Hours of technical jargon from experts were the highlight of the fourth Riverside Planning Commission hearing on a proposed mining quarry south of Temecula.
The fourth hearing Monday was filled by Granite Construction and experts who responded to hundreds of critical comments directed at environmental reports for the Liberty Quarry.
After ten hours of testimony, commissioner gave no hint as to how they would vote and postponed any discussion until a fifth meeting on Aug. 15 at Rancho Community Church.
The Board of Supervisors would make the final decision on whether the quarry would get built.
Granite Project Manager Gary Johnson said nothing new has been brought to the forefront that wasn’t looked at in the environmental reports.
“We are just going in circles right now,” a visibly frustrated Johnson said just after lunch break.
Before the break, Johnson brought up concerns about commissioners allowing Temecula, Pechanga and SDSU experts to respond to any questions from commissioners.
Johnson argued it would create an endless cycle of experts arguing information.
In several cases, questions from commissioners to opposition experts resulted in experts entering new information. Most of the meeting dealt with detailed graphics, maps and statistics. Experts and commissioners tore the nearly 7,000-page environmental document apart.
Granite experts and Johnson explained the research process and patiently answered all questions presented them from commissioners.
The quarry, which has been in the works for more than four years, would involve extracting rocks from hillsides at a site just off Interstate 15 near Rainbow Valley Boulevard, slightly north of the Riverside-San Diego County lines.
The commission is between a rock and a hard place as they decide whether to approve the proposed 136-acre operating mining pit. Liberty Quarry would work in the hills just west of I-15 and south of Temecula. Proponents argue the quarry would bring nearly 100 jobs to the area, provide tax benefits to the county and city, and take truck traffic off of local roads.
Granite Construction is seeking a 75-year operating window, during which an estimated five million tons of construction-grade aggregate — gravel and sand — would be mined annually.
The aggregate produced at the site would provide asphalt and concrete for roads, homes and other infrastructure projects, according to Granite. A report attached to the environmental impact report indicated the mine would cut down on how far trucks have to transport aggregate for projects in northern San Diego County and southwest Riverside County, reducing pollutants, roadway use and traffic congestion.
Critics, including Temecula City Council and Pechanga, said the quarry does not belong in such an environmentally-sensitive area. Critics also argue the dust particles created by mining would lower air quality, and noise could be heard in the valley.
The county staff report recommends an approval stating the impacts could be mitigated and would not be significant.
The first hearing was packed with supporters and opponents. At times, it became contentious. One man was ushered from the building by police officers after screaming at the commission and another speaker.
The second hearing was quieter and smaller. The third hearing lasted more than 14 hours as gathered officials from Temecula, Pechanga and San Diego State University tore apart the environmental impact statement line by line.