Riverside County closes public hearings over contested strip mine

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Steven Cuevas/KPCC

Supporters and opponents of Liberty Quarry project have have packed hearings on the proposed mine for years.

Supervisors listened to more than 16 hours of public comment over three marathon hearings. Supporters of the 110-acre Liberty Quarry include local chambers of commerce, labor unions and residents from across the region.

They say Liberty will mine hundreds of jobs and millions in annual tax revenue.

“For the last seven years we’ve worked hard to bring you a project that works for this county," says Gary Johnson, the project's manager. "To address concerns, we’ve added mitigation and additional layers of oversight and monitoring. We’ve worked with community groups and regulators to develop forward-looking programs that will change the way we do business, and raise the bar for others.”

Critics worry about the mile-wide quarry’s potential impact on an ecological reserve, and on land the Pechanga Indian Tribe considers sacred.

County planners denied Liberty quarry’s permit last year.

Supervisors have given little indication of how they might vote. But Supervisor Jeff Stone, who aggressively questioned Liberty’s team of experts, has his doubts about the project. Stone lives in Temecula.

"And certainly people that came to the Valley for the beautiful air didn’t expect that we’d be here today talking about a mine that is the size of 300 Rose Bowls," said Stone. "What happens if there is dust and we see a decimation of agriculture? Would that not take a toll on our abilities to provide jobs and export our resources worldwide?”

The board is expected to make a decision on the Liberty Quarry on Thursday.

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