A truck wreck waiting to happen in North County

FORUM: By LAURENN BARKER of Deluz / Fallbrook


On Aug. 24, a headline in the Los Angeles Times read, "At least 3 killed when gravel truck careens off highway in Santa Barbara and into a house."

The runaway aggregate truck with failed brakes and a load of 26 tons of gravel from a quarry sped downhill at 45 to 50 mph on Highway 154 before rear-ending two parked vehicles, plunging over an embankment and falling 15 feet onto a house, destroying the house and killing three people inside.

The mountaintop site southwest of Temecula, chosen by Granite Construction for its proposed Liberty Quarry, would be a perfect setting for a similar accident. According to Granite's draft environmental impact report, the quarry access road would include grades of up to 18 percent and a steep switchback.

The access road is above Interstate 15.

In addition to truck accidents, other problems exist with the site. The quarry activities of blasting, penetrating the underground water table and extracting tons of rock would create geologic instability. This could bring on landslides, earthquakes, or produce boulders of "flyrock" from blasts that go wrong.

The quarry's mandatory usage of 472 gallons of clean water per operating minute in this drought-stricken area is another issue. This will take water from existing businesses, residents and agricultural producers. Granite's own draft environmental impact report states that the quarry may not have a water source to complete its operations and a guaranteed water source must be identified before the project can be approved.

There are other issues. The quarry, its asphalt plants, cement batch plant, and hauling trucks would produce 450 different chemicals (40 proven toxins) that would contaminate the air. The scientific research of the world-renowned Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve, adjacent to the site, would be negatively affected. The 1,600 truck trips to and from the quarry daily would create an I-15 traffic nightmare. Pollution of the Santa Margarita River, the last free-flowing coastal river in Southern California and major drinking water source for Camp Pendleton, would occur because of the porous rock at the quarry site. Granite received the largest fine ever imposed by the state of Oregon for water pollution.

Does risking all of this make sense? Rock at the site has been analyzed by at least two teams of geologists and found not to be granite, but rather a mylonitic granodiorite and to be porous (possibly up to 30 percent). "There is a certain probability that the rocks at the proposed site will be damaged (fractured and weak) to considerable depths, and that they may contain significant porosity and permeability." (San Diego State University) The structure and porosity of this rock poses a significant risk to both the hydrology of the area and the regional seismic stability.

Now we have another possibility to think about. Fully loaded gravel trucks losing their brakes on the substantial Liberty Quarry access grades and careening down the mountainside into traffic ---- all for rock not worth mining and not proven to be needed. It's the wrong project in the wrong location.

Laurenn Barker is a De Luz Valley grower in Riverside County.

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