Mendo Island Journal — Timely. Useful. Sometimes Cranky.

Harris Quarry Project: ‘Something wicked this way comes’…

In !ACTION CENTER!, Around Mendo Island on February 6, 2012 at 4:49 am

From JACK MAGNE
LTE Willets News
Thanks to Janie Sheppard

Something wicked this way comes is, of course, the famous line from the Shakespearean play Macbeth, which forewarns of an impending ominous, dangerous and traitorous entity.

Fast-forward from the 17th century to a real threat we now potentially face in Mendocino County, which is perhaps no less insidious or alarming; with modern day wide-reaching consequence for the entire county.

The proposed Harris Quarry Expansion Project is the benign-sounding name of a determined push to install a 300-ton per hour asphalt manufacturing plant neighboring the LaVida Charter School, Christ’s Church of the Golden Rule and Golden Rule senior residential park, which are proximate to the famous Seabiscuit Ranch, former home of legendary racehorse.

The Bountiful Gardens research garden and cherry orchard also are nearby.

The proposal also seeks to ambitiously involve the entire county through zoning changes specifically allowing heavy industrial/manufacturing uses on land designated in the general plan as “RL-Range Lands,” which includes 90 percent of the private property in Mendocino County.

Everyone’s “back yard” in Mendocino County could potentially be vulnerable if the designers and proponents of this plan get their way.

There is legitimate concern the so-called Mineral Processing Combining District Overlay feature of this proposal is an add-on, benefiting special interests. Sooner or later this (ear-mark) may affect unsuspecting citizens countywide, in a very up close and personal way.

Many are concerned this movement which is portrayed ostensibly as a need for a single asphalt plant, is actually a much farther-reaching agenda “opening the door” to manufacturing related development of not only more asphalt plants around the county; but also possibly for the development of oil refineries (to accommodate off-shore drilling), natural gas, geothermal and concrete manufacturing plants, along with a whole host of other activities which could bring adverse and unforeseen consequences heaped upon a surprised, non-informed citizenry.

For those of us appropriately concerned with Mendocino’s economic future, it is important to note, objections are not anti-business in spirit. A careful reading of the Environmental Impact Report’s “fine print” reveals an admission that only four local jobs might be generated if the Harris Quarry asphalt plant becomes a reality.

Compare this with the real fear of more employment losses due to discouragement of tourism, along with plummeting property values, which could result from inevitable environmental pollution from the asphalt plant on the Ridgewood Summit, the highest point of land along Highway 101. It is arguable an already struggling tax base could be further compromised.

Heavily loaded, polluting, oversized trucks would dominate and slow traffic on Hwy 101 at this dangerous intersection. An unsightly and incongruous, smelly smokestack looming over an otherwise pristine countryside, and nighttime lights would point the way to the historic Seabiscuit Ranch and serve as monument and beacon to poor planning and short-sighted subservience to special interests.

Is this the template we want to approve countywide ? This may be a plan bringing an evil wind that blows no good to a property near you.

The voluminous, complex and expensively produced report called an environmental impact report has been fashioned by all the proper authorities and advocates on the subject. Public outcry had forced the applicant to withdraw and resubmit as inadequacies and deficiencies were exposed. The continually changing, readjusting, and morphing project has strained the patience and resources of a weary public addressing a moving target but the resolve remains firm.

Recently, it has been announced that Ignacio Gonzales, planning director for Mendocino County and (prior) former special county consultant on this project, has resigned. It has been reported Director Gonzales left for greater challenges and higher compensation in Santa Clara County.

This begs the question: Should the citizens of this county be saddled for generations to come with what many consider an ill-conceived, complex, poorly explained, far-reaching zoning change that would allow industrial expansion throughout the county? A plan designed, and engineered if not advocated by individuals who may not be here to deal with the profound long-term adverse consequences.

County planning commissioners are scheduled to make recommendations to the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors very soon. The board of supervisors is the ultimate authority representing the citizens of Mendocino County

This board will be asked to vote yes or no, or suggest alternatives.

Please voice your concern and let the board know how you feel by contacting your district representative, or by reaching the board collectively by emailing bos@co.mendocino.ca.us.

Help bring this proposal out of the shadows and into the clear light of public scrutiny. Let’s confine “something wicked” to the pages of fiction and out of the back yards of Mendocino County.
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  1. Jack Magne is at it again, raising irrational and unanswerable fears about a relatively benign asphalt hot-mix plant proposed to be erected at the top of Harris Grade on the way north to Willits and far removed from any populated area. The Church of the Golden Rule is 2 miles from this long operating rock quarry. The Church knew about the nearby rock quarrry operation before they ever bought the land. Now they want to force them out a legitimate industrial operation by any and all means.

    Magne fears there is somehow a threat that such an encroachment will be ubiquitous: “Everyone’s back yard in Mendocino County could potentially be vulnerable if the designers and proponents of this plan get their way.” This is absolutely ridiculous and Jack knows it: No one wants to put an asphalt plant in every back yard, nor even a chicken in every pot! .

    To further frighten us, Magne claims that the asphalt hot mix plant will be: “opening the door to manufacturing related development of not only more asphalt plants around the county; but also possibly for the development of oil refineries (to accommodate off-shore drilling), natural gas, geothermal and concrete manufacturing plants, along with a whole host of other activities which could bring adverse and unforeseen consequences heaped upon a surprised, non-informed citizenry. ” My my my: We only need one modern Asphalt plant to serve the entire county, Jack! The problem is that you can’t transport hot asphalt too far to the road project before it cools off, so every county needs one, even Mendocino. Think a minute Jack – why put an oil refinery in MendoLand where it would have almost no customers and be 120 miles from a population center where we already have a lot of excess refining capacity.

    Damage to tourism: If the rock quarry on top of a knife-edge ridge were to scare off tourists, it would have completed that task 20 years ago. Magne speaks of smokestacks: There is no smokestack for this hot mix plant and there is no smoke! Read the EIR Jack! The emissions released during heating are recycled as is common practice in all modern asphalt plants in the State of California. Such plants exist all over the State and have been approved in far more heavily populated areas.

    The likes of Jack Magne and their compatriots has successfully aroused the irrational fears of the uninformed. They have forced the County Planning Department to spend an extra two year rewriting again and again the EIR to try and quiet their fears. This has cost tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars needlessly as many who are familiar with asphalt technology and our county needs can testify. I doubt that there is any way we can ever talk sensibly these people for they can always come up with a new anxiety.

  2. In their own development plan they instilled his fears with their dreams of oil drilling and other mining projects in future expansions. The proposed plan puts a pollutant source directly on top of a major watershed and your plan does not make sufficient allowances for disaster avoidance or environmental repairs. In my opinion the quarry should be shut down and you forced to pay for the clean-up and repair of the environment you have already foisted on us! Shame be on you for defending such a despicable and dangerous project that has saddled us with such an eyesore as this quarry!

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