Environment & Science

Over 1,000 attend second Riverside County hearing over contested Temecula rock quarry

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More than 1,000 people filled a Temecula mega-church Tuesday for another contentious hearing over a proposed gravel mine. Liberty Quarry would be carved into the foothills a few miles south of downtown Temecula. Opponents worry the quarry is bad for human health and the environment.

Northern California company Granite Construction is seeking a 75-year permit to blast and crush rock for use in cement and asphalt. Opponents worry Liberty Quarry would generate hazardous silica dust.

A city of Temecula analysis calls it "inappropriate” for the location – near an ecological preserve.

"They want to dynamite a 1,000-foot deep, mile-long hole in the hills near my house for 75 years," says Cynthia Meyers. "Perhaps the CEO of Granite should ask that it be blasted in the ground near his home."

Meyers is among hundreds of Liberty Quarry opponents who’ve been turning out for the marathon hearings. "Please don’t allow a giant corporation to inflict this noisy and obnoxious scar on our communities. Please give us liberty from this quarry, thank you."

Much of the opposition hinges on the possible health risks of open-pit mining – concerns that quarry supporters like Colette Grant say are overblown. Grant is a Temecula pediatrician.

"I have searched the medical literature particularly as it applies to children," says Grant, "and discussed the concerns of silicosis with specialists. I have found no link between silica and pathology in the pediatric population."

Quarry officials claim the mine will actually improve air quality by cutting down on big rig shipments from aggregate sources outside the area. Liberty trucks will still make about 700 trips a day to and from the site.

The quarry is also appealing to supporters like Colette Grant because it could generate about 100 high-paying jobs and millions in annual tax revenue. “And I expect to see my neighbors and patients benefit from the jobs created, taxes generated and community services that Granite will continue to provide," says Grant.

A Riverside County planning report calls the quarry environmentally sound. But planning commissioners say that doesn’t guarantee approval.

The commission is expected to hold at least one more public hearing before making a decision. If Liberty gets the OK, it would still need approval from the Riverside County Board of Supervisors.