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Massive rock quarry proposed near Temecula is rejected

August 31, 2011 |  5:22 pm

Photo: The proposed quarry is on private land on Pu`éska Mountain, tucked within a series of peaks that the Pechanga Band and other Luiseño people believe is the cradle of creation and place of origin for all Luiseño. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times The Riverside County Planning Commission on Wednesday rejected a proposal for a massive rock quarry near Temecula that was strongly opposed by the city and the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians.

The commission voted 4 to 1 against Granite Construction’s plan for a 414-acre rock quarry operation on a mountain that looms over Interstate 15, a peak the Pechanga say is within one of the most sacred sites for all Luiseno people. Granite officials said they will appeal the decision to the Board of Supervisors.

Photos: Quarry plan meets resistance

Five public hearings have been held on the proposed project.

Granite's proposed Liberty Quarry would mine an estimated 270 million tons of granite from the mountain over the next 75 years, supplying concrete and asphalt to fast-growing northern San Diego County and southwest Riverside County.

Company officials have said there is a critical need for the construction material in the region, and that having a local quarry will take trucks off the highways and improve air quality. The company’s attorney has accused the tribe of providing "misstatements" in the past about the importance of the site.

The quarry is on private, nonreservation land just west of the U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint on Interstate 15.

To the Pechanga, the peak is called Pu`eska Mountain, a sacred site of the cremation of one of the First People, or Kaamalam, whose passing introduced death into the world.

The rock mine is opposed by Temecula -- which tried unsuccessfully to annex the mine property -- as well as local school districts, wineries and the local tourism council.

Opponents argue that the mine, with continuous mountaintop blasting and fleets of trucks hauling the aggregate, would create health hazards and devastate local property values.

More than 169 doctors in the region also mounted a campaign against the quarry, concerned that particulates from the blasting would be carried by coastal winds that blow west into the valley.

Granite officials and the South Coast Air Quality Management District found no evidence that the mining operation would endanger nearby neighborhoods.

Company officials added that the mine would produce 99 high-paying jobs and generate twice that number in indirect jobs in the region, figures disputed by an expert hired by the city.

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-- Phil Willon in Riverside

Photo: The proposed quarry is on private land on Pu`éska Mountain, tucked within a series of peaks that the Pechanga Band and other Luiseno people believe is the cradle of creation and place of origin for all Luiseno. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

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