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Granite Construction Jumps The Gun

Granite Construction erroneously posts news item on its Liberty Quarry website.

Mining projects in Riverside County are not being “fast-tracked” – yet.

The county reminded Granite Construction of this point last week after the company erroneously posted the following news item on its Liberty Quarry website: "We are pleased that the (Riverside County Board of Supervisors) has updated its policy to make mining applications eligible for the same fast-track consideration as other commercial and industrial projects.”

County supervisors have yet to vote on amended ordinances that would allow fast-track review procedures on mines, reclamation projects and other large-scale enterprises.

The Californian reported that Riverside County spokesman Ray Smith reminded Granite that final amendments were still pending the supervisors' approval. The snafu has since been corrected on the Liberty Quarry website.

In the meantime, county attorneys are drafting proposed amendments for board consideration. The work follows a contentious 4 1/2-hour meeting in July in which a divided Board of Supervisors approved the proposal to amend county ordinances to enable expediting reviews of projects -- including the heavily opposed Liberty Quarry mining project near Temecula -- using a fast-track process.

Supervisors voted 3-2 to add surface mines to the list of projects that can bypass the county's planning commission and head straight to the supervisors for consideration -- a process known as fast-tracking.

Supervisors Bob Buster and Jeff Stone were the dissenting votes.

Dozens of people crowded into the County Administrative Center in downtown Riverside in July for the board's final meeting before summer recess, with many attendees addressing the supervisors about the controversial Liberty Quarry.

The board voted down the proposed 414-acre mining operation at Rainbow Canyon Road and Interstate 15 in February. However, in an unexpected turn three months later, the swing voter against the project, Chairman John Tavaglione, sided with Supervisors Marion Ashley and John Benoit in certifying an environmental impact report that concluded many of the mine's negatives could be mitigated.

By accepting the EIR, the county left open the door for Watsonville-based Granite Construction to return with a modified plan for mining the site. Last week, the company did just that, proposing a scaled-down version of its original proposed quarry.

The company asked the Department of Planning to consider fast-tracking its application for permits. However, county ordinances do not allow for expedited vetting of proposed mines.

At virtually the same time as Granite's announcement, Benoit introduced a proposal to revise county regulations so that mines, too, can receive fast-track approval, meaning a project could be out of the review stage and voted on by the board in 90 days.

"This would be designed to allow for certain types of projects that have job-creating potential to have a quicker turnaround time," Benoit said.

Opponents of Liberty Quarry believe the pit mine would produce health-damaging levels of silica dust, mar area aesthetics, ruin rural peace, add to road congestion and permanently alter landscapes that the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians consider sacred.

"Mr. Benoit, like a Sacramento veteran working on behalf of one of your largest campaign contributors, you've led the county to this shameful day," said Temecula City Councilwoman Maryann Edwards. "[By fast-tracking] you want to sidestep due process and avoid scrutiny. When you make decisions like this, you must think long-term."

Temecula Mayor Chuck Washington reminded the board that the city is suing the county to have the Liberty Quarry EIR invalidated.

"Why would you change your laws to allow impactful mining projects all over Riverside County?" Washington said. "This isn't a minor change; this is a major change. Mr. Benoit, can you imagine considering a proposal to make the entire Tahquitz Canyon a quarry after just a 90-day review? Fast track bypasses a valuable review process carried out by the planning commissioners."

Temecula resident and civic activist Paul Jacobs accused Benoit of setting the stage for a district-versus-district "civil war" by plowing ahead with fast-tracking plans.

Speakers, and even Supervisor Jeff Stone, whose district encompasses Temecula, asked Benoit to respect district boundaries by tabling any plans to further Granite's interests.

Benoit replied that the company had been a "friend" to the Coachella Valley, providing steady jobs and respecting environmental concerns for decades. He denied receiving anything more than "modest" campaign contributions from the company over the last three years.

"There's a lot of emotion here today," the supervisor said. "I'm surprised by some of the hurtful, unsubstantiated attacks impugning my reputation. But people are using emotion instead of facts."

The supervisor reiterated his support for the Liberty Quarry, noting that having a site producing construction-grade aggregate -- asphalt and gravel -- in southwest Riverside County would dramatically reduce the amount of truck traffic countywide and lower the cost of residential and commercial building in the western county region.

Stone retorted that 70 percent of the aggregate would be going to neighboring San Diego County.

"We need to do the right thing and not fast-track this project," the supervisor said. "Let's review it prudently and responsibly so there's not even the appearance of impropriety. I don't want this county to take over the headlines like that other county [San Bernardino] has.

"I promise you that this project will not reduce unemployment by one- thousandth of one percent," Stone added. "This is all smoke and mirrors ... We cannot sacrifice the health and welfare of the citizens of this county."

Tavaglione, again, was the swing vote, saying he supported implementing fast-track authorizations for "every project in the county," if such were possible.

"I'll be damned if I'm going to let this become an election issue," Tavalgione, who is running for a congressional seat, told the crowd of quarry opponents. "There are some of you trying to make it that ... We need to do everything we can to turn this economy around."

According to Granite, the revised quarry project would entail a 45-year operating window, instead of 75 years, as was originally proposed.

More than 60 permanent jobs would be created at the site, with several hundred indirect jobs resulting from the project, according to the company. There would be 160 fewer truck trips to and from the site per day; the total amount of aggregate removed from the mine would be reduced from 235 million to 174 million tons; the mine depth would be 300-feet less; and mining activity would be restricted to daylight hours.

Currently, some commercial projects can be fast-tracked if they create 40 or more full-time jobs, result in at least $5 million in capital investment or generate at least $12.5 million taxable sales.

teachintemec August 19, 2012 at 02:32 PM
One word: Corruption.
justlikeitsounds August 19, 2012 at 02:47 PM
Funny they don't report that Tavaglione changed his vote after a weekend boating trip with a "Large Equipment Company" rep...
Michael Crawford August 19, 2012 at 03:05 PM
You can bet if any of the Riverside County Supervisors who voted FOR this project lived in the Temecula area, they would be voting differently. Smells like corruption to me.. IT IS AN ELECTION ISSUE....VOTE THEM OUT!
Dave August 19, 2012 at 03:18 PM
Here is what Granite gets for their donation to Benoit: 1. Certified Environmental report. Keep in mind San Diego County will not allow this type of mining because of the adverse impact to the residents and environment. 2. Fast Tracked Application. This bypasses the critical review process that has been in place for many years. The fast track process is to be used in cases when there is an immediate threat to public safety. The city of Dallas just did this in order to address the West Nile problem they have. 3. Guaranteed vote: See article above for evidence. You are an idiot if you do not see the connection here. This issue is a case study in local government corruption that will be referenced for years. By the way, if 1 out of 100 people choose to move over this quarry issue, the number of homes for sale will double driving the market down by at least 10% to 15%. Bad air and a further depressed housing market do not seem worth the 60 jobs this project will create.
wolfcreek August 19, 2012 at 03:36 PM
The smirk on Granite Fat Cat Gary Johnson says it all, “They are in our hip pocket”.
SPB August 19, 2012 at 03:44 PM
I think Temecula needs a group of people that follow Tavaglione around and just Boo him where ever he goes. Grocery store, dates with his wife, kids activities, whatever. Just boo. If our quality of life means nothing to him, why should his mean anything to us?
RB August 19, 2012 at 04:39 PM
who is running against Tavaglione for Congress? I want to send a donation.
Candi Oliver August 19, 2012 at 04:51 PM
What is going to be done about Tavaglione, this looks like a conflict of interest if he is fratenizing with Granite. What does the smirk on Granites' representative tell you, he knows something we do not! You Supervisors are going to ruin our beautiful town and throw it in the mix with Riverside, Moreno Valley Etc. I wish we were in San Diego County, they would fight for us!
mnm August 19, 2012 at 05:04 PM
The power is in exposing and keeping this issue alive both in the press and voting booth. And we need to demand an investigation into Benoit and Travaglione's actions and donors. Conflict of interest? Only if you aren't a big mining corporation!
Shannan Buffolino August 19, 2012 at 05:35 PM
I agree with every comment above..Its just insane that us twmecula area homeowners have to feel so helpless to have no one to save us from having to deal with the selfish careless decision of one or two people who are so blantantly obvious that THEY want to let their bribe buddies (fishing buddies)(quarry)get what they want . They don't care and it shouldn't be their decision when it is something that affects the people who live here. Its not like they r voting for a new school.park to put here or even a business that will bring revenue for all pf Riverside county..but this is not just a buainess. It is a proven destroyer of air health etc and if u look anywhere else that jas a mining co..just look at the skies above..most days..on top of everything else..they want to ruin our beautiful blue temecula skies..well I don't think wd will ldt them make that decision for us...theze 2 or 3 board members need to be overuled. .
Shannan Buffolino August 19, 2012 at 05:37 PM
Sorry for typos above..I was so angry and typing fast on small phone keyboard
Shannan Buffolino August 19, 2012 at 06:30 PM
So many people from all over are becoming more intested in our area (temecula/murrieta..more businesses that we welcome because they are BENEFICIAL to our revenue.and promote good things for our community.. wild rivers water park which was huge in irvine..is now moving HERE..they know that this is a desirable family oriented community and They Are a business that will provide some revenue..taxes for riverside county and this kind of business is the kind that is different than business that has so many negative affects that the people who actually LIVE here amd come here should have that decision. Its OUR home and we have to protect it from those who don't care as long as they get to vote and get money from the VERY people who paid for the vote.. I wonder how much money they give a year from now to these guys when they don't get to put the quarry here.. I bet they find other people that they will want to bribe for their next project.
Alan Salls August 19, 2012 at 06:46 PM
At least we (Temecula residents) do have our City Council behind us (and Jeff Stone, who used to be a Temecula City Councilman) if that means anything. I don't know what it's worth though, when you clearly have at least two of the Supervisors being bought off. Amen to everything everyone above has said, and may God be with us through this process, AGAIN.
wolfcreek August 19, 2012 at 07:26 PM
Signs need to be made showing “The Smirk”. That smirk more than anything shows how confident Granite Construction is in forcing Liberty Quarry down our throats.
David Shisler August 19, 2012 at 08:13 PM
I find it hard to understand why elected officials would vote for something that a whole community is against. Its sounds a little crazy. They're suppose to be representing us. Up wind from our homes they want to allow a company to create noise, air, smell and water pollution, disrespect the local tribes heritage site, and disrupt a wildlife reserve, and place more big rig traffic on our freeway. The three amigos need to go!
Denise Lemeiux August 19, 2012 at 09:54 PM
I will vote them out. They need to think of the people of Temecula. And not there political agenda. 60 Jobs is a joke. We will loss the so much more from granite than 600 jobs are worth . There thinks of them selfs. And we all know it.
Delvina Fiducia August 20, 2012 at 01:13 AM
I think we can only vote for or against the supervisor for the 3rd district. If I'm wrong, please let me know. Just as we will not get to vote for or against Mr. Tavaglione because he is running for congressman form the 44th district and we are not in that district. I too heard about that boating trip (right after he switched his stand) and I think it is despicable!
Paul Jacobs August 20, 2012 at 06:39 AM
You mean the City Council that gave up the annexation area and the sphere of influence without a fight? You mean the City Council that trusted the distant County supervisors to decide our fate? You mean the City Council that said a complaint should be filed with the Grand Jury and District Attorney over LAFCO, but did nothing?
Patrick Wilson Jr. August 20, 2012 at 08:31 AM
I fear that if the quarry is fast tracked and opened, there goes the peace and serenity that the valley has now. The clear air, the calm atmosphere, will all be gone and we will just be another city in the Soutnern California sprawl like San Bernardino..
Tim August 20, 2012 at 12:12 PM
They didn't jump gun on the posting. It's already a fact of life for the currupt quarry comp and bribees. We just haven't been told yet.
Troy Sage August 20, 2012 at 01:03 PM
I totally agree..... Remember the three amigos don't live in Temecula so they don't care, Their goals are to stay in office and help their buddies and financial supporters. What a bunch of CRAP!!!!
Stefani August 20, 2012 at 01:59 PM
Did the EIR report point out the all the Granite trucks would enter onto the I-15 at Rainbow Canyon after the CHP truck stop. This means that they can overload their trucks and will also miss truck safety inspections.
5150 August 20, 2012 at 03:08 PM
Recall petition, Recall them bums out!!.
5150 August 20, 2012 at 03:11 PM
Temeculas city coucil are all Gutless Turds and need to be booted out too.
Diane Walden August 20, 2012 at 05:11 PM
We were walking the Sports Park the other night and stopped to look at the big contributors to the Ronald Reagan Memorial. Right near the top was a name not part of the community (yet and hopefully never): Granite Construction Company. Check it out yourselves. Why would a company from another area contribute to a small local memorial?
Alan Salls August 20, 2012 at 08:17 PM
This comment is uncalled for. Not only is it untrue, it has nothing to do with the matter being discussed. The quarry is not within the Temecula City limits. The Temecula City Council has taken a strong stance against the quarry, however, which they should be commended for.
KB August 20, 2012 at 10:46 PM
We need a sign campaign along Temecula parkway and Winchester reminding residents not to vote for Tavalgione.
Stanley August 21, 2012 at 04:54 AM
Silica dust causes cancer. I hope the new hospital has a cancer wing.
Don August 22, 2012 at 12:12 AM
K.B. sorry to tell you, but we can't vote for or against Tavaglione because he is not in our district. If you have any friends in Corona, you could tell them not to vote for him.
Duane Pudgil August 22, 2012 at 04:43 AM
Of course Granite would publish great news for them before it's been approved by the County Supervisors... Granite is positive are at least one Supervisor ( Benoit ) has been bought and paid for. I you believe Benoit's statement that he has only received "anything more than "modest" campaign contributions from the company over the last three years.", I have beach front property in Ocotillo Wells for sale.

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