Riverside County supervisors will hold a final public hearing today to consider a mining company’s appeal for approval of a quarry project near Temecula that opponents argue will cause irreparable environmental harm and ruin residents’ quality of life.
“The mine will kill that mountain,” Temecula City Councilman Ron Roberts said during last week’s initial hearing on the mine, which hundreds attended at the Riverside Convention Center.
“The quarry will drain away the ground water and just suck the life out of vegetation … The gateway entrance to (southwest) Riverside County will be a dead mountain with a one-mile train of trucks heading toward it. Is it really worth a few jobs?”
“Riverside County needs more aggregate … for roads, schools and other public facilities,” countered Menifee Mayor John Denver. “Right now, we’re trucking in aggregate from far-reaching places. We’re paying for the higher costs associated with that. Having this (quarry) is vital to the sustainability of our region.”
Watsonville-based Granite Construction is asking the Board of Supervisors to overrule a decision by the county planning commission last year to deny grading and zoning permits for the 414-acre Liberty Quarry.
Homeowner and environmental groups, as well as all of the area Indian tribes, are staunchly opposed to the project. Supporters include virtually all the chambers of commerce located within the county, along with officials from cities throughout the central and eastern county regions.
The project zone would lie just north of the boundary separating Riverside and San Diego counties, east of the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve and west of Temecula, adjacent to Interstate 15 and Rainbow Valley Boulevard.
Opponents argue the quarry would result in noise, pollution, drainage and habitat changes, with lasting repercussions. Additionally, members of the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians say the project threatens sacred cultural sites.
A final environmental impact report issued last March found that most land-use problems arising from the project could be mitigated. Planning commission staff recommended that the board vote in favor of it, providing various conditions were met.
Commissioners cited elevated levels of silica dust and other pollutants in the first two years of the project, the permanent impact on area aesthetics, including nighttime lights, and the adverse effects on area wildlife as reasons for opposition.
Granite Construction is seeking a 75-year operating window, during which it plans to remove an estimated five million tons of construction-grade aggregate — gravel and sand — from hillsides.
Around 100 direct jobs and nearly 200 collateral jobs would be created by the project, according to Granite. Planning commission staff estimated the quarry would add about $341 million annually to local government coffers.
The aggregate extracted at the mine would provide asphalt and concrete for roads, homes and other infrastructure projects, Granite officials said. A planning commission staff report indicated the mine would cut down on how far trucks have to transport aggregate for projects in northern San Diego County and southwest Riverside County.