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Temecula divided over proposed open-pit mine

April 26, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Hundreds of Temecula residents came together to raise their voices against a planned open pit quarry. The quarry would lie outside Temecula, just across the Riverside county line. There are concerns it would bring pollution and traffic problems.

A planning meeting was held Tuesday, with about 2,000 people attending. A number of them are opposed to the project. It's been called the most controversial development ever in southwest Riverside County.

For decades, the foothills south of Temecula have sat relatively untouched. The only noise around here comes from the steady drone of traffic along I-15. But that could all change if Granite Construction builds an open pit mining operation out here. The effect it might have on the city of Temecula has residents lining up on both sides.

"To put a quarry with the blasting that close to our house, it will kill or destroy our way of life, our quality of life," said Temecula resident Mike Jurkosky. "There's no way to get around it."

Opponents have even paid for a billboard to fight the quarry. They think it would cripple the local wine industry.

"As time goes on, the two just are not compatible," said Temecula resident Kathleen Hamilton. "Having a thousand-foot deep, mile-long quarry that is going to be grinding 18 hours a day, it's not compatible with having growing grapes and having a tourist industry."

But even though opponents are worried about what the mining operation would do for tourism-related jobs, supporters say it would create jobs and bring the county millions of dollars in tax revenue.

"We need jobs. We need jobs in Temecula," said Temecula resident Adele Harrison. "We need jobs in this whole area, Riverside County. I believe in free enterprise and I believe that we are -- California is bankrupt because we are chasing all the private industry out."

They also don't believe the mine would have the negative impact on the area that opponents claim.

"The fact is that all the assertions that are being made about the noise and the supposed dust and all that is total supposition," said Murrieta resident Julie Gilbart.

Riverside County has recommended approval of the project. Another community meeting just is scheduled for next week. It's likely that this issue will end up before the Riverside County Board of Supervisors for final approval.