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Liberty Quarry Faces Opposition

February 1, 2012 1:32 p.m.


Matt Rahn Field Stations Program, SDSU

Ken Dickson, Riverside County resident

Related Story: Liberty Quarry Faces Opposition


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

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CAVANAUGH: A long standing dispute over a proposed rock quarry in Temecula is set for a deciding vote next week. The issues include jobs, the environment, quality of life, and sacred Indian land. Joining me are my guests, doctor Matt Rahn, he's director at the field stations program for SDSU overview. He's spoken in opposition to the proposed quarry. Welcome to the show.

RAHN: Thank you for having me.

CAVANAUGH: And Ken Dickson is here, he's a member of the Murrieta School Board. He is a supporter of the quarry. Ken, welcome.

DICKSON: Thank you.

CAVANAUGH: Thanks for coming in, both of you.

DICKSON: You're very welcome.

CAVANAUGH: Matt, why does an SDSU environmentalist have a stake in this controversy in Riverside County?

RAHN: Well, San Diego state university became involved in this issue because we own and manage roughly 4,500-acre ecological reserve that's AJasept to the proposed rock quarry. So this is -- we are really the largest ecological reserve for research and education. And a direct neighbor to the project.

CAVANAUGH: Where exactly is the hill for this proposed quarry? It's just north of the San Diego/Riverside County line. I have heard and I've read that some say it's the entrance to Temecula valley. Is that a pretty good description?

RAHN: Yeah, that is a good description. It really is the entry way to Temecula wale and Riverside County. It sits just on the border and along Highway†15 just north of the truck 63 station that you pass.

CAVANAUGH: And that is one of the problems I've read in the possible environmental impacts of this proposed quarry, if there is dust generated at the quarry, it blows all the way in all over Temecula valley.

>> Indeed, it would. The weather patterns, we have roughly 30 weather stations on the ecological reserve that monitor our environment. And the wind patterns do demonstrate that they move into the Temecula valley.

CAVANAUGH: Ken, you are one of the -- on the Murrieta School Board, and you're a supporter of the liberty quarry proposed by granite construction company. Do you have concerns about the quarry's possible environmental effects?

DICKSON: The short answer to that is no, I really don't. You might ask the question why am I here. I'm in no way affiliated or associated or compensated by granite. I am on the School Board and have been for 14 years, background in, oh, a couple of decades I got a bachelor of arts in economics, and a juryist doctorate degree. An air force judge advocate, and environmental issues were part of that. I was dedicated legal counsel for the environmental cleanup at march. So these issues interest me. School district, got to build school, communities need to develop. And the quarry, this whole controversy has been going on for quite some time. But when it got started, well, this is something I really know a little bit about.


DICKSON: And potentially impact my own home, my own area. So I wanted to check it out. So I proceeded to do that. At one time, like I said in my background, I prepared and defended ERIs and know that process.

CAVANAUGH: Right. Apparently the ERIs are in this particular situation have been quite damning of the quarry

DICKSON: I would say no. I find the science and the law and the policies that are very supportive of the project.

CAVANAUGH: Let me ask you this question. The rock produced by the proposed liberty quarry would largely benefit San Diego construction. How do you think, Ken, this would benefit Temecula?

DICKSON: Well, I think it would benefit not only Temecula, Murrieta, Lake Elsinore, all of the surrounding communities and the northern part of the San Diego County because the rock is hauled through our communities from distances far removed from where then would have with this approval a closer supply for rock. Not only for parts of San Diego County, which would get, you know -- all of that going to San Diego has to come through our communities. And the impact on our environment will be a positive one.

CAVANAUGH: What you're saying is where they get the rock now goes through your communities

DICKSON: Absolutely.

CAVANAUGH: And if there were being quarried on the borderline of San Diego and Riverside County, you wouldn't get that kind of pollution from the trucks

DICKSON: Exactly. And substantial cost savings to the entire region. If you're trying to build a community, whether it's a school or a business, any public -- Temecula just had an awful lot of money, to put an awful lot of concrete into their building, and there's more of that to come. When you back off and look at the region instead of just the parochial interests of a few folks in Temecula, it's a far different picture than what the media circus has been showing.

CAVANAUGH: Doctor Rahn, as I mention, a powerful point for the opposition has been environmental impact studies already done on the project. And they have affected the Riverside County planning board. Tell us about what the planning board did after that environmental impact study came out.

RAHN: Well, the planning commission provided a very thorough and I think detailed analysis of the project. And the environmental impact report along with a considerable amount of testimony and reports and other scientist documentation provided by folks in the community, the pachanninga band of Indians, city of Temecula and SDSU, demonstrated that there are significant unavoidable environmental impacts to the region. The planning commission ultimately agreed with those statements and established an opposition to the project. There are serious impacts to air quality, water quality, hydrology, endangered species and wildlife movement, along with human health and safety.

CAVANAUGH: And the Temecula valley Chamber of Commerce is also opposed to the quarry. So Ken, doesn't that put the idea of the quarry creating jobs and economic bounty for the area into question?

DICKSON: Well, it needs to be balanced. But let me clarify something. Unavoidable and significant impacts, you study it. It doesn't mean it's that serious of an impact. This project has passed muster of the county staff, air, light, noise, vibration, fish and wildlife service, south coast air quality management district, Camp Pendleton, Caltrans have all supported this based on their science, their studies, their technical abilities. And you do have a group in Temecula that has been energized by issues of safety. But this project will be mitigated. The health risk if you look closely are reduced by this project. And then -- and that's what got me interested in the outset, I'm reading this, I'm seeing this, reviewed that, been out to see the site and other things. Again just as a volunteer to do something that's going to potentially impact my community and the school district.


DICKSON: And I found this kerfuffle really curious. But when you dig into it and you look at the science and the law and the policy, this was all before the jobs issue came up. But you don't have to have my background of a law degree and all this experience to know that environmental issues are impacting our -- the degree to which those get elevated in the consciousness are seriously damaging our economy these days.

CAVANAUGH: Let me ask you finally, Matt, because you did bring up the concern of the pechanninga band of Indians. They are also against this quarry. They say it would be on sacred land. How has this influenced the debate over the liberty quarry?

RAHN: The property is surrounded by and including one of the most sensitive sites in Southern California. You would be hard pressed to find a more sensitive location. The last fully protected free flowing river is adjacent, the last inland to coastal wildlife movement corridor, endangered species, unique species. And on top of that, you place one of the most sacred sites to the loosenio tribes in Southern California that represents, in sort of Christian term, both the Bethlehem, and golgatha, in terms of what we understand sort of the most important cultural sites for these first people of California. And so we've always recognized that managing these properties for the past half century, and we've been able to maintain the integrity and identity of that property. And the tribe understands that this impact would destroy that legacy.

CAVANAUGH: Now, what I understand is happening next week is that the granite construction is appealing it is decision made by the Riverside County planning board to the Riverside County board of supervisors. And the supervisors are going to take maybe one last look at this. And I'm wondering, what kind of presentation is going to be made to the board? Will you both be there do you think?

RAHN: I think at this point the support for the liberty quarry testimony has already taken place am

CAVANAUGH: I see, I see.

RAHN: And next week would be the opposition testimony.

CAVANAUGH: And how long do you expect that to continue?

RAHN: We'll see. I know there are hundreds of people in the community that are interested in speaking along with large contingents of representatives from the city of Temecula, the pechanninga band, and San Diego state university.

DICKSON: If I may?


DICKSON: There were about 500 people there earlier this week. A couple hundred of those were in opposition. There were a large contingent of people concerned about the economic issues of this, and all that. The process I think has another day. But this process has been going on for years and years, at least seven years, and there must have been at least four or five very extensive, expensive to the proponent meetings before the planning commission in Temecula.


DICKSON: So this has been well vetted

CAVANAUGH: It certainly has, and we may get a decision next week. I want to thank my guests, doctor Matt Rahn is director of the field stations program at SDSU overview, Ken Dickson a member of the Murrieta School Board. Thank you so much.

RAHN: Thank you.

DICKSON: You're very welcome. Glad to be here.