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Granite Fires Back

Officials and experts for the company planning a mine near Temecula have their chance to fight back.

Officials and experts for Granite Construction had a chance to defend its planned quarry in front of county officials today.

They addressed the Board of Supervisors during the third hearing that will decide the fate of the project at the County Administrative Center.

For information on the quarry, click here.

All legitimate complaints about the quarry were addressed, and the project should be approved, Gary Johnson, the company's aggregate resource manager, told the board.

"We have reached out to every audience, changed and improved our plan (to allay concerns)," he said. "Over the last seven years, we have worked hard to bring you a project that works for Riverside County."

In the previous two public hearings, criticism focused on a document, called an "environmental impact report," that is crucial to the approval of a project.

To read the report, click here.

Opponents alleged the mining outfit "ignored data and misstated facts," Johnson said.

"That would mean the planning commission staff, health, state and federal regulators overlooked everything." he said. "The reality is, the county environmental impact report was a comprehensive evaluation. It was prepared by a host of technical experts ... Their work was reviewed by your staff."

To read about what critics said about the report, click here.

The air will be OK, Granite says

Russ Erbes, an air quality scientist hired by Granite, challenged opponents' claims that pollution would double in communities near the 414-acre quarry.

"This is wrong," Erbes told the board. "The total impacts are less than the air quality standards of the state. That's just at the project boundary, where nobody resides."

He said Granite's decision to use trucks with engines modified to burn clean diesel would result in a 50 to 90 percent reduction in particulate matter than would otherwise be possible with dump trucks that have standard engines.

To read about Granite's pledge to use clean trucks, click here.

Erbes repeatedly pointed to positive findings by the South Coast Air Quality Management District regarding the project's mitigation plans.

Supervisor Bob Buster countered that the agency had "long overlooked" pollution issues in Riverside County and was not immune to "political influence."

A video presented by Granite featured four area doctors, all of whom endorsed the project, including Coachella Valley anesthesiologist Reed Saunders, who disputed opponents' allegations that pollution generated by the quarry would pose a health risk to residents.

During a planning commission hearing last year, a group of 147 physicians from the Temecula Valley presented a document opposing the project, mostly because of what it would do to the air quality.

To read about what the physicians said, click here.

Granite's expert disagreed with them. "If what they're saying is true, we would have to believe all the quarries in Riverside County should be shut down," Saunders said.

The physician said there are eight quarries in the Coachella Valley, and none of them have the extensive mitigation provisions associated with the Liberty Quarry.

Last September, in their 4-1 vote against the project, planning commissioners cited elevated levels of silica dust and other pollutants in the first two years of the project, the permanent impact on the area's aesthetics and the adverse effects on area wildlife as reasons for their opposition.

To read about the quarry's rejection, click here.

Granite immediately appealed the commission's decision, leaving the board as the final decision-making body. To read what Granite officials said about the appeal, click here.

If the county denies the plan again, Granite will still have a few options to get the project built, though it will be an uphill battle, experts said. To read about the possibilities, click here.

Homeowner and environmental groups, as well as all of the area Indian tribes, are staunchly opposed to the project, arguing the quarry would result in noise, pollution, drainage and habitat changes, with lasting repercussions.

Members of the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians say the project
threatens sacred cultural sites. To see a video of what a Pechanga official said, click here.

The tribe event sponsored a piece of legislation protecting Indian sacred sites, which, if voted into law, would kill the project. To read about the legislation, click here.

City News Service contributed to this report.

Curt McDowell February 14, 2012 at 11:32 PM
It's ok everyone!! Granite says the air will be fine. Gosh too bad our Riverside Planning Commission had to waste literally months of their time looking at the EIR report and host all the hearings when all they really had to do is ask Gary Johnson. Instead they just willy nilly voted this down 4 to 1.
Candi Oliver February 15, 2012 at 01:37 AM
What is granite going to do keep appealing it until some one and has the right cash amount and says yes. Now the next thing they will say is the trucks have wings and don't cause road damage or noise
Sonny Lambert February 15, 2012 at 04:25 AM
Can we at least put this to a vote so we the people can decide to vote this project down!
Ken February 15, 2012 at 07:31 AM
oh and maybe they will offer all the residents air purifiers and silica masks
Ken February 15, 2012 at 07:32 AM
Look at those fat cats with grins on their faces they think they have it in the bag!
DAN PARKER February 15, 2012 at 01:12 PM
ok,ok if the quarry is small or large,,we dont need it,and if it is on tribal land it would be like going to the our graveyards and digging it up.get real we dont need it on matter what size it is,,,remember we vote you in,,and we can vote you out... we pay our taxes and we should be able to say what happens in our city....even if you dont like it..
Katheryn February 15, 2012 at 04:25 PM
Anyone interested should know the man sitting next to Gary Johnson is Granite Constructions attorney Mark Harrison, did you know that Mark Harrison is the attorney working for the City of Lake Elsinore when it comes to mining to help them retain their lead agency status. Those of you opposed to Liberty Quarry must NOT VOTE FOR MELISSA MELENDEZ OR Bob Magee from Lake Elsinore for Assembly. Between the two Magee is a better choice, if you believe you have to vote for someone from Lake Elsinore. Granite Construction is backing Melendez and mining can end up in your backyard Murrietta, Wildomar, Menifee, Canyon Lake. Particularly Canyon Lake when it it annexed back into Lake Elsinore. By the way it would be wise not to vote for Marianne Edwards either since she doesn't seem to care about children in Lake Elsinore who are exposed to the Silica Dust at the Boys and Girls Club across the street from Pacific Aggregates aggregate mine.. I believe Edwards seems to be another two face politician (watch the video she calls it SAFE). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bhckrqXX-L4 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yQKeNzUkofE&feature=related
TVOR February 15, 2012 at 07:13 PM
I see this as a simple matter of majority rule. If the supervisors allow this, they are going against more than 200 years of US policy.
JEFF ALLEN February 15, 2012 at 10:04 PM
Just look at those suits with the smug looks on their faces. It is as if they already know the outcome. Big business at its worst! There were 147 doctors who came out against this quarry citing the health threats. I find it laughable that granite cites four, and one is a anesthesiologist . What is he going to do??? Put us to sleep? "The air will be ok"..... That is reassuring, no worries then. If the suits say it is so, then it must be true right??? I don't think so.... This project has been vetted...it is the wrong project in the wrong spot. None og the other quarries are in a corrider of sea breezes that will spread the dust over populated areas. None are next to an ecological preserve, none are in a beautiful area full of scenic, green mountains. The ones i am aware of are eyesores, in the middle of a desert or within a destroyed hillside devoid of beauty or vegetation. The planning commission has spoken, the people directly affected have spoken....I just hope the members of the board listen and are not swayed by undue influence, power, or money. I hope they have the courage and integrity to do the right thing here. For they cannot afford to be wrong. 147 doctors have spoken, could their assertions be mistaken??? sure, but can we...should we take that chance? This is a beautiful area full of promise. Surely there are other areas to destroy...
MrSchmidty February 15, 2012 at 11:33 PM
I thought the Board of Supervisors favored the growth of Temecula Wine Country. I thought the Board of Supervisors look favorably on the restoration and growth of Old Town. I thought the tax revenues generated by these attractions and the growth in residential and commercial real property taxes were what the Board of Supervisors was looking for. Would the Board of Supervisors want to reverse the Temecula quality of life to the conditions that the area south of Corona suffered for over 30 years? Would the Board of Supervisors want to create another 91 Freeway traffic jam overflowing with gravel trucks right here in Temecula? I hope they have more sense than that.

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