce 16.5 million truck miles a year, then Liberty Quarry will actually put hundreds of truck drivers out of work. This would make Liberty Quarry a major job-killer and not a "job creator."

You cannot compare the quarries referenced by Jackie Raspler to the proposed mega-quarry called Liberty Quarry.

The final hearings for Liberty Quarry are starting in less than two weeks. The proposed Liberty Quarry is simply the wrong project in the wrong location.

Go to www.nogravelquarry.com for more information.

LINDA BARTZ is a Temecula resident.


Citizen Action alert
temecula.patch.com, Fri., Jan. 20
Paul Jacobs

 

This is a call to arms, and legs—and especially—butts. Your presence is needed for a show of force in the battle royal over Liberty Quarry. On the Mondays of Jan. 30 and Feb. 6, marathon hearings have been scheduled by the Riverside County Board of Supervisors from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Riverside Convention Center located at 3443 Orange Street in Riverside.

The County Board of Supervisors has the power—and possibly the inclination—to overturn the County Planning Commission’s 4-1 vote denying Granite Construction’s application to situate a blasting rock quarry upwind of a populated city and next to an established ecological reserve.

If approved, the quarry would disrupt a rare and active wildlife corridor, damage the unique hydrology of the surrounding mountains and disrespect the birthplace of the Pechanga people. The health of the Santa Margarita River would also be jeopardized by a nearby quarry operation. Liberty Quarry could only be more offensive to people, place, animals, plants and faith if it were proposed for the Garden of Eden.

If anybody thought the quarry matter was resolved, think again, and then get your butt on the bus.

The battle colors have been chosen. Quarry opponents will be wearing orange, the color of warning and danger. Be part of the sea of orange at the convention center. Show the supervisors the sincerity of the citizenry in this showdown. Public comments can be made by voice, in writing, or by your silent presence at the hearing. Be there.

Visit http://www.sos-hills.org/ for information on buses providing the free 40-mile ride to the convention center. The buses will return to Temecula at 1 p.m. because the time and distance of the lengthy hearings will be a hardship for many residents of the Temecula Valley to attend. Carpool arrangements can be made for those hearty enough to sit through the entire hearing.

Liberty Quarry proponents have chosen greedy green, the color of money, as their battle flag. This is appropriate considering the millions of dollars Granite Construction has spent in advertising, consultants and currying political favor up and down the state for this one project. The company stands to gain millions more raping a pristine piece of property.

Granite Construction has the big bucks and influence to fill meeting chambers with union members and the numerous subcontractors they do business with. At a 2009 County LAFCO hearing, Granite provided hot box lunches to their supporters and crowded citizens in favor of city annexation out of the hearing.

Nobody will be crowded out at the convention center so let’s turn the place orange.

The ordinary citizens of Save Our Southwest-Hills don’t have deep corporate coffers to buy influence. That is why the participation of we, the people is vitally important at these two hearings.

It took the extraordinary effort of many, many people to score a win for local control in the victory of the planning commission’s denial of Liberty Quarry. It was a sea of orange that helped carry the day.

This Board of Supervisors hearing is the Super Bowl of the Liberty Quarry decision. Citizens have the lead going into the fourth quarter, but Granite Construction has the ball and is threatening to score. We need an overwhelming orange defense.

The best way to keep the County from throwing Temecula, De Luz, Rainbow, Fallbrook, the Pechanga tribe and the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve under the bus is to get on the bus to the Jan. 30 and Feb. 6 Board of Supervisor’s hearings at the Riverside Convention Center. Make one or both trips, but for every seat filled on the bus, the supervisors are more likely to side with us.

Riverside a Temecula "destination"
The Californian, Sun., Jan. 15
Phil Strickland

Yippee.

Time for my editor's favorite subject: Liberty Quarry.

At one point ---- you don't need the gory details ---- let's just say he appeared to be considering a felonious act of one sort of another involving concrete and shoes if the word "pebble" so much as appeared in my scribblings.

Guess what? It's back.

Not to worry, Chief; Granite Construction's appeal of their permit denial to the Riverside Board of Supervisors hearings shouldn't be the marathon the county planners graciously allowed.

Temecula and its citizens have been bugging the supervisors to hold at least one of the meetings at the Rancho Community Church, where the planning commission practically set up camp.

The supervisors have resisted. They hold their meetings in the county seat, Riverside, and that's that.

They are scheduled from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Jan. 30 and Feb. 6.

One hopes they're not laboring under the assumption that distance will deter opponents from showing up.

Distance will be a hindrance to some, and perhaps they won't be able to stay as long, but they'll be there. In spades. Or rather, Orange.

Sounds quick enough ---- two days ---- but the legal battle that surely will follow (or even a "reapplication"), now that's quite another matter.

In either event, it'll be a far corner around which we'll find the final answer.

At this point, Granite Construction understandably is concentrating on the Board of Supervisors and its appeal of the Planning Commission's denial of a permit for the onerous and destructive proposal to blast gravel and crush and transport it, not to mention the attendant concrete (ugh) and asphalt (double, no, triple ugh) production plants on the 400 acres for 50, or likely more, years and haul all the crushed rock, asphalt and concrete out of there for the same length of time to the tune of 1,600 trips a day.

For the arithmetically impaired, that's 800 in every day and 800 out every day for 20 or more hours daily. For 50 or more years.

That's a groaning, growling truck in or out every 45 seconds or so ---- gotta allow for breakdowns ---- 20 hours a day, for 50 years.

Dat's a lotta trucks, buddypal.

In one of Southern California's growing "destinations."

Will the supers vote for clean dollars and green growth, or just pocket the green and call it a day, all the while promoting the decimation of a booming agriculture and tourism industry including, but in no way limited to, the wineries and antique shops and hot-air balloon rides?

Oh yeah, let's not forget the desecration of land sacred to the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians or filling our lungs with silica or aggravating the structure of that which lies beneath us with persistent blasting or the impact on our water.

It's all good. Right?


The 18th Annual Hunny Awards
The Californian, Sat., Jan. 7
John Hunneman

Good Sunday morning to you. We're off to The Mill for breakfast this morning.

It was an excited, if slightly chilly, crowd that gathered Friday night outside the Temecula Civic Center in Old Town for the presentation of the 18th annual Hunny Awards.

The Hunnies, the region's most prestigious honors, are presented to those judged to have distinguished themselves, for better or worse, in the preceding 12 months.

This year, organizers made use of the skating rink in Old Town and offered a production they called "Hunnies on Ice." The performance drew a mixed response from the audience, some who apparently felt misled and were expecting a more "Vegas type" of entertainment.

The first award of the evening, the "Hit 'Em Where They Ain't, Hunny," was presented to Temecula Chaparral High grad and World Series hero Allen Craig who hit three home runs, had five RBIs and came up with several clutch hits in leading the St. Louis Cardinals to victory in the 2011 Fall Classic.

The "We Are The Champions, Hunny" was awarded to our local nine, the Lake Elsinore Storm, who in 2011 captured their third California League Championship in franchise history.

The "Where Have You Been, Hunny" was given to the Temecula Valley Chamber of Commerce board of directors. City-backed studies showed the proposed Liberty Quarry would damage the environment and harm Temecula's tourism industry, which employs thousands. However, it took until December ---- after the Riverside County Planning Commission had already denied the project ---- for the chamber to take a position opposing the quarry.

The "Like A Good Neighbor, Hunny" was awarded to Murrieta resident John Sennett, his son and two other neighbors on Milkwood Lane. In December, when they heard a desperate mother calling in the middle of the night that someone was stabbing her daughter, the neighbors rushed into her home and helped chase off a punk who had already killed the young woman and was beating up her father. The action of those heroic neighbors may well have prevented an already horrific tragedy from being much worse.

Former Temecula City Manager Shawn Nelson was the recipient of the "Thanks For Everything, Hunny." Nelson retired on Dec. 31 after 21 years with the city, the last 12 as Temecula's top administrator. His positive impact on the city will last for years to come.

Finally the "You're The Citizens Of The Year, Hunny" was presented collectively to the thousands of area residents who wore their orange T-shirts and hats to the numerous Planning Commission meetings on the Liberty Quarry in 2011. There, they let Riverside County planners know Southwest County would not roll over in the face of the slick public relations campaign and dubious environmental studies foisted on them by Granite Construction.

January 2011 News Articles

Battle intensifies over proposed Temecula rock quarry
The Los Angeles Times, Tues., Jan. 31

Conservative politicians rail against corporate arrogance and environmental devastation, while union workers push the project as a job creator. The issue is heading toward a vote before Riverside County supervisors.

A giant rock quarry proposed in the hills above Temecula had politicians from one of the most conservative corners of the Inland Empire railing Monday against corporate arrogance and environmental devastation, while union workers pushed the project as a job creator.

The political twists are intensifying as the five-year-long controversy over the Liberty Quarry barrels toward a vote before the Riverside County Board of Supervisors, which on Monday held the first of two days of public hearings in a packed convention center ballroom.

Hundreds of union members clad in green T-shirts were bused from across Southern California to rally and testify in favor of the quarry, touting the 99 high-paying jobs that the rock mine would bring to the recession-battered Inland Empire.

Temecula Mayor Chuck Washington countered that blasting and dust from the mine would poison the Temecula Valley's air and devastate the region's wineries and tourist-dependent economy, increasing unemployment.

"It's not a partisan issue. It's not about being Republican or Democrat,'' Washington said. "It's about protecting the good jobs we already have ... and preserving quality of life. It's that simple.''

Washington said a yet-to-be-released health study sponsored by the city will show that the quarry would lead to 146 additional deaths in the Temecula Valley, many respiratory-related: "It's tantamount to being a friend of cancer,'' he said.

Gary Johnson of Granite Construction, the Watsonville-based firm proposing the quarry, called Washington's allegations ludicrous.

The Southern California Air Quality Management District determined that the rock mine would reduce highway truck traffic, ultimately improving regional air quality, he said, adding that all studies have concluded that the mine will not endanger the health of residents in surrounding communities.

"This is the right project, in the right place, at the right time,'' he told the supervisors, saying the quarry would bring in $300 million in sales tax over the life of the mine as well as create hundreds of indirect jobs.

Granite's proposed 414-acre quarry, which looms over Interstate 15 on a peak on the San Diego County border, would yield about 270 million tons of granite over 75 years, leaving behind a hole 1,000 feet deep and a mile long.

In September, the Riverside County Planning Commission rejected the application amid strong opposition from Temecula and the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, which has a four-star casino resort nearby and considers the mountain sacred. Granite appealed that decision to the five-member board of supervisors.

More than two-thirds of the aggregate mined from the site would be trucked to San Diego County, where mining permits are tough to come by, a point not lost on several members of the Temecula City Council on Monday.

"Why should Riverside County sacrifice one of its most sensitive and pristine natural areas to feed San Diego's aggregate demand?'' Councilman Mike Naggar asked.

Most of the testimony Monday came from mine supporters, including council members from the nearby cities of Perris and Menifee.

Debate Union member Ray Wetmur, from Corona, drove over with other members of his Laborers' International Union of North America 1184. Wetmur, 38, said he's been out of work for three years.

"We're talking about jobs, about putting people back to work,'' Wetmur said. "This is a job I could get.''

Opponents of the mine, many in neon-orange shirts, were bused from Temecula and are expected to return to offer testimony next Monday, the second day of hearings.

Among them was Bob Alkema, who lives within sight of the mountain Granite wants to mine. "They're misrepresenting the facts," Alkema said as others testified. "They're a billion-dollar corporation that wants its way. People in Temecula want their pristine hillsides the way they are.''

Pechanga tribal chairman Mark Macarro told the supervisors Monday that the mountain is part of a range where the Luiseño people believe life was created, therefore making it a sacred place.

"You have a moral decision to make,'' he told the supervisors. "It's one based on respect for religion and ancient history.''

Liberty Quarry Appeal Hearing Underway
Temecula.patch.com, Mon., Jan. 30

Supervisors to hear appeal of Planning Commission decision to deny permits for the controversial Liberty Quarry project. Patch Blogger Paul Jacobs has updates from the Riverside Convention Center.
UPDATE 5:00 p.m:
As of 4:15 p.m., all advocates for the quarry have spoken. Those opposed to the quarry are now speaking. Kathleen Hamilton of Save Our Southwest Hills had her grandchildren deliver 40,000 cards opposed to the quarry in two wagons.
UPDATE 3:00 p.m.:
Most afternoon speakers are pro-quarry, because Granite's buses arrived first and they were first to submit speaker slips. It's estimated that more than 200 speaker slips have been submitted, but many are missing from the afternoon hearing. Save Our Southwest Hills could only afford buses for half the day.
UPDATE 1:55 P.M.:
Public speakers heard by Board of Supervisors after lunch. Liberty Quarry supporters get free lunch from Granite Construction. Those opposed to the quarry are residents without deep pockets to pay for a free lunch.
UPDATE 12:35 p.m.:
Public speakers for and against Liberty Quarry provide comments to the BOS.
Pro-quarry crowd member admonished by Chairman Tavaglione for hooting after speakers comment in favor of the quarry.
UPDATE 12:05 p.m.:
After the 11:00 break, Pechanga and other Indian Tribal spokespersons oppose Liberty Quarry.
Dignitaries from cities and other agencies speak in favor of quarry.
UPDATE 10:45 a.m. :
Shortly after 10 a.m. Temecula Mayor Chuck Washington and other council members give individual comments in opposition to Liberty Quarry.

Correction from earlier: pro-quarry attendees waving green handkerchiefs.
UPDATE 9:55 a.m. :
Granite Construction is heavily organized for the County Board of Supervisors hearing. Multiple buses brought in supporters of the quarry and Granite Construction had tables set up in front of the Convention Center to hand out green shirts to the union, trade and contract workers bused to the hearing.
With a much smaller budget, Save Our Southwest Hills had fewer buses and had one-fourth to one-third the number of people Granite brought to the hearing.
Before the hearing, Granite Construction supporters loudly chanted "Jobs, Jobs, Jobs" while twirling green shirts in the air.
Gary Johnson of Granite Construction is the first speaker after the Pledge of Allegiance and instructions from Chairman John Tavaglione.
The first of two hearings on the Liberty Quarry appeal is underway at the Riverside Convention Center.
Granite Construction is appealing the county Planning Commission's decision to deny permits to move forward on the project, while local opposition to the quarry is also making their case heard.
Patch blogger Paul Jacobs is at the convention center documenting today's hearing.
Updates will be posted as they come in.

Liberty Quarry Day 1 Analysis
The Press-Enterprise, Mon., Jan. 30

Debate over jobs, land preservation
KABC.com, Mon., Jan. 30

TEMECULA, Calif. (KABC) -- The battle lines over the Liberty Quarry project in Temecula are clearly defined. Supporters wearing green say it's about much needed jobs, while opponents in orange say it's about land preservation.

For those who want the project to go ahead, the hearing is likely their last chance to have their voices heard. "It is time to do the right thing. The right thing to do is to approve this project because we need it. We really need it very bad," said Julio Marroquin of Riverside.

But opponents say the mining operation would not create the jobs as promised. Instead, they believe dust from the operation would harm their health and kill the region's thriving wine industry.
"I don't know how they can decide that this is a good location for this project directly up wind from the Temecula Valley and hundreds of thousands of people that live in the Temecula Valley," said Cindy Myers.

"It's just the wrong project in the wrong place," said Kathleen Hamilton of Save Our Southwest Hills. "Any job that was generated by Liberty Quarry would simply be a shuffle of jobs from some place else, that would be no new jobs."

The project is near territory of the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, who say the land is sacred.
"It's a huge challenge for us because there is only one creation site, absolutely only one, this is it. If it is destroyed, there isn't another one to replace it," said Mark Macarro, tribal chairman from the Pechanga Indian Reservation.

It's a battle that is nearing the end. Granite Construction is making its final appeal to the Riverside County Board of Supervisors in the hope of reversing an earlier decision blocking the proposed quarry. A permit would have allowed the company to mine up to 270 million tons of material used in concrete and road building.

Gary Johnson, the aggregate resource manager for Granite Construction, presented the appeal before the board of supervisors in a meeting that was expected to last all day.

Public hearing over contentious Temecula quarry draws hundreds, SWRNN.com, Mon., Jan. 31

A public hearing today to consider a mining company’s appeal for approval of a quarry project near Temecula drew several hundred people to the Riverside Convention Center, where supporters and opponents voiced their concerns to the Riverside County Board of Supervisors.

2012 01 30 liberty quarry Public hearing over contentious Temecula quarry draws hundreds

Signs posted throughout Temecula encourage to residents to become a part of the Liberty Quarry debate. (Kerri S. Mabee/SWRNN)

“The mine will kill that mountain,” Temecula City Councilman Ron Roberts said. “The quarry will drain away the ground water and just suck the life out of vegetation … The gateway entrance to (southwest) Riverside County will be a dead mountain with a one-mile train of trucks heading toward it. Is it really worth a few jobs?”

He maintained that the operation would increase pollution to levels that threaten the area’s wine vineyards.

“You’re talking about a giant open pit blasting mine,” Temecula City Councilwoman Maryann Edwards added. “It would be the biggest, most harmful project in Riverside County. No corporate business decision is worth the impacts this mine will have on the people and the place itself.”

Watsonville-based Granite Construction is asking the Board of Supervisors to overrule a decision by the county planning commission last year to deny grading and zoning permits for the 414-acre Liberty Quarry.

Homeowner and environmental groups, as well as all of the area Indian tribes, are staunchly opposed to the project. Supporters include virtually all the chambers of commerce located within the county, along with officials from cities throughout the central and eastern county regions.

“We in the Coachella Valley understand the need for the Liberty Quarry,” La Quinta Mayor Pro Tem Terry Henderson said. ‘Liberty Quarry is positioning Riverside County for its future and present needs. Money is not the driving force; good public policy is.”

“Riverside County needs more aggregate … for roads, schools and other public facilities,” Menifee Mayor John Denver said. “Right now, we’re trucking in aggregate from far-reaching places. We’re paying for the higher costs associated with that. Having this (quarry) is vital to the sustainability of our region.”

The project zone would lie just north of the boundary separating Riverside and San Diego counties, east of the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve and west of Temecula, adjacent to Interstate 15 and Rainbow Valley Boulevard.

Opponents argue the quarry would result in noise, pollution, drainage and habitat changes that have lasting repercussions.

“Our tribe has gone to great lengths to communicate to Granite the importance of this area,” said Corrina Sanchez, a member of the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians’ council. “No mitigation will alleviate the effects of this project, other than moving it away from the mountain, which is an essential element of tribal identity.”

Members of the tribe repeatedly emphasized that the escarpment where mining is planned is a “creation place” with great “spiritual significance.”

A final environmental impact report issued last March found that most land-use problems arising from the project could be mitigated. Planning commission staff recommended that the board vote in favor of it, providing various conditions were met.

After determining that the project “footprint” could be shrunk to around 135 acres, commissioners were optimistic that it could move forward.

However, after listening to more than 50 hours of testimony and reviewing several hundred letters and emails — most of them negative — the commission voted against the quarry.

Commissioners cited elevated levels of silica dust and other pollutants in the first two years of the project, the permanent impact on area aesthetics, including nighttime lights, and the adverse effects on area wildlife as reasons for opposition.

Granite Construction is seeking a 75-year operating window, during which it plans to remove an estimated five million tons of construction-grade aggregate — gravel and sand — from hillsides.

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

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

A final public hearing is set for Feb. 6.

Supporters tout job creation at first quarry hearing
The Californian, Mon., Jan. 30

Supporters of Granite Construction's Liberty Quarry project and their union member allies delivered a simple message to the county Board of Supervisors on Monday: jobs, jobs, jobs.

By overturning the county Planning Commission's recent denial of the open-pit mine project, the board could create nearly 300 high-paying, quality jobs in a county that could use a stimulus, they argued.

"Don't make this the Keystone Pipeline project of Riverside County," said Temecula resident Gary Harrison, referring to the Canada-to-U.S. pipeline proposal recently shelved by President Barack Obama.

The commission voted 4-1 late last year to deny the proposed mine, a 135-acre quarry targeted for land on Temecula's southern border and located just northwest of the San Diego County community of Rainbow.

Granite filed an appeal of that decision, and on Monday the supervisors met in the Riverside Convention Center to conduct their first in what is expected to be a series of hearings.

The turnout was robust, with about 1,750 people filling the center for the hearing's early stages.

Chanting for jobs

Many in the audience, a large percentage of whom were union members, wore green in a show of support for the proposed mine. Before the start of the hearing, those union members explained why they showed up with a chant: "We want jobs! We want jobs!"

There also were hundreds of Southwest County residents in the Riverside Convention Center wearing orange, the color of the opposition forces assembled to defeat the rock mine.

Those folks bused north or carpooled. Some said they were disappointed to see so many union members on hand, especially since, they contended, the workers had been told they were attending a "jobs rally."

"It was underhanded," said Jerri Arganda of Rainbow, one of the opposition leaders.

The board decided to stage the hearings, which are scheduled to continue Monday, in the convention center because of the large number of people interested. The center can hold 2,000 people, and the center was nearly filled during the morning portion of Monday's proceedings.

Making a case

At the start, Granite project manager Gary Johnson spelled out the basis for the company's appeal, saying the project would provide high-quality jobs and help satisfy the demand for aggregate rock construction material.

In a bit of theater, Johnson asked 277 people in the audience who were wearing numbers on their green T-shirts to stand up and represent the jobs that will be filled if the quarry is approved. Company officials say the project will create 277 jobs, though not all of them directly through Granite.

Johnson said the project will help keep roads in the county's northern stretches from being torn up by trucks motoring south to serve Southwest Riverside County and San Diego County markets.

After his presentation, elected officials, including all five Temecula City Council members, addressed the board.

Opponents sound off

Explaining their opposition, the Temecula council members argued that the data used by Granite to tout the project ---- including the number of jobs that would be created ---- is flawed or inaccurate.

"They'll just displace jobs from other quarries," said Temecula Councilman Jeff Comerchero.

At the end of the long day ---- the hearing started at 9 a.m. and wrapped at 6 p.m. ---- Temecula area resident Fred Bartz also called into question Granite's job estimates, saying truck driver positions could be eliminated if the company's projections were correct and much of the aggregate produced at the mine was to be shipped south to San Diego County.

Bartz also said the "high quality" part of Granite's employment argument could be misleading, pointing to a battle over wages with union members in the Reno area at one of its quarries.

The part of the meeting reserved for comments from the public attracted request slips from about 175 people.

Since supporters led off Monday, opponents will lead off in the next hearing. They will be followed by any supporters and neutral folks who attend, said county spokesman Ray Smith.

After the board is finished taking public comments, it will begin deliberations, and the individual supervisors could call for expert testimony.

Because of the hearing's format, it was difficult to discern the leanings of the supervisors, who did not ask any questions of the people who spoke. When they did say something, it was generally small talk with the people at the podium.

Hat waving

To keep the hearing moving briskly, board Chairman John Tavaglione asked audience members to refrain from applause or catcalls.

That request was largely heeded, and the audience, at Tavaglione's urging, waved hats or rally towels to show their support for a speaker's comments.

That behavior stood in stark contrast to those at the first Planning Commission hearing on the quarry in April. That audience frequently interrupted the proceedings with shouts and vocal critiques of speakers and commission members.

The bulk of Monday's meeting ---- because of the format adopted by the board ---- was devoted to supporters' arguments. On Feb. 6, opponents should have their say, as many did not get a chance to speak Monday because of time constraints.

Touting the project's benefits, the supporters said a lot of money has been wasted to date fighting the Liberty Quarry project. They argued that the delay has hindered growth itself.

"Growth begins with aggregate," said Max Miller, a Murrieta-area resident.

Others said the county could, by approving the project, help shatter the perception that the state and the county are hostile to businesses and spur a regional economic boom.

"Decide what is best for the county, and not just for a select few," said Jim Welker, a De Luz resident.

Those who were focused on other reasons to support the project included former San Antonio resident Jackie Raspler.

Showing slides of former quarry sites that have been transformed into Japanese gardens, parks and retail centers, Raspler said the Liberty Quarry site could be a boon for the area in the short and long terms.

"If we are to have progress ... industries and communities must learn to live together," she said.

Opponents cap day

After supporters had their say, about a dozen opponents addressed the supervisors before the meeting ended.

Kathleen Hamilton, one of the opposition leaders, came with her two grandsons, who were leading wagons filled with petition cards.

"40,000 signed cards and petitions," Hamilton said.

Howard Omdahl, a developer who was a key figure during the commission's review of the project, said the mine could end up "dewatering" the mountain, destroying an ecosystem that supports oaks, other types of vegetation and migrating animals.

That special ecosystem, he added, was one of the reasons why San Diego State University decided to create a large ecological reserve to the west.

"This area is unique and needs to be preserved," he said.

About 40 rally opposition to quarry
The Press-Enterprise, Wed., Jan. 25

About 40 people waved signs to honking drivers Wednesday afternoon trying to rally opposition to the proposed Liberty Quarry.

Quarry opponents, many from a local group called Save Our Southwest Hills, are trying to drive turnout to the first of two Riverside County Board of Supervisors hearings on the proposed open-pit mine, which would be built just outside Temecula.

Supervisors will consider developer Granite Construction's request to overturn the county Planning Commission's decision rejecting the quarry. Doors to the Riverside Convention Center, 3443 Orange St. in Riverside will open at 7:30 a.m. Monday for the 9 a.m. meeting.

The session will begin with a report from the county planning director. Granite Construction, which is seeking to build the mine, will then have an hour to speak, followed by elected officials.

1st hearing Monday on quarry appeal
The Californian, Wed., Jan. 25

The moment that thousands of people in Southwest County have been awaiting for years arrives next week.

On Monday morning, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors will hold the first of what is expected to be multiple meetings to consider the appeal of the county Planning Commission's denial of Granite Construction's Liberty Quarry project.

"I think everyone is looking forward to hearing the arguments on both sides," said Board Chairman John Tavaglione, addressing the widespread anticipation for Monday's meeting among both project supporters and opponents.

The commission voted 4-1 late last year to deny Granite's bid to dig an open-pit aggregate rock mine on acreage near the city of Temecula's southern border, a swath of Riverside County land just northwest of the San Diego County community of Rainbow.

That vote wrapped up a long series of meetings that found the commission listening to dozens of hours of testimony from project foes and supporters.

Because of the intense interest in the appeal proceedings, which will be streamed live on the Internet at www.countyofriverside.us, the board has scheduled the meeting for the Riverside Convention Center, 3443 Orange St. in downtown Riverside.

The center can accommodate about 2,000 people. The meeting is scheduled to start at 9 a.m. and it could last until 6 p.m.

County officials have said the center's doors will open at 7:30 a.m.

If the board does not wrap up the appeal hearing on Monday, the meeting would continue at 9 a.m. Feb. 6 at the center.

To help stoke the turnout for the meeting, opponents have erected a billboard, set up signs around Temecula and scheduled a rally for Wednesday.

There also will be buses ferrying people north for the meeting.

Many of the opponents have said they don't like the proposed location of the mine because, they argue, it could degrade air quality, harm the area's tourism industry and destroy land sacred to the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians.

Opponents are also concerned about how the mine could affect research on a nearby ecological reserve and traffic on Interstate 15 in Temecula.

Granite and its allies have erected their own billboard, and there is talk of a coordinated appearance by union members who have touted the jobs the mine could produce and the project's associated economic benefits. They contend the quarry will help spur development in the area because of a nearby source of aggregate.

About 1,400 people attended the first commission hearing on the project, and hundreds of them signed up to speak at that meeting.

Anticipating a similar urge to address the board, the county released a statement that spelled out how the process would unfold.

At the start of the hearing, Granite representatives will be allowed to speak for up to an hour, laying out their case.

That presentation will be followed by elected officials who wish to address the board.

Then a time will be set aside for public comment, with supporters leading off, followed by people claiming to be neutral and then opponents.

After the public has weighed in, Granite will be provided time for a rebuttal.

During the first commission hearing last year, Chairman John Roth spent a lot of time trying to quiet the audience, which included some folks who were applauding, jeering and making catcalls during presentations.

Some people were removed from the chambers for unruly behavior.

Tavaglione said Wednesday that he plans to lay out the audience rules at the start of Monday's meeting, and he is hoping everyone will be respectful.

"I will be respectful and I hope they will be respectful, too," he said. "We want to hear the arguments on both sides. The clearer that we can hear that and digest it, all the better it will be for those of us that have to make that decision."

People who wish to speak will be required to fill out a form, a copy of which is available at www.rivcocob.com. The form also will be available at the meeting, but people who wish to comment are encouraged to download the form and fill it out ahead of time. Forms may not be mailed in to the county, but rather submitted during the hearing.

Folks who sign up to comment will be limited to one appearance during the course of the meetings. Each person will have three minutes to address the board.

Up to two people may give their time to another individual to extend a speaker's total minutes to nine. But those who give up their time must be present at the meeting when the person receiving their time is called to speak.

To keep sight lines clear for audience members, the county is prohibiting signs and placards. Backpacks, other large bags and large purses also will be prohibited.

If more than two meetings on the appeal are required, the clerk will determine any future date, time and location.

Anti-quarry group releases book
temecula.patch.com, Tues., Jan. 17

An anti-quarry group activist created a coffee table book that documents the hearing that led to the rejection of the Liberty Quarry plan.

The hardback book, created by SOS-Hills member Ken Johnson, is available by calling or emailing fellow activist Fred Bartz at 951-216-3030 or emailing him at fjbartz@verizon.net. The cost is $30.

How to address supervisors during quarry meetings
temecula.patch.com, Wed., Jan. 11

Each member of the public can address the Board of Supervisors during the hearings that will decide the fate of Liberty Quarry.

To talk to the board, fill out a request to speak form and give it to the County Clerk's staff shortly before or during the meeting. They will not be accepted if they are mailed in, according to Ray Smith, a spokesperson for the county.

For the location of the meeting, click here.

The form will be available during the meetings, though it can be downloaded from the county's website, which is available by clicking here.

Up to two people may give their time to somebody else to extend that person's time. Anybody giving up their time must be present at the meeting when the person taking their time is called to speak, Smith said.

The meeting is scheduled to break around noon for a lunch break.

The audience is prohibited from holding signs or placards that might obstruct another person's view. Large bags and backpacks are also prohibited, the spokesperson said.

County sets quarry appeal dates
The Californian, Tues., Jan. 10

County officials have scheduled two dates for an appeal before the Riverside County Board of Supervisors on the proposed Liberty Quarry open-pit mine near Temecula.

Both meetings are to be held at the Riverside Convention Center, which can accommodate up to 2,000 people, county spokesman Ray Smith said.

The decision to hold meetings in downtown Riverside disappointed local officials and activists who had called for meetings in Southwest County.

"That's too bad," said Matt Rahn, director of the field stations program at San Diego State University's Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve. "Ideally, we'd like to have the hearings local just for convenience. But it is what it is."

Granite Construction filed an appeal in late December after the Riverside County Planning Commission finalized its denial of the company's proposed 155-acre quarry just south of Temecula, near the San Diego County line.

Because a large crowd is expected for the appeal hearings, the Riverside Convention Center at 3443 Orange St. in Riverside has been reserved for Jan. 30 and Feb. 6.

The meetings are scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. and end at 6 p.m., with breaks for lunch.

Smith said the center was selected not only because of its ability to accommodate many people, but also because it is the Board of Supervisors' practice to meet in Riverside.

Riverside is the county seat.

In recent days, the county received a pair of letters from Temecula groups urging that hearings be held there.

One of those was a letter dated Jan. 2 and written by Kathleen Hamilton, president of the environmental group Save Our Southwest Hills.

Hamilton wrote that the hearing should be closest to those who would be affected most if the project were built. She said that primarily would be residents of Temecula, Murrieta, Fallbrook and Rainbow.

But Hamilton said by telephone Tuesday she wasn't surprised to learn the Riverside Convention Center was selected.

"I think I just won a lobster dinner," Hamilton joked, saying she had bet a friend the hearings would be held there.

"They (county officials) want to get it over with," she said. "I think that's what this is all about. We'll just do what we do best, which is rally the troops."

Hamilton said Save Our Southwest Hills already was preparing to rent buses to transport quarry opponents to Riverside.

"It will be impressive with buses rolling in," she said.

The board also received a letter dated Jan. 9. It was signed by Rahn, Temecula Mayor Chuck Washington, and Mark Macarro, tribal chairman of the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians.

The three men asked that at least one board meeting be held at Rancho Community Church, which was the site of several Planning Commission hearings.

"Holding the public hearing in Temecula thus would afford a greater opportunity for public participation and would facilitate the attendance of many citizens who may be unable to travel to Riverside," they wrote.

But Smith said that's not the supervisors' practice.

"The board meets in Riverside and does not move its meetings to other sites in the county as the Planning Commission does," he said.

Smith said the only time in the last decade the board met elsewhere was when it scheduled a joint meeting with supervisors from San Diego, San Bernardino and Imperial counties.

To accommodate people who can't travel to Riverside, the county plans to stream meetings live via links on the county's website:www.countyofriverside.us.

People wishing to speak at the hearings will be required to fill out forms, Smith said. Copies of those forms will be available in advance online at www.rivcocob.com, a week before the hearings. Forms will need to be submitted to a board clerk at the meetings.

As for ground rules, each speaker will be limited to three minutes, Smith said. He said a maximum of two speakers may donate time, giving someone a maximum of nine minutes to address the board. Those who donate time must be present.

Smith said signs that obstruct others' view and large bags won't be allowed into the center.

Quarry meeting to be held in Riverside
temecula.patch.com, Tues., Jan. 10

A series of hearings to decide the fate of Liberty Quarry will be held at the Riverside Convention Center.

The first two meetings are set for 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Jan. 30 and Feb. 6 at the center, at 3443 Orange St. in downtown, according to Ray Smith, a spokesperson for the county.

The Board of Supervisors will consider applications for a mining permit and an exception to the county's noise ordinance to build a quarry just south of Temecula.

The applications were denied by the county Planning Commission in August, though the Watsonville-based company appealed the decision. To read about the appeal, click here.

Temecula residents gathered at the County Administrative Center to urge the board to schedule the meetings for Temecula. To read what they said, click here.

The numerous Planning Commission meetings that dealt with the quarry were held at Rancho Community Church in Temecula, and the meetings likely broke records in terms of turnout and meeting length. To read what officials said, click here.

The supervisors decided against holding the meetings in Temecula. Board members were unavailable for comment by publication time.

Some residents were disappointed by the location. "I am disappointed that it won't be where the people this project will affect live," said Jerri Arganda, a member of SOS-Hills, an anti-quarry group. "But, we will make the best of it and get the busses rolling to Riverside."

The county is trying to make concessions for people who cannot attend by streaming the meeting online, Smith said.

"To make the meetings available to as many people as possible, they will be streamed live on the Internet via links that will be available on the County’s home page," he said.

The county's webpage is available here. The Planning Department's website is available here.

The board is the highest decision-making body in the county and will decide the fate of the quarry project.

If the board denies the project, the company has only two other options to move it forward: to sue the county, or to reapply. To read about those possibilities, click here.

Editor's note: This story was updated at 11:39 p.m. Jan. 10 with feedback from a Temecula resident about the hearing's location.

Public gets first chance to speak to supervisors about quarry
Temecula.patch.com, Mon., Jan. 9

The public will get its first chance to address the County Board of Supervisors about Liberty Quarry tomorrow.

The county is scheduled to accept and file a decision by the County Planning Commission denying the plan to mine at 1:30 p.m. at the Riverside County Administration Center. Click here for the location.

The meeting is routine, but it will give the public its first chance to tell the supervisors how they feel about the quarry, according to Ray Smith, a spokesperson for the county.

The board will vote on whether to accept and file the Planning Commission's decission to deny the quarry's permits, according to county records.

"Anybody can speak, but tomorrow, no substantive issues will be dealt with," Smith said. "It's just a formality."

To address the supervisors, go to the meeting and fill out a "request to speak" slip, which are available in the meeting room. Hand them to the county clerk, who will be seated at the front of the room.

The quarry plan was denied by the Planning Commission last year, though it was appealed and will now go to the Board of Supervisors for a final vote.

Though the board's decision is the final step in the process, a denial may not stop the quarry from being built, officials said. To read what they said, click here.

GRANITE HAS OPTIONS IF PROJECT IS DENIED AGAIN
TEMECULA.PATCH.COM, MONDAY, JAN. 2

Even if the County Board of Supervisors denies Liberty Quarry, that may not stop the project.

Granite Construction, the company planning to build a 135-acre mine just south of Temecula, has at least two options, according to the Californian.

It could sue the county, or it could submit an amended application.

If it chose to sue, it would have nearly no chance of winning in court, Ray Johnson, an environmental attorney, told the Californian.

Submitting another application would be expensive, especially considering the mining company dumped more than $10 million into the project already, Gary Johnson, a Granite official, told the newspaper.

The new application would need to be different from the original and include an environmental impact report, which takes time and money to produce.

The company was unsure whether it would do that, Johnson told the newspaper.

The project applications were rejected 4-1 by the Riverside County Planning Commission in August, and the company appealed the decision last month.

Poll: What events impacted Temecula the most?
Temecula.patch.com, Sun., Jan. 1

A lot happened in Temecula in 2011.

A planned mine, called Liberty Quarry, was denied by the County Planning Commission. Click here to read about it.

A mosque planned for Nicolas Road was given the go-ahead by the City Council. To read about it, click here.

A plan that will guide future development in Wine Country was finished. The final draft of the plan is available here.

The city and law enforcement, through various means, closed down two marijuana dispensaries -- Closed Circuit Collective and Temecula Caregivers Collective -- and fought a lawsuit against a third.

The state legislature passed a plan to take money from Temecula's -- and other cities' -- redevelopment agencies. To read about the plan, click here.

Longtime City Manager Shawn Nelson announced his retirement. To read why he decided to retire, click here.

  • What events impacted life in Temecula the most in 2011?

    (Voting has been closed for this question)
    • Liberty Quarry being rejected
      47(81%)
    • Mosque plan being approved
      6(10%)
    • Wine Country master plan being completed
      0(0%)
    • City pushing to close marijuana dispensaries
      0(0%)
    • State taking city's redevelopment funds
      5(8%)
    • City manager's retirement

 

Quarry appeal could be heard in February
The Press Enterprise, Mon., Jan. 2

An appeal on the Liberty Quarry project could be taken up by Riverside County supervisors in early February, the board’s new chairman said.

In an email Thursday, Supervisor John Tavaglione wrote that county officials are still working out the hearing’s logistics and nothing has been finalized. Quarry developer Granite Construction wants the Riverside County Board of Supervisors to overturn the county Planning Commission’s decision rejecting the open-pit mine planned for the hills south of Temecula.

Tavaglione, whose district includes Riverside, Corona and Jurupa Valley, wrote that he thought two appeal hearings would be held. Between April and August of last year, the commission held six quarry hearings and listened to more than 50 hours of public testimony.

The board proceedings are likely to be heavily attended by quarry supporters and opponents. Granite contends its project would be an environmentally friendly economic boon, while critics argue it would be the opposite.

One decision facing county officials is where to hold the hearing. Quarry foes successfully got the commission to meet in Temecula. The five supervisors usually meet in the County Administrative Center in downtown Riverside.

Overflow seating was needed to handle the crowd at a June 2009 quarry-related hearing at the center. A boundary-setting panel denied Temecula’s bid to annex the quarry site.

The board is expected to formally receive the commission’s quarry denial on Jan. 10. An appeal hearing would be scheduled after that.

 
December 2011 Letters to the Editor

The right decision for Temecula
The Californian, Wed., Dec. 21

Kudos to the Riverside Planning Commission for denying Granite Construction's planned quarry on the southern boundary of Temecula. We have lived in Temecula for 25 years. Along with our neighbors and friends, we cherish the quiet, beautiful surroundings of this area.

We spent the weekend strolling through Old Town Temecula, watching skaters and shoppers enjoying the holiday season. It would be a travesty to introduce a mine quarry close to a city whose residents enjoy outdoor recreation, wildlife, natural beauty and wineries --- all of which could be adversely affected by a mine.

We offer our heartfelt thanks to the members of the Planning Commission for making the right decision for the city of Temecula and its residents.

Lynn Cude, Temecula


December 2011 Opinions/Forums

Pension fund doesn't need quarry
The Californian, Wed., Dec. 21
Marelle Dorsey

Adele Harrison's Dec. 5 article, "Quarry looks like pension fund solution" has problems with those darn pesky facts. Let's examine all the fallacies.

First, it is not true that the California State Teachers Retirement System, has a 30-year shortfall of $150 billion.

Adele, a retired teacher and strong quarry proponent, took this fact from an Oct. 18, 2011, announcement by the Government Accounting Standards Board. However, she left out an Oct. 25, 2011, letter by CalSTRS Chief Executive Officer, Jack Ehnes, posted on the CalSTRS website. Addressed to the California State Assembly and Senate, it explained that the shortfall is just $56 billion. The GASB had used an accounting approach "that will not change the actual amount of the shortfall but will significantly increase its amount on paper."

Second, it is not true that educators in the state have to worry about the shortfall.

CalSTRS also posted a news article Dec. 2, 2011, announcing a plan of action to address the system's $56 billion long term funding shortfall, and promising to continue to work with the legislature and its stakeholders to develop a plan that addresses gradual proposed contribution increases to ensure predictability and fairness to all parties.

Active members currently contribute 8 percent of their income to the retirement plan. Teachers will be asked to modestly increase their contributions over time. CalSTRS is the largest teacher pension fund in the United States, serving 852,000 public school educators.

Third, it is not true that "Liberty Quarry Project will generate significant funding for CalSTRS."

If an estimated royalty is $100 million, that would equal a total of $117.00 per CalSTRS member. Dividing by 75 years, the length of the project, you get $1.56 per each member, per year. Any self-respecting educator would find amounts in that range insignificant.

Fourth, it is not true that the Legislature has the right to force all new mining projects to pay similar royalties.

Most of Liberty Quarry's site is part of a large 1853 federal land-grant, provided to all states. Any money generated had to be spent for certain school purposes. The mineral rights were retained by the state when this quarry site was originally sold.

After five long public hearings with multiple experts testifying, the Planning Commission voted 4-1 to formally deny the Liberty Quarry project on Dec. 7.

The commission obviously disagreed with Adele Harrison and decided that the quarry was not important for jobs and the economy. Liberty Quarry will currently just take jobs away from other county quarries. Trucks off the road means fewer jobs.

The commission found the quarry would cause unhealthy long term poor air quality. Over 160 local physicians and the American Lung Association had expressed great concern and opposed the quarry.

As a former teacher myself, I am surprised by Adele Harrison's lack of concern for the lungs of our children.

Go to NoGravelQuarry.com for updates on Granite Construction's upcoming appeal to the supervisors and to add your opposition.

December 2011 News Articles

Options for Granite if board denies Liberty Quarry project
The Californian, Sat., Dec. 31

Some of the people following the debate over a quarry proposed south of Temecula recently posed an interesting "what if" question.

If the Riverside County Board of Supervisors votes to reject the appeal filed by Northern California-based Granite Construction, would that sound the death knell for the company's Liberty Quarry project?

The answer, according to a Granite representative, a Temecula environmental attorney and the county: Not exactly.

Last month, Granite filed an appeal of the county Planning Commission's recent denial of the project, a 135-acre open pit mine proposed for land near the unincorporated area of De Luz, the city of Temecula's southern border and the San Diego County community of Rainbow. That appeal will be considered by the board early this year.

If the board rejects the appeal, it would be difficult for Granite to challenge the board's decision via a lawsuit, said both Granite project manager Gary Johnson and environmental attorney Ray Johnson.

"The likelihood of winning that would be less than 1 percent," Ray Johnson said. "Basically, you'd have to prove the board's decision was made without any factual backup at all. ... There's virtually no chance it could be challenged in court."

But there is another option for the company: Gary Johnson said Granite could file an amended application.

In that scenario, there's a possibility the new application would need to be accompanied by some fresh technical studies, or edits of existing studies and environmental reports.

Addressing that possibility, county spokesman Ray Smith said a new environmental impact report would have to be done.

"The same studies could be resubmitted, with some caveats. But they would have to be reviewed by staff as completely new studies," he said.

When Gary Johnson was asked whether Granite was willing to invest money in a new application ---- the company already has spent about $10 million to date ---- he said the company hasn't yet made a determination.

He said the company's focus is on seeing the project approved and putting people to work.

Granite has said the quarry will create 100 high-quality jobs and start a positive economic ripple effect in Southwest County because the mine will provide a new local source of aggregate rock material.

Opponents of the project, a group that now includes the Temecula Valley Chamber of Commerce, say the economic benefits of the project are trumped up and largely illusory, because the mine could end up hurting the area's vibrant tourism industry, in part because of air pollution produced by the mine.

If the board ends up overruling the commission and approving the project, Ray Johnson said the course of action is clear.

Opponents would file a suit challenging the county's environmental review of the project, and Johnson, the attorney, said he is confident the suit would have a good chance of succeeding.

The environmental documentation, he said, is woefully insufficient with regard to the cultural issues that have been brought up by the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians and the traffic studies that have been challenged by city of Temecula consultants.

On the cultural issues, Pechanga leaders have said that the mine project would destroy land tied to its creation story.

Granite has said the mine is proposed for land well away from the confluence of the Murrieta and Temecula creeks that is referenced in the story as the wellspring of the Pechanga people, essentially its "Garden of Eden."

Ray Johnson said that argument probably will not prevail because there is documentation that shows the swath of land that the tribe considers sacred extends far beyond that confluence.

"It's a much, much broader area than that," he said.

The county Planning Department has defended its review of the project, saying that the large body of documentation produced meets both county and state requirements.

Proposed quarry creates stir throughout the year
The Californian, Fri., Dec. 30

In late April, more than 1,000 people packed into a church in Temecula to witness the start of the Riverside County Planning Commission's review of Granite Construction's Liberty Quarry project.

That review, which featured 50 hours of public testimony presented during six meetings held over the course of eight months, riveted thousands of people in Southwest County for much of the year.

Most of those in attendance were passionately opposed to the project, and they made that abundantly clear by their comments, saying the quarry would sink property values and degrade the area's air quality.

Late in the year, the Temecula Valley Chamber of Commerce voted to oppose the project, a victory for opponents who had long sought the chamber's help.

There also were fans of the project, a group that included union members, who urged the commission to create jobs and boost the economy by approving the mine, a 135-acre aggregate rock quarry proposed for land on Temecula's southern border.

To accommodate all of the people who wanted to speak and to allow the commission members to question experts, the commission scheduled follow-up hearings and meetings.

This review process was eventually wrapped up in December, with the commission voting to finalize the denial of the project.

After the vote, there was a round of applause by the small number of people who had driven to Riverside for the meeting. Granite representatives have appealed, setting the stage for a review of the project by the county Board of Supervisors in 2012.

Although the crowd for that final meeting ---- the culmination of days of testimony and debate ---- was small, opponents predict the crowd that greets the board will be massive.

Jerri Arganda of Rainbow, one of the leaders of the opposition forces, said people will be coming out of the woodwork to line up against the quarry, no matter where the first meeting is held.

She's predicting a crowd that rivals or surpasses the audience for that first commission hearing, which she estimated at close to 2,000.

"I don't think that's going to stop anyone," she said, talking about the possibility of the hearing being held in Riverside. "If we have to, we'll get buses and send them up to Riverside. ... I think people are going to make the difference."

In addition to the folks expected to show up, Arganda said opponents will deliver thousands of signature cards from people opposed to the project.

With the crowd and the cards, Arganda said she hopes the board sees the depth of opposition and votes to defeat the project.

"That would be the perfect ending," she said.

Granite representatives would beg to differ, however, and they said the company is looking forward to getting a "fair hearing" by the board in 2012.

Asked about its strategy going forward, Granite project manager Gary Johnson said all the ammunition the company needs to see the project approved is in the environmental impact report prepared by the county.

That report recommended approval of the project, a recommendation that was not heeded by the commission.

"It's all in there," he said, talking about the huge stack of technical studies and reports that made up the environmental report.

Top 10: Quarry debate rocks 2011
The Californian, Thurs., Dec. 29

The year 2011 may well be remembered as 12 months when Southwest County residents found themselves stuck between rocks and some pretty hard places.

Each December, the editors and reporters at The Californian nominate stories about issues and events we covered in the past year that affected ---- for better or worse ---- the lives of the people who live and work in the region.

The list is whittled to a Top 10, which over the next two days we'll present along with an updated look, when appropriate, at what's happening at year's end with the issue.

Although these are offered in no particular order, we always pick a top story of the year.

In 2011, the long-simmering ---- and still active ---- debate over Liberty Quarry, a 135-acre aggregate mine proposed just south of Temecula, led the way.

Thousands of quarry opponents, along with far fewer backers, packed a series of Riverside County Planning Commission hearings conducted in Temecula to review the project, which was first proposed and first protested in 2005.

In December, the commission voted 4-1 to deny the quarry. Builder Granite Construction appealed that decision to the Riverside County Board of Supervisors, which is expected to take up the issue in January. That makes it likely that our top story of 2011 will make the list once again in 2012.

Hard places and hard choices abounded in 2011 as local governments ---- faced with uncertainty over tax money coming from Sacramento ---- cut budgets, closed parks, reduced police patrols, laid off workers and limited city hall hours.

In Riverside, county officials and public employee union leaders hurled accusations at each other over pension reform and other efforts to trim expenses in the face of dwindling revenues.

Meanwhile, voter-backed measures in Murrieta and Menifee were implemented ---- some more than others ---- with activists promising there would be more "taking on city hall" to come in 2012.

And other stories emerged from the rubble in 2011.

Work finally began on the long-anticipated widening of Interstate 215.

After years of delays and failed inspections, state hospital officials allowed Southwest Healthcare to open a $53 million expansion at Rancho Springs Medical Center in Murrieta and a $24 million addition at Inland Valley Medical Center in Wildomar. Across town, the new Loma Linda University Medical Center - Murrieta opened, becoming the fourth hospital in Southwest County. In Temecula, the first rocks were moved after ground was broken to build the hospital, which had been in the planning stages for years.

Finally, we round out our list with some of the region's more notorious crimes committed in recent years finally being prosecuted in 2011, and ---- on the opposite end of the news spectrum ---- the success of five talented area singers who rose to fame on reality television shows, adding a positive voice to an otherwise rocky year in Southwest County.

Chamber of Commerce votes to oppose Liberty Quarry
The Californian, Fri., Dec. 23

In what was called a "major development" by city officials, theTemecula Valley Chamber of Commerce voted this week to oppose Granite Construction's Liberty Quarry project.

"It was a difficult and well thought out decision," wrote chamber President/CEO Alice Sullivan in a release. "Based upon the chamber's mission statement, the majority of the TVCC Board of Directors felt it was in the best interest of the community at large to oppose this project."

The vote was cast as a special board meeting on Thursday.

Granite Construction has been working for years to win approval of its plans to dig an open pit mine on land near the city of Temecula's southern border, acreage just northwest of the San Diego County community of Rainbow.

Granite's efforts were dealt a blow this year by the county Planning Commission, which voted 4-1 to deny the project following a lengthy review that covered much of the summer.

An appeal of that decision to the county Board of Supervisors has been filed and the board is expected to rule on the project, following its own hearings and meetings, in 2012.

The chamber's action, which comes after years of not taking a position on the project, was greeted with cheers by opponents of Liberty Quarry, a group that includes the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, some local environmental groups and the city of Temecula.

The Pechanga have said the proposed location of the mine will destroy land it considers sacred.

Environmental groups have said the mine will harm the area's air quality, disturb research at a nearby ecological reserve and forever destroy a hillside that serves as the gateway to the Temecula Valley.

The city has said the quarry will burden the Temecula area with additional traffic, road damage and air pollution and the city has said the mine could drive down property values and harm the area's tourism industry.

The quarry is supported by some public officials in Riverside County cities who say it will remove pollution-belching trucks from county roads since most of the aggregate will be shipped to San Diego County.

It also is supported by some economists, unions and business owners who say it will provide new jobs and create a positive economic ripple effect.

The chamber counts more than 1,000 local businesses as members, including The Californian, which has been a member since 1979.

The vote to oppose the quarry project was made by the board, which does not include a representative of the newspaper.

Granite Construction has been a member of the chamber since 2004.


Granite Construction's Liberty Quarry appeal filed
The Californian, Fri., Dec. 16

Granite Construction this week filed an appeal of the Riverside County Planning Commission's denial of its Liberty Quarry project, an open-pit mine proposed for 135 acres of land near the city of Temecula's southern border.

The commission voted 4-1 earlier this month to make final the denial of the hotly contested project, a decision backed by a long list of findings that called into question most of the benefits of the mine that were touted by Granite and the county's environmental impact report.

The county's planning department, using the report as its guide, recommended approval of the project, but that recommendation was disregarded by the commission.

After the commission's decision, Granite vowed to appeal the ruling to the county Board of Supervisors, an action that was initiated with the filing of the necessary paperwork on Thursday.

County spokesman Ray Smith said Friday that the board, which is the county body that will have the final say on the project's future, is expected to schedule a hearing to consider the appeal at its Jan. 10 meeting.

The hearing, according to Granite representatives, is expected to feature many of the elements that turned the commission's review of the project into an epic, months-long series of hearings and meetings that were attended by thousands of area residents.

Those elements include presentations by Granite, supporters and opponents of the project and comments by the public.

To prepare for the hearing, or possibly multiple hearings, Granite spokeswoman Karie Reuther said the company would be working through the holiday season to assemble data and presentations for the board.

"We don't sleep here!" she joked.

Asked whether the company would be presenting some new findings to back the project, Reuther said all of the information already is in the environmental impact report.

Some opponents of the project have criticized that report, saying it read like a public relations document produced by Granite. Others said the studies and information in the report were flawed and unable to withstand serious scrutiny and a legal challenge, which is eventually expected no matter how the board rules.

Supporters of the project have defended the project and the report, saying it satisfies ---- and in some cases, more than satisfies ---- the state's standard for environmental review.

The report details the various ways the project is expected to affect the environment, from air quality to traffic to habitat for animals.

To approve the project, the commission would have had to make the determination that the project's benefits outweighed the significant and unavoidable effects listed in the report.

Instead, the commission said that it could not state as fact the benefits listed in the report and that the project was incompatible with surrounding land uses.

Quarry rejection appealed
Temecula.patch.com, Fri., Dec. 16

Granite Construction appealed a decision that would kill its plan to build a mine near Temecula.

A mining company appealed a decision that would stop it from building a quarry near Temecula.

Granite Construction filed the appeal this week, according to Ray Smith, a spokesperson for the county said on Thursday.

The plan was rejected 4-1 by the Riverside County Planning Commission first in a vote on Aug. 31, then with a finalizing vote on Dec. 7.

The appeal means the decision will go over the heads of the planning commission and into the hands of the Riverside County Board of Supervisors.

The company vowed to appeal the decision, but the appeal could be filed only after the plan's rejection was finalized, Granite officials said. To read about the company's plan, click here.

The plan will build a 115-acre mine on a property spanning more than 400 acres in the hills just south of Temecula and just east of the Santa Rosa Ecological Preserve. To read details about the plan, click here.

Granite's Liberty Quarry appeal filed Thursday
The Californian, Thurs., Dec. 15

Northern California-based Granite Construction on Thursday filed an appeal of the county Planning Commission's denial of itsLiberty Quarry project.

Granite representatives have long been on the record saying they had planned to file the appeal and that the company is looking forward to the hearing that will be conducted by the county Board of Supervisors.

The commission voted 4-1 in late August to deny the quarry project, an open pit aggregate mine proposed for land on the city of Temecula's southern border.

Earlier this month, the commission voted 4-1 to finalize that action, presenting a long list of denial findings that did not include many of the benefits of the project that have been touted by Granite and detailed by county planning staff in the project's environmental impact report.

Opponents of the project say it will harm the area's air quality, negatively impact the region's tourism industry and destroy land tied to the creation story of the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians.

Supporters say the mine will bring good jobs and produce an economic virtuous circle because the area will be able to tap a local source of high-quality aggregate.

Commission completes denial of quarry
The Californian, Wed., Dec. 7

Wrapping up months of review, the Riverside County Planning Commission voted Wednesday morning to make final its denial of Granite Construction's Liberty Quarry project, a 135-acre mine proposed for land on the city of Temecula's southern border.

The mine, which was hotly debated in Southwest County for the past six years, was expected to produce up to 5 million tons of aggregate rock material at maximum production.

The vote was 4-1, with Commissioner James Porras dissenting. The decision was reached after the commission went page by page through the draft copy of its denial findings.

Most of the changes were cosmetic ---- a changed word here, adding context there ---- but there was a more serious discussion related to the benefits of the project listed in the findings. After some debate, the commission scrubbed most mention of the benefits from the document.

Those benefits, the commission argued, should not be included because they couldn't be verified as fact. Nor did they reflect the commission's conclusions, which held that the project is incompatible with neighboring land uses and would be an environmental injustice against the county because most of the aggregate would be headed to San Diego County.

Petty said he didn't think there were any benefits that should be included in the commission's document.

"If it was up to me ... I'd delete all of the alleged benefits," he said.

Other members, however, felt the section should be reworked instead of scrapped. A compromise was reached: The section heading was changed so that it read, "benefits as listed in the (Environmental Impact Report) and by the applicant."

And many of the specific numbers were removed.

For example, instead of stating that the "mine would meet 40 percent of all Western Riverside County aggregate needs" the document now reads "the mine would meet some of Western Riverside County's aggregate needs."

After the 33 pages of findings were edited to their satisfaction, the commissioners voted on the denial. In a separate action, the panel decided not to send a letter to the Board of Supervisors explaining its rationale.

Instead, the individual members, if they so desire, will be sending letters that contain their thoughts on the project and the findings.

Commissioner John Petty made it clear that his letter would be quite lengthy, adding in his comments and information that was provided by the city of Temecula and the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians.

The tribe has said the mine would destroy land that is tied to its creation story. It has introduced legislation that would allow it to block mining projects near its sacred sites.

Granite officials met with tribal leaders in an attempt to address the tribe's concerns, but no agreement was reached.

No one from Granite spoke at the meeting.

Company spokeswoman Karie Reuther said earlier this week that Granite was looking forward to seeing the denial made final so it could appeal the decision to the Board of Supervisors, which will have the final say.

The crowd for Wednesday's hearing numbered in the dozens, a far cry from the thousand-plus people who attended commission meetings that were held in Temecula earlier this year.

Fred Bartz, president of Clean Air Temecula, said he and the other folks who drove north for the meeting were happy with the outcome, which was clear by their applause after the vote

"I really thought they wanted to be very careful the proper benefits and conclusions were included in the draft," he said, talking about the commission's lengthy review of the denial findings.

Totaling the commission's various hearings and meetings, county planning staff determined that the commission listened to more than 50 hours of public testimony and received hundreds of pieces of mailed correspondence.

That information was boiled down in the findings so that what was included was the testimony that led the Planning Commission to their conclusions, said Matt Straite, a county project planner.

Reuther dismissed those conclusions in a telephone interview Wednesday afternoon, saying the commission's findings are not supported by the county's planning staff, technical reports and scientific studies.

"They all show the project would clearly benefit Riverside County with new jobs, additional revenue and cleaner air," she said.

According to the county's report on the project, trucks that now stream south through Riverside County to the San Diego market from quarries in the Corona area and other points north of Temecula/Murrieta would be removed from the county's roads, removing the pollution produced by those rigs.

Project opponents and members of the commission dispute that finding, saying it is based on flawed traffic studies and assumptions that might change when the market for aggregate changes.

During the meeting, Porras said he didn't give much weight to worrying about changing market forces, noting that all projects brought before the commission could see their business models or results change in the future.

Reuther said Northern California-based Granite is looking forward to having its appeal heard by the Board of Supervisors, which will conduct hearings allowing folks for and against the project to weigh in once again.

"It's as if the Planning Commission hearing never happened. Essentially, it all starts over," she said.

Granite project manager Gary Johnson said the appeal will be filed within a week.

County Planning Commission set for final denial of Liberty Quarry
The Californian, Mon., Dec. 5

Although they stand on opposite sides of the issue, supporters and foes of Granite Construction's Liberty Quarry each have their reasons to look forward to Wednesday's meeting of the Riverside County Planning Commission.

At the 9 a.m. meeting in Riverside, the commission is scheduled to make final denial of the project, a 135-acre mine proposed for land just northwest of the community of Rainbow that could generate up to 5 million tons of aggregate rock at maximum production.

The commission voted 4-1 in August to tentatively deny the project and asked county staff members to write up findings backing its action, a task that took around three months.

For supporters ---- a group that includes Granite officials, some area unions and folks who point to the jobs the mine will produce ---- getting the denial wrapped up means Granite can file its appeal of the decision. That action will trigger a hearing before the county Board of Supervisors.

The board has the final say on the fate of the hotly contested project.

During a phone interview Monday, Granite spokeswoman Karie Reuther said the company is looking forward to the appeal hearing so that it can explain, once again, the project's many benefits.

Asked whether Granite planned to object to or try to rebut the denial findings produced by the county, Reuther said, "I don't think we plan on it. I think everything has been said."

The commission conducted multiple hearings on the project this year, including some marathon sessions in Temecula that were attended by thousands of area residents.

Opponents ---- a group that includes San Diego State scientists, local doctors and environmental organizations ---- also are looking forward to the hearing because it will mean a public airing and ratification of the findings. Those findings are essentially a list of legal determinations made by the commission that explain why it believes the project should not be approved.

According to that list, the project is "incompatible with the surrounding area and inconsistent with neighboring uses."

The commission made that determination, according to the draft copy of the findings that will be considered Wednesday, because most of the aggregate produced by the mine is projected to be shipped to San Diego County.

From the findings: "Based on the information presented by the public, ample aggregate deposits exist in San Diego County ... this represents an environmental injustice to Riverside County."

In addition, the findings state that, based on the information in the county's voluminous environmental review of the project and evidence presented at the public hearings, the effects on air quality, aesthetics, traffic, noise, geology/hydrology, biological resources and the heritage of the Pechanga are not outweighed by the project's benefits.

The Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians has said the mine would destroy land it considers sacred, and it has proposed legislation that would allow it to block quarry projects near its sacred sites.

That legislation is in limbo in Sacramento, but it could be revived next year.

Reuther dismissed the denial findings Monday, saying the commission's decision isn't supported by "county staff, the technical experts, scientific studies ... none of it."

The county's environmental impact report on the project recommended its approval, in part, because the mine's location on the southern edge of Riverside County would reduce the amount of miles that pollution-emitting diesel trucks drive on county roads.

Those trucks, according to the report, drive through Murrieta and Temecula on their way to deliver loads of aggregate to San Diego County.

During the public hearings, project opponents criticized both the report's findings and its methodology.

The commission will meet in the County Administrative Center, 4080 Lemon St.

November 2011 Letters to the Editor

Granite's operations like office politics
The Californian, Tues., Nov. 22

Our rural property has been our escape from the "rat race." Somehow, "it" found us. Its name? Liberty Quarry.

Our dealings with Granite reminds me of office politics, with a sly co-worker endangering your job to suit his personal agenda, as he entices the boss (county officials) with his bogus report of grandeur.

The co-worker always wants to chat. He's always fishing, sometimes offering favors of persuasion. He's your "buddy," though; be careful of what you say and beware of his slippery wording. Your job is under attack.

Every function (hearings) requires your attendance or he'll dodge important issues, jeopardizing your job. Researching his shoddy report to protect your family's security becomes homework, diminishing your family life. When defects are discovered, the co-worker, who's never wrong, sticks to his tale.

"There are no adverse impacts."

"You preach it, then guarantee it."

"Let's talk (mitigate)."

"Why, if there are no adverse impacts?"

"Hey, buddy! What's wrong?"

"Sign the guarantee."

He dodges it, leaving the boss to bear the burden of signing. Find another job? The co-worker offers ways to show you the door. Except this isn't a job, it's our home, and we don't work for Granite Construction. And we're not leaving.

Mike Jurkosky, Temecula


November 2011 Opinions/ Forums

Liberty Quarry hardly an "ideal" location
The Californian, Thurs., Nov. 17
Fred Bartz

Recently, I read the Wildomar Chamber of Commerce November Newsletter, where their CEO Mr. Scott Mann starts out by stating: "I'm taking the opportunity in this month's CEO Message to tout the Wildomar Chamber's support of the Liberty Quarry Project."

Mr. Mann also states: "Ideal Location ---- Aggregate quarries can only be located where the aggregate minerals are located."

Is Liberty Quarry really an "Ideal Location," especially when the proposed mega-quarry would:

• Possibly damage the nearby San Diego State University's Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve;

• Potentially pollute the Santa Margarita River, a major source of drinking water for Camp Pendleton's Marines and family members;

• Be adjacent to the Rainbow gap, where daily winds would carry crystalline silica quarry dust into the Temecula Valley.

Further, how can this location be "Ideal," especially since Granite Construction has stated that approximately 70 percent of the aggregate will go to meet demands in San Diego County?

In the recent joint SANDAG and Caltrans study titled "San Diego Region Aggregate Supply Study," it states: "The analysis showed that there are about 550 potential aggregate supply sites of 60 acres or more and 390 potential supply sites of 100 acres or more. Most of the sites are located in the unincorporated parts of the region." And yes, a Granite Construction representative was part of the aggregate study's Expert Review Panel.

In the Chamber's Newsletter, Mr. Mann also states: "CalTrans supports the development of Liberty Quarry." I am not sure what information source Mr. Mann used, as in 2010 Caltrans issued a letter stating: "we (Caltrans) have not endorsed the Liberty Quarry project." Recently, Caltrans again issued a letter stating: "Caltrans is not taking a position on the Liberty Quarry project."

Mr. Mann also talks about eliminating hundreds of truck trips daily, even though the numbers he references have been challenged by several experts in the recent Planning Commission hearings. If you accept Mr. Mann's numbers as correct, decreased truck trips mean the Wildomar Chamber indirectly supports putting hundreds of aggregate-hauling truck drivers out of work. Further, without increased aggregate demand, approving Liberty Quarry would actually put quarry workers out of work in cities north of Wildomar.

Finally, Mr. Mann states: "Additionally, Liberty Quarry has direct access to the I-15 freeway and its isolated location will keep it from being seen, felt or heard by area residents."

First, there is no access road from the proposed quarry to the I-15 freeway. Granite's own documents state the road would have to be constructed by blasting into the hillside immediately adjacent to the I-15 freeway.

Second, the access road would be clearly visible to traffic on the I-15. When the quarry is operating at full production, there will be 1,600 truck trips daily from I-15 to and from the quarry, or on average, 80 truck trips per hour, and blasting daily using 10,000 pounds of explosives, operating up to 75 years. Are we really to believe Liberty Quarry will not be "seen, felt, or heard"?

An "ideal location"? The facts say otherwise.

Urge supervisors to reject quarry
temecula.patch.com, Thurs., Nov. 10

Warning! We need everyone's attention in this matter. This is a huge gain for them, and a complete disaster for us.

Although the Planning Commissioners denied the mining permit, Granite Construction is appealing the decisin to the Riverside County Board of Supervisors.

To read about the plan, click here.

The concerned citizens and the grass root movement SOS-Hills is screaming from the top of their for-now-healthy lungs to deny Liberty Quarry in Temecula.

This is the time where we cannot let our guard down and more than ever create the unity needed for the last big push.

The date of the hearing in front of the supervisors hasn't been established at this time, but stay tuned, and I will post when it will take place.

A hearing finalizing the decision to reject the quarry is scheduled. For details, click here.

In the meantime, we are gathering support signatures against this project; come to see us in Temecula at the Farmers Market on Saturday from 9-11 a.m. and in Murrieta on Saturday as well in front of Walmart from 9-11 a.m., we will have tables there with volunteers that will solicit your support against Liberty Quarry.

Show your support against it by signing a 5-1/2 X 8-1/2 orange card directed to the supervisors suggesting they to vote no.

Protect your local economy and local jobs, air quality, the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve, the Santa Margarita River, water supply to our Marines at Camp Pendleton and the lungs or our children.

Quarry propaganda unfair to commissioners
The Californian, Tues., Nov. 8
Marelle Dorsey

Granite Construction's persistent propaganda for it's proposed open-pit blasting mine is unfair to the Riverside County Planning Commission.

Granite continues to imply that the 4-1 decision against them was caused by a lack of a fair hearing. They imply that when the Riverside County Board of Supervisors hears the same evidence, the outcome will be the opposite.

An example is found in the Oct. 27 Californian article by Aaron Claverie, "Panel postpones final quarry denial." Aaron quoted Karie Reuther, a Granite spokeswoman. She acknowledged the "six hearings and dozens of hours of testimony", but she added, "that Granite, a Northern California based company, is looking forward to presenting the project and its many benefits to the board as soon as possible."

Having attended all the hearings, I witnessed the fact that Granite was given every opportunity to fairly and completely present their case and the commissioners did a great job getting to the truth.

Granite propaganda had suggested that since the project had approval by the Planning Department Staff, it should be approved.

However, in his April 4 Californian article,"Opponents unswayed by Liberty Quarry data," Aaron Claverie quoted from a written statement from the county's Planning Department, "......we can not analyze, and are not legally required to analyze, or in some cases control, every conceivable project permutation."

It is the commissioners who have the legal responsibility to analyze all available data and all potential outcomes.

Another example of their propaganda concerns the economy. One is found in Aaron Claverie's Oct. 27th article, where Scott Mann, a Granite proponent, argued that a quick approval of the quarry would help the economy.

The hearings, however, showed just the opposite. Liberty Quarry's EIR has assumptions which are based on reducing county truck driving jobs. Low demand for aggregate means quarry jobs will not be added, but just relocated.

However, tourism, agriculture and existing businesses will be harmed because of polluted air and I-15 congestion from 1,600 daily local truck trips (most making southern deliveries).

The same reasons will also harm future progress. The quarry is not compatible with the high-tech, bio-tech and green jobs which our recent inclusion into the San Diego Innovation Hub promises to bring.

More proof that the quarry is bad for our economy is found in a July 10 Californian article, "Study challenges '07 quarry report." Aaron stated that economists from Claremont McKenna Rose Institute had calculated a net loss of $3.6 billion dollars for the county over the quarry's life.

As a real estate agent since 1980, I believe that the Rose Institute's predictions for losses in housing values caused by Liberty Quarry were conservative. I and many other local agents are already noticing buyers becoming concerned.

The first hearing last April was also the 25th anniversary of Chernobyl nuclear disaster. I prayed that we would not also face long term unnecessary devastation of our health, environment and economy.

November 2011 News Articles

Granite Spends $138,000 to Beat Pechanga
temecula.patch.com, Wed., nov. 23

Granite Construction increased its spending more than six-fold after the Pechanga Tribe introduced legislation that would kill the company's plan to build a quarry near Temecula.

To read about the quarry, click here.

Granite spent $138,000 on lobbyists from July to September, which was almost six times what it spent during the previous six months combined, the Press-Enterprise reported.

To read about Pechanga's proposed legislation, click here. To read the bill, click here.

The company's biggest expenses went to KP Public Affairs and Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck LLP, which each got $40,000 in August, shortly after the tribe announced the legislation, according to the report.

The Pechanga Tribe also spent heavily on lobbyists. During the third quarter, it spent $103,000, it spent $63,000 in the second quarter and $122,000 earlier in the year.

 

October 2011 Letters to the Editor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mariann Byers, Temecula

October 2011 Opinions/Forums

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

I am opposed to Liberty Quarry in Temecula.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

October 2011 News Articles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To read about the vote, click here.

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

 

 

September 2011 Letters to the Editor

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

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

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

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

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

Barbara Wilder, Temecula

September 2011 Opinions/Forums

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

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

However, this propaganda has two basic inconsistencies.

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

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

History sheds more light on the facts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back to business.

Now it gets really interesting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Veteran environmentalist Kathleen Hamilton confidently says, Bring it on!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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