Surprise $20 million deal ends long running dispute over Temecula area strip mine

Granite Construction operations manager Gary Johnson at Rosemary Quarry near Temecula. The company is selling the land for a similar quarry nearby.
Granite Construction operations manager Gary Johnson at Rosemary Quarry near Temecula. The company is selling the land for a similar quarry nearby. Steven Cuevas/KPCC

After months of heated public hearings, the 350-acre Liberty Quarry mine project appeared to be on a fast track for approval by Riverside County supervisors.

But in a dramatic turn, the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians has purchased the land for the proposed quarry in a deal worth a reported $20 million dollars.

Watsonville-based mining firm Granite Construction has agreed to sell the land to the tribe for $3 million, plus $17 million to settle ongoing legal disputes.

For several years, Granite has pursued county approval for a 75-year permit to blast rock in the foothills near Temecula. Supporters said the quarry would bring good jobs to the area and generate millions in tax revenue.

But opponents, including the Pechanga tribe, said the quarry would hurt wildlife and air quality in the area. The tribe also opposed the quarry on religious grounds, saying the 150-acre project would desecrate land woven into its creation story.

In a statement, Pechanga chairman Mark Macarro said the purchase allows the tribe to preserve a small yet essential piece of historic land.

Under the deal, Granite Construction officials agreed not to operate a quarry in the area for at least 23 years. Granite’s chief executive said his company, which operates another quarry nearby, remains committed to growing its business in western Riverside County.

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