In a turnaround that stunned observers, a massive mine near Temecula has been resurrected by the Riverside County Board of Supervisors.
The proposed Liberty Quarry would send 70% of its aggregate mining product south to San Diego. The siting decision could not be worse, directly adjacent to the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve (a scientific research facility for San Diego State University), on a mountain sacred to the Pechanga tribe, and downwind of the population center of Temecula. Better options include local sites that do not involve long distance trucking as well as importation of aggregate via ship, now being done in Los Angeles.
After first denying the project, the Supervisors then bewilderingly turned around and, on a divided vote, certified its Environmental Impact Report (EIR). This would allow the applicant to reapply at a later date, immune to legal challenge of the EIR. The swing vote on the Board, Supervisor John Tavaglione, had clearly shifted ground, and indeed called for a “compromise” project. Sure enough, the applicant – Granite Construction – quickly proposed a modestly scaled back design that does not fundamentally alter the impacts.
When the Board changed its existing policies to allow “fast tracking” of mines, the writing was on the wall that approval would eventually occur. Litigation against the certification of the EIR has been filed by the City of Temecula and Save our Southwest Hills. We thank Supervisors Jeff Stone and Bob Buster for courageously leading the opposition to the quarry.