Environment & Science

Riverside County Planning Commission hears arguments over contested Temecula rock quarry

Hundreds of people are crowded into Temecula church for a marathon land-use hearing on Tuesday over a proposed strip mine. The proposal would carve the Liberty Quarry into the foothills a few miles south of Temecula. Dozens of people are expected to speak for and against the project.

It’s the first of a pair of Riverside County Planning Commission hearings over the proposed 155-acre Liberty Quarry. Workers there would use explosives to blast rock for use in cement and asphalt. Supporters say the open-pit mine would generate dozens of high-paying jobs and millions of dollars in annual tax revenue. Project manager Gary Johnson says it’s an ideal location.

“The EIR shows it meets a critical need,” says Johnson. “It is zoned for mining, and has been since before the city of Temecula incorporated. It’s hidden from view behind ridge lines, you won’t know it’s there because you won’t be able to see it, hear it or feel it…”

Quarry officials also claim the mine will improve air quality by cutting down on big rig shipments from aggregate sources outside the area. But the company also predicts that trucks will make about 700 trips a day ferrying material to and from the site. Johnson insists there is no credible health risk. But many opponents say work at the quarry would generate clouds of hazardous silica dust and damage a nearby ecological reserve.

A Riverside County planning report recommends approval of a slightly scaled down quarry. The planning commission will hold at least one more meeting before it makes a decision. If the project gets the okay, it would still need approval from the county board of supervisors.