The Temecula City Council moved to give its city attorney the ability to file a motion that questions the validity of the environmental impact report for Granite Construction’s Liberty Quarry, just as the quarry moved to resubmit a revised application for a smaller Liberty Quarry near Temecula. According to a press release from Granite Construction, the scaled-down project includes unprecedented per-ton fees to Riverside County’s General Fund and will generate 662 jobs and have significantly fewer environmental impacts.
At the council meeting held on July 24, Peter Thorson, the Temecula city attorney, was given permission to move forward on the motion after the board agreed to challenge whether or not the certification of the EIR was valid or not, as the project had previously been denied by the county.
The Riverside board of supervisors voted in February, 2012 to go against county staff recommendation and vote against the project, however they voted to certify the 8500-page environmental impact report for the proposed 414-acre Liberty Quarry, which was a surprise to quarry opponents.
Riverside County’s Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR), released last year, concluded the County would be better off economically and environmentally with Liberty Quarry and by taking the trucks that are presently bringing aggregate from other areas off the road, Liberty Quarry would actually improve the region’s air quality.
Chairman John Tavaglione, who had voted to deny the quarry, was the swing vote in favor of the EIR certification, saying he wanted to give Granite an ”opportunity to come up with some level of project (in the future) that works.”
“We believe that if you deny the project, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) process is ended,” said Bob Johnson, Temecula’s city manager. “It is not an appropriate action.”
Johnson stated that he feels the city’s decision was appropriate, as the officials are opposed to the quarry.
“We have spent $1.5 million challenging the validity of the EIR,” he said. “The quarry damages the health of the community, destroys environmental linkage, reduces our water level, creates air quality issues, and causes traffic issues that are negative in the community. There is absolutely nothing about the quarry in that location that we can support.”
Johnson also stated that the quarry is not located in a place that was beneficial to the community.
“It is a bad location for the quarry, and it should be in a different location because it is in the wind corridor that comes from the Pacific Ocean and right into the city. We are vehemently against it.”
However, Johnson also clarified that the city was not attempting to block Granite Construction’s right to resubmit a new application, but was merely challenging the action taken by the board of supervisors to certify the EIR.
According to a press release submitted by Granite Construction, the revised Liberty Quarry Project is smaller and its potential impacts are less than those of the original project as studied in the Liberty Quarry EIR which was certified by the Riverside County Board of Supervisors in May. Changes in the application for the revised project include:
Establishment of a proposed $0.20 per ton fee that will generate $92 million in new revenue for Riverside County of which an estimated $61.3 million will be paid by San Diego County users
30% reduction in life of the project (25 fewer total years)
20% reduction in maximum truck trips per day (160 fewer truck trips/day)
25% reduction in maximum aggregate production over the life of the project (reduced from 235 million to 174 million tons over the life of the project)
20% reduction in annual production (1 million fewer tons per year)
30% reduction in mining depth (300 feet)
Mining activity will be restricted to daylight hours only
Reducing the size, production, hours of operation and depth of Liberty Quarry will result in corresponding and significant reductions in the number of truck trips, the project life and the annual tonnage, said Gary Johnson, aggregate resource development manager for Granite Construction.
Along with the conventional sales and property taxes, the establishment of an unprecedented per-ton fee will generate hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue for Riverside County. Liberty Quarry will generate an estimated 662 on-site, indirect and construction jobs.
“The revised Liberty Quarry project will create hundreds of new jobs and provide a new source of ongoing revenue for Riverside County to support public safety and other public services,” Johnson said. “At the same time, this revised proposal substantially reduces the potential environmental impacts of the project.”
Granite has requested that the Board fast track the project, which is consistent with Board Policy A32 recognizing “…the value of commercial and industrial development in the county through the provision of employment opportunity, support for various government services and of the contribution of such investments to the general economic wellbeing of the county.”
City Manager Bob Johnson said, “We disagree with the board’s action regarding the certification, that is what we are challenging. The quarry has the right to resubmit if they want.”