Riverside County supervisors John Benoit, at left, and Marion Ashley go over their notes during the Jan. 30 hearing on Liberty Quarry in the Riverside Convention Center.(KURT MILLER/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)

BY DUANE W. GANG AND JEFF HORSEMAN
STAFF WRITERS
dgang@pe.com | jhorseman@pe.com

Published: 11 February 2012 04:03 PM

A political rock-and-a-hard-place scenario faces Riverside County supervisors as they decide the fate of a proposed Temecula-area quarry.

Approve Liberty Quarry, and the five supervisors will anger a wide range of opponents, including a politically active Indian tribe. Deny the open-pit mine, and they risk the wrath of business groups and union members desperate for jobs.

On both sides are voters who traveled by the busload to deliver emotional pleas for and against the project. More than 1,000 attended each hearing, with supporters wearing green and opponents wearing orange.

“These guys have a problem,” UC Riverside political science professor Shaun Bowler said. “This is what democratic politics is about, deciding who you make unhappy. It is one of the components of politics.”

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday will hold a third special hearing on quarry developer Granite Construction’s appeal of a county Planning Commission decision denying the quarry a surface mining permit and related approvals.

It’s possible, but not guaranteed, that a vote will take place. Planning commissioners needed six hearings and heard nearly 52 hours of public testimony before voting 4-1 against the quarry. So far, supervisors have spent more than 16 hours on the matter.

So far, none of the supervisors has said publicly how he’ll vote. They’ve remained silent during the first two quarry hearings in the Riverside Convention Center.

DUELING EXPERTS

At issue is a quarry sought for a 414-acre site between Temecula’s southern border and the San Diego County line. Using explosives, Granite wants to extract up to 270 million tons of aggregate — tiny rocks used in construction — from a 135-acre portion of the site over 75 years.

Granite and its backers say the quarry will support nearly 300 jobs and generate $300 million in sales tax revenue over the life of the project.

It won’t be noticed by surrounding residents as it provides a much-needed local aggregate source and improves air quality by taking diesel trucks off the road, say supporters, who include five city councils, construction unions and Inland chambers of commerce.

Critics say the quarry would increase truck traffic and air pollution. It would harm local tourism, lower property values and ruin the environment, they argue.

The Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians says the quarry would obliterate a sacred tribal site. Other opponents include the Temecula City Council and environmental groups.

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