Opposition to the quarry has grown to “enormous proportions over these last years,” says Arganda. “I would guess we have well over 35,000 signatures on petitions. We have around 400 businesses and nonprofit groups individually signed up to oppose the quarry, and we have nearly 100 medical doctors who have publicly opposed the quarry.” Arganda mentions that recently the San Diego Sierra Club, with 14,000 members, also publicly announced its opposition to the quarry project.
Arganda feels there is a lack of response from San Diego politicians, despite the public outcry and protests.
“In my opinion, Supervisor Bill Horn should be involved,” says Arganda, noting that she has met with Horn at his office and spoken with his land-use planner several times. “Even though the mine is just over the county line, the effects will be devastating to San Diego County roadways,” she says. “The exit and entrance to the mine is in north San Diego County, at Rainbow Valley Boulevard, and 1600 truck trips per day would enter the freeway here.”
Supervisor Horn, whose district covers nearly 1800 square miles of northern San Diego County, including Fallbrook and Rainbow, has not taken a position on the quarry. According to his chief of staff, Joan Wonsley, “There was no need to take a position, because he never had any influence on their jurisdiction.” However, Wonsley says, “Supervisor Horn asked San Diego County staff to make comments that will be included in the EIR about the traffic issues related to the access road. The quarry access road does fall in our jurisdiction.”
Temecula pediatrician Daniel Robbins is one of a group of 93 area physicians who oppose the quarry.
“It has been well established that gravel quarries pose health risks,” says Robbins, who is especially concerned about the spread of silica dust through strong winds in the area.
“Microcrystalline silica is produced in the mining process,” says Robbins. “It is a particle small enough to enter the smallest part of our lungs, the alveoli, where oxygen is exchanged. They create inflammation in these air sacs, and over time, depending on the amount of exposure, lung damage can result.”
As a pediatrician, Robbins says he is worried about the effects on his patients. “I am concerned about the premature babies I care for who have underdeveloped lungs,” he says. “They would be especially at risk.”
Robbins notes that at least ten schools in south Temecula are close to the mine site. “These children will be outside playing during blasting times and while the wind is blowing,” he says.
Attendees at the commission hearing also included representatives of Granite Construction and supporters of the quarry project.
Granite Construction was pleased with the outcome of the hearing. “This is a big win for economic stimulus, local jobs, lower construction costs, improved traffic conditions, and better air quality,” says Karie Reuther, director of community relations for the company.
“There is a lot of support in the area for the proposed Liberty Quarry, based on the extensive outreach we have conducted in the last two to three years,” Reuther says, noting that the company has offered tours of similar facilities in Indio, held town hall meetings, and provided technical information on its website.
According to Reuther, Liberty Quarry would create 100 new local jobs and provide $2.2 million a year in new revenue to Riverside County. Air quality would be improved, she explains, by having aggregate locally available rather than hauled in from distant locations.
Reuther feels that the opposition to the project “stems from a lack of understanding or a failure to even bother with the facts.” She says that all of the relevant issues that have been raised by the community and regional agencies will be examined.
“These issues are being studied in extensive detail, and mitigation measures will be proposed to minimize any impacts, but the opposition is making claims that are not substantiated by scientific fact or independent studies,” she says.
Legal battles over quarry sites are not uncommon. According to Reuther, Rosemary’s Mountain Quarry in Fallbrook took 23 years to permit.
Fallbrook resident Richard Brady, a Liberty Quarry supporter, has worked in the sand and gravel business for many years. Brady feels that San Diego County’s construction industry needs the quarry. “San Diego County, as well as Southern California, has a serious shortage of aggregate,” he says.
Temecula resident Vince Davis also supports the quarry. He joined a pro-quarry advocacy group, Friends of the Liberty Quarry, about a year ago. Davis says he had been approached to sign a stop-the-quarry petition outside a grocery store two years ago and wanted to look into the issue.
“I wanted to do my own homework, so I went to an open house put on by Granite Construction. They brought in a team of experts to answer questions about the quarry. They had the dust guy, the sound guy, the traffic-study guy, the biologist — it wasn’t a lecture but a chance to come and get your questions answered,” says Davis.
Davis believes that the construction company has addressed all the potential problems. “Let’s take some of the issues — noise and silica dust, for example. All of these are legitimate issues, real issues. My question was, have they found a way to solve the problem?” says Davis. “The people on the opposite side of the issue don’t realize that with all of the new technology, all of the problems with dust and noise are solved.”
As to the benefits of the quarry, Davis responds, “The benefits to me personally, probably nothing, but the benefits to the community would be great. We need aggregate to make concrete, and San Diego has a shortage of it. Right now, they’re importing it from Corona and beyond. The quarry would be a lot closer to the target market,” he says. “When you build Petco Park, for example, you need a ton of construction materials. Downtown San Diego needs new asphalt for its streets. Having a closer source of these materials is going to save costs.”