Asphalt Tar Spill Fouls 'pretty special creek'!

Sandia Creek runs through a good portion of San Diego County (Fallbrook)
as well as Riverside County.
Multiply the chances of this happening again by hundreds (1600 truck trips
per day) if Liberty quarry is approved.

PRESS ENTERPRISE    October 26, 2012
BY SARAH BURGE    sburge@pe.com
DE LUZ: Asphalt tar spill fouls 'pretty special creek'
A cleanup crew works Wednesday, Oct. 24, to remove asphalt tar that fouled a
stretch of Sandia Creek in the rural De Luz area west of Temecula.
Hundreds of gallons of asphalt tar that spilled from an overturned truck this week in the rural De Luz area west of Temecula flowed into the pristine Sandia Creek and cleanup of the mucky mess is expected to take days, authorities said.
A petroleum scent hung in the air around the creek Wednesday, Oct. 24, as crews in hazmat suits shoveled contaminated soil into buckets and pumped water flowing from upstream around the spill area blocked with containment booms. The asphalt tar - a heavy, sticky petroleum product - coated vegetation and sank to the bottom of the creek.
The California Department of Fish and Game is overseeing the cleanup, which is being performed by a private contractor hired by the asphalt company that caused the spill. A Fish and Game news release described Sandia Creek as one of the last pristine, free-flowing creeks in Southern California.

"This is a pretty special creek for Southern California," said Lt. Michael Horn, the incident commander for Fish and Game. "It has really nice habitat in it and it does maintain a year-round flow."
"This is actually a tributary to the Santa Margarita River, which runs to the Pacific Ocean," Horn said. "But we're a substantial distance from the river."
Horn said about 600 gallons of the tar spilled but it's unclear how much flowed into the creek. Authorities said initially that the spill had been contained to a 300-yard stretch, but Horn said water flowing through the site had spread some of the oily substance farther downstream. Biologists are investigating possible effects on wildlife, he said.
Luckily, Horn said, the creek flow has been low so the spill has been largely contained.
Crews have not found any sensitive species harmed by the spill, but a tree frog and 16 mosquito fish were found dead, officials said.
Janna Rinderneck and Daniel Orr, environmental scientists with the Department of Fish and Game, said the creek is home to species of concern such as the coastal range newt and the arroyo chub. It also lies within the range of the arroyo toad, a federally listed endangered species, Orr said.
The spill happened about 12:30 p.m. Monday when a truck overturned along De Luz Road near Sandia Creek, said California Highway Patrol Officer Nathan Baer. The driver took a turn too fast, Baer said, and the load of water, sand and asphalt tar oil in the truck shifted.
The asphalt tar flowed out of the tanker, along the roadside and into the creek several yards away.
"It just got worse and worse," Baer said.
The name of the driver and the asphalt company were not available Wednesday, Baer said.

Second Suit to Stop Fast-Tracking

Second suit to stop fast-tracking

Wearing their trademark orange and waving orange hats, Liberty Quarry opponents attend a Riverside County Board
of Supervisors hearing on the project. A fourth quarry-related lawsuit seeks to stop the county from putting the
 project on the planning fast track.
Another lawsuit has been filed to stop Riverside County from speeding up the review process for surface mines such as the proposed Liberty Quarry.
The suit filed in Riverside Superior Court on Tuesday, Oct. 23, by Save Our Southwest Hills is the fourth legal action regarding the quarry. The citizens group, a leading voice in the quarry opposition movement, is a plaintiff in another quarry-related case, and the city of Temecula has filed two quarry-related suits as well.
The latest suit seeks to overturn the county Board of Supervisors' September decision to add surface mines to the list of projects eligible for fast-tracking, which allows projects to skip the Planning Commission and go straight to the board for approval.
The change could lead to quicker action on the quarry sought for a 414-acre site bordering Temecula. Quarry developer Granite Construction submitted a revised quarry application this summer after supervisors voted 3-2 in May to reject the original proposal.
The suit alleges the county violated the California Environmental Quality Act by saying the fast-track changes were exempt from the act without supporting the exemption through adequate study.
The county also ran afoul of state law and its own land-use ordinance when it failed to have the Planning Commission hold a public hearing on the changes, the suit alleges. And the changes weren't brought to the State Mining & Geology Board for proper review, the suit argues.
County lawyers will review the suit once the county is served and "the county will determine the best course of response," county spokesman Ray Smith wrote in an email.
Earlier this month, Temecula officials filed their own fast-tracking suit. The suit makes similar arguments to the Save Our Southwest Hills litigation, and both plaintiffs want a restraining order blocking the county from using fast-tracking for surface mines.
Save Our Southwest Hills and Temecula also are parties in a separate legal action to de-certify the quarry's environmental impact report, an 8,500-page study paid for by Granite and reviewed by county planners that makes the case for the quarry.
County supervisors in May certified the report even though they denied the quarry. Granite and county lawyers contend the report's certification is legally justified.
The quarry is one of the most contentious land-use projects in county history. First proposed in 2005, the quarry would use explosive blasts to extract aggregate, a construction material consisting of tiny rocks. Asphalt and concrete would also be made on-site.
Granite and its supporters, including trade unions and business groups, say the quarry would support high-paying jobs, generate millions in taxes for the county and help the economy bounce back.
Temecula officials, environmentalists and others contend the quarry would devastate the Temecula Valley with air pollution, truck traffic and damage to a neighboring ecological reserve, among other harmful effects. The Pechanga Band of LuiseƱo Indians maintains the quarry would obliterate a sacred tribal site.


Wrong move on fast tracking

EDITORIAL: Wrong move on fast tracking

The decision by the Riverside County Board of Supervisors to gut its own project review process is unfortunate and should be reconsidered.
On Tuesday, the supervisors by a 3-2 vote authorized "fast track" review for mines, solar and wind power plants that would skip the county's Planning Commission.
Well, maybe it's because quarries and solar and wind power projects are so desperately needed that using the normal process is intolerable; but that assumption would be naive.
The move was made because a majority of the board doesn't want to hear the public howl.
The beneficiary is, of course, Granite Construction and its proposed Liberty Quarry.
That project, which had been the subject of years of controversy, was turned down in February ---- much to the cheers of local residents.
However, several maneuvers brought it back to life.
First, Supervisor John Tavaglione, who voted against the original project in February, surprisingly supported an after-the-fact approval of the quarry's environmental impact report in May.
Granite then returned to the game by revising its plans and scaling the project back slightly. It proposed to mine 4 million tons of rock a year instead of 5 million tons, over 50 years instead of 75.
Now Tavaglione, with Supervisors John Benoit and Marion Ashley, is poised to give Granite a break by not pushing the "new" proposal back to the Planning Commission, where public hearings would again provide an opportunity for the outraged citizenry to complain.
And opponents predict the majority will try to approve the quarry before Tavaglione leaves the board, assuming he is elected next month to a Riverside-area seat in Congress. It is anticipated he would be replaced by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown with a more liberal supervisor who is more likely to oppose the project.
Adoption of a transparent planning process applicable to all who propose projects is a sensible way to govern.
Twisting the process to give special treatment to Granite does little but make residents view government as the captured interest of special interest. It creates cynicism and devalues the democracy.

Granite's certified EIR simply unjustified

The residents west of Granite's property start at 1,300 feet. After seven years of hearing "nothing lay to the west of the site" or the nearest community was two to three miles away, why does Granite's new application now admit there are residents west of the quarry site, though our valley wasn't considered in the certified environmental impact report?
Neither were the eight neighboring wells in our area that the valley relies on for water ---- and we're not the Rainbow Valley.
Granite told us our area's noise level already exceeds the county's noise standard (readings taken from a sound receptor three miles away) and that's why they need a "Noise Ordinance Exemption." Now the new application admits our area would be impacted by their noise. Hey, I thought the certified EIR had no faults.
We were told the quarry won't impact our water table (elevation 1,260 feet). Yet the new application decreased the pit down 700 feet, (elevation 1,310) drawing into question Granite's previous EIR statement. Leeching of contaminates will still enter our ground water and along our seasonal stream feeding local wells. Extensions can come later as did with Granite's Rosemary's Mountain recently to level the mountain, though it still sits idle.
The EIR's geological maps are incorrect, our valley is not of granite. It's porous and fractures easily.
Granite touted that the quarry would generate massive revenues for Riverside County. It was discovered the tax revenues would benefit San Diego. Something the Planning Commission hearings uncovered. So why didn't Granite offer Riverside County an added incentive of $0.20 a ton from the start? What false delusions are enticing the county?
Granite states the aggregate would be mainly for San Diego County, saving truck miles and improving air quality, yet they've shown an interest in the Highway 91 interchange project up north. Loaded trucks, headed north, chug, chug.
The vetting of Granite's first application took a long time, which is now an excuse used for fast tracking. If Granite didn't do such slipshod work, it would have saved time. It took the community to uncover the truth.
Yet, the Riverside County Planning Department found the 8,500-page EIR with not one thing wrong. The Planning Commission on the other hand thought it was biased and the benefits didn't outweigh the negative impacts.
With so many negative aspects of the project, why would Supervisors John Tavaglione, John Benoit and Marion Ashley be poised to fast track it to avoid doing the EIR correctly? Why would our public watchdogs be so quick to push the public away like a banana republic? The California Environmental Quality Act desires input from local residents to uncover any facts the bean counters missed.
It reminds me of that Allstate television commercial where the burglars throw "Mr. Mayhem," the watchdog, a huge bone to distract him, while the burglars ransack the house. The watchdog says, "Thanks guys, you're swell."
Granite's new application is proof that the certified EIR was flawed and unjustly certified. "Too many unknowns," as Tavaglione put it, before he flip-flopped.

Stone accuses Benoit of breaking 'unwritten rule

As far as Jeff Stone was concerned, Riverside County supervisors' decision to make quarries eligible for fast-track review wasn't merely bad public policy, but also a violation of an "unwritten rule."
He was talking about a general practice of letting the local supervisor take the lead on a major land-use issue arising within his district.
"I ask my fellow supervisors to please keep our unwritten rule to allow each supervisor to lead or oppose efforts in each of our respective districts," Stone said.
By that, Stone meant he, not Supervisor John Benoit of the Palm Springs area, should have been the one to introduce ---- or not introduce ---- the newly approved measure that could lead to a quick approval for Granite Construction Co.'s proposed Liberty Quarry near Temecula.
Stone asserted that Benoit's predecessor wouldn't have intervened in perhaps the most controversial issue ever to hit Southwest County's 3rd District.
"I had a great working relationship with former Supervisor Roy Wilson, may he rest in peace," Stone said in a Sept. 25 meeting. "I don't believe Supervisor Roy Wilson would have this agenda item forcing his will on my constituents without my blessing."
Unwritten though it may be, former officials said, the deference rule has been in place many years in Riverside County.
"I never saw the memo that explained the unwritten rule," said Larry Parrish of Rancho Mirage, who served as the county's chief executive 16 years. "It's not in the manual."
And it's certainly not a law, said former Supervisor Norton Younglove of Riverside, who was on the Board of Supervisors for 24 years.
Nevertheless, Parrish said the board long has had a practice of letting a supervisor make a motion on an agenda item concerning a project in his or her area.
Most of the time the courtesy extends to votes, too, said Younglove, who served from 1971 through 1994.
World's greatest idea
"The concept is really more that, 'If it's in my district, you follow the lead on my vote,'" Younglove said. "You'll go along with it and approve it even if you don't think it's the world's greatest idea."
So Benoit's fast-track initiative appeared to run counter to the long-standing practice.
"I don't think it's bad or wrong or anything," Younglove said. "But it is unusual."
Riverside is hardly the only county with a practice of deferring to local supervisors.
The rule is in wide use in Orange County. And it was on full display last week when supervisors there voted unanimously to approve a controversial 65-home development in the Santa Ana Mountain foothills.
The courtesy was cited before that vote by Orange County Supervisor Shawn Nelson, not to be confused with retired Temecula City Manager Shawn Nelson.
"First and foremost, the way our system works here, I don't represent this district," Nelson said. "Yeah, I represent the county. That's true. But this isn't my back yard. Supervisor (Bill) Campbell represents these folks. And it's really his issue to deal with."
Jack Pitney, a government professor for Claremont-McKenna College near Los Angeles, said it is particularly common for the local supervisor to lead the way in Los Angeles County.
"County supervisors are just as territorial as German shepherds," Pitney said.
Preventing nuclear war
Steve Erie, a political science professor at UC San Diego, said the practice is widespread throughout Southern California.
"That sort of hometown privilege is jealously guarded in many places," Erie said. "It's all about preventing nuclear war among supervisors. ... The minute you violate that unspoken rule, that unwritten rule, you invite retaliation. And then things go from bad to worse."
Opponents of Liberty Quarry already have suggested Stone retaliate for Benoit's fast-track initiative by promoting an unpopular jail or solar power plant near Palm Springs.
For his part, Benoit said Thursday that he isn't worried about retaliation for his initiative, which was given final approval last Tuesday with a 3-2 vote.
"I'm going to trust that Supervisor Stone, who is obviously very emotionally involved in this ... is nevertheless going to be fair and objective in evaluating future projects, wherever they happen to be," Benoit said.
Benoit dismissed the suggestion he violated Stone's turf.
The former state lawmaker said he intends to follow Stone's lead on the Wine Country Community Plan, a blueprint for expanding the winery region, when it reaches the board. That, he said, is an issue that primarily affects Southwest County and Stone is the board member with the expertise on the topic.
But Benoit said Liberty Quarry is different.
A regional, not local project
"This is an economic issue, an air quality issue and a traffic issue that extends well beyond his district," Benoit said.
He reiterated earlier comments that the project would improve the air and thin freeway traffic through much of Riverside County, because most of the quarry's material would go to the San Diego market and would be trucked from just south of Temecula instead of Corona.
Benoit said air quality also would benefit from Granite's obligation to provide cleaner trucks than the ones that now haul gravel from other quarries.
Benoit, who chairs the Riverside County Transportation Commission, also said Liberty Quarry's presence would cut costs for local road projects, because construction materials would be available close by.
"The primary driver of the cost of aggregate is how far it has to be transported," he said.
The lone supervisor to side with Stone on the fast-track matter was Bob Buster, who represents Canyon Lake, Lake Elsinore, Wildomar and a large chunk of the city of Riverside.
Dave Stahovich, Buster's chief of staff, termed the vote on the matter unfortunate.
But, Stahovich said, "This is not unprecedented. Bob has been on the short end of 4-1 votes on land use matters within his district."
So has San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob. Take August, for example, when that board approved a wind farm in her rural east county district despite her opposition.
"Having served the 2nd District for almost 20 years, I think my colleagues recognize that I know my district best and they weigh my views before making a decision that affects my constituents," Jacob said. "But in the end, whether it's a land use item or another issue, each supervisor has to weigh the facts and vote their conscience."
That means votes don't always go the local supervisor's way, said San Diego County Supervisor Bill Horn. And he suggested that's the way it should be.
"This is not a fiefdom," Horn said.
Call staff writer Dave Downey at 951-676-4315, ext. 2623.