The Riverside County Board of Supervisors held a second public hearing today on a strip mine proposed near Temecula, hearing from dozens of speakers, most of them opposed to the quarry over environmental and health concerns.
The number of speakers pushed the meeting past 7 p.m., and board Chairman John Tavaglione decided another hearing would be necessary to complete testimony on the project. The board agreed to hold a final hearing on Feb. 14 at the County Administrative Center.
"The quarry will present air quality issues that have a direct negative effect on the fastest-growing minority community, the disability community," Ruthie Goldcorn, a disability rights activist, said during today's meeting. "The economy of illness trumps the economy of the quarry."
Temecula resident Curtis Meyers told the board that "you can't breathe silica dust out."
"Granite Construction promises to curb operations when the winds reach 25 mph," Meyers said. "But it doesn't matter whether they're blowing 5 or 25 mph.
"What about the diesel exhaust? There will be additional pollution from those trucks driving slowly up hill, loading up and going back down, riding their brakes, each day, every day, decade after decade, in a concentrated area."
Hundreds of people came and went from the Riverside Convention Center to express their feelings on Watsonville-based Granite Construction's appeal of a decision by the county planning commission last year to deny grading and zoning permits for the 414-acre Liberty Quarry.
Former Temecula City Manager Shawn Nelson told the board that Granite had intentionally misled county staff about the existing amount of aggregate available in the county for construction projects to make its case for opening the pit.
"There is more than 70 years of available aggregate to support future growth in Riverside County," Nelson said. "We do not have an aggregate shortage in this county. More than two-thirds of the aggregate mined here will go south to San Diego County. If that's the case, why not build the Liberty Quarry in San Diego County?
"The citizens of Riverside County should not have to bear the significant negative impacts of this quarry just to provide aggregate to San Diego County."
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 escarpments 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.
About 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.
"Riverside County needs more aggregate ... for roads, schools and other public facilities," Menifee Mayor John Denver told the board during its first hearing last week.
"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."
Homeowner and environmental groups, as well as all of the area Indian tribes, are staunchly opposed to the project. Supporters include almost all the chambers of commerce located within the county, along with officials from cities throughout the central and eastern county regions.
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.
In their 4-1 vote against the project, members of the planning commission 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 their opposition.