Gravel Mine Proposal Threatens ecological reserve near Temecula
By David Kelly, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer July 21, 2008
For nearly half a century, a pristine world of rock and water high in the foothills above Temecula has been a laboratory for scientists and a rare wildlife corridor linking the mountains to the sea.
The Santa Margarita River, the last fully protected free-flowing waterway in Southern California, tumbles over boulders and down a steep gorge as it rushes toward Camp Pendleton and into the Pacific.
"This is what Southern California looked like 100 years ago," said Matt Rahn, director of the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve, as his SUV bumped down a rocky road toward the river bottom. "There have been so many changes to this area, but this place has stayed the same."Yet that too may change. Barely a mile away, plans are afoot for an enormous gravel quarry, nearly 1,000 feet deep and almost a mile long. It would be one of the largest operations of its kind in the state, producing 5 million tons of gravel a year and annual revenue of about $60 million. Some 1,400 trucks would enter and leave the site daily.The Riverside County Board of Supervisors is expected to make a final decision on the quarry next year. The long-awaited environmental impact report may be released next month.Those who work on the reserve want the project stopped."A gravel mine of this magnitude is a massive change to the ecosystem," Rahn said.
"This is the only linkage between the coast and the mountains, and you would suddenly have a 1,000-foot quarry in the middle of it."Supporters insist that despite the digging, blasting and trucking, Liberty Quarry would have no ill effect on the reserve, Temecula or communities in northern San Diego County.In fact, they say, it would be a boon to the region -- adding 100 jobs, reducing truck traffic to quarries farther south and getting gravel closer to fast-growing Riverside County.
As for the wildlife corridor extending from the Palomar Mountains to the Santa Ana Mountains and the ocean, project director Gary Johnson said that was long gone anyway.
"The 15 Freeway destroyed it," he said.
Liberty Quarry's claims about the project and its aggressive three-year public relations campaign to win local support have frustrated opponents, who believe it would not only damage the fragile reserve but also pollute the air and scar the landscape."They say our air will be even cleaner," said Kathleen Hamilton, president of Save Our Southwest Hills, which opposes the quarry. "We don't have enough properties like this in the world to sacrifice for this kind of thing."
For its part, Temecula is trying to annex nearly 5,000 acres, including the 415-acre quarry site, to protect the reserve and preserve open space.
for rest of story: