who we are...

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

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


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

In the news

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

June 2011 Letters  Opinions/Forums News Articles
May 2011  Letters Opinions/Forums News Articles

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


June 2011 Letters to the Editor

The Californian, Sun., June 26, 2011
Approval of quarry would be shameful

Attendees at the public hearing on June 22 in Temecula were privy to an incredible experience.

Paul Macarro, Pechanga cultural coordinator, shared the fascinating story of his people's home, where many of us live. His Power Point presentation visually identified sacred sites interspersed throughout Temecula, many desecrated by development. I was moved by the comprehensive, compelling significance of his information. This was passionate and amazing.

One of the most sensitive sites to Pechanga heritage, the majestic mountain at the Southwest edge of our valley, also happens to be the location proposed for the mammoth pit. One rendering displayed a view of the mountain from above after excavation ---- another potentially desecrated site of native significance and American history.

I implore every resident of this valley and educators sharing knowledge with our children to dedicate 10 minutes from your schedule to view the video, found on the county of Riverside website. Mr. Macarro's presentation was early in the last session.

A recommendation for approval by any Commissioner would be disgusting and unconscionable. Proponents of Granite's plans must see this presentation. If you then still support moving forward with this project in this location, shame on you. I am ashamed of you.

Dave Wilson, Temecula

The Californian, Sat., June 18, 2011
Keep it 'Wine Country' not 'Mine Country'

As a Realtor since 1980, I have thoroughly analyzed the effects that Liberty Quarry would have on the realty market. These are some reasons why hundreds of agents have agreed with me that both sales and prices would be depressed:

-- Buyers are required to disclose all potential environmental hazards and problems.

-- 1,600 truck trips a day on Interstate 15, from 4 a.m. to 10 p.m., will not please commuters who will also see the project.

-- Huge, loud blasts six days a week, an asphalt plant and 24 hour operations could continue for 50 to 75 years.

-- The area is known for great air quality becouse of the prevailing ocean winds. According to the environmental impact report, the quarry would cause pollution.

-- 159 local doctors are against the project for health reasons.

-- The vineyard and tourism industries support about 7,000 jobs. Air concerns would put jobs at risk.

-- Local biotech companies employ thousands. They need clean air to operate. ... Potential lost jobs would far outweigh the 99 estimated quarry jobs.

-- Our environment, including the ecological reserve on the quarry border, with the last wild river in Southern California, will be harmed.

As Realtors, we want to advertise "Wine Country," not "Mine Country."

Marelle Dorsey, Temecula


The Californian, Sun., June 12, 2011
NIMBYism and the quarry

For Rick Kellogg (June 3) and others who may have missed the whole point of my last letter (May 26), I will try again:

There must be a good reason why the people of San Diego have said "no" to any more gravel pits within their county, and it can't be for a lack of granite in their soil. Could it be that San Diego County is just fed up with the dust, the noise and the smells, all of which can be associated with quarries?

It seems that San Diego County, in spite of its needs, would just as soon let another county live with the ill effects associated with a massive quarry. One has to wonder why the people of Riverside County and its neighbors, Rainbow and Fallbrook, communities located in the far-flung reaches of their own county and well represented in the opposition to Liberty Quarry, should be expected to feel any differently.

Each county pushing what is undesirable to its border cities and towns is unacceptable, especially when it affects such a large population center as the Temecula Valley. When each county is forced to evaluate its need for gravel against its willingness to mine its own resources, perhaps better decisions will be made for the location of gravel pits.

Pam Grender, Temecula

The Californian, Thurs., June 9
The public will know it's there

"You won't even know it's there." This could be about anything, but of late it is about the proposed Liberty Quarry. I have heard it so often that it brought to mind the saying, "If you repeat a lie often enough, it will eventually be accepted as truth."

About five years back, I decided to learn about this proposed project. I attended presentations put forth by Granite Construction, including an open house at Temeku Hills and a tour of the proposed site. Each time, I heard at least once, "You won't even know it's there." As my curiosity rose, I began checking into some of the "facts."

Using numbers supplied by Granite, I learned there would be around 1,500 more truck trips on Interstate 15 daily. I might notice that. The quarry folks said they would be blasting up to 10,000 pounds of explosives up to six times per week. I live about two miles from the site; I think I might notice that. A few other things came up ---- invisible silica dust, stadium lights at night, the probable elimination of the adjacent ecological reserve and more.

Judge for yourself. Lie? Or truth. "You won't even know it's there."

Fred Hayes, Temecula

The Californian, Tues., June 7
Are we hypnotized yet?

For some reason, everyone has been hypnotized into forgetting three major health detriments of living downwind of three other major toxic features imbedded in the Liberty Quarry:

1. A large asphalt plant will be at Liberty Quarry. It will stink and poison the neighborhood. Read the the article, "The Troubles in Milford Hills," by David France, Jan. 2006 (www.davidfrance.com) about a little North Carolina town downwind of an asphalt plant. A high suicide rate from noxious asphalt chemical fumes was traced to a nearby asphalt plant. Human brain neurological function was affected.

2. A large cement plant will be at Liberty Quarry. Read the widely reported anecdotal reports on the Internet about the adverse effects cement plants have on neighboring communities (Google "adverse effects of cement plants on neighborhoods").

3. Ammonium nitrate, used in the daily blasting, is poisonous in the air and nearby river and well drinking water. Camp Pendleton Marines' drinking water downstream could be poisoned. The swarms of belching trucks and fractured microscopic airborne crystalline silica slivers from rock blasting are by no means the only plagues of Liberty Quarry. But for some reason, it's all that Granite, Riverside County officials, politicians and the press are willing to discuss.

True, both are ample reasons enough for nixing the quarry in our still lovely town.

Nick Biddle, Temecula

THE CALIFORNIAN   Sun., June 5, 2011
Laughing out loud

I laughed out loud when I read the headline for the Community Forum, "Quarry EIR tells more of real story," June 1. One thing I've noticed about environmental impact reports is that they always concur with the party that's paying for them.

It reminds me of the story about the engineer, mathematician and real estate appraiser, who were asked, "What does two plus two equal?" The engineer answered "Four." The mathematician answered, "Well, it could be negative four, zero or positive four." The real estate appraiser leaned over and whispered, "What do you want it to be?"

Dan Collins, Temecula

CALIFORNIAN   Saturday, June 04, 2011
No confusion here

Re: "An exercise in obfuscation," May 20, by Daniel Scott: Reduction in truck traffic? Are trucks going to magically appear in Rainbow and Temecula to load up on aggregate? The trucks are coming from somewhere, driving on our roads. I am sure trucks are not just coming from San Diego and then returning to San Diego. Where are all the trucks coming from?

We do not want 1,600 truck trips daily spewing toxic fumes, not to mention a traffic nightmare on Interstate 15. We do not want hundreds of chemicals contaminating the air. What about the pollution of the Santa Margarita River, a drinking water source for Camp Pendleton? There will be up to 20,000 gallons of diesel fuel and up to 5,000 gallons of gasoline stored onsite in above-ground tanks. This presents a very high fire danger.

Air pollution, noise, blasting, truck traffic, crystalline silica, fire hazard, water waste, etc., for a quarry (nearly) one mile long and 1,000 feet deep. No, we do not want this quarry, or any other quarry, in our area. It is beautiful here in Temecula, Rainbow and Fallbrook. Let's keep it that way, because we are the ones who will ultimately suffer.

Carol Saenz, Temecula

June 2011 Opinions/Forums

The Californian, Thurs., June 30
Forum: Quarry truck mileage study flawed
Fred Bartz

Granite Construction's advertisements speak of 16.5 million truck miles reduced if Liberty Quarry is approved. Their flawed study attempts to back this up; however, it greatly overstates the miles reduced.

As was pointed out by multiple speakers at the recent Riverside County Planning Commission hearing, the study incorrectly assumes that all trucks traveling south were full and all trucks traveling north were empty.

A truck count done in 2009, which included the tracking of trucks and their loads, verified that nearly a quarter of the trucks were, in fact, not empty or not full, different from what the Granite study assumed. This means more than 4 million of the 16.5 million miles would not be saved.

The study claimed the miles for aggregate trucks as if they were coming from San Bernardino County, while the trucks were actually coming from Lake Elsinore or Temescal Valley, thus further overstating any potential miles saved by Liberty Quarry.

The study concluded that 1,217 trucks would be taken off of the road at Lake Elsinore; however, the Draft Environmental Impact Report states that only 370 trucks would be hauling aggregate from Liberty Quarry. Even if you include the concrete and asphalt trucks from Liberty Quarry (which haul less aggregate than regular hauling trucks), you would only have 731 trucks, according to the DEIR.

Simply put, you cannot replace 1,217 trucks with less than the same number of trucks.

Not included are the miles from trucks traveling great distances, which are needed to transport materials to Liberty Quarry such as: diesel fuel, gasoline, propane, cement powder, fly ash, asphalt oil, and explosives. These miles, which were not included in Granite's study, resulted in hundreds of thousands of additional road miles, which must be subtracted from any potential miles saved.

Also not included in the Granite study are miles associated with Granite's plan to recycle up to 500,000 tons of material annually.

The EIR documents state: "Materials generated from construction demolition sites for recycling would be trucked to the Site and stockpiled adjacent to the recycle plant." One truck type would bring in material to be recycled, and another truck type to take out the material in the form of aggregate. This would result in the doubling of truck miles associated with recycling. Assuming an average hauling distance for recycle material is 15 miles, based on a maximum of 25 tons per truck, this would add 1,200,000 miles annually, and related additional diesel truck emissions, concentrated in the operating area of Liberty Quarry.

As the speakers at the hearing said, the conclusion that Liberty Quarry will save 16,500,000 miles is totally flawed.

The major, and perhaps only, reason that the Liberty Quarry project was found to be the "Environmentally Superior Alternative" to no quarry, was that it would significantly reduce truck miles. Without the study's conclusion, there is no substantive basis for Liberty Quarry to be the "Environmentally Superior Alternative," versus not doing the project.

Simply put, Liberty Quarry is not the environmentally superior alternative, and therefore should not be approved.

The Californian, Tues., June 28
Forum: Experts highlight Granite's EIR flaws
Barbara Wilder

On June 22, I attended the most extraordinary Riverside County Planning Commission hearing on Granite Construction's environmental impact report on the proposed Liberty Quarry.

Anyone who sat through the 15-hour marathon hearing could not come away without the firm conclusion that Granite's EIR is seriously flawed and that it is an attempt by a mega corporation to "put one over on" the residents of the Temecula Valley.

Powerful presentations by the experts of city of Temecula, the Pechanga Tribe, the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve (SDSU's ecological reserve), various lawyers representing groups and amazingly well-informed public testimony opposed this terrible project.

The city presented testimony from a highly accredited geologist, a traffic consultant, an air quality expert and a nationally respected economist. Those testimonies debunked Granite's claim that they would take millions of miles off the roads and produce cleaner air. Serious water concerns were presented and Granite's consultant's (Liliburn) methodology was shown to be inadequate. They didn't even really look at alternatives.

It became apparent that when a fact didn't come to the conclusion Granite wanted, it was omitted from the EIR and necessary areas of concern simply not looked at. There were so many holes poked in the EIR that it forced the commissioners to question their planners over and over on why this had not been looked at or considered. The planners who vetted this EIR had reached the conclusion before the hearings began that it was "better to build Liberty Quarry than not build it." They had reached this conclusion because of Granite's statements that they would take trucks off the road and bring cleaner air. All these conclusions were shown to be incorrect and overinflated by the city's experts.

One of Granite's mantras is that we are "running out of aggregate." Aggregate specialists refuted this claim and stated that Riverside County has plenty of aggregate and Granite's market would not be here in Riverside.

Representatives of the Pechanga Tribe were absolutely brilliant in their presentations. They clearly showed that the planners had ignored their sacred mountain's spiritual and religious significance to the tribe and had followed a narrow California Environmental Quality Act guideline about artifacts on the property. As their tribal chairman, Mark Macarro, so eloquently stated, Plymouth Rock has no artifacts on it or anything to designate its historical importance nor does Gethsemane. Historical knowledge passed down makes these places valuable, important and spiritual.

Granite wants to take down this sacred mountain and turn it into a gravel pit to earn the company billions of dollars ---- how absolutely unconscionable and truly evil.

Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve experts spoke on how their outdoor ecological classroom is irreplaceable. It is the last of its kind and cannot be moved. A critically important wildlife corridor will be severed by the mine. Granite's response: The animals will get used to the noise and lights and eventually cross through the quarry. The experts forcefully disagreed.

What a day! Everyone opposed to this awful project has been continually maligned by Granite's minions in the press. It felt marvelous to be so thoroughly vindicated.

The Californian, Tues., June 28, 2011
Granite's practices tell it all
Phil Strickland

When you think about it, the whole Granite/Liberty Quarry thing is not unlike an unwanted suitor.

Granite Construction hopes it will be the frog-into-a-prince fairytale where the Fair Maiden that is Temecula Valley needs but to kiss that slimy creature and her Man Charming will appear and take her to bliss.

Only thing is, the maiden ain't buying.

And, if you watch what one correspondent calls the kabuki theater playing out before the county Planning Commission, the suitor's courtin' duds are beginning to look like the emperor's new clothes.

The Emperor, that would be Granite Construction, swears they're all there. Why, they were purchased at Lilburn, and Lilburn, as everyone knows, is the suitor's "Getting To Yes" clothier. And it has been doing quite a successful job for years aiding its client in successful, um, "courtships."

It must be the cloth, must be. It can't be the tailors. Why, this cloth, as soon as you look at it, vanishes before your eyes, taking with it all the "facts" printed so nicely upon it.

Then ---- boy, this suitor has no luck ---- news of a past dalliance gone bad (or is it turned good?) just a bit down the road from the current object of the Emperor's attention, has reached Fair Maiden's ears ---- and everyone else's too.

Seems there were some problems in the relationship. And as with all relationship problems, there's someone, thank the Lord, who wants to talk about it.

That someone is Norman Lambe, a claims adjuster who had to deal with Granite on charges for debris removal after the 2007 wildfires ---- charges he says were "nothing less than extreme."

Lambe cites a case where Granite's estimate to clean up one home site was $83,000; his company paid someone else $15,000 for the same work.

By the way, if Lambe had gone with Granite, the feds had money waiting to be handed out.

Lambe's experience, which he recounts in a Los Angeles Examiner piece at http://www.examiner.com/home-and-business-in-los-angeles/the-true-price-of-granite, was followed by a 2008 San Diego Union- Tribune investigation that said Granite was being accused of removing questionable quantities of debris; overcharging for materials; billing for work not performed; and providing receipts that did not back up its charges.

The Emperor ended up recently paying the city of San Diego $400,000 to make it all go away.

As a condition, the Emperor admitted no wrongdoing. Of course not; it was just a peck on the cheek.

Let that be a lesson, Fair Maiden: The Emperor will say or do anything to get where he wants to be.

Oh yeah, and he'll still love you in the morning.

Ask San Diego.


The Californian, Wed., June 22, 2011
Temecula Manager has a Firm Hand
Phil Strickland

When the Planning Commission returns Wednesday morning to Temecula Community Church for the third in its series of meetings regarding the proposed Liberty Quarry, City Manager Shawn Nelson will be entering the last half-year of his 21-year tenure with the city.

In my four decades working around this country ---- OK, council raggers, get ready ---- never has it been my pleasure to live in a city or town where its leaders are as goal-oriented and driven to back it up as they are in Temecula.

And, if one can judge the man by the city (and seeing how he was city manager the last 12 years, that seems a fair enough standard), we'll be saying goodbye to a talented, dedicated public servant who has remained content to work behind the scenes to make the city run like a fine Swiss clock.

It's not that his tenure has been a stroll down Daisy Lane.

When you run city that is growing by leaps and bounds, there's no time for strolling, but amid all the hustle to keep up with exploding growth and the companion issues and challenges you also have to run it right. Watch those nickels and dimes and get the most bang out of them you can.

And he's done that by constantly looking at the future and what needs to happen to stay solvent.

When the economy was starting to collapse, Nelson led his staff in looking at the budget and cutting where possible without harming services. And though the city only recently pared the smallish retirement increase of 2008, his leadership has been marked by thrift.

And he has come up with balanced budgets at the same time he has maintained a $20 million reserve fund and helped to craft a favorable financing arrangement for the construction of the $73 million civic center/city hall/parking garage and town square complex and still get a bonding upgrade.

All this amid the crumbling economy.

In fact, look around at the commerce, the parks ---- he had a quiet, firm hand in all of it.

Now, it wasn't just him. Obviously the city staff is top-shelf and dedicated. But he set the standard. And it is a standard almost without parallel.

It's sad that he leaves at a time when the city and region are threatened with the extinction of that which makes Temecula and the region what it is ---- at the hands of Granite Construction/Liberty Quarry and its 1,600 diesel gravel, concrete and asphalt haulers a day for the next half-century or so.

How appropriate it would be for the planners and supervisors to recognize the value of the city, and by means of that, the region he helped create; and reject the odious quarry proposal that would dishonor the dedication, and trash the work, of so many people.

examiner.com, Sun., June 19, 2011
The true price of granite

By Norman Lambe

Granite Construction Company of Watsonville California is being reviewed by the Riverside County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors.  The reason for the review is to determine if Granite Construction can build and operate the proposed Liberty Quarry which is to be constructed just outside the City of Temecula, California.  The Liberty Quarry is touted as a new industry that will provide jobs for local residents and quality granite for construction projects currently in the planning stage.

During the clean up after the wildfires of 2007, I was one of the many claims adjusters that was sent estimates from Granite Construction Company for the clean up and hauling away of fire-damaged debris from the homes destroyed in the Rancho Bernardo area.  The charges by Granite Construction for their proposed work were nothing less than extreme.  I specifically recall viewing an estimate for $83,000 for debris removal from one home located in a Rancho Bernardo development; we eventually paid $15,000 for the same work.  The plan per Granite Construction was to sign a contract with the homeowner and whatever the insurance company did not reimburse, Granite was going to bill the Federal Government for.  The Federal Government had made available millions of dollars for repair and rebuilding of the fire-damaged areas.  For this particular article I am quoting myself as being the source.  I reviewed estimates from Granite Construction and then had to tell homeowners the insurance company will be paying $50,000-$60,000 less than the amount of the estimate from Granite.

The wildfire situation recently led to Granite Construction paying the City of San Diego $400,000 to settle a lawsuit filed against them for overcharging.  The terms of the lawsuit was accepted and paid by Granite as they admitted no wrong doing.  The spotlight on the unusual operational procedures of Granite Construction are not new.  In August of 2008, the San Diego Union reported in their article, Tons of Questions by Dana Wilkie, Brooke Williams and Danielle Cervantesw, www.signonsandiego.com that Granite Construction was being accused of the following: 1.) removing questionable quantities of debris, 2.) overcharging for materials, 3.) billing for work then did not perform and 4.) providing receipts that did not back up their charges.

In addition to the above facts, a lawsuit was filed in regards to Granite Construction's actions concerning their open-pit quarry located very close to the Russian river, see www.russianriverkeeper.org.  The company also faced two Department of Justice investigations; one is concerning excessive run-off from one of their quarries located in Oregon.  The run-off apparently spoiled streams and killed fish.  The second investigation dealt with poor human resource hiring practices in of their Minnesota operations.

I ask the Riverside County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors to think twice about a business relationship with Granite Construction.

The Californian, Wed., June 15
Forum: Where's the need for so much mischief?
Kenneth W. Johnson

As reported in The Californian (June 12), Granite Construction has agreed to pay $400,000 to San Diego to quash that city's intent to take Granite to court for alleged "gouging" overcharges for its role in debris removal in the tragic wildfires of 2007.

Arguably, Granite did not want this to go to trial on the charge of "filing false claims" to avoid jeopardizing their bidding rights on future public works projects.

Both Granite and Diani Company of Santa Maria were accused of overcharging in their debris-removing billings in the Rancho Bernardo wildfires.

Investigations revealed that Granite and Diani had allegedly removed questionable quantities of debris, overcharged for materials, billed for work they didn't perform, provided receipts that didn't back up their charges, and cost the city millions more than stated in their contracts. A total of $900,000 in settlement fees from the two companies headed off litigation that might have cost the two parties far more.

Residents of our valley are aware of Granite's frequent citations for environmental infractions.

In Oregon, a Granite subsidiary was charged with polluting the salmon-run Yaquina River system with failure to install proper erosion controls in its road-building contract. Apparently Granite was chosen for its services by a state agency, even though it had lower technical competence scores than the other bidders. The agency imposed a $240,000 penalty against Granite (State of Oregon Dept. of Environmental Quality news release of Sept. 4, 2007).

Temecula residents remember, too, the history of endless citations received by Granite over the years in Nevada. Granite seemed willing to pay the puny citation penalties, but continue the infractions to the point that the Nevada Environmental commissioners seemed to regard Granite as the most prolific offender with which they had to deal (Dave Downey, The Californian, Oct. 2, 2005).

Our county neighbors can be restless with the impacts that quarries bring to their communities.

Broken windshields, potholes and gravel-truck traffic are common complaints. Granite goes from community to community with its "regional issue," preying on this fact, generating resolutions in various city councils with no input from our valley's side, calling for solving this problem by compacting all the traffic and pollution effects they so deplore, in spades, on their Southwest County neighbor.

Granite ignores the true way this problem will be solved.

To its credit, San Diego has always been cautious about permitting new quarries in "sensitive areas." The Temecula Valley is just such a sensitive area. San Diego is taking steps to meet its own aggregate needs, with the Polaris project and Rosemary's Mountain, both of which Granite conveniently dismisses.

The San Diego Region Aggregate Supply Study (January, 2011), backed up by the state Department of Transportation, suggests that San Diego's needs can be met with local sources already in place as well as "sea importation."

So where's the justification to compact so much mischief in the Temecula Valley, solely to meet Granite's bottom line?

The Californian, Thurs., June 9
Forum: Let's Stop the Quarry Together
Jerri Arganda

In April, Ken Johnson wrote a letter about, "Quarry company pits neighbor against neighbor."

Well, it seems to be happening again, only this time it is county against county.
I am seeing something happening that will be, in my opinion, like "slow poison" and will destroy the strong bond that has held together all the opponents in both counties. I thought there was no county line where this issue was concerned.

This needs to stop, now!

It troubles me when a friend makes a statement like, "It's obvious our neighboring county is expecting Temecula to pay the price of dirtier air and more traffic so it can benefit from our resources" ("Ordinary people trying to protect their community" May 26).

If by "resource" we are talking about the (proposed) Liberty quarry, the "San Diego Region Aggregate Supply Study," released in January 2011 and conducted in cooperation with Cal Trans, states that San Diego's needs can be met with regional sources already in place as well as "sea importation" from Vancouver Island, B.C. The proposed Liberty quarry was not considered in their findings.

Granite's statement, "All trucks will be going south," is another fabrication to prove their first lie that they will be "taking trucks off the road." Use your head! The trucks will go where the need is. The Riverside area is where the growth is predicted.

Rainbow and Fallbrook are "ordinary people" too, trying to protect our community and we have been doing this for six years right by your side. Have you forgotten?

Statements I have heard uttered such as, "San Diego wants to dump on Temecula" don't fit here! There are thousands of people in Rainbow and Fallbrook fighting this battle and it would never occur to any of them to even think "dump on Temecula!"
What is going on here? It needs to stop now!

If anyone needs someone to put blame on, blame the politicians.

Blame Granite's wily PR firm, which twists and overstates their words and phrases until people begin to accept them as truths.

Blame Supervisor Bill Horn, who has refused to stand up for all the people who live in his district and voted him in.

If anyone is going to "suffer" the consequences of having a mine at that location, it will first be Rainbow.

Please ---- think about the "words" before you say them. We are all in this together until we drive this project away once and for all. Don't drive a wedge between communities that have the same goal ---- it is not "US" and "THEM."

This is what Granite has been doing with other cities and Temecula ---- pitting them against each other. This unravels the bond; this makes people distrustful. Let's not do this to ourselves.

Margaret Mead said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

Let's be that change, together.

The Californian, Wed., June 8
Granite's "SOC it to me" ploy
Phil Strickland

It was Balloon & Wine Festival time this weekend.

Happens every year. Brings scores of thousands of visitors to Lake Skinner and the region.

The festival is here because just east of the city, in Wine Country, vintners are crafting some of the country's premier wines and they're available for tasting year-round; aloft, in balloons, if you prefer.

It's not unlike the two weekends annually when thousands converge on Old Town Temecula to see some of the coolest cars you'll ever lay eyes on.

Same for the music festivals, film festival, Old West weekend, the quilters and the street-painting festivals or Old Town's collection of antique shops and restaurant/tasting rooms. Or the farmers market.

In other words, our valley is a destination and contributes millions upon millions of dollars to the county coffer annually ---- dollars that an enormous industrial complex such as Liberty Quarry would endanger.

To say such a complex (remember, it's not just a monster rock-crushing operation, there would be cement and asphalt production plants, too) can be "hidden" behind a hill a stone's throw from a freeway curve where it "won't be noticed" asks for an unparalleled suspension of disbelief.

That's 800 heavy diesel trucks in and 800 out, day and night. Every day.

Even if you buy their fake science regarding air quality or Southern California's last free-flowing river or the water Camp Pendleton's troops and families drink or the wildlife and the only Southern California inland link to the ocean, or the desecration of sacred lands, even if you buy all that, you can't get away from 800 trucks in and 800 trucks out daily.

In a 20-hour day, that's a truck on or off the I-15 every 45 seconds; growling down to a safe exit speed or straining to freeway speed so as not to be a hazard.

Every day. For at least 50 years.

And regardless of what Granite or Lilburn Corp., their "independent consultant," and their made-to-order environmental impact report say, you can bet more than 30 percent will go north to the I-215 development corridor.

You'd think a seriously flawed EIR, probable severe damage to county receipts and local economies, and overwhelming community opposition would sink this odious proposal.

Even if the commissioners vote no, the supervisors can approve it. It's just more "convenient" to have planning on board and that "priceless" Statement of Overriding Considerations (wherein they make all bad stuff go poof) in hand.

One wag calls it the "SOC it to me" ploy. Guess who writes it.

If you said Lilburn ---- that same "independent" consultant added at the last minute by the planning department to the list of approved consultants as a favor to Granite ---- you win a trial inhaler.

They're about as independent of Granite as Lenny Bruce was of smack.

The Californian, Wed., June 8
Forum: A Leap of Bad Faith
Norman H. Block

Granite Construction Company wants permission to develop Liberty Quarry, which would be one of the nation's largest hard rock granite quarries, here in Riverside County, right at the border of San Diego County.

They state that 70 percent of the aggregate mined will be for use in projects in San Diego County. They claimed that Liberty Quarry will eliminate "millions of miles" of dump-truck travel annually along Riverside County roads because San Diego County will no longer have to buy aggregate from mines in Corona and other points north. The trucks would pick up their loads at the county line in Temecula.

This, they assert, will reduce diesel pollution along the Riverside corridor, and therefore reach the conclusion that Liberty Quarry will be good for the environment. Wow!

As the executives at Granite surely know, this is a leap of bad faith. Let's examine the rest of the story.

The mines that currently deliver aggregate to San Diego County don't own the dump trucks that deliver the aggregate to the final worksites. These very expensive trucks are owner-operated or run by local trucking companies.

Now for the big question ---- where will Granite find the 632 dump trucks that they claim they will need daily to deliver the aggregate from Liberty Quarry? Will a large independent fleet owner suddenly open up a huge truck terminal in Temecula and spend over $75 million to purchase 632 new dump trucks to serve Liberty Quarry?

That is extremely unlikely. If this were the case, Granite certainly would have boasted about a new truck terminal and all the additional jobs that would be created in the local economy.

So, if Liberty Quarry is permitted, the trucks that are currently garaged up north near the mine sites that they serve will no longer be needed to deliver aggregate south because Liberty Quarry will take away the aggregate business of the smaller local mines. Therefore, there will not be work for these very expensive purpose-built vehicles.

Surely, rather than go out of business or incur the gigantic expense of acquiring property and moving their operations south, the current truck owners will simply deadhead their vehicles each day along the Riverside corridor to Liberty Quarry to pick up their loads. Sure, I realize that a laden truck burns more fuel than one not, but that is not what Granite is pitching in their public presentations nor their website.

They want to win their "clean air" argument using a strong emotional appeal based on millions of miles saved, whether it's factual or not.

June 2011 News Articles

The Californian, Tues., June 28
Fourth Quarry meeting set for July 18

The Riverside County Planning Commission is scheduled to hold another meeting on Granite Construction's Liberty Quarry project on July 18.

The meeting, the fourth in an ongoing series that included a marathon 15-hour session on June 22, will be held at 9 a.m. at Rancho Community Church, 31300 Rancho Community Way, according to county spokesman Ray Smith.

Public testimony was closed at the June 22 meeting.

Commission Chairman John Roth has said much of the fourth meeting will be devoted to rebuttal testimony from Granite Construction and the consultants who put together the county's environmental report on the project.

That report was ripped apart at last week's hearing by an array of speakers, including scientists with San Diego State University, technical consultants hired by the city of Temecula, area residents, Pechanga tribal leaders, doctors and others.

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

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

That projection has been used by the Riverside County Planning Department to state that the project is "environmentally superior" to not digging a mine, in part, because trucks that had been streaming through Southwest Riverside County from quarries in Corona and other points north of Temecula will be removed from the region's roads, improving regional air quality.

San Diego State University runs a research field station west of the quarry site in the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve; the city borders the quarry site to the north and the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians reservation sits to the east.

The county Planning Department has defended its environmental report as consistent with state law and supporters of the project have touted both the jobs it will create and the trickle-down economic benefit that will accrue via a large, local supply of aggregate material.

CORRECTION: No public comments at next quarry meeting

There will be no public comments accepted at the next county Planning Commission meeting on Granite Construction's Liberty Quarry project July 18. The original version of this article did not include that information. We apologize.

The Californian, Wed., June 22
Opponents criticize quarry's environmental report

Technical experts employed by the city of Temecula, scientists with San Diego State University and Pechanga tribal officials criticized Riverside County's environmental review of Granite Construction's Liberty Quarry project during a hearing conducted Wednesday by the county Planning Commission.

San Diego State University runs a research field station west of the quarry site in the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve; the city borders the quarry site to the north and the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians reservation sits to the east.

The hearing, held at Rancho Community Church in Temecula, was the third in a series of hearings being conducted on the project. If needed, a fourth meeting, which will allow Granite to provide a rebuttal and its own expert testimony, will be held June 29.

The audience for Wednesday's hearing appeared to number 500 to 600 people, many of whom were wearing orange T-shirts or hats denoting opposition to the quarry. After a dinner break, the commission took more comments from Pechanga representatives and members of the public who had signed up to speak.

As of 10:30 p.m., the commission still had about 30 requests to speak remaining.

According to the representatives of the three potential neighbors of the proposed project, the county did not meet the state's legal requirements for review of the quarry. In some cases, the speakers said, the engineers who put together the studies that were used in the review omitted information about Pechanga sacred sites and the migratory paths of animals, manipulated air quality data to help meet state and federal standards, and failed to use industry standards during the assembly of other types of data.

"A textbook case for how not to do an EIR (environmental impact report)," said Courtney Coyle, an attorney representing the Pechanga tribe.

County planning officials defended their work and the report repeatedly Wednesday, saying it was completed in accordance with all rules and regulations.

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

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

That projection has been used by the Riverside County Planning Department to state that the project is "environmentally superior" to not digging a mine, in part, because trucks that had been streaming through Southwest Riverside County from quarries in Corona and other points north of Temecula will be removed from the region's roads, improving regional air quality.

Opponents speak

Other tribal representatives said the county ignored the significance of their sacred sites, which includes the potential quarry site, as a "historical resource."

Responding to a question posed by Commissioner John Petty, county archaeologist Leslie Mouriquand said there were no tangible artifacts found on the site, which is part of the Pechanga creation story.

Noting that there are maps, field notes and recorded oral histories that back up the importance of the land to the Pechanga, Petty asked, "Are we that linear that we have to go find something on the site?" The crowd, which included numerous tribe members, applauded him vigorously.

Tribal officials are scheduled to meet Thursday with county officials in Riverside to continue discussing this issue.

During SDSU's presentation, Matt Rahn, director of the reserve's field station program, underscored the uniqueness and importance of the reserve and how it can't be reproduced or replaced.

"The quarry is incompatible with the existing sensitive uses in the station," he said.

Answering questions from the commissioners on exactly how the quarry might affect the station's science and the environment inside the reserve, Rahn said there's no way to know without actually digging a quarry to study those effects.

Half-jokingly, he said that if the quarry were approved, the station might be used for just that purpose.

Researchers' concerns

Kelcey Stricker and John Graham, researchers at the reserve, later explained how the quarry's noise, light and proposed location would affect their work, which involves tracking the migration of mountain lions and other animals and studying the behavior and specific vocal signatures of birds.

In response to a question from Commissioner James Porras about whether animals that live near the quarry site would adapt to live with the project, Stricker said some species, especially mountain lions, will leave the area instead of adapting or learning to live with the noise and light.

The firsthand experiences of Stricker and Graham prompted numerous questions from Petty, who wanted to know how the mine would affect the animals' behavior.

Petty asked, "Have the impacts been adequately addressed?"

Stricker's reply was succinct: "Uh, no."

Temecula's roster of speakers included an economist, a geologist, an air quality expert, a traffic engineer, City Manager Shawn Nelson and attorneys who said the county's environmental report falls short of the state's legal requirements for environmental review, which mandate that any findings in a review need to be backed up by facts.

"There are substantial gaps in the most elementary analysis of the evidence," said Peter Thorson, Temecula's city attorney.

On the claim of reduced truck traffic, which is one of the main benefits of the project that supporters cite, traffic engineer Chris Gray of Fehr & Peers of Walnut Creek said the traffic counts conducted by Granite and Urban Crossroads did not adequately explain where the trucks were coming from and where they were going. He added that the numbers, and the extrapolation that shows a reduction in 16 million truck miles, were based on assumptions made in 2005 that do not match up with more recent counts taken in 2009.

Traffic concerns

According to Granite and Urban Crossroads, 1,200 trucks were projected to be rolling through the Temecula area each day on Interstate 15 in the mid-2000s, a figure that was arrived at by making an estimate based on counts taken in 2004 and 2005.

Gray said a count taken in 2009 shows only 449 trucks per day, and he said that the data included in the environmental report should not be relied upon or cited.

"Instead of collecting new data along the way, they simply relied on assumptions," Gray said. "If this issue was so important, why was it not studied in detail? Why didn't the study compare the Liberty Quarry site against other sites in San Diego County? Instead, they just adjusted the count upward when new counts could have been taken."

Heidi Rous, an air quality expert, followed Gray. She called the idea that the project would be "environmentally superior" to not digging a quarry "patently untrue."

"It is illogical," she said.

Earlier in her presentation, she said the engineer who put together the studies that show pollution levels wouldn't exceed state and federal levels manipulated the data. She said the engineer used information to measure the background air pollution from a monitoring station that routinely registers better air quality than that shown by neighboring stations.

Economic concerns

During other parts of the morning session, an economist countered a study that was prepared for Granite by showing that the costs to the area ---- lower property values and a decline in tourism ---- would far outweigh, by millions of dollars, the benefits: payment of fees and royalties, sales tax, jobs created, etc.

The geologist, Kerry Cato, said there is no shortage of aggregate rock in Riverside County, and that it would be more efficient to consider sites closer to the targeted market area, since most of the aggregate is expected to be shipped to San Diego County.

Cato also criticized the way Riverside County reviewed how the project could affect the area's groundwater. As summarized by Commissioner Petty, "They're saying it's a rock bowl that's not going to leak. You're saying there is all sorts of potential for leaking."

Cato agreed and said additional studies were needed to determine how the project could affect the area's water supply. He said there should be some discussion about the possibility of a quarry lake sitting just west of the freeway.

Kicking off Temecula's presentation, City Manager Nelson provided a preview of the city's bullet points, a collection of criticism that, he said, points to a fundamental flaw in how the project has been pitched by Granite.

"What they have done can be defined in one word: deception," he said.

Roth said Granite is tentatively slated to be allowed to present rebuttal testimony at the next hearing, which will be held, if needed, on June 29.

City Attorney Thorson said Granite might claim that Temecula's criticism amounts to "nit-picking," and that a disagreement among experts is not a reason to invalidate the environmental impact report.

"Not true," he said. "These impacts are not theoretical."

The Press-Enterprise, Sat., June 18
Riverside County Supervisors: Donations won't impact quarry vote

The Press-Enterprise

Since 2001, the company proposing a quarry near Temecula has donated more than $59,000 to political candidates in Riverside County -- including at least $38,000 to county supervisors who will decide if the project gets built.

Campaign finance records show that Granite Construction gave to all five supervisors and local lawmakers, including state assemblymen and city council members outside Temecula. One donation went to a Moreno Valley councilwoman who serves as Supervisor Marion Ashley's chief of staff.


As plans for Liberty Quarry get closer to consideration by the supervisors -- a vote on the 6-year-old proposal could come by year's end -- Granite has directed a greater share of its contributions to county politicians. Granite didn't give to anyone in the county in 2000, but by 2010, one of every four Granite campaign dollars was donated locally.

Supervisors said Granite's donations would not influence their vote on the quarry being sought for a 414-acre site between Temecula and San Diego County. Some said they also take donations from quarry opponents. For example, Ashley said those opposed to the quarry gave him nearly quadruple what he's received from Granite.

"Regardless of how I vote on this project, some of my supporters will not be happy, but that goes with the job," Ashley wrote in an email.

In an emailed statement, Granite spokeswoman Karie Reuther wrote that, "One of Granite's core values is citizenship, and that includes being engaged members of the communities where we live and work."

She noted that besides the quarry, Granite is working on 15 construction projects in the county. Granite also runs a quarry in Indio.

Bob Stern, president of the Los Angeles-based, nonpartisan Center for Governmental Studies, said Granite's actions are typical for a large corporation.

"It's building goodwill," Stern said. "Certainly the supervisors will return their phone calls, and the supervisors will be very polite to them."

A multibillion-dollar corporation based in Central California, Granite needs the county's permission to build the open-pit quarry. Plans call for using explosives to blast away 270 million tons of aggregate, a common building material, over a 75-year period. The quarry also would contain facilities to make concrete and asphalt.

Granite and its supporters, including business groups and trade unions, say the quarry would provide an economic boost, support hundreds of jobs and generate millions of tax dollars. They contend it would reduce truck trips in the county and improve air quality because diesel trucks wouldn't have to drive as far to get aggregate.

Opponents, including the city of Temecula and a grassroots citizens' network, argue that the quarry would boost truck traffic in their communities while harming the public health by sending microscopic silicate dust particles into the air.

They say the quarry would hurt local tourism, spoil a neighboring ecological reserve and desecrate a sacred site for the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians.


Story continues below

Since 2001, Granite has donated at least $38,316 to supervisors Ashley, John Benoit, Bob Buster, John Tavaglione and Jeff Stone, according to the California secretary of state's online campaign finance records. The money includes contributions to Benoit's state assembly campaign fund and Stone's unsuccessful state Senate run.

Supervisors stressed that Granite's dollars won't influence their votes. Buster, whose district includes the quarry site, said he objected to a plan in the 1990s that would have restricted non-toll lanes on Highway 91. Granite stood to benefit from that plan, he said.

While he declined to say how he'd vote on the quarry, Buster in 2009 called the quarry the "introduction of a huge new use in one of the most fragile areas we've got."

At the time, Buster served on a boundary-setting panel that denied Temecula's attempt to annex the quarry site. Buster and Tavaglione voted in favor of the city's proposal.

Benoit, who came to the board in 2009 after his time in Sacramento, received $11,406 in Granite money from 2001 to 2010, according to records. Benoit's supervisorial district includes Granite's Indio quarry.

"Part of the reason they gave to me is they knew me as a responsible member of the community," Benoit said. "It has nothing to do with the quarry."

Granite also contributed $200 to the campaign of Benoit's son, Ben, who won a seat last November on the Wildomar City Council.

Altogether, the donations represent a tiny fraction of what supervisors raise annually. Ashley, for example, raised a little more than $155,000 in 2010 alone, according to his campaign statement filed with the county clerk.

In his email, Ashley wrote that, as always, his vote would be based on the project's merits and residents' best interests. "Sometimes that means I vote with supporters and sometimes that means I vote against them," he wrote.

Ashley wrote he has taken in $51,000 from anti-quarry interests, including the Pechanga tribe and The Rancon Group, a Murrieta-based collection of development-related companies whose founder, Dan Stephenson, opposes the quarry.

Verne Lauritzen, Stone's chief of staff, said Stone wants to hear what people have to say during public hearings on the quarry. Stone's district includes Temecula.

Tavaglione did not respond to a request for comment.

Temecula City Councilman Jeff Comerchero, who is on the council's Liberty Quarry subcommittee, said the donations to supervisors don't surprise him.


Since 2000, Granite has donated more than $3 million to candidates and ballot measures throughout California. Recipients include former governors Gray Davis and Arnold Schwarzenegger and current Gov. Jerry Brown.

None of Granite's dollars were contributed in Riverside County in 2000. But in 2009 and 2010, more than $27,000 -- 23.85 percent of Granite's total California donations -- were donated in the county.

In her email, Reuther of Granite wrote her company's presence in the county has grown in the past 20 years.

Today, Granite employs more than 250 people in the county, she wrote, adding that besides political donations, Granite has donated roughly $425,000 to local groups such as the Boy Scouts and Habitat for Humanity.

Granite also has given thousands to city council members with no jurisdiction over the quarry. These include Lake Elsinore council members Melissa Melendez ($500) and Bob Magee ($1,000); Menifee Councilman John Denver ($250); Wildomar Mayor Marsha Swanson ($200); Corona Councilmen Eugene Montanez ($198) and Steve Nolan ($500) and Riverside Mayor Ron Loveridge ($125).

Other local recipients are Assemblymen Kevin Jeffries, R-Lake Elsinore, ($2,000) and Jeff Miller, R-Corona, ($1,000).

No donations went to Temecula council members.


A $250 donation went to Moreno Valley Councilwoman Robin Hastings, who is Ashley's chief of staff. In May, Moreno Valley joined councils in Eastvale, Banning and Beaumont in passing a pro-quarry resolution. Hastings was quoted in a Granite news release praising the project.

Hastings did not make or second the resolution, which passed unanimously, according to the Moreno Valley city clerk's office. In an email, Hastings wrote that she assumed the contribution was "because they support me in my position as an elected official."

Hastings added she hasn't spoken to Ashley about the quarry.

Comerchero, the Temecula councilman, said he's confident the county board won't be swayed by Granite's money.

"(The supervisors) are capable of taking campaign contributions and looking objectively at any project," he said.


The Californian, Sun., June 12
Granite pays $400,000 settlement

Although the company has admitted no wrongdoing, Northern California-based Granite Construction paid a $400,000 settlement last month to have a civil lawsuit filed against the company by the city of San Diego dismissed.

The action by Granite, which was sued by San Diego in 2008 for allegedly overcharging the city for debris removal after the 2007 wildfires in the Rancho Bernardo area, has been seized upon by critics of Granite's proposed Liberty Quarry project, who say there is now a question about whether the company can be trusted to follow through on its promises regarding the quarry.

"Why would any company be willing to pay $400,000 to settle a lawsuit if they were truly innocent?" asked Fred Bartz, a member of two groups that have been vocal in opposition to the quarry project.

Granite representatives have pledged, both in written documents and public appearances, that the proposed quarry, slated for 400 acres of land in Riverside County near the community of Rainbow, would improve the area's quality of life by removing pollution-belching trucks from Riverside County freeways and providing "high-quality" jobs. The Riverside County Planning Department has concurred, saying in its environmental report on the mine project that the mine is "environmentally superior" to not digging a quarry, in part because of the anticipated reduction in truck trips on county roads.

Opponents, however, have said the mine, which would produce 5 million tons of aggregate per year when operating at maximum capacity, will degrade the area's air quality, pollute the water table, destroy a site sacred to the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians and contribute to traffic congestion in the Temecula area.

And they have said repeatedly that Granite, as a publicly owned company that is focused on profits, would act on its economic interests at the expense of the welfare of area residents, a group that includes people in the San Diego County communities of Fallbrook and Rainbow, the Pechanga Indian Reservation and the Temecula and De Luz area.

The Riverside County Planning Commission is studying the mine proposal. The third hearing ---- in what has turned into a series of high-profile meetings attended by hundreds of local residents ---- is scheduled for June 22 at Rancho Community Church in Temecula.

After the commission's review and recommendation, the project will be considered by the county Board of Supervisors, which will make the final decision.

The city of San Diego sued Granite and a Santa Maria-based construction company in 2008 after Rancho Bernardo homeowners raised questions about the bills being issued by the two companies.

According to the suit, which asked $2 million in damages, the companies "overestimated, overstated and overcharged costs to the city of San Diego and its taxpayers."

Instead of fighting the suit, Granite and Santa Maria's A.J. Diani Construction paid $400,000 and $500,000, respectively, in settlements last month.

Granite spokeswoman Karie Reuther said the suit was the product of a contractual disagreement between the city and the company regarding the scope of work ordered by the city.

"Due to the change in the scope of work, there was a disagreement over some of the contract quantities and under what line item they should be charged," she said.

Reuther said there wasn't any wrongdoing by Granite.

"It shows that we're an ethical business, and we work through any issues that occur," she said.

RB United's Valerie Brown, director of the nonprofit that advocated on behalf of Rancho Bernardo homeowners, said she was very pleased with the settlement, adding that the city of San Diego could have dropped the issue or let it slip through the cracks.

"It could have not been a priority, but for our fire families, it was a big deal," she said.

To qualify for federal money, the San Diego mayor's office created a special fire debris removal program after the 2007 wildfires and contracted with Granite and A.J. Diani. Some Rancho Bernardo residents took advantage of the program; others used local contractors.

As the bills charged by all of the contractors started to come in, people noticed wide differences in charges for the debris removal from homes in the same neighborhood. Brown said RB United helped flag some of these discrepancies and bring them to the attention of authorities.

"It was a fabulous idea," she said of the mayor's program. "But the city of San Diego had never done one of those contracts, and they (the companies that paid the settlement) took advantage of it."

With the settlement paid and taxpayers receiving at least a portion of the money that the city says it was overcharged, Brown said there is a sense of closure for residents.

"The message is clear: You're not going to take advantage of our residents and citizens. It's nice to feel your city government has got your back on that."

Fallbrook Village News    June 9, 2011  Issue 23

Fallbrook Community Planning Group formally asks Riverside County Planning Department to reject adoption of a Statement of Overriding Considerations

FALLBROOK - On May 16, the Fallbrook Community Planning Group and Fallbrook Design Review Board formally asked the Riverside County Planning Department to reject adoption of a Statement of Overriding Consideration for the Liberty Quarry project in the Rainbow area. In a letter sent to David L. Jones, the Fallbrook group cited numerous reasons for their opposition to the proposed project.

The letter, provided to the Village News by FCPG Chairman Jim Russell, reads as follows:

"The Fallbrook Planning Group was authorized to review the Liberty Quarry Draft Environmental Impact Report (Draft EIR) by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors in 2006. We commented on that report with a letter on September 2, 2009. Recently the County of Riverside published their responses to the comments received on the Draft EIR. The Fallbrook Planning Group reviewed these responses as well as the comments submitted to the County of Riverside by other groups and individuals and the County's responses to their comments as well. This letter is the result of the May 16th meeting of the Fallbrook Planning Group when all the responses and comments related to the Draft EIR were discussed.

"The following motion was passed: "The Fallbrook Planning Group joins with the City of Temecula, the Rainbow Planning Group, Friends of Santa Margarita River, Endangered Habitats League and the Nature Conservancy in opposing this project on the grounds of the negative aesthetics of the project on the surrounding communities and the project's risks to public health and safety."

"Some of the major points felt to still be outstanding in light of the responses are:

1) The most impressive list of comments was provided by the City of Temecula. They not only had applied professionals within their agency focus on the report in their fields of expertise, but also had private sector professionals respond to the report as well. While lengthy responses were provided, there appears to be a clear difference of view on the completeness of the report and its ability to withstand professional scrutiny. The Fallbrook Planning Group agrees with the City of Temecula in requesting that the reports in the EIR be modified and re-circulated prior to presenting it to the Riverside Board of Supervisors.

2) The Group felt that the response to our concern about the sound studies not addressing the effects on animals was not adequate. Noise generated in rock mining is created by multifaceted processes in the production of various types of construction materials required for residential and commercial purposes. These components consist of blasting, crushing, filtering, and hauling of the finished product to the final destination. Blasting, although often considered as a major noise component of the rock mining operation contributes a small amount of noise do to the "bored hole" blasting techniques universally applied in rock mining. The major components of non indigenous noise are generated by sustained operations to reduce large rock components to usable portions of rock and the hauling of the finished material to the construction site. This "crushing" and "hauling" operation generates "noise" components far above the human audible spectrum but not that of the indigenous wildlife in the surrounding area. Since the noise sensors were located only on I-15 and the conclusion only states that the noise level increase is not significant relative to I-15 traffic, how is that relevant to the rest of the surrounding area and the wildlife that resides there? Since the wildlife audible spectrum is higher in frequency than the human spectrum, and since wildlife does not usually reside next to I-15, we continue to maintain that the "noise" studies are flawed and do not truly represent the impact on the wildlife indigenous to the area. Without additional noise studies with wide frequency spectrum capability, it is not possible to conclude that "the noise impact is not significant."

3) The importance of the wildlife corridor which provides a linkage between the Palomar Mountain Range and the Santa Ana Mountains has not been sufficiently addressed. This corridor is essential to the future of the Mountain Lion, top of the Ecosystem. Since the Liberty Quarry project extends beyond the Special Linkage Area designated in the Riverside County MSHCP, its operations will inhibit the free movement of wildlife. San Diego County has designed their Habitat Conservation Plan to provide connectivity to the Riverside County plan for this necessary linkage, and we urge Riverside County to do the same. The limited mitigation measures listed in the FEIR cannot adequately or reliably provide safe passage for these large predators.
As a more adequate mitigation measure, Liberty Quarry should support and promote the "Potential Bridge" indicated in the DEIR. This could be funded, as suggested by the Liberty Quarry representative at public meetings, by a per-truck fee which would provide funding for the bridge while partnering with Environmental Agencies.

4) In the comments from the County of San Diego Department of Planning and Land Use, the requirements of the I-15 Corridor Design Guidelines are mentioned. The response to this comment was to outline the project answer to the guidelines. But we maintain that the proposed cuts and fills for the access road to the project will exceed the slope grading and the ridgeline grading limits contained in the I-15 Corridor Design Guidelines. These guidelines will not be met as long as the access road climbs the steep slope adjacent to the weigh station.

5) The biggest problems, however, continue to be the overall Air Quality, Biological Resource, Traffic/Transportation and Utility impacts of this project. The Draft EIR admits that these are significant and unavoidable impacts that cannot be mitigated. The response simply concludes that a statement of overriding concern must be adopted by the Riverside Board of Supervisors. The Fallbrook Planning Group, after reviewing all of the comments and responses on these topics, can find no clear evidence that warrants a statement of overriding concern (required by CEQA). Such a statement essentially requires that the aesthetics of the surrounding communities and the public health and safety of the residents be compromised in order to permit a project like this in this location.

"The Fallbrook Community Planning Group, with sincere thought and consideration of the many issues involved and the serious potential impacts for the residents of northern San Diego County, urges the County of Riverside to reject the adoption of a Statement of Overriding Consideration for this project."

May 2011 Letters to the Editor

CALIFORNIAN   May 29, 2011
Clean trucks, but who is paying?

Granite Construction recently announced its commitment to allow only clean trucks to use the proposed Liberty Quarry site. While the commitment would address PM10 particulates from heavy-duty trucks, it effectively does nothing to address PM2.5 particulates, which are considered an even greater health impact.

Further, it does not address nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and other quarry-related pollutants. The quarry would also generate nearly 90 percent of its electricity on-site using natural gas-powered generators, adding pollution, instead of purchasing from local electrical utilities. Crystalline silica is also still an issue.

According to Liberty Quarry's environmental impact report, of the 800 trucks expected to visit the quarry daily, only 164 would be Granite-operated asphalt trucks. The remaining 636 trucks would be owned by others, and it would be their (not Granite's) responsibility to pay for any upgrades.

Also interesting is that San Diego County recently announced it would pay up to $45,000 per truck for clean truck upgrades. So if those small truck fleet operators need to have help upgrading their trucks, they will look to San Diego County, which means the taxpayers could be paying up to $45,000 for each of the 636 trucks to meet Granite's Clean Truck Program. Thanks, Granite.

Fred Bartz, Temecula

The Californian
May 26
Ordinary people trying to protect their community

Those of us who have objected to the building of Liberty Quarry in our pristine hills have been called many things by those who disagree with us. We've been called reactionaries, elitists, panic-struck extremists, extreme environmentalists, and of course, the catch-all label of NIMBYs.

Recently, I read in a Community Forum written by someone who lives in Fallbrook that we can add "self-centered" to our list of titles ("You can kiss paradise goodbye," May 23). Hmmm — interesting, if not downright hilarious.

Excuse me, but isn't it San Diego County that has decided against building quarries in its own backyard? Since a hefty 70 percent of the gravel from Liberty Quarry is projected to go to San Diego, it's obvious our neighboring county is expecting Temecula to pay the price of dirtier air and more truck traffic on our freeways so it can benefit from our resources.

Those of us who have taken time out of our busy lives to protest this threat to our community are ordinary people: parents, grandparents, young people and senior citizens. We love our city. We know we're not perfect, but we have a good thing going here. We will do what we can to protect it. By the way, we expect you to do the same for your own community.

Pam Grender, Temecula

Fallbrook/Bonsall Village News

Re: Open letter to Supervisor Bill Horn [Letter, Village News, 5/12/11]

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

Regarding Supervisor Horn's reply to my recent letter, he "presumed" I was writing "on behalf of the Rainbow Community Planning Group (RCPG)." Let me assure him, my thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.

I was sorry to hear that the letter from RCPG (which, I am aware, asked for his support for Rainbow and Fallbrook to address negative impacts to our communities) was supposedly not received.
This letter, I understand, was copied to all the San Diego County supervisors. Perhaps, he could borrow one of theirs to read.

In his letter to me, Mr. Horn stated (regarding Liberty quarry): "The site is outside our boundaries. I would be out of line telling Riverside how to vote."

I did not ask him to "tell them how to vote."

Mr. Horn, the access road from the quarry where 1,800 truck trips will enter I-15 each day is in San Diego County. The physical address of the quarry is Rainbow Valley Blvd (92028). The pollution from the diesel trucks and the dust pollution will be blown into our communities on the (now clean) daily winds through Rainbow Gap.

Any accidents or fires resulting from this quarry will be responded to by Rainbow Volunteer Fire Dept. You have the nerve to claim San Diego County is not affected? Your refusal to take a stand takes one.

We need a "champion," and obviously, you are not it.

It would seem to me that the people who put you in that office can vote you out.

We won't forget.

Jerri Arganda


Editor's note: This letter was written by Dennis A. Sanford, chair of the Rainbow Community Planning Group, and submitted by a member of SOS-Hills, a group opposing a proposed quarry just south of Temecula. It responds to a letter Bill Horn sent them in response to a letter asking him for help. Read the letter by clicking here.

Dear Supervisor Mr. Horn,

I read your open letter that was published in the Village News on April 28, 2011 wherein you mentioned that your office did not receive a letter sent by the Rainbow Community Planning Group. You also imply that Ms. Arganda represented the Rainbow Community Planning Group.

In regards to Ms. Arganda, please note that any official correspondence sent to you, your office or published in the media by the Rainbow Community Planning Group will be authorized by the governing committee and signed by the Chairperson or Co-Chairperson of the RCPG. Ms. Arganda, although very active within the Rainbow community, does not officially represent the views or positions of the RCPG.

Any comments or opinions stated by Ms. Arganda or others in the Village News or other media outlets are personal positions and viewpoints that may or may not concur with that of the RCPG.

The initial letter that you state was not received by your office was unanimously approved by the governing body of the RCPG and sent to all of the San Diego Board of Supervisors from the RCPG on or about February 15, 2011.

Mr. Paul Gerogantas, then the Chairperson of the Rainbow Community Planning Group, was the signer. The approval and authorization of Mr. Gerogantas actions is reflected in the official minutes on January 2011 of the RCPG which are on file with San Diego County.

It is unfortunate your office does not have a record of the letter sent by the RCPG requesting your support and intervention relative to the Liberty Quarry. The Liberty Quarry project is not limited to Riverside County. In fact, the project boundaries extend into San Diego County and specifically the community of Rainbow. The access point to the quarry is fully within San Diego County and will require all quarry vehicular traffic to travel through the local streets of Rainbow. In addition, the first responders to any emergency at the Liberty Quarry will most likely be our local volunteer fire department.

Both of these items will place an undue amount of stress on the local infrastructure, all of which will directly impact San Diego County. It is also worthy of note that the address of the quarry will be Rainbow Valley Blvd West, Rainbow, CA 92028.

Furthermore, the project is not part of the San Diego County General Plan, either current or proposed. Our letter simply requested that you and the Board of Supervisors intervene with Riverside County on behalf of your constituents and stress the importance of keeping the quarry project totally within Riverside County.

Along those lines, the Rainbow Community Planning Group has asked Riverside County to require Liberty Quarry to build dedicated quarry access roads within Riverside County, thereby relieving Rainbow of the traffic nightmare that is sure to develop at the numerous intersections in I-15 and the Rainbow Valley Blvd area, all of which are within San Diego County’s jurisdiction.

Our letter requested, and we are asking again, for your support in making this happen.

Thank you for your consideration and please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Chairperson Dennis A. Sanford

Californian  May 17, 2011
Granite should cut its losses

Hurray for Boyd Roberts' Community Forum ("Go home, Granite Construction," May 15). ... It is clear that the majority of our citizens do not want a pit gravel mine in our vicinity, and all arguments for or against are irrelevant.

No one would argue that Disneyland is not a great thing, but a community might not want one in their town. Granite Construction should respect our resolve to not have the gravel mine in our area and cut its losses and forget about this community-killing quarry.

This company is only interested in this ideal site as a real "gold mine" (no pun intended), and it is well demonstrated by their vigorous and persistent quest.

Gilbert Marrero, Temecula

The Californian, Wed., May 11, 2011

Granite cannot be trusted


I find disturbing it that quarry proponents seem to believe everything Granite Construction says, while finding no substance whatsoever in any objections by opponents. The dubious environmental impact report was paid for by Granite with the sole purpose of getting the project approved. The ridiculous assertion that the quarry will improve air quality should have been a hint.

Equally absurd is the notion that the quarry will reduce truck traffic. It is disappointing that the city of Murrieta has not weighed in on these critical issues. Could it be because Granite is currently under contract for construction in the city? Murrietans enjoy the same ocean breezes as Temecula and will suffer the same ill effects as well.

Residents of the Southwest Riverside county must maintain their resolve in fighting this monumental and unnecessary boondoggle. Unfortunately, politicians tend to be more easily influenced by money, of which Granite seems to have plenty. The fact that Granite is intentionally underusing and rarely ever mentioning their Rosemary Quarry in San Diego County illustrates their deceptive tactics.

Corporations such as Granite simply cannot be trusted. In the end, the debate is quite similar to religion: Either you believe them or you don't.

Chris Dejan, Murrieta


The Californian, Sun., May 8, 2011

Tell the state your problems with mines

Let's see. Granite Construction and the guys spoke as if we are in the Old West during the meeting. Mining began in these parts in the 1800s, the silica will make our air better, there won't be any noise, blah, blah, blah (just like any 3-year-old would say).

One of the best things anyone concerned about Liberty Quarry can do is to attend the State Mining and Geology Board Hearing in Lake Elsinore. Get to know the people in charge of mining at the state level and the laws. The meeting is at 9:30 a.m. May 12 at the Lake Elsinore Cultural Arts Center (downtown).

Everyone who has experienced excessive noise all night long, silica dust, bright lights, odors, health issues, etc. should attend this meeting.

The California Department of Conservations' State Mining and Geology Board wants to hear what everyone has to say. This meeting will be your only opportunity to tell the state your problems with the mines and the city's lack of response to your complaints. We need as many people as possible to come to this meeting (children are welcome).

Paulie Tehrani and Sharon Gallina, Lake Elsinore


The Californian, Sat., May 7, 2011

The kings of misinformation

A recent joint Community Forum by Rick Kellogg and Gerald Summers regarding Liberty Quarry quotes part of a sentence from a letter from the South Coast Air Quality Management District ("Don't be fooled by misinformation on Liberty Quarry," May 5). Their partial quote is: "this project could become a leader in the industry for its commitment to reducing air quality and health impacts." If they had included the entire sentence, you would have read: "With the inclusions of these measures, this project could become a leader in the industry for its commitment to reducing air quality and health impacts."

The measures not mentioned are: a requirement that all (not just some) heavy-duty trucks serving the facility will comply with a more stringent on-road emission standard, and the use of non-fossil-fuel-based power generation such as solar panels instead of on-site natural gas-fired generators — neither measure of which Granite Construction has agreed to implement.

The Forum also doesn't talk about SCAQMD's reference to "health impacts." Quarry supporters have said there are no health impacts. Apparently, SCAQMD does not agree with that assessment.

It is amazing how the omission of just six words changes the entire meaning of the sentence. So gentlemen: "Tell the truth, and nothing but the truth."

Linda Bartz, Temecula


The Californian, Fri., May 6, 2011

Trust, but verify (with penalties)

There are lots of issues and benefits raised about Liberty Quarry with differing opinions about them, such as dust/particulates, noise, truck traffic, etc. Suggestions to obtain more agreement are:

— Determine with Granite Construction and those opposing the quarry the things important to monitor by an independent agency, and agree to "not to exceed" standards.

— Granite Construction should agree to immediately shut down operations if limits are exceeded until the problem is fixed.

— Granite Construction should fund this monitoring in a manner in which they have no control over monitoring, such as putting money into a trust for Riverside County to hire an independent agency to do the monitoring. Monitoring should be done an agreed-to-minimum number of times a month, and at random.

— Granite Construction should agree to use trucks that are state of the art in minimizing pollution and environmental effects.

— Granite Construction should agree to put the area back into a predefined state at the end of quarry work, with funding for this put in a trust by Granite Construction.

Maybe then we can move on to other important issues.

Dennis Uhlken, Wildomar


Granite doesn't care

The pursuit by Granite Construction to acquire permission to destroy a nearby mountaintop has been a revealing process.

They know about the nature research that has been done on adjacent property for years, and yet they have no problem in destroying that effort. They know about one of the last wildlife corridors that goes nearby, and yet they don't seem to care.

They have participated in a sham effort to try to convince area residents that the airborne output from their blasting would put less particulates in the air than the trucks driving down Interstate 15 with gravel from another area.

During a time of high unemployment, they are now trying to play the "jobs" card. Huh? I am confident that quarry work is probably somewhat specialized and requires experience. So how many new jobs would be created for unemployed Temecula residents?

And now we find out that the mountain that they want to rape, pillage and plunder is sacred to our neighbors at Pechanga. The location has a place name in their history and culture, and yet Granite Construction is bound and determined to destroy that also.

Once again, we are seeing a company that doesn't seem to care. All of this speaks volumes about the moral, ethical and cultural character of this company.

Richard Fox, Temecula

The Californian, Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Quarry won't be good for anyone

The quarry hearing April 26 drew more than 1,000 people. A great majority of people oppose the quarry. Many reasons were given; however, it was also clear that the commissioners, appointed by the Board of Supervisors, Riverside County, are pragmatic for the rules, laws, procedures, and think only about the question of air quality, traffic and noise and nothing else.

Liberty Quarry for the past five years has tried to "razzle-dazzle" everyone into believing that it would benefit us all. Their Powerpoint presentation at this hearing was very clever and creative, but irrelevant. It was a car salesman trying to convince and sell you a Cadillac with all of its qualities, but you only want to buy a Ford. That pitch has no relationship.

The citizens do not want a open-pit quarry in their midst. Litigators and judges understand that opposite experts considering equal facts can come up with different conclusions, so this argument about air quality, traffic, noise, etc., is like "barking up the wrong tree."

The real issue when boiled down in the minds of our citizens is aesthetics. We do not want a quarry end of story. Do you think anybody in his right mind will build mansions or a dream home, vintners will build wineries or gentleman farmers to grow their groves? Developers who consider Temecula a place to locate their business will reconsider with a large, ugly open gravel pit in their midst.

The reason Temecula Valley is the prime, most desirable place to live and develop in Riverside County is because it is. Let us not spoil our future. Fight the commission and their possible recommendations to the Board of Supervisors to vote for the quarry.

It is my feeling that they will consider the arguments mostly about air quality, traffic, noise etc. and not about the desire of our citizens. It may take legal action to stop this.

Gilbert Marrero, M.D


Follow the money

The Californian (May 1) front page tells us that Planning Commissioner and teacher James Porras may have a conflict of interest in a quarry vote because of Granite Construction's promise to fund the Teachers Retirement fund with several hundred millions of dollars. Conflict? You bet it is.

The Teachers Union alone can bring terrific pressure to bear on the supervisors' vote. But the moral and ethical fiber of politicians in America is so badly torn that nobody seems to recognize right from wrong anymore.

I think we as citizens should demand an accounting from all Riverside officials and our supervisors' campaign contributions to see exactly how far Granite Construction's nose is protruding into the tent; and whoever's palm has been greased should recuse themselves from voting on the Liberty Quarry issue.

Nicholas Waln, Temecula


The Californian, May 1, 2011

Comments on educational dignity and the quarry, too

I attended the first two hours of the Riverside Planning Commissioners meeting regarding Liberty Quarry on 4/26/11. During these hours, Gary Johnson of Granite Construction pointed out the pros to having the Lliberty Quarry in Temecula. The key bonus, according to Mr. Johnson, was fewer trucks on the roads, resulting in cleaner air quality. I wonder how on earth there will be fewer trucks? What about the trucks coming and going from the quarry? Why would there be fewer trucks?

The quarry people showed a slide of a badly damaged section of a road in Hemet, pointing out that this was caused by heavily loaded trucks. Doesn't this mean that the roads in Temecula will suffer the same fate? Are the trucks from the quarry going to be lighter? The quarry is going to be "enclosed." The only things that won't be "enclosed" are two large trucks and a large shovel. Won't the shovel and the trucks be the cause of most of the dust? This was my first time at a Planning Commission hearing.

The Commission chairman spent much too much time berating the rude people who made noise. Granted, the meeting did need someone enforcing decorum; however, the arrogant manner used by Chairman Roth seemed intended to agitate the crowd.
I am opposed to the quarry. The area is much too populated. Although I am not a scientist nor am I a genius, it doesn't take either to see that our air quality will be affected.

My husband is a lung cancer survivor with just one lung. Adding more particles to the air can only hurt him. Traffic on Interstate 15 through Temecula and Murrieta is already a nightmare. Adding gravel trucks to the fray will only make it worse, not to mention the damage that these heavily loaded trucks will do to our roads (as proved by Granite Construction).

Last, I have already had to replace my windshield twice in four years, thanks to rocks thrown from gravel trucks when I drive on I-15 and I-91 through Corona, where there is a gravel quarry. Try calling the police with the offending truck's license number and other identifying information. They'll tell you that there's nothing that they can do about it.

Liz Chandler, Murrieta



May 2011 Opinions/Forums
The Californian
Quarry EIR tells more of real story

To prove that Granite Construction has been deceitful about their project improving air quality, refer to the Riverside County Planning Department website. Select Liberty Quarry EIR, scroll to Air Quality. Page numbers below refer to that section.
On page 69, in the first paragraph, you will see their highly disputed mileage savings, followed by the words, "IF ALL the potential truck traffic displacement occurs.........emissions will be reduced to less than existing levels..(for).regional air...."
This is their "out".

Granite can exaggerate and promise anything but can not be held accountable.
Menifee's City Council, the only one to hear from both sides, voted to oppose the project.

Now let's examine the pollution Liberty Quarry will cause. Page 89 of the EIR shows that 1600 truck trips a day at the project site will increase cancer and chronic illness for residents.

On page 51, six dangerous pollutants are listed. For around 75 years the huge quarry would emit these with almost daily blasting, and other operations, such as an asphalt plant. The six pollutants show a range of up to seven times the threshold levels that are allowable.

However, even after purchasing the maximum ERC pollution offset credits, the EIR states that the excessive amounts would require Granite to purchase remits. This is only allowed when new projects are absolutely necessary to a community!

Why isn't Granite forced to go to one of the alternative sites in San Diego County?
Granite claims 70 percent of their product will be going there! Why is that county against quarries?

Pollution caused by the project would travel with the prevailing southwest to northeast ocean winds. However, page 9 shows how poor the Granite data is on wind speed and atmospheric stability. The EIR states these affect air quality. The only nearby data used was from 2004 and taken from the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve, more than 600 feet below the site. The top of the page states that mountains and valleys affect wind patterns!

A portable meteorological station should have been placed on the project mountain site.

Before a wind turbine is permitted in Palm Springs, this type of MET station must be "on site" for a year, just to protect birds. Isn't protecting the health of people equally important?

Apparently, Granite wanted to downplay the strong force of our prevailing winds that blow daily into our valley, over the vineyards, and through the county. So many of our trees are seen bending toward the northeast, testaments to the consistent wind pattern.

Microscopic crystalline silica, other particulates, and pollutants will be blown into the lungs of young and old, year after year. That is why 155 local medical doctors are on record against the quarry.

The next county Planning Commission hearing will be on Wednesday, June 22, at 9 a.m., at the Rancho Community Church on Temecula Parkway.

Wear some orange and get to the hearing as soon as you can. You can speak, donate your two minutes of allotted time, or just sign a card. All written statements can be put on the record. Be counted!

The Californian
Quarry fever won't go away

By Phil Strickland 

 If the Riverside County planning commissioners were hoping against all hope that the public would become a little less engaged in the Liberty Quarry hearings after the month long recess, if my email and the intensity of online comments are any indication, they're going to be disappointed.
And in their heart of hearts, they must have known that.

Temecula doesn't have a reputation as a "roll-over" kind of place. Neither do its residents.
In fact, quite the opposite. It's more like "Can do" (or as is this case, "Can't do"), although it's true some folks prefer "Don't tread on me."

Already in emails, there are those who think that in the end, the Planning Commission will recommend the project to the Board of Supervisors for approval accompanied by a Statement of Overriding Concerns as it must be in this case because the environmental damages can't be fixed.
Even using Granite's questionable numbers and contrived "logic," the damage can't be fixed.
In the emails, the dominant questions are: Will the city sue? After all, there are plenty of grounds sprinkled throughout the process. And, where do I contribute?

The city, as with many among the opposition, is relying on real science and exposing the company's environmental impact report for the sham it is to defeat the proposal.

Heading to court is costly, and the city would just as soon win this case on its obvious merits.
If Granite's official fakery isn't enough to scuttle the quarry, perhaps the company's continuing contorted spinning of "facts" by itself and Lilburn Corp., its bought-and-paid-for consultant (you remember, the "Getting to Yes" folks), in Granite's "electioneering" for approval will be enough to make our public servants gag and vomit.

Equally as reprehensible as Granite's numeric nonsense is its callous practice of setting neighbor against neighbor to bring pressure to bear on Temecula ---- by going city by city and repeating its same story to residents and electeds in order to corral support for the quarry.

To my knowledge, only Menifee has voted to stand with Temecula in its fight to exercise local control over its future.

Banning, Beaumont, Corona, Cathedral City, Desert Hot Springs, Eastvale, Lake Elsinore, Indio, Moreno Valley, Palm Springs, Perris and Wildomar have sent letters or passed resolutions supporting the quarry.

FYI to those cities: If you were told it would reduce truck traffic and air pollution in the county, you'll want to know that Granite's own numbers show that to be false.

In fact, nowhere in the county will the truck traffic or air pollution be reduced, so says their study.
In fact, that same EIR states they will be increased.

Those are the facts they like to ignore, oops, sorry, "forget."

Californian   May 17, 2011
Granite's numbers racket

By Phil Strickland
Granite Construction representatives, the folks who want to bring you Liberty Quarry, are digging a hole in which they may bury themselves. Who knows why, but they’ve committed to an environmental impact report that demonstrably is based on conjecture and fake “science.”
It is so flawed as to be meaningless.


According to Betsy Lowrey, the Temecula city planner who scrutinized both the draft and final environmental reports regarding traffic numbers — she knows them every other which way — they’re bunk.

The county agrees, as is evidenced by its throwing out the traffic studies, known as Appendix K1, from the impact report.

To quote from her email on the subject:
A Granite employee “raw count of 1385 trucks (including many types) was followed by the consultant count which was 1113 trucks — but only 931 aggregate trucks. Granite used the consultant’s count ... . I see nothing to indicate any count was cut in half.”
“... the original report dated April 5, 2005 (that did not make it into the EIR and attaches the raw truck counts) assumes that “if development occurs at a maximum extraction, the project” could result in a savings of 9.36 million truck miles per year.
“It appears Granite nearly doubled their assumption” in a later report to 16.5 million truck miles per year.
“What should be (understood),” she writes, is that the data — Appendix K1 — and Granite’s many assumptions of and references to reduced truck miles thereafter — were not found acceptable by the traffic section of the report, which concluded truck traffic will get worse, not better, in the county.
So, when it comes to traffic stuff, everyone rejects Appendix K1, right?


Granite EIR consultants do one of two things:
One: “Forget” about the traffic section’s determination and use the discredited data; or,
Two: Resort to weasel words because they can’t admit the Traffic Section determined the “science” was hokum and the impacts could not be mitigated.

In short: “No reduction in traffic or trucks anywhere in the county,” concludes Lowrey.
Unfazed and undeterred, Granite continues to lie to the commission, valley and county residents, and the supervisors by using baseless — meaningless, really — numbers to support specious arguments regarding the quarry’s true impact on the viability of the quarry and the resultant impact on the county’s economy.

Let no one go away from these hearings believing the numbers, conclusions and real impacts of the proposed quarry — on everything that breathes and sucks up sunshine — are in any way reflected in Granite’s environmental impact report.

It’s an insult.

Regarding Granite’s veracity, Councilmember Maryann Edwards said in an email: The opponents’ closing arguments will be brought to you by the word “Deceit.”

Californian  May 15, 2011
Go home, Granite Construction

"Not in my backyard."
It might sound selfish. It might sound unscientific. It might not sound economic. It might sound "environmental." But let me be clear ---- because we live here and because we are united ---- Liberty Quarry will never happen.

Granite Construction needs to cut its losses now and forget about this community-killing quarry. Get out before you lose more money. We will not stand for it. Go home, Granite Construction!

"Not in my backyard" is a powerful social phenomenon. United communities can prevail over politically well-connected and powerful business interests. I have seen it before.
Prior to moving to the Temecula Valley in 2002, I witnessed firsthand how a united South Orange County fought and defeated North Orange County in the epic El Toro airport battle.

Newport Beach and other North Orange County elites wanted to cram a major international airport into the middle of a thriving suburban area. Through it all, South Orange County remained united. They remained undeterred through two devastating and narrowly lost county measures. They won a third measure, but it was overturned in the courts. The Orange County Board of Supervisors opposed them at every turn for 10 years. But in the end, it just took one victory to slay the Goliath Newport Beach elites.

In 2002, voters passed a fourth initiative, Measure W ---- called the Orange County Central Park and Nature Preserve Initiative ---- and the El Toro airport was defeated.
To defeat this quarry, we must stand united and not be discouraged by setbacks. We must be prepared to take the fight to the Board of Supervisors. We must be prepared to sponsor ballot initiatives. And we must be prepared to fight in the courts.

I think that it is time to organize and draft a county measure on the zoning of the site. The measure would be short, well-written, and possibly would say that the zoning of the site shall be rural residential, or that the Liberty Quarry site shall not be zoned for mining. Activities to put the measure on the ballot would be postponed until after a loss at the Supervisory level.

I think there would be both short- and intermediate-term advantages to drafting a measure at this time. I agree with others that this will also go to the courts, but I do think that the quarry opponents will remain more vibrant and intact if they have a county measure to rally together behind, now.

It may tip the balance of any uncertain supervisors who are undecided as to how they are going to vote. And importantly ---- if on the ballot in June 2012 ---- with the new local-centric political boundaries, the quarry could easily become a litmus test for local candidates.

If the planning commission and the Board of Supervisors approve the quarry, we could be in for a long battle. But because we are united and will not give up, in the end, we will prevail. Liberty Quarry will fail.

Boyd Roberts is a French Valley resident.

The Californian,   Wed., May 03, 2011

Quarry Supporters -- from 'unfair' to outrageous
By Fred Bartz

A May 3 article in The Californian regarding the second Planning Commission hearing quoted Granite Construction's Gary Johnson. The article states: "Johnson said he hopes the commission works to make sure that people aren't allowed to double up and speak twice. 'That wouldn't be fair to everyone,' he said."

With the second Planning Commission hearing now over, it was interesting to note that the only speakers to "double up and speak twice" were Liberty Quarry supporters. None of the opposition speakers spoke more than once; in fact, numerous opposition speakers did not even get a chance to speak because of the quarry supporters who were speaking for a second time.

What was also of interest was a Granite Construction paid consultant who spoke, stating that if Liberty Quarry is approved, that it would not impact either the Temecula Valley's tourism or Wine Country. He referenced the quarries in Napa.

After checking the U.S. government's Mine Safety and Health Administration website, it lists only one sand and gravel quarry ---- not multiple quarries ---- in Napa County. The consultant referenced a quarry, stating that it is larger than the proposed Liberty Quarry. Also, the administration's website includes the work hours as reported by the quarry operator. Over the last 10 years, this quarry has reported an average of 33 workers. So this larger-than-Liberty quarry has only 33 workers ---- interesting! Not at least 99 workers?

Of all the Liberty Quarry supporters who spoke last Tuesday, none of them referenced impacts to the SDSU Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve. Let's be absolutely clear. The quarry site directly touches the border of the reserve on both the north and west side of the quarry. This reserve is a major university outdoor educational laboratory. While alternative quarry sites are numerous (the EIR spoke of 25 sites), there is one, and only one, Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve. Where else will you find 4,500-plus acres of virtually untouched wilderness?

What also was very interesting from the recent hearing was testimony from a city of Temecula expert, and also a real estate agent who stated that he is normally pro-business. Both explained that the blasting and excavating of the mountain would result in the de-watering of the mountain and surrounding properties. One example was that when the de-watering occurs, virtually all of the surface vegetation dies, causing the barren topsoil to be exposed, and both plant life and wildlife lose their life-sustaining water.

Perhaps the lowest moment of the hearing was a Liberty Quarry supporter who used her time to make a personal attack against a local pediatrician who has worked to bring the local doctors together to oppose this quarry location. It was truly outrageous and shameful that she would attack a medical doctor who only wants to protect his vulnerable young patients from the quarry's potential health impacts. The hearing was supposed to be about the project, and not a personal attack.

For me, this person crossed the line.

Fred Bartz is a Temecula resident.


The Californian,   Tues., May 03, 2011
This pulpit isn't one for bullies
By: Phil Strickland

This is pitiful.

Granite Construction operative/Murrieta realtor Olden "OB" Johnson assaulted a 70-year-old Liberty Quarry opponent, says a source known to me as honest and straightforward.

And he, former columnist and quarry opponent Paul Jacobs, has e-mailed that he is willing to so testify if charges are filed.

Mr. Jacobs ought to know. He was sitting next to Nicholas Biddle on Tuesday night when Johnson confronted Biddle, reportedly knocking off his glasses, after Biddle snapped a picture ---- perfectly allowable at public meetings ----of him leaving the podium after his presentation.

Biddle, who is recovering from hip-replacement surgery and uses a cane, was seen angrily hobbling away after police "escorted" Johnson from the meeting.

Some of these guys ---- think of them as the corporate equivalent of union thugs ---- can be very unpleasant.

And Johnson has that sort of reputation among quarry opponents.

No wonder he doesn't want people to recognize him.

This, my friends, is the sorry state at which we've arrived in Granite Construction vs. the people of Temecula, and by extension the rest of the residents in our region ---- one increasingly renowned for its grape growing, wine-crafting, antiquing and open countryside.

Oh yeah, and lining the county coffer with tourist dollars.

Aside from the stupidity exhibited by Johnson, Granite's local fellow traveler at Friends of Liberty ---- the quarry you know ---- during Tuesday's Riverside County Planning Commission meeting ---- yes, the same meeting where the chairman warned applauding and laughing residents they could undermine their case ---- there were some serious arguments for and against the quarry.

Unfortunately for Granite, their arguments after six years of citizen discovery and revelation largely look like moldy Swiss cheese.

And, the county's decision to allow Lilburn Corp. ---- the "Getting to Yes" people ---- to craft (and, yes, craft is the appropriate word for all the necessary weaseling) the environmental report so blatantly taints the document that it cannot be taken seriously.

Except that apparently it is by the people who count ---- and that's not you and me.
Namely, it's Granite, which desires bigger profits, and ravenous politicians slobbering for cash.

And what that means is: Too bad, Temecula Valley, there's plundering to done.
Actually, Chairman John Roth runs a good meeting ---- especially if you like order, and this longtime observer does ---- but, come on, how can one not appreciate applause and chiding laughter by good hard-working engaged residents.

Well, it does waste time, but frankly it's like a real celebration of liberty.
It sure beats the heck out of the other disruptions.

The meeting continues at 4 p.m. Tuesday at Rancho Community Church off Temecula Parkway in Temecula.

PHIL STRICKLAND lives in Temecula. Contact him at philipestrickland@yahoo.com.

The Californian, Mon., May 2, 2011
The "Cool It" raspberry

Bundles of thorns to the two men who couldn't maintain a sense of decorum at the first hearing Tuesday on the proposed Liberty Quarry before the Riverside County Planning Commission at Rancho Community Church in Temecula.

In their passion to voice their opposition, each got carried away ---- and appropriately, both got escorted out of the meeting.

One man shouted his objection to the way commission Chairman John Roth was handling the meeting. Roth was attempting to keep the crowd of more than 1,300 under control by cautioning the audience not to clap or otherwise disrupt proceedings.
Another man had to be removed by officers after he interrupted a quarry supporter's comments by shouting how the quarry will "destroy us."

The quarry is an emotional issue with convictions held strongly by each side.
However, debate ---- not verbal abuse ---- is key to democratic discourse.

In their passion to voice their opposition, each got carried away ---- and appropriately, both got escorted out of the meeting.

One man shouted his objection to the way commission Chairman John Roth was handling the meeting. Roth was attempting to keep the crowd of more than 1,300 under control by cautioning the audience not to clap or otherwise disrupt proceedings.
Another man had to be removed by officers after he interrupted a quarry supporter's comments by shouting how the quarry will "destroy us."

The quarry is an emotional issue with convictions held strongly by each side.

However, debate ---- not verbal abuse ---- is key to democratic discourse.



May 2011 News Articles

Watchdog Institute

Contractors settle lawsuit over high charges to haul debris in Rancho Bernardo after the 2007 wildfires Brooke Williams

Published May 27, 2011

By Brooke Williams

Two contractors will pay $900,000 to settle a lawsuit accusing them of overcharging to haul away the charred remains of 112 Rancho Bernardo homes after wildfires in 2007.

A.J. Diani Construction Co. of Santa Maria and Watsonville-based Granite Construction Co. agreed to the settlement with the city of San Diego without admitting any wrongdoing. In its suit, the city alleged the companies owed more than $2 million of the $9.4 million they billed.

The city will turn over most of the money to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which reimbursed for the bulk of the removal costs.

“I want this to send a message that contractors are going to be held accountable, and we are going to be watching carefully,” said Councilman Carl DeMaio, whose district includes Rancho Bernardo. He has been involved in the case and attended the settlement hearing in March.

In a prepared statement, James Roberts, Granite’s president and chief executive officer said, “Although we remain confident that these allegations were without legal or factual merit, we are pleased to be able to put this matter behind us.”

Diani company officials did not respond to a request for an interview.

The San Diego Union-Tribune investigated the debris removal program in mid-2008 and found that Diani and Granite removed questionable quantities of debris, overcharged for materials, billed for work they didn’t perform, provided receipts that didn’t back up their charges and cost the city millions more than stated in their contracts.

The companies charged the city by the ton, and the newspaper’s investigation showed they billed to haul away hundreds of tons more than privately retained contractors did from nearly identical lots.

For example, Diani charged $224,506 to remove 897 tons from the remains of a 5,000-square-foot home while a private company billed $77,693 to haul 575 tons from the remains of a 7,000-square-foot home. Both burned to the ground.

Dick Semerdjian, one of two San Diego attorneys who handled the city’s case, said the newspaper’s investigation “essentially provided a roadmap” for the case.

“We read what you wrote and then we corroborated it through a private investigator,” he said.

In the most expensive taxpayer-funded cleanup, Diani charged $435,463 to clear the remains of Jack Beren’s home on Angosto Way in The Trails, a Rancho Bernardo community with large view lots.

“I’m happy it’s over with,” Beren said about the settlement. “I’ve moved on, and it’s time for the city to move on.”

The Office of the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security conducted a criminal investigation into possible fraud and misuse of taxpayer money. That investigation closed in last year, and no charges were filed.

Diani will pay $500,000, and Granite will pay $400,000, according to the settlements, which were signed in March. The City Council approved the settlement in April, and it was approved in court this month.

DeMaio said the city almost didn’t pursue a lawsuit because it was going to be so costly and because the money recouped would be turned over to FEMA. Ultimately, the City Council hired outside counsel that fronted the costs and will be paid out of settlement proceeds.

Semerdjian said if the case had gone to court instead of a mediator, the fire victims might have been called to testify and would have been forced to relive the disaster. Plus, he said, the case was expensive and “there was going to be some difficulty in establishing that they intentionally, knowingly were submitting fraudulent weight tickets.”

“It was really an effective way to have everybody buy their peace and just move on,” he said.

Brooke Williams was an investigative reporter for the Union-Tribune before joining the Institute. She was the lead reporter investigating the billing discrepancies in debris hauling after the wildfires in 2007.

Friday, May 20, 2011
TEMECULA: No quarry conflict for commissioners

By AARON CLAVERIE aclaverie@californian.com  

The Fair Political Practices Commission has determined that neither James Porras nor John Snell, members of the Riverside County Planning Commission, has a conflict of interest that would prevent either of them from ruling on Granite Construction's Liberty Quarry project.

The two men ---- Porras is a teacher and Snell is married to a teacher ---- did not attend the May 3 hearing on the project because of conflict questions raised after the first hearing in April.

"There was no conflict," Roman Porter, the commission's executive director, said Friday. He added that the commission notified the county of its findings in a letter sent last week.

During the the first hearing in April, Granite officials said the company would pay millions of dollars in royalties that would end up flowing to the state's teacher retirement fund if the project eventually is approved.

That information was news to Porras, and both he and Snell recused themselves while the county's legal counsel asked for the guidance of the state commission.
Granite, a Northern California-based company, has proposed operating the mine within a 400-acre property between the San Diego County line and Temecula's southern border. At full capacity, the 135-acre quarry is expected to generate 5 million tons of aggregate per year at the site, which is just east of the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve.

That May 3 hearing was the second in what has turned into an ongoing series of commission meetings. The next hearing is scheduled for June 22.

After the commission makes a recommendation on the project, which has been a lightning rod for controversy in Southwest County, it will be debated by the county Board of Supervisors.

Temecula Mayor Ron Roberts said he didn't have any strong feelings on whether Porras and Snell had conflicts, but he said he's disappointed that the full commission didn't get a chance to hear  testimony from the public at the May 3 hearing.
"It almost seems like they should go back and try it again," he said.

Roberts also said he's concerned that the long delay between the May 3 hearing and the June 22 hearing has dampened people's enthusiasm about fighting the quarry.
"I'm disappointed about the whole thing," he said. "Everyone was ready to get this on and take care of it ... now it's going off in the middle of June."

Jim Mitchell of the Santa Margarita Sierra Club, one of the groups that opposes the quarry project, said he never thought there was a clear case of conflict of interest, and he said he would have preferred having the pair at the May hearing."There was pretty dramatic things that were shared," he said.

Even if the commissioners watched a recording of the meeting to get themselves caught up, Mitchell said there were nuances that wouldn't come through in a video, and the commissioners weren't able to interact with the public or ask questions.
Granite Construction Project Manager Gary Johnson said he didn't see a conflict to begin with, and he said the company's preference is to have all five commissioners hear testimony and be a part of the decision.

"If they had a conflict, every taxpayer in Riverside County would have a conflict because of the economic benefits of the project," he said.

Experts interviewed by The Californian after the first hearing expressed mixed opinions on whether the pair have a conflict of interest, but a couple of the experts said that there is an appearance of a conflict because of the royalty payments.
The royalties that Granite could end up paying into the fund would not affect how much money Porras or Snell's wife would receive in benefits, but there are widespread concerns about the solvency of the fund, which right now is propped up by the state's general fund when returns are lower than expected.

However, the amount of money that might be paid into the fund ---- between $100 million and $300 million, according to Granite officials ---- would be a relative drop in the bucket for the $130 billion fund.

For the commission, the question of a conflict hinged in part on whether the benefits that will be paid to Porras and Snell's wife constituted income or salary, which is carved out as separate from incomes. "Pension benefits" fall under the definition of "salary."

From the commission's letter: "Because the pension benefits are not 'income,' and you have not identified any other potential income interests that may create a conflict of interest, under the facts presented, there is nothing to indicate that either Commissioner Porras or Commissioner Snell has a conflict of interest under the Act."

The Press-Enterprise, Fri., May 6, 2011
Temecula tries to fix relationship with Pechanga tribe


Temecula's City Council reached out this week to the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians in hopes of repairing a relationship damaged by its recent lawsuit against the tribe.

In an interview Thursday, Mayor Ron Roberts said that at the council's direction he and Councilman Chuck Washington personally delivered a letter to the Pechanga Tribal Council in hopes of re-establishing cordial ties with the sovereign tribe, which runs a casino, hotel and golf course on a reservation bordering the city.

"The Temecula City Council is committed to working diligently to rebuild a strong, cooperative working relationship with the Pechanga Tribal Council and its members," Roberts wrote in the letter dated Tuesday.

A federal judge last month dismissed a city lawsuit against the tribe. At issue was how much the tribe should pay for the effects the Pechanga Resort & Casino has on city infrastructure and services.

Roberts said Thursday that tribal officials accepted the city's apology and both sides are moving forward.

In an emailed statement, Tribal Chairman Mark Macarro said while the tribe appreciates the city's desire to rebuild the relationship, "a reality that must be overcome is that had the lawsuit been successful, it could have jeopardized the economic engine that has provided many opportunities for our tribe and thousands of community members."

"Nevertheless, we are mindful of the mutual successes our governments have achieved through collaboration, which is why we stand willing to find ways to work with the city to repair the relationship for the benefit of the broader and shared community."


In his letter, Roberts wrote the lawsuit was based on a "different legal interpretation" of the city's rights under the tribe's 2008 compact with California.

"It was never our intention to personally harm the Pechanga Tribe or any of its members, but rather, to protect what we thought were our legal rights until the tribal-state compact," Roberts wrote. He added the city would not appeal the lawsuit's dismissal.

Roberts, who said he has been the city's tribal liaison for 16 years, wrote that the city is willing to work with Pechanga to revise a city/tribal agreement negotiated over two years and ratified by Temecula's council in March 2010.

The 21-year agreement called for the tribe to pay Temecula $2 million annually, with the amount rising after six years to account for inflation. City officials expected Temecula could have received as much as $65 million through the agreement.

The tribe also agreed to pay $10 million or secure federal dollars in the same amount for improvements to the Interstate 15/Highway 79 South interchange, which frequently is used by casino-goers.


Problems arose last summer after city officials said the tribe missed a deadline for the first payment. The tribe maintained the agreement could not be finalized until Pechanga concluded talks with Riverside County over the casino's effect on county services.

The city responded by suing. At the time, Macarro blasted the lawsuit as "absurd" and needlessly confrontational. Judge Dale S. Fischer on April 11 ruled that the city needed specific permission from the state/tribal compact to sue.

After the ruling, Macarro said "little to no desire exists to hand over millions of dollars to a City Council that would seek to cause our tribe, our employees, our business partners, and the charitable causes which we support such harm."

"As a result of (the lawsuit), there was hard feelings -- not from us but from them and rightfully so," Roberts said Thursday. "Legally, our city attorney thought that we could win. We pretty much decided after (the dismissal), there's no more appeals, we lost and let's get the relationship back if we can."

There have been signs of improved city/tribal relations in recent days. On Monday, the tribe guided the allocation of $4.2 million from a statewide gaming fund to Temecula, including $4 million for the Interstate 15/79 South interchange and money for additional police patrols. Macarro's statement Tuesday indicated the tribe was working to secure the money for Temecula even while its lawsuit was pending.

Tribal and city leaders also are united against the proposed Liberty Quarry between Temecula and San Diego County. Macarro and City Council members spoke against the quarry at an April 26 Riverside County Planning Commission hearing, and the tribe and city want to offer further testimony from experts to refute the technical studies supporting the open-pit mine.

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

The Press-Enterprise, Wed., May 4
Next quarry hearing set for June 22


The third meeting on Liberty Quarry is set for next month, giving Riverside County officials time to answer a key ethics question and get a handle on the complicated review process for the proposed open-pit mine.

County Planning Commission Chairman John Roth announced Tuesday the next quarry hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. June 22 at Temecula's Rancho Community Church.

The five-member commission has held two public hearings on the quarry. Each hearing drew scores of people, lasted 7 hours and featured impassioned testimony from quarry supporters and opponents.

Quarry developer Granite Construction and its supporters say the project will be an economic boost and not harm the environment. Critics say the quarry will cause air pollution and ruin the region's quality of life.

By holding the next hearing in June, officials hope to get a response from the state Fair Political Practices Commission on whether commissioners John Snell and Jim Porras can review the quarry. Snell's wife and Porras are teachers, and the state teachers' retirement fund stands to gain from the quarry because Granite has to pay mineral royalty rights to California.

Another issue concerns whether the city of Temecula, the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians and San Diego State University will have time set aside to present experts to challenge Granite's quarry studies. The groups asked for such time in an April 28 letter to the commission.

Commissioner John Petty supports the idea. The opposition's experts need a pre-scheduled block of time to offer in-depth testimony, he said.

Roth and Deputy County Counsel Shellie Clack disagreed. They maintain the commission's current practice of allowing speakers to collect donations of time from others -- speakers are initially limited to two minutes each, but can get up to 10 minutes with donations -- is sufficient and the fairest for everyone involved.

Petty and Roth also asked Clack to look into whether the commission could limit the volume of public testimony without infringing on free speech rights. Dozens of people remain signed up to speak and it's unclear when the commission will be able to make a recommendation on the quarry to the county Board of Supervisors.

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

The Press-Enterprise, Wed., May 4, 2011
Quarry crowd smaller, not as rowdy


Tuesday's public hearing on the Liberty Quarry featured a smaller audience than round one, but the same intensity of emotional comments from friends and foes of the proposed open-pit mine.

Compared to the first hearing April 26, when police had to physically remove someone from the audience, the Riverside County Planning Commission proceedings inside Temecula's Rancho Community Church were calmer, but not lifeless.

Occasionally, pro-quarry remarks were met with clapping from supporters or jeers and laughter from opponents, who often applauded anti-quarry testimony. "It would behoove us all if we could just let the people testify and move on," commission Chairman John Roth said.

More hearings will be needed as the five-member commission reviews the project and makes recommendations to the county Board of Supervisors, which has the final say on whether the quarry gets built.

More than 70 speaker slips remain for those who signed up to speak against the quarry, Roth said.

The Riverside County Planning Commission has tentatively scheduled the next meeting on Liberty Quarry for 9 a.m. June 22 at Rancho Community Church in Temecula.

Toward the end of the meeting. a rift had developed over whether the commission should grant special time for Temecula officials, the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians and San Diego State University to offer expert testimony to oppose Liberty Quarry.

Commissioner John Petty suggested the idea. Given the complexity of the quarry, he said the commission should bend it's rules to allow for a special presentation by the city, tribe and university, which runs the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve next to the quarry site. The three entities, which all oppose the quarry, asked for their own set-aside time to offer the commission an expert critique of the project.

"We need an organized approach," Petty said.

But Roth disagreed with Petty.

"We don't need to sponsor this type of an operation," he said, adding that commissioners can always ask questions of the city's and tribe's experts.

Deputy county counsel recommended the commission stick with it's normal policy of allowing speakers to collect up to 8 minutes of donated time; each speaker gets 2 minutes to start out. Doing so would keep the hearing fair for everyone, she said.

Last week's hearing was packed, but when Tuesday's hearing started a little after 4 p.m., there were rows of empty seats -- but still hundreds in the church. Once again, opponents wore orange t-shirts and hats, and supporters -- fewer in number by comparison -- wore green.

Roth read information from county planners indicating 415 people signed forms showing they opposed the quarry, and 27 signed forms in support.

Pro-quarry speakers kicked off hours of public testimony. Leading off was William Smith of Laborers' International Union of North America Local 1184.

Smith said roughly 500 of his union's 4,000 members were out of work. "The only thing that's going to revitalize this economy is private sector jobs," he said.

Jessica Vulovic of Temecula said she supported the quarry after her son's best friend was struck and killed by a truck carrying aggregate, the building material to be produced by the quarry. Quarry developer Granite Construction says the quarry will take trucks off the road since it will be a local aggregate source, although critics say more truck traffic would be created.

Opponents who spoke included Cynthia Myers, who said she lives near the quarry site. She urged commissioners not to "allow a giant corporation to inflict this noisy and obnoxious scar on our communities. Please give us liberty from this quarry."

The quarry would be in the foothills between Temecula and San Diego County. Granite maintains the quarry, which would operate for 75 years and occupy at least 135 acres of a 414-acre site off Interstate 15. The company says the quarry would provide the region with about 100 high-paying jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in sales tax revenue while not being seen or heard by surrounding areas.

Critics say Granite's technical studies are flawed and deceptive. They say the quarry will lead to silica dust entering people's lungs and endangering their health.

The quarry will lower property values, damage local tourism and a neighboring ecological reserve and cause noise and light pollution, opponents say. The Temecula City Council and the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians are among the groups against the project.

Commissioners Jim Porras and John Snell were absent Tuesday. County Deputy Counsel Shellie Clack said they chose not to take part pending an opinion by the state Fair Political Practices Commission.

The FPPC was asked by the county to determine whether Snell and Porras have a conflict of interest because Snell's wife and Porras are teachers. Due to state mineral rights, California's teachers' retirement fund stands to benefit financially if the quarry is approved.

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

The Californian, Tues., May 3, 2011
Public continues sparring over quarry

By AARON CLAVERIE - aclaverie@californian.com North County Times - The Californian

'Common ground was in short supply Tuesday during the second Riverside County Planning Commission hearing on Granite Construction's Liberty Quarry.

Supporters touted the economic benefits of the project, a list, they said, that included new jobs and trickle-down benefits that would accrue from a new source of aggregate material in Southwest County. They also said health fears about dust and silica from the proposed open-pit mine were overblown.

"The truth is, the quarry will not harm us," said Laura Bruno, a former project opponent and Redhawk resident who lives in the southern part of Temecula.

Opponents, however, said particulates from the mine, kicked up during blasting operations, could lead to lung disease and other health problems. And they criticized supporters of the project for skewing what they said were a stack of negatives about the project.

"Why are home sales already falling out of escrow? ... How many people will lose their jobs? How many jobs will be lost in the Temecula Wine Country?" asked Cynthia Myers, a project opponent decked out in orange hat and T-shirt. "Please give us liberty from this quarry."

Granite, a Northern California-based company, has proposed operating the mine within a 400-acre property that sits between the San Diego County line and Temecula's southern border. At full capacity, the 135-acre quarry is expected to generate 5 million tons of aggregate rock per year at the site, which is just east of the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve.

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

On April 26, the Riverside County Planning Commission conducted the first of a series of hearings on the quarry. The project has been hotly debated in Southwest County, as well as Fallbrook and Rainbow in San Diego County, because of concerns that include the negative effects it could have on air quality, traffic and the migratory paths of animals.

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

The county has determined that the project is "environmentally superior" to not digging a quarry, in part because of the air-quality benefits from reduced truck traffic.

The county's environmental documentation predicts that, if Granite's projections are accurate, the quarry will eliminate millions of miles of truck travel on Riverside County roads because developers in San Diego County no longer would buy aggregate from quarries in the Corona area and other points north of the county line.

The first hearing was attended by more than 1,400 people, but the audience for Tuesday's session, held at Rancho Community Church, was far smaller: roughly 500 to 750 people.

Before the start of the hearing, county counsel said two commissioners, James Porras and John Snell, were absent because they are waiting to hear back from the state Fair Political Practices Commission about whether it will OK for them to consider Granite's application.

If the quarry is eventually approved, Granite will pay royalties into the state teacher retirement fund that could total between $100 million and $300 million. Porras and Snell's wives are teachers, and there have been questions about whether the pair have a conflict of interest.

After that announcement, commission Chairman John Roth issued a plea to the "diminished" audience, asking them to refrain from acting as if they were at a "sporting event." At the last hearing, there were boos, clapping and comments from the audience. A few people who stood up to shout at either a speaker or the commission were removed from the worship center.

The behavior Tuesday night was better, with no one removed and only a few reprimands issued by Roth.

After Roth's announcement, the commission started taking public comments from the more than 100 people who had signed up to speak about the project. The first two hours of this portion was given to supporters to praise the project and, after a dinner break, opponents were allowed to speak.

Opponents were still speaking late into the evening.

Supporters, a group that wore green T-shirts or hats, said Granite, a company they hailed as both ethical and professional, will make sure that the mine, if approved, would be operated so that no one in the Temecula Valley would see it, hear it or know it was there.

There also were reports presented by a consultant who looked at the tourism industries in the Napa and Coachella valleys and mining industry reps. who underlined the need for aggregate in Southern California.

According to the tourism consultant, Bob Marra of La Quinta, tourists do not shy away from either Northern California's Napa Valley or Southern California's Coachella Valley because of the quarries located near the popular destinations.

"I'm not saying it helps tourism, but it's not harming," he said, adding that, based on his research, property values have not been negatively affected either.

The industry reps said the aggregate produced at the quarry will help satisfy a huge shortage of aggregate material in Southern California, a market, they noted, that is making it very difficult to approve new quarries to handle the demand.

"If we turn them away, they won't be coming back," said Max Miller of Murrieta, a supporter who said he was confident Granite would operate a quarry in a manner that would pass state muster and shield the company from lawsuits.

Before hearing from the opponents, Roth tallied the speaker slips that had been turned in, saying that he received 415 from opponents and 27 in support of the project.

Opponents ---- including residents of Temecula, Rainbow, Fallbrook and surrounding areas ---- then took to the microphone, saying the alleged benefits of the project were a mirage. They also asked the commission to take note of the overwhelming number of people who spoke out against the project.

John Moramarco, a man who has been called the patron saint of Temecula Wine Country, told the commission that the wind that rushes through the Santa Margarita gap turned the valley into a place hospitable for the wineries that eventually took root. And he said that relatively young industry could be harmed if the quarry is approved.

"It's up to you to determine whether you want Wine Country here or the quarry here," he said.

Howard Omdahl, a local real estate developer, said he has purchased aggregate in different forms over the years and he is staunchly in favor of jobs and development.

Though that background might lead someone to think he's in favor of the project, Omdahl told the commission and the audience he is opposed.

"I do not believe this project benefits anyone except Granite," he said.

Continuing, using time donated by other speakers, he sketched out a grim future if the quarry is approved. He warned of a "black dust storm" kicked up in future years when the quarry site, which would be turned into a "dead mountain," is "dewatered." And he said that though the price for aggregate from Liberty Quarry might be low in the beginning, he claimed that Granite would jack up the prices and create a monopoly.

The Californian   Mon., May 02, 2011
Round two of quarry hearing Tuesday night

More than 100 people have yet to speak on Granite's proposed mine

By AARON CLAVERIE - aclaverie@californian.com The Riverside County Planning Commission is scheduled to reopen the public hearing on Granite Construction's Liberty Quarry project on Tuesday night, the second in what is expected to be a series of meetings on the proposed open-pit mine. The first meeting, a seven-hour-plus discussion last week, was attended by a sometimes rowdy crowd of more than 1,400 people.

Once again, the hearing is set to begicren at 4 p.m. and it will be held in the worship center at Rancho Community Church, 31300 Rancho Community Way in Temecula.
More than 100 people who signed up to speak last week have yet to address the commission. That testimony, which is expected to be dominated by residents opposed to the project, should take hours to complete, because each speaker will be given two minutes to speak. The number of speakers also could swell if people who weren't able to make last week's meeting sign up Tuesday to address the panel.

John Roth, the chairman of the commission, said last week that many of the people who have yet to speak noted on their speaker slips that they are opposed to the project. He also said that because of this imbalance, he plans to allow the comparatively small group of project supporters to speak first.

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

After the commission completes its project review ---- a series of hearings that could end up numbering three or more ---- it will issue a recommendation to the Riverside County Board of Supervisors, which will have the final say on the project.

After public comments have been received, the commissioners have talked about allowing Granite Construction to present a rebuttal to the opponents' critiques of the project and the county's review.

Late last week, the city of Temecula, San Diego State University and the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians sent the county a letter asking for a set amount of time to address the commission as well as to answer any questions the members might have.
SDSU manages the reserve as a field station for scientific research.

From the letter, signed by Pechanga Chairman Mark Macarro, Temecula Mayor Ron Roberts and Matt Rahn, director of the reserve's field stations program: "In these times of substantial budgetary constraints, it is extremely wasteful for the county to require other government entities to use scarce public resources to pay their employees and consultants to sit through hours of testimony ---- potentially across several hearing dates ---- without any certainty as to when they may afforded an opportunity to speak."

Smith said Monday the letter was addressed to the commission and Roth, an appointee who was named to the five-member board by Supervisor Bob Buster, and any response to the letter would have to be handled during a public meeting.
In preparation for the rebuttal, Granite project manager Gary Johnson said his company will have experts on hand to answer questions posed by the commission.
On the format, Johnson said he hopes the commission works to make sure that people aren't allowed to double up and speak twice. "That wouldn't be fair to everyone," he said.

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



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