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LIBERTY QUARRY PLAN VANISHES AMID $20 MILLION SETTLEMENT WITH TRIBE Tim O'Leary Staff Writer A searing land use war that gripped the region for seven years ended abruptly Thursday, Nov. 15, with news that the Pechanga Indian tribe has spent $20.35 million to buy the site of a contentious gravel mine and prevent similar projects from taking shape in the Temecula area. The stunning revelation initially came as a joint press release and in about two hours swelled into a hastily-arranged gathering of about 150 tribal leaders, local government officials, environmental activists and community and business leaders. "This is a good day. It's a very good day," Tribal Chairman Mark Macarro said first in his native Luiseno language and then in English. His remarks were peppered by applause, and he was soon followed to the lectern by several Riverside County and Temecula elected officials. The euphoric speeches, handshakes and hugs seemed to mark a sudden demise to the hard-fought Liberty Quarry project. But the tribe's purchase of the mine site and its agreement with the developer were in the works since July and it was the close of escrow earlier in the day that set the stage for the gathering, Macarro said. The gathering took place on the top of one of the two parking garages that flank the tribe's casino and hotel. The rooftop location provided a panoramic view of the Temecula Valley and the boulder-strewn hilltop between Temecula and Rainbow where the quarry was planned. Pechanga officials - in a rare alliance with city and environmental leaders - had stated in public hearings that the hilly area is central to the tribe's creation story. Macarro and other tribal officials have said the mountain, which he identified as "Pu'eska," is sacred to the tribe, and allowing mining there would be similar to desecrating a cathedral, temple or other holy site. He said protecting the mountain and the area's quality of life was worth the years of work and millions of dollars spent by the tribe, city government and grassroots leaders. "This was a cause worth fighting to the end for," Macarro said. He thanked the mine developer, Watsonville-based Granite Construction Co., for selling the site to the tribe and for agreeing to help protect a 90-square-mile swath of land for the next 23 years. In response, speakers and onlookers showered the tribe with praise. "It's a perfect end," activist Jerri Arganda said as the event unfolded. "They're the heroes." Kathleen Hamilton, an environmental leader who aggressively fought the quarry from the moment it was proposed, quipped to a reporter: "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus." No Granite officials spoke during the Thursday afternoon gathering. The company's input was limited to the statements contained in a joint press release. "Granite has a strong history of cooperation with stakeholders in communities where we work and is pleased to have been able to reach an equitable solution with the Pechanga tribe regarding this project," James H. Roberts, the company's president and chief executive, said in the release. "We remain committed to Western Riverside and San Diego counties and look forward to continuing to grow our business in this area." The deal called for the tribe to pay Granite $3 million to purchase the 354 acres that was the heart of the quarry plan. The tribe also agreed to pay Granite $17.35 million for key concessions that include agreeing to not own or operate a mine in a vast swath of land through the year 2035. Numerous officials have described the mine plan as the most contentious development project to surface in the region in decades. The mine plan had numerous supporters, including leaders of some other cities, who cited the jobs and taxes the project would provide over several decades. Conversely, project foes complained of potential health, air and water quality risks. Project foes, who included numerous Fallbrook and Rainbow residents, organized community rallies, aerial photographs, billboard campaigns and bus trips to Riverside hearings. Granite submitted its application to Riverside County for the quarry project in 2005. It aimed to market the aggregate in San Diego and southwest Riverside counties. Company officials argued that it would cut air pollution by reducing the number of gravel-laden trucks that currently crisscross the region. The project wound its way through a pair of county agencies and dozens of public hearings, several of them attended by 1,500 people or more. The mine site is nestled behind a bluff overlooking a California Highway Patrol truck inspection and weigh station west of Interstate 15 near the San Diego County border. Granite initially sought county approval to extract 270 million tons of sand, gravel and other materials over a 75-year period from a 155-acre portion of the site that totaled about 400 acres. Another nine acres would be used for a service road that would wind its way up the hill. The mine site flanks a sensitive San Diego State University nature reserve and research station that is split by the Santa Margarita River, which forms at the confluence of several creeks in the Temecula area and flows 27 miles to the ocean. University leaders opposed the project and frequently participated in community gatherings and public hearings. County supervisors cast a 3-2 vote in February to deny the project. The board then veered in another direction in May by approving the project's environmental impact report. That triggered a lawsuit from Temecula. In July, Granite submitted a revised project application for a slightly smaller project. A subsequent county decision to review the revised plan under its fast-track process sparked a second lawsuit by the city. Both lawsuits were pending and a final county hearing was expected soon when the purchase and settlement deal was announced on Thursday. The city of Temecula spent more than $1 million studying the project and fighting it at hearings and in court. Granite spent more than ten times that amount in planning and processing the plan and defending the county from the litigation. The two county supervisors who represented the area and staunchly opposed the quarry spoke during Thursday's event. Supervisor Bob Buster said the board will be glad to forgo further clashes over the project. Stone praised Macarro and thanked the Pechanga tribe for reaching into its "deep pockets" to end the quarry showdown. Stone said the quarry triggered a "David and Goliath fight" and he joined Macarro in calling for changes in the way local governments evaluate the potential impacts of future development. Temecula City Councilman Mike Naggar said he "felt the spirit of the mountain" as he listened to Macarro and reflected on the lengths that various groups went to fight a perceived threat. "I think that's going to change us forever," he said.


Tribe: No plans to develop former quarry site

TEMECULA: Tribe: No plans to develop former quarry site Land purchased from Granite to be preserved by tribe Aaron Claverie Speculation started to swirl before the deal had even closed. So what's the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians going to do with the former Liberty Quarry site? Housing and a new golf course? A visitors center? A hotel? A new casino? The answer: Nothing. "At this point, we have no plans for Pu'eska Mountain beyond preservation," said Tribal Chairman Mark Macarro, who specifically addressed those questions during Thursday's ceremony to mark the sale of 354 acres of land that had been part of the proposed site for Granite Construction's quarry project. The tribe sees that land as sacred, tied to their ancestral birthplace. The purchase wrapped up a seven-year drama that pitted Granite against the city of Temecula, the tribe, area environmentalists and a coalition of doctors that were united in their opposition to the proposed quarry. The total site for the quarry was 414 acres, but the 60 acres that were not part of the sale are isolated in the northern corner. Asked whether the tribe is looking to buy that last chunk, the tribe's director of public affairs, Jacob Mejia, said Monday that the tribal council was very focused on finalizing the agreement that was announced last week. "At this point, no decisions have been made about other land in the area," he said. During the long series of public hearings on the project, Granite's legal team and project supporters tried to undercut the tribe's position in order to smooth approval of the project. They said the tribe had supported the city of Temecula's attempts to annex the land, which could have set the stage for the development of estate houses, and they said the quarry site was well away from the tribe's most sacred sites. The tribe rebutted both arguments, saying annexation would have killed the quarry project and that housing was not anticipated for that property because of the terrain and access issues. As for proximity, the tribe said the entire mountain is sacred and that measuring the distance from certain sacred sites doesn't show respect for their beliefs. Shortly after the news of the sale was announced, Temecula Mayor Chuck Washington said the city would float the idea of annexation and ask the tribe whether it wanted that land to become part of the city. Mejia said Friday that those comments were made before the tribal chairman announced that the land would be added to the tribe's reservation and preserved. "As we know too well, land can be taken from its rightful owner by a government with eminent domain. We have no idea what the future holds for county government, and we have no intention of trusting in others to preserve this sacred mountain," Macarro said. Later during his speech, Macarro said the benefits of preservation go beyond the land's importance for the tribe. He said that not building there will benefit the entire region's quality of life and allow the land to be appreciated by future generations. "The story of this mountain is not over," he said. The tribe's decision to forgo development was applauded by several groups: area real estate professionals who were concerned that development could negatively affect property values and air quality in the Redhawk region; environmentalists who were concerned about development severing a habitat linkage; and scientists who work at an ecological reserve to the west managed by San Diego State University. Matt Rahn, director for research for SDSU's field station programs, said the quarry would have effectively ended decades of work at the reserve and turned it into a laboratory for the study of mining operations. Now, he said, the station's 50-year legacy of research and study can be expanded upon. "Hopefully we'll get another 50," he said.


REGION: Fast-track lawsuit not going away

David Downey The seven-year fight over Liberty Quarry may be over, but a lawyer says he isn't dropping a lawsuit challenging Riverside County's fast-track process. Temecula attorney Ray Johnson said Friday that he will continue to work to nullify the Board of Supervisors' recent action to make surface mines eligible for accelerated review. That action, coupled with the board's Nov. 6 decision to put Granite Construction Co.'s project on the fast track, raised the specter of a vote approving the open-pit mine as early as Dec. 11. But the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians announced Thursday it had struck a $20.3 million deal with Granite to buy the site and settle the dispute, effectively killing the project. It was a huge mistake, Johnson said, for the county to add mines to a list of commercial ventures that may be fast-tracked if they invest significant amounts of money and employ many people. "I think fast track is inappropriate for mining projects generally," he said. "There probably isn't a more impactful project than a surface mine." Johnson filed the suit Oct. 23 on behalf of Save Our Southwest Hills, a Temecula-area environmental group. The county recently struck a deal in which Granite agreed to defend the county at company expense against four lawsuits related to the quarry. County spokesman Ray Smith said last week's sale of the quarry property does not negate Granite's obligation to continue defending the county if one or more suits are pursued. Meanwhile, Supervisor Jeff Stone of Temecula wants to change the way consultants are selected to prepare crucial environmental impact reports, such as the one written for Liberty Quarry. He said he will ask colleagues Tuesday to adopt a policy that ensures applicants won't receive favorable treatment. "No longer, with the passage of this new policy, will the proponents of a project hand-pick their consultants," Stone said at Thursday's news conference announcing the sale. "They will be picked by the county of Riverside from now on." In a huge twist in a nearly eight-year debate, the Pechanga band announced it would buy 354 acres for $3 million. The tribe and Granite also reached an agreement that reimburses the company for a significant chunk of the money it sank into the project. Granite planned to immediately withdraw its revised application. But Johnson said he had no intention of withdrawing the fast-track lawsuit. "It's bad policy, I think, for the county because you have a stated intent which is to try to get projects to create jobs," he said. "But I think the real intent is to prevent the public from having input on projects. And Liberty Quarry is probably the poster child for that." After more than 80 hours of public hearings on the original Liberty Quarry, and a February vote rejecting the open-pit mine, Granite submitted an application for a "new" project in July. That was the same month sale talks began with the Pechanga tribe. Granite's original project called for extracting up to 5 million tons of rock annually from the mountain just north of the Riverside-San Diego county line, for as long as 75 years. The "new" project was a scaled-down version of the original that sought authorization to mine a maximum of 4 million tons a year, for a maximum of 50 years. It also had a sweetener: a per-ton mining fee that would have generated millions for county coffers. After all the debate over the original quarry, the "new" project was on a path to skip a review by the Planning Commission and go straight to a hearing and potentially decisive board vote next month. There was a scheduled Dec. 11 hearing ---- a mere five weeks beyond the board vote that put Liberty Quarry on fast track. And according to a news release, a county staff analysis was going to be made publicly available just 10 days before the hearing. Johnson said he had major concerns with the timing. He said it would have given the public little time to react to what undoubtedly would have been a hastily assembled but voluminous report. "It's really bad policy that fundamentally deprives the public from the ability to really understand what's going on," he said.

TEMECULA: Tribal purchase ends mining plan

Cheers rang across the Temecula Valley on Thursday when the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians announced it had purchase the site of a proposed open-pit gravel mine. The purchase assures the mine will not be dug on land sacred to the tribe. It also saves Temecula taxpayers further costs in a lawsuit against Riverside County over fast-tracking the approval of the controversial mine last month. I thought it also saved the taxpayers of Riverside County the costs of defending the suit. But Supervisor Jeff Stone told me Granite Construction — the company that proposed the 414-acre mine — is paying the county’s legal costs. That in itself is very good news. After Thursday’s announcement of the tribe’s purchase of 354 acres from Granite, county supervisors double-checked the agreement with Granite and confirmed the company agreed to cover the county’s legal costs, Stone said. Pechanga and Granite officials jointly announced the $20.35 million deal in an afternoon news conference. There’s much about it to celebrate: The people of Temecula and the mountain community of Rainbow are spared the blasting, dust and rumbling gravel trucks as 174 million tons of aggregate were to be torn out of the mountain over 50 years. The tribe saves the site of its creation myth. And the county is spared the embarrassment of an irreversible mistake in approving the unpopular mine. Hundreds of people turned out for six county Planning Commission hearings in which 52 hours of testimony was taken before the commission voted 4-1 to deny the quarry permit in August 2011. Almost as many flooded the county supervisors’ three meetings on the matter. But the supervisors left the door open to a revised quarry plan and were on a fast track to approve it when the purchase was announced. On Monday, Granite withdrew the mine application. Now, Temecula and the grassroots group Save Our Southwest Hills can drop their lawsuits challenging Liberty Quarry’s environmental impact report. But it’s an open question whether the city and the group will drop the second part of their litigation: the addition of surface mining to projects that can be fast-tracked, skipping review by the Planning Commission. Save Our Southwest Hills’ lawyer Ray Johnson said the group will continue its challenge of the fast-tracking ordinance “because that is such bad public policy.” Temecula Vice Mayor Mike Naggar said the council at its next meeting will discuss whether to pursue the fast-tracking lawsuit. Councilwoman Maryann Edwards said the issue is bigger than Temecula. Will other jurisdictions join the lawsuit? She didn’t know. Supervisor John Benoit, who proposed fast-tracking mines, defended the option but said the board will use it only for projects that have gotten full hearings, as Liberty Quarry did. Riverside County owes a big thank-you to Pechanga. Its purchase of the site protects nature, tribal culture and the public good. Cassie MacDuff can be reached at 951-368-9470 or cmacduff@PE.com Cassie MacDuff


Goldspotted oak borer (GSOB)

CAL FIRE NEWS RELEASE California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection CONTACT: Julie Hutchinson, Battalion Chief/PIO (951) 377-8380 Kim Camilli, CAL FIRE Forest Pest Specialist (805) 550-8583 or (805) 543-4244. RELEASE DATE: November 14, 2012 Invasive Pest Found in Riverside County Fire and Forest Officials Ask Public's Help to Stop Spread Idyllwild - The goldspotted oak borer (GSOB) has been detected in a recently-killed California black oak tree in the Riverside County mountain community of Idyllwild. Larvae extracted from under the tree bark were subjected to DNA analysis at the University of California Riverside and confirmed to be Agrilus auroguttatus, the scientific name for GSOB. This new detection of GSOB represents the first long-distance movement of the beetle from its known area of infestation in San Diego County, 40 miles to the south. It is believed to have made the jump from San Diego to Idyllwild through the movement of infested firewood. The infested tree is slated for immediate removal and disposal. The GSOB is transported in oak firewood, so it is critical that Californians keep firewood local and not move it out of the area. Here are some immediate steps to help stop the spread of GSOB: Use firewood from local sources - “Buy it Where you Burn It” Leave firewood at home - do not transport it to recreational cabins, campgrounds or parks “The public plays a key role in stopping the spread of the destructive GSOB,” said CAL FIRE Director and State Forester Ken Pimlott. “When choosing firewood make sure you buy it from a local source and not from out of the area. This infestation could have devastating effects on California and we all must work to stop its spread.” The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) is collaborating with the University of California, the U.S. Forest Service and the County of Riverside to develop a rapid response plan for GSOB in San Jacinto forest communities. Surveys are already in progress to determine the extent of the infestation. Property owners in the Idyllwild area will be receiving additional information in the coming weeks on the GSOB and how to assess their own oak trees as well as a list of recommended contacts for questions. These infestations can be very destructive to our forests, communities, individual properties, and are extremely costly to control. “This discovery of GSOB in Riverside County is of great concern,” said CAL FIRE/Riverside County Fire Chief John R. Hawkins. “These mountain communities have endured years of drought and bark beetle infestation and we need to work collaboratively with the public and all stakeholders to stop the GSOB from further destroying our forest and oak woodlands.” Anyone planning to purchase or burn firewood is encouraged to visit www.firewood.ca.gov to learn how help stop the spread of GSOB and other pests through the movement of firewood. For more information on GSOB visit www.gsob.org.




$20M And 7 Years Later, The Fight Over Liberty Quarry Ends

$20M And 7 Years Later, The Fight Over Liberty Quarry Ends "The debacle of democracy has been corrected," Supervisor Jeff Stone said. "When the citizens speak they need to be heard and in the case of Temecula, they need to be reckoned with." Tribal chairman of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians Marc Macarro addresses a crowd during a press conference Thursday. The event was set against the backdrop of Pu`eska Mountain, the proposed site of Liberty Quarry.Credit Toni McAllister In front of more than 100 people who were sharing hugs and smiles-and with Pu`eska Mountain as a backdrop-tribal chairman of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians Marc Macarro officially announced during an impromptu news conference Thursday that the tribe closed escrow on 365 acres of land that was the site of the much-contested Liberty Quarry owned by Watsonville, Calif.-based Granite Construction. Macarro said Pechanga has no intention of developing the land, which was purchased at a sale price of $3 million. As part of the negotiation, the tribe agreed to pay Granite an additional $17.3 million through a comprehensive settlement. Due to legal issues, the tribe was not able to disclose the deal until escrow closed Thursday, Macarro said during the news conference held on the rooftop of a Pechanga Resort & Casino parking structure. "The story of this mountain is not over," Macarro told the crowd as he looked over to Pu`eska, the site of the proposed quarry. He said the nearly seven-year fight over the quarry should serve as a reminder of what it means to be good stewards of land. The Liberty Quarry project, which Macarro said would have encompassed 90 square miles, was bitterly challenged by many Temeculans, who argued the mining operation would have blighted nearby hillsides, caused increased pollution and traffic, and was not a great job creator or a necessary service. The quarry's main product would have been aggregate, and Riverside County Supervisor Bob Buster said the bulk of it would have gone to San Diego, which he claims can now meet its demands for the rock. Tribal leaders, along with City of Temecula council members Maryann Edwards, Mike Naggar and Jeff Comerchero, as well as Buster and Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone, were on hand for Thursday's news conference. Dozens of anti-quarry activists donning their orange caps and shirts also showed up. Temecula resident Kathleen Hamilton has been hailed as the lead organizer on the anti-quarry movement, and she told Patch that Thursday was indeed a very good day. "It's done," she said with a long, smiling sigh. Rainbow resident Jerri Arganda, who has also fought the seven-year battle against the quarry alongside Hamilton, said, "This means peace. We don't have to worry about what's going to happen next." As part of the settlement announced Thursday, Granite has agreed that through 2035, it will not own or operate a quarry within a six-mile radius to the north of the property along the Riverside-San Diego County border and three miles to the south. Supervisors Stone and Buster have both opposed the quarry despite votes from their colleagues in support of the mining operation. Buster said the fight against the quarry was the greatest grassroots effort he has witnessed during his tenure and said Thursday's news serves as a reminder that the county has to do a better job of balancing economic interests with environmental concerns in the short- and long-term. "[The tribe's] reverence for their lands should inform all of us in the future," he said. The tribe has maintained Pu`eska Mountain is sacred Indian burial ground. "The debacle of democracy has been corrected," Stone said. "When the citizens speak they need to be heard and in the case of Temecula, they need to be reckoned with." The City of Temecula, which has also opposed the quarry, has filed lawsuits over the issue, including a suit that claims the county erred in certifying an Environmental Impact Report for the project after it was first rejected by the board of supervisors. Temecula's Mayor Pro Tem Mike Naggar said council members will now need to meet with staff to discuss the pending litigation. "There were a lot of city resources going to legal fees," Naggar said. "We can now stand down." As for the suit against the county, Naggar said the city will need to look at its options.

Pechanga to buy quarry site

CALIFORNIAN Thursday, November 15, 2012 by Dave Downey REGION: Pechanga to buy quarry site Resolving one of the most bitter disputes in Southwest County history, the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians and Granite Construction Co. announced Thursday they have reached agreement on a $20 million deal to torpedo the proposed Liberty Quarry. The tribe and company announced the Pechanga band has agreed to purchase 354 acres at the 414-acre project site south of Temecula for $3 million. (Escrow closed Thursday morning) The parties also stated in a news release that Pechanga will pay Granite $17.35 million to settle its dispute with the company over the proposed gravel pit just north of the Riverside-San Diego county line. Granite agreed not to pursue a quarry within six miles north of the site and within three miles to the south, through 2035. "This area holds profound historic, cultural and spiritual importance to the Pechanga and Luiseno peoples," Tribal Chairman Mark Macarro said in a statement. Macarro has said proposed Liberty Quarry, which would have mined up to 4 million tons of gravel a year for 50 years, was in the heart of the tribe’s creation area. At a news conference later, Macarro said the Pechanga band first expressed interest in buying the property in July ---- the same month Granite resurrected its project through a revised application. He said the tribe pursued the sale aggressively when it became clear that neither local government nor state law would prevent the quarry from going through. “This was a cause worth fighting to the end for,” he said. Calling the mountain "Pueska," Macarro said the tribe has no plans beyond preservation. Macarro said the California Environmental Quality Act needs to be amended to better protect cultural resources. Before the conference, Supervisor Bob Buster ---- one of two county supervisors who opposed the quarry ---- termed the sale “a breakthrough moment for the future of Southwest County.” Matt Rahn, director of San Diego State University’s field stations program and its next-door Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve, has opposed the project from the outset. “Seven years later, this is an absolutely amazing outcome,” Rahn said by telephone. Granite Construction first proposed the project in 2005. Its original proposal called for extracting 5 million tons a year ---- for 75 years. But that plan was rejected in February by the Riverside County Board of Supervisors, with a 3-2 vote. Following a surprise twist in May, in which the board certified the environmental impact report for the rejected project, Granite submitted an application in July for a “new” scaled-down quarry. That project was put on fast track, and was on track for a decision Dec. 11. The sale renders moot the Dec. 11 board item, as well as pending hearings on lawsuits filed by Temecula, the Save Our Southwest Hills environmental group and a conservation district aimed at halting the quarry. Granite Construction is not leaving the area entirely. Company spokeswoman Karie Reuther said Granite will withdraw its application Friday, but will continue to look for quarry sites in North San Diego County and Southwest Riverside County. “There is still a need for aggregate, still trucks driving on the road,” Reuther said, adding that sites near the county line remain preferable for serving the San Diego market. But she said no specific sites have been identified, and the company will discuss any that emerge with Pechanga. Reuther said the $17.35 million settlement reimburses Granite for most of its project costs. During extensive debate, it was projected 70 percent of the mined rock would be used in San Diego for building roads and other infrastructure. Granite said that meant fewer gravel-carrying trucks would travel through Southwest County, generating a net reduction in air pollution, traffic, and wear and tear on highways. Project opponents, who bitterly protested the county’s Nov. 6 fast track decision, disputed those benefits. They suggested the opposite was true: that air and traffic would worsen, the surrounding environment would be spoiled and Temecula’s burgeoning tourism-oriented economy would be ruined. None of that seemed to matter Thursday. “We’re absolutely thrilled that the tribe took such an important leadership role in this process,” Rahn said. “By doing this, they are protecting the integrity of future research and education at the Santa Margarita reserve. And this is going to protect remnants of some of the most pristine habitat left in Southern California.” Kathleen Hamilton of Save Our Southwest Hills called it “one of the greatest days of my life. Period.” For Temecula officials, it was like an early present. “That literally was potentially going to be the worst thing that could ever happen to Temecula and now today it’s like Christmas,” said Temecula Mayor Chuck Washington. “I could just jump up and down.” The city spent hundreds of thousands on studies, to counter studies by Granite that touted what it said were the project’s benefits. The city sued to overturn the fast-track decision and throw out the environmental report. Had the board given Granite the green light next month, Washington said he is confident Temecula would have prevailed. The city attempted to annex the land years ago. But that effort was thwarted by a regional agency. Washington said he would bring up the idea again. “I plan to float that idea by them,” he said. “We will keep that as they want it to be. If that’s what they wanted, we would pursue that.” The tribe held an afternoon news conference to discuss details of the deal. More than 100 project opponents showed up, smiling, hugging and commenting that the sale would boost area property values. They gave a standing ovation when the sale was formally announced around 3 p.m. Roslyn Holmes, who has lived in Temecula since 2001, greeted a member of the tribe with a wide smile and handshake, as she made her way to the combination news conference and ceremony. “Thank you so much,” Holmes said. “I can’t believe it. It’s bringing me to tears.” Susan Miyamoto, who lives next to the site, said her husband Mike Jurkosky “is in shock.” They were considering moving and now she said they will stay and make repairs. Pechanga also received praise from the man who led the fast-track charge, to the consternation of local supervisors. “I’m very pleased,” said Supervisor John Benoit, in a telephone interview. “We’ve been encouraging the parties to talk since Day 1. I’m glad they took that suggestion seriously and did that.” Earlier this month, Benoit persuaded a board majority to approve Granite’s fast-track request, saying the project had been scrutinized enough already through 81 hours of public hearings, including 51 hours before the Planning Commission and 30 before the Board of Supervisors. Last year and this year, boisterous hearings repeatedly drew dozens of people to several hundred. Opponents wore orange hats and T-shirts, and supporters - many of them construction workers touting jobs - wore green T-shirts.

Temecula breathes easier as Liberty Quarry sees its end

Temecula breathes easier as Liberty Quarry sees its end Hugs and handshakes were shared in good measure Thursday as more than 100 residents, supporters and city dignitaries gathered to hear Pechanga's announcement that it had officially closed escrow on land that would have served as the site of the controversial Liberty Quarry. Pechanga Tribal Chairman Mark Macarro announced Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians' purchase of land that would have been the site of the Liberty Quarry. (Kerri S. Mabee/SWRNN) There were a few tears too. The years-long battle to thwart efforts to bring the mining project to Temecula saw its end today and was reveled in by city officials and the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians - each of whom fought vigorously to repel the quarry. "We know how much this meant to (the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians). It's been a roller coaster and they have been there every step of the way," said Temecula City Councilwoman Maryann Edwards. Temecula City Councilman Jeff Comerchero said: "Today is all about thanks. It was a long battle but it was worth it." The announcement came as a surprise to residents and city leaders while many of them geared up for a a new round of battles after the Riverside County Board of Supervisors voted to consider Granite Construction's request to fast-track a smaller version of the original Liberty Quarry. A hearing had been set for Dec. 11. "I'm just sorry that the Board of Supervisors didn't recognize the will of the people," said SOS-Hills.org volunteer and supporter Doug Dye. Pu'eska Moutain in Temecula (Kerri S. Mabee/SWRNN) According to Pechanga Tribal Chairman Mark Macarro, while the battle may have seemed lost, the Pechanga tribe had actually begun negotiations with Granite Construction in July to effect a $20.3 million purchase of 356 acres that would have been the site of the mining project. Both parties remained quiet as they hammered out the details - until today. Macarro thanked Granite Construction for its willingness to negotiate in good faith, but noted that measures are being considered that will fully secure the land from any possible, future infringement. This includes a provision that prohibits similar projects from operating within 90 square miles of the land the Pechanga tribe believes sacred. "We need assurances that this will not resurface in our community again," Macarro said to the crowd. Speaking in the tribe's native tongue, Macarro said, "It is a good day." He added that the mountain, considered by tribe members as the Luiseno's Garden of Eden is no longer known as the Liberty Quarry project site, but as Pu'eska Mountain. The rocky reserve served as the scenic backdrop to today's announcement, with the sun peeking out from behind the clouds as officials took turns to offer thanks and express relief. Among the speakers were Riverside County Supervisors Jeff Stone and Bob Buster who, like Macarro, each offered concern that a fractured board had failed Temecula residents opposed to the quarry. Supervisor Buster praised volunteers, calling their support "the best grassroots effort I've ever seen." Temecula Mayor Pro Tem Mike Naggar addressed the crowd, pledging thanks to tribal leaders, adding: "We'll never look at that mountain the same again." Macarro concluded: "The story of the mountain is not over. This is about more than just a moment. This is about tomorrow and this is about the future." .


Pechanga to Purchase Land from Granite Construction


RivCo Supes: Liberty Quarry hearing tentatively set for Dec. 11

RivCo Supes: Liberty Quarry hearing tentatively set for Dec. 11 By Kerri S. Mabee, With the rousing 2012 Election season winding down to little more than a quiet hum, an epic battle continues to brew over the proposed Liberty Quarry in Temecula. The debate surrounding the Liberty Quarry has been a years-long battle for city officials and residents. (Credit: bidgee/Wikimedia Commons) After a divided Riverside County Board of Supervisors elected to allow a fast-track review of the controversial mining project despite two recent lawsuits filed against the county, Temecula city officials and residents are gearing up for a hearing tentatively scheduled for Dec. 11 that could spur the project into motion. Read: City of Temecula speaks out against 'fast-tracking' against controversial quarry Temecula Mayor Chuck Washington has vigorously opposed the mining project and vowed to see its demise, despite Granite Construction's re-vamped proposal that would mean a smaller scale version of the original Liberty Quarry. "We still have lots of kick still in us. I have no doubt in my mind that I can speak for my city council colleagues when I say we will fight this," Washington told SWRNN previously. Washington is joined by Temecula City Mayor Pro Tem Mike Nagger who has promised a stalwart defense of outside forces that are trying to bring the Liberty Quarry to Temecula. "What (Granite Construction) wants to do is to destroy one of our most pristine environments," Naggar said, adding that the threat to Temecula's way of life might necessitate that the city finds a way to purchase the land. The debate surrounding the Liberty Quarry has been a years-long battle for city officials and residents. Despite Granite Construction's promise of jobs, the controversial Liberty Quarry project has long drawn stiff opposition from Temecula city council members, Pechanga tribal leaders, and local groups who reject the idea of a rock quarry clouding up Temecula's picturesque hills. The original Liberty Quarry was voted down with the Riverside County Board of Supervisors' 3-2 vote against the proposed mining project on Feb. 16, 2012. But, the victory was short-lived. In May, a divided Riverside County Board of Supervisors moved to certify an environmental impact report for the strip mine near Temecula, drawing sharp criticism from those opposed to the project and opening the door to a "fast-track" proposal that has been debated at the Riverside County Board of Supervisors. The Riverside County Board of Supervisors will consider the fast-track in a meeting tentatively scheduled at 9 a.m. on Dec. 11 in the Board of Supervisors chambers on the first floor, 4080 Lemon St. in Riverside.


Rainbow Planning Group - Agenda - 11-14-12

A San Diego County Heritage Community Since 1880 Keeping Rainbow Rural Advising the Board of Supervisors ~ San Diego County Notice of Meeting Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 7:00 PM at the Rainbow Grange If there are any changes an updated version will be posted at the Grange Hall at least 72 hours prior to this meeting. I. Call to order and Pledge Allegiance – Dennis A. Sanford, Chairperson II. Call for a Quorum III. Approval of Previous Regular Meeting Minutes IV. Open Forum: Opportunity for the public to speak on items not on the agenda. Each speaker is limited to 5 minutes. Speakers should address community land use issues. V. Committee Comments: Comments are limited to the parameters of the Brown Act. VI. County Action Items: • Correspondence a. None of significance to Rainbow • Board of Supervisors Actions a. None of significance to Rainbow VII. Old Business and Reports • I-15 Advisory Committee status report • Pala Raceway noise pollution status report- Swanson • Draft letter to track sponsors • Playground and Park cover grant status report- Bonner • Request for signage at Rice Canyon/Rainbow Heights status report- Bonner • Liberty Quarry Status Update VIII. New Business • Officers for 2013 • Status of LED billboard signage • Vacant seats on committee IX. Call for January 16, 2013 agenda items X. Adjournment until January 16, 2013


Temecula: Liberty Quarry granted 'fast-track,' RivCo Supes divided

A sharply divided Riverside County Board of Supervisors today granted a fast-track review of a proposed mining project near Temecula abhorred by a large number of residents and the trigger for two recent lawsuits filed against the county.
(Greg Goebel/Flickr) "This is preposterous and reeks of bad government," Temecula City Councilman Mike Naggar told the board before its 3-2 vote to expedite scrutiny of the controversial Liberty Quarry. "When did we start fast-tracking surface mines? It's on par with fast-tracking a nuclear power plant .," Naggar said. "People are seeing this and believing this is the worst in government." Several dozen speakers lashed out at the board for taking action in favor of the quarry, while less than a dozen lauded Supervisors John Benoit, Marion Ashley and John Tavaglione for giving the project new life. "This is a good project made better thanks to its reduced size and impacts," said Granite Construction Resource Manager Gary Johnson. Watsonville-based Granite first sought fast-track processing for the quarry in July, but the county did not then have provisions in place for accelerating reviews of proposed mines. In a 3-2 vote in February, the board rejected the 414-acre quarry. However, about three months later, in another 3-2 vote, the board certified a 1,000-page environmental impact report that found many of the project's negative impacts could be mitigated. That opened the door to Granite returning with a scaled-down mining proposal, which it did. Last month, following several heated public hearings, the board voted 3- 2 to implement amendments to county ordinances allowing mining operations to receive fast-track authorization. The goal is to have projects vetted and voted on by the board in 90 days. Benoit and Ashley have been steadfast supporters of the quarry, while Supervisors Jeff Stone and Bob Buster have staunchly opposed it. Chairman Tavaglione was the swing voter against the project in February, but voted to certify the EIR and has voted with Ashley and Benoit ever since. The Riverside native is running for a congressional seat and widely expected to win. Quarry opponents insist the pit will produce health-damaging levels of silica dust, mar area aesthetics, ruin rural peace, add to road congestion and permanently alter landscapes that the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians consider sacred. "You are fast-tracking the destruction of the southern gateway to Riverside County," mine opponent and Temecula City Council candidate Paul Jacobs told the board. "You are fast-tracking disrespect for the creation site of the Pechanga tribe. Your contempt for all the people of southwest Riverside County is on display here today." Several speakers leveled criticism directly at Benoit, who introduced the proposal to fast-track Liberty Quarry and has sponsored each effort to move the proposal forward since July. "You should've stayed in Sacramento because this board has become as dysfunctional as state government," Norco resident Julie Waltz told the former state lawmaker. Stone, whose district encompasses Temecula, reiterated the threat he believes the quarry poses to local vineyards and "wine country" tourism in general. "This has been the most divisive issue I've witnessed on the board," Stone said. "It's very unfortunate someone other than the supervisor in whose district the project will reside can be bold enough to put this on a fast track. You're fast-tracking an open pit mine that will unearth eight rose bowls. This is not about jobs. This is about money." Benoit, who has characterized Granite as a "friend" to the Coachella Valley, denied that the revenue generation potential for the county influenced him in any way. "There is a cost to moving granite," Benoit said. "For every mile that it's transported, the cost goes up. That's extra costs to taxpayers for projects built in this area. Every extra mile that it's transported also means more air pollution. There are regional benefits to having this mine." "That's a bunch of malarkey," Stone retorted. "By Granite's own admission, 70 percent of the product from this mine will go to San Diego County. It's so transparent what's happening here. I'm embarrassed." According to Granite, its modified mine plan calls for restricting operations to daylight hours, with 160 fewer truck trips planned to and from the site daily. The amount of product mined at the location will be slashed 25 percent, or by 61 million tons, and the mining depth will be limited to 300 feet. Granite also touted the estimated $92 million in new revenue that will accrue to the county from the project, thanks largely to tonnage fees charged to customers. The quarry would lie just off Interstate 15 at Rainbow Valley Rd. Temecula filed a lawsuit in July challenging the validity of the EIR. On Oct. 10, it filed another suit seeking a reversal of the board's amendments to county law permitting accelerated reviews of proposed strip mines, alleging the board behaved "prejudicially" by not giving the planning commission an opportunity to review the fast-track proposal.


TEMECULA: City seeking Liberty Quarry-related restraining order

TEMECULA: City seeking Liberty Quarry-related restraining order
Temecula will file the request the day before supervisors consider fast-tracking the Liberty Quarry project
Temecula is expected to file for a restraining order against Riverside County on Monday, Nov. 5 - a day before the County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to consider fast tracking the controversial Liberty Quarry project.
The restraining order would block the board from acting on a request from Supervisor John Benoit to speed up the revised Liberty Quarry plan, which would allow the project to skip the Planning Commission and go straight to supervisors for a decision. The proposal is set to be discussed during a 9 a.m. Nov. 6 hearing in Riverside.
Temecula City Attorney Peter Thorson said Friday the city is seeking an order that prohibits the county from making a decision on the Liberty Quarry proposal until after a ruling is rendered in the city's lawsuit over the project. That suit challenges the ordinances altering the fast-track process to include surface mines among the list of projects that are moved quickly through the county approval process.
"Our lawsuit states that these ordinances were illegally adopted," Thorson said. "The board failed to adopt a proper (environmental) exemption, failed to obtain approval from the State Board of Mines and Geology and failed to obtain planning commission review of the ordinances."
The lawsuit was filed in mid-October, and is the second lawsuit filed by the city against the county with regard to the proposed quarry. A first lawsuit was filed in late July opposing supervisors' approval of the environmental document detailing how a quarry would affect the surrounding environment. A hearing on that first lawsuit is scheduled for Nov. 14.
If the restraining order is denied, however, supervisors could approve the fast-track changes, paving the way for Granite Construction to move forward with its revised application for the quarry south of Temecula.
Derek Cole, an attorney representing Riverside County, said Friday that the county will challenge the request for the restraining order.
"The city has not yet served its moving papers in support of the (restraining order) yet," Cole said, referring to the paperwork that must be delivered to the other parties in such a case. "For that reason, we haven't submitted anything to the court either. Assuming I receive the city's moving papers sometime today, I will have the county's opposition ready by first thing Monday morning, when I will submit that to the court."
The proposed Liberty Quarry has been a divisive issue in the county.
Supervisors in May upheld a planning commission decision denying the project while still certifying the environmental report.
Following the project denial, Granite Construction resubmitted plans for a scaled-down version on the same 414-acre site in between Temecula and the San DiegoCounty line. The revised mine, according to Granite, would have a 50-year instead of a 75-year life span. The quarry would aim to produce 174 million tons of aggregate over its lifetime rather than the 235 million tons originally proposed.
In addition, the new quarry would generate a maximum of 640 truck trips a day, down from 800 trips in the old version, Granite contends. The mine pit would be 710 feet at its deepest point - the old version dug more than 1,000 feet in the ground - and annual aggregate production would be 1 million fewer tons a year, according to Granite.
Granite also has proposed a 20-cent-per-ton tipping fee it says will generate $92 million in revenue for Riverside County. Nearly $62 million of that will come from San Diego County users, the company said.


Benoit urges fast track for quarry


Never-ending battle goes on: Benoit urges fast track for quarry

Benoit proposes putting Liberty Quarry on fast track. Supervisor asks that revised Liberty Quarry proposal review skip Planning Commission
As expected, a Riverside County supervisor from Palm Springs has formally proposed accelerating county review of Granite Construction’s scaled-down Liberty Quarry project on Temecula’s outskirts.
Supervisor John Benoit’s request will be taken up Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors in Riverside.
“This revised project will further reduce truck trips, associated pollution and degradation of roads throughout much of Riverside County,” Benoit stated in a written report to the board. “Additionally, it will create more than 75 new, permanent, fulltime jobs; invest more than $10 million in land, building and equipment; and generate more than $25 million in taxable sales annually.”
Opponents were anticipating a return of the emotionally charged issue in early November.
“It was not a surprise to us,” said Fred Bartz, board member for the Save Our Southwest Hills environmental group. “The never-ending battle goes on.”
Approval of Benoit’s initiative is anticipated.
In a series of votes setting the stage for his request, the board consistently voted 3-2 to approve preliminary steps to order an ordinance making quarries eligible for fast-track review and then to adopt that ordinance. Approval could deliver a board vote on Liberty Quarry within three months.
“It means the project goes through the rest of the (environmental) review process that it would normally go through without having to go through the Planning Commmission,” county spokesman Ray Smith said.
Besides bypassing the commission, fast-track approval would give the county 90 days to complete its review and bring the item back to the board, Smith said.
After numerous lengthy hearings, the Riverside County Planning Commission rejected Granite’s project 4-1 last year. Supervisors followed that up with a narrow 3-2 rejection in February.
But the trail took a sharp turn in May, when supervisors voted 3-2 to certify Granite’s environmental impact report. That report was approved when Supervisor John Tavaglione, who had voted to reject the quarry and who is running for Congress, joined two supporters: Benoit and Supervisor Marion Ashley.
Supervisors Jeff Stone and Bob Buster continued to oppose the project.
Stone has characterized the fast-track march as a race against time — to put the revised Liberty Quarry up for a vote before Tavaglione leaves office — assuming he is elected next week to the House of Representatives from a new Riverside-Moreno Valley district.
The thinking is that Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, the one charged with filling a board vacancy, would appoint a more liberal supervisor who would be sensitive to environmental issues and vote to kill the project.
What supervisors originally killed in February was a proposed aggregate mine on 135 acres south of Temecula in the rugged hills west of Interstate 15 that was to harvest 5 million tons of rock annually for 75 years.
However, under county rules, a company may resubmit plans by changing a project’s scale. Granite exercised that option in July, submitting a plan for a “new” project to mine up to 4 million tons a year instead of 5 million, and quit after 50 years instead of 75.
Granite Construction also threw in a sweetener: a fee paid to the county based on the amount mined.
First unveiled in 2005, the mine is one of the most controversial issues ever to rock Southwest County.
Opponents contend that dust from the mining operation would harm human health and mar mountain views, that trucks hauling aggregate would snarl traffic on Interstate 15, that the mine would foul a site sacred to the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, and that its presence would spoil Temecula’s tourism industry.
Supporters contend the mine actually would deliver cleaner air, because there would be tight controls on dust and fewer trucks traveling through Southwest County. Their argument cites forecasts that most of the aggregate would be trucked south to San Diego County. Because the mine’s presence would reduce the need to import rock from farther north, such as Corona-area quarries, the region’s gravel-carrying trucks would kick up less pollution.
Proponents, including Benoit, also maintain the project would create badly needed jobs for a county with a high unemployment rate.
Bartz begs to differ.
Quoting testimony from an earlier hearing, Bartz said, “Approving additional quarry sites does not bring jobs — demand brings jobs. I think the jobs issue is without merit.”