Ventura County environmentalists are questioning the legality of a public hearing today on a controversial gravel mining expansion project, a proposal opponents say could contaminate Oxnard's underground water supplies.
The Ventura County Environmental Coalition contends that the county Planning Commission had no right to refer CalMat Co.'s project to the Board of Supervisors.
The Commission recommended that the deep-pit mining project be denied.
Coalition member Russ Baggerly said the law gives the commission final authority on CalMat's request for a conditional-use permit and for permission to adjust its property line. Baggerly said CalMat also failed to file a formal appeal.
But Jeff Walker, a county planning official, said the project was automatically referred to the Board of Supervisors because it requires a zoning change.
Meanwhile, Baggerly and the environmental coalition contend that CalMat's project would create a "ground-water catastrophe" if allowed to go forward.
The company is proposing to dig mining pits as deep as 100 feet on a 500-acre site in Saticoy.
The mining area includes spots where water from the Santa Clara River and sewage treatment plants collects and seeps through the earth to aquifers below.
Baggerly said the deep pits would disrupt this filtration process and allow parasites and other contaminants into the Oxnard Aquifer, which nearly two-thirds of the county population relies on for drinking water.
"This is really scary," he said. "We really hope that common sense on the Board of Supervisors prevails because there has been a lot of smoke and mirrors on this."
Walker said that the county planning staff believes the project is safe and has recommended approval.