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Riverside County panel rejects proposed rock quarry

The city of Temecula and the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians strongly opposed the 414-acre project on a mountain overlooking Interstate 15. The site is sacred to the tribe.

September 01, 2011|By Phil Willon, Los Angeles Times
  • Gary Nolan, project manager for Granite Construction Co., drives the rocky terrain at the site of the proposed Liberty Quarry.
Gary Nolan, project manager for Granite Construction Co., drives the rocky… (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles…)

The Riverside County Planning Commission on Wednesday rejected an application for a massive rock quarry proposed near Temecula that was strongly opposed by the city and the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians.

Granite Construction of Watsonville wants to develop a 414-acre rock quarry operation on a mountain that looms over Interstate 15, a peak the Pechanga say is within one of the most sacred sites for all Luiseno people.

The commission voted 4 to 1 against the proposal, citing concerns about the effect on the environment and health of residents in the Temecula area and because of the tribal leadership's objections.

Gary Johnson of Granite Construction said the company would appeal the vote to the county Board of Supervisors.

"We're very disappointed with the commission's decision," Johnson said. "Concerns were addressed more than adequately. There are tremendous benefits to the project, both economic and environmental."

Granite's proposed Liberty Quarry would mine about 270 million tons of granite from the mountain over the next 75 years, supplying concrete and asphalt to fast-growing northern San Diego County and southwest Riverside County.

Company officials said that a critical need exists for the construction material in the region, and that having a local quarry will take trucks off the highways and improve air quality.

The quarry is on private non-reservation land just west of the U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint on I-15.

Pechanga tribal Chairman Mark Macarro praised the commission, saying "they were able to search deep to find what it took to make the right decision.''

To the Pechanga, the peak is Pu`eska Mountain, a sacred site of the cremation of one of the First People, or Kaamalam, whose passing introduced death into the world.

The rock mine is opposed by Temecula, which tried unsuccessfully to annex the mine property.

phil.willon@latimes.com

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