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Azusa rejects plan to let company mine hills near Duarte

May 18, 2010 | 12:31 pm

Azusa city leaders early Tuesday rejected a plan from a mining company to dig into the hillside above San Gabriel Valley, a plan that residents in neighboring Duarte claimed would have removed a hilltop, stripped away vegetation and cut off access to a popular trailhead.

After a six-hour meeting, the Azusa City Council voted 3-2 against the mining proposal.

Vulcan Materials submitted a request last year to shift its operations at Fish Canyon to an area that borders Duarte. Vulcan had originally planned to mine an eastern section of its 270 acres, but said the land near Duarte is less visible, which is in keeping with Azusa’s general plan.

Environmental reports showed that the rock quarry would have no major effect on Duarte aside from aesthetics, but hundreds of Duarte residents flooded Azusa city meetings to voice their disapproval.

Azusa Mayor Joe Rocha said the presence of Duarte residents did not influence his decision to vote against the proposal.

“I questioned from the beginning the success of the revegetation plan,” Rocha said, referring to Vulcan’s promise of concurrent reclamation of the hillsides. The company planned to use a technique called micro-benching, leaving pyramid steps about 1 to 2 feet high. Rocha said he was wary of a revegetation plan that offered a 40% success rate.

“The money was very tempting -- $1.5 million right away, $500,000 on a yearly basis, $75,000 for a scholarship – but those did not outweigh my decision to do the right thing.”

Rocha said he is worried about a potential lawsuit from Vulcan which has a permit to mine Fish Canyon until 2038. “But on the flip side, Duarte said they would sue if we approved the plan,” Rocha said.

“So we just have to take it day by day.”

-- Corina Knoll