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Massive Temecula quarry rejected by Riverside County supervisors

February 16, 2012 | 12:49 pm

Riverside County supervisors reject controvresial quarry
The Riverside County Board of Supervisors on Thursday rejected a proposed mammoth rock quarry on a mountain overlooking the Temecula Valley, ending seven years of debate that has roiled the southwest corner of the county.

The board voted 3-2 against the open-pit mine after four days of testimony and deliberation that attracted hundreds of union members in support of the rock mine and community members fighting it.

“There are just too many uncertainties to me," said Supervisor John Tavaglione, whose district includes several similar aggregate mines in Corona.

Tavaglione, a Republican candidate for Congress, appeared to be the swing vote from the outset and said he wrestled with the decision until the very end. Supervisors Jeff Stone of Temecula and Bob Buster of Riverside joined Tavaglione in opposition. Voting in favor were Supervisors John Benoit of Indio and Marion Ashley of Perris.

In September, the Riverside County Planning Commission rejected the application for the quarry -- to be known as the Liberty Quarry -- amid strong opposition from the city of Temecula and the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians. Watsonville-based Granite Construction, the developer, appealed that decision to the Board of Supervisors.

Granite wanted to operate a 414-acre rock quarry on a mountain that looms over Interstate 15. Liberty Quarry was expected to have produced about 270 million tons of granite over the next 75 years, supplying concrete and asphalt to fast-growing northern San Diego County and southwest Riverside County. Ultimately, the mine would have been 1,000 feet deep and more than a mile wide.

Gary Johnson, project manager for the proposed quarry, said one option for Granite may be to submit a recrafted proposal for the quarry.

The Temecula City Council spent more than $1 million fighting the quarry, including an unsuccessful attempt to annex the mine site into the city limits. Opponents said the rock dust from the mine posed an unacceptable health hazard, a claim Granite called baseless.

Pechanga tribal leaders also mounted an aggressive campaign against the mine, saying it was located on one of the Luisenos' most sacred sites.


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Photo: A proponent of the controversial Liberty Quarry speaks in favor of the Temecula site during the public hearing portion of the Riverside County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times