Proposed law sponsored by Pechangas could derail Temecula quarry

Granite Construction operations manager Gary Johnson at Rosemary Quarry near Temecula
Granite Construction operations manager Gary Johnson at Rosemary Quarry near Temecula
Steven Cuevas/KPCC

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Riverside County planning commissioners will consider postponing a decision Wednesday on whether to approve a contested quarry project near Temecula. Liberty Quarry would cut into the foothills a few miles south of the city. But the company behind the project is asking for a delay.

The company, Granite Construction, says it wants more time to meet with leaders of the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians. The tribe opposes the quarry over concerns that it would desecrate land sacred to the Pechanga people.

That prompted lawmakers to draft a state Senate bill to ban mining near any Indian land. Now, a state legislative committee is urging both sides to work out a compromise that might forestall a new law.

“We’re hoping with the encouragement of the Senate that they wanted to meet, that we could meet and come to some sort of agreement, says Granite spokeswoman Karrie Reuther.

Reuther says it’s not clear what such an agreement might look like. “I don’t think any ideas have really been put out on the table from either side. I think that’s what what we’re really hoping, if we have another meeting that we could actually start coming up with something really definitive.”

Pechanga tribal chairman Mark Macarro says his people support a meaningful dialogue with Granite Construation that can hopefully result in locating the quarry away from land that includes the places where the tribe’s ancestors were born, lived and died. Opponents also point to a host of environmental and public health concerns. The quarry site is adjacent to an ecological reserve. Supporters say the quarry will bolster the region’s economy by providing high-paying union jobs.

Riverside County planning commissioners will meet Wednesday and decide whether to grant a delay. If they ultimately endorse the quarry, the project will move on to county supervisors for another round of hearings and a final vote.