Give Me Liberty
Granite Construction’s Liberty Quarry project near Temecula, Calif., was given the green light by Riverside County officials. After a review of the project’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR), Riverside County’s planning commission staff recommended approval, touting the expected local and regional benefits.
Granite Construction submitted two plans. One called for a 155-acre quarry, and a second plan included a 135-acre one. The commission opted for the smaller quarry, which would produce an estimated 33 million tons, or 12 percent less aggregate than the larger one, the report stated.
“The project would bring many benefits to the county, the region, and the community surrounding the site,” according to the report. “As explained in the EIR, the project is located close to existing major transportation infrastructure, which minimizes impacts through design; the project will not be visible to significant population areas; and the location will reduce truck trips which will have regional traffic, air quality and aggregate cost benefits.”
The report shows that the nearest residents will not be impacted by noise or vibrations. Nor will they will they see the project operations, which are hidden from view by the surrounding ridgelines.
Local physicians are speaking out against the quarry. The group Physicians Against the Quarry held a meeting at Temecula’s Tower Plaza to denounce the county report that says the quarry will have little to no impact on local air quality. The group is comprised of 146 Temecula Valley physicians.
“The physicians had a responsibility as the vanguards of public health to speak out,” said Dan Robbins, a pediatrician and the department chair of pediatrics for the Southwest Health Care System. “We must be guardians of the health of the people of the Temecula Valley, and there is a significant chance that the health of our patients will be affected by this project," he said.
Better Off With It
The Planning Commission's staff report concludes that Riverside County will be better off with Liberty Quarry than without it. After studying 25 alternatives, the reduced footprint alternative for the Liberty Quarry project was deemed the “Environmental Superior Alternative.”
The report states that the project will provide a needed source of building material while ultimately reducing truck traffic in the region by 16.5 million miles each year, leading to a 35,000-ton reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and the removal of 216 tons of pollutants annually.
“I clearly understand the benefits to my citizens and drivers from a project that will reduce trucks on our highways,” said Jerry Franchville, mayor of the City of Hemet. “This project will not only take hundreds of trucks off the roads in Hemet, it will reduce air emissions and provide lower construction costs, helping our economy.”
Liberty Quarry is expected to generate 5 million tons of aggregate per year, and provide a significant boost to the economy, bringing 99 full-time jobs onsite, 178 indirect jobs throughout the county and over $300 million in news sales tax revenue.
The planning commission's staff report was based on the findings of the EIR. The full environmental study spans more than 8,500 pages and took six years to complete, including four months of public review and nearly two years of detailed response to public comment. “We are very happy the staff report acknowledges the projects benefits of reduced traffic, reduced air emissions, and the creation of new high quality jobs,” said Gary Johnson, aggregate resource manger for Granite Construction.
The project has received support from numerous cities, chambers of commerce and civic organizations that praise the benefits of Liberty Quarry to the region’s economy, traffic and air quality.
“I understand the importance of reducing unnecessary truck traffic and providing an economic stimulus at the same time,” noted Moreno Valley City Councilmember Marcelo Co. “Granite Construction is asking to invest millions of private dollars into our economy and I support them.”