James Houle: The Case for Production of Asphalt at the Harris Quarry…

Redwood Valley

We are all tired of the seemingly endless revisions to the Planning Department Report, the tiresome repetition of fear-inspiring stories concerning the mixing of asphalt with aggregate at the quarry, the merging of trucks into the traffic flow, and the inevitable asphyxiation of the small community who live several miles south of the quarry that is predicted by “Keep The Code”, their noisemakers.

During the past four to five years while this controversy has been plodding along, here are the results:

  1. The Planning Department and their consultants have wasted several hundreds of thousands of dollars on studies, printing cost and staff salaries merely attempting to get this “Keep the Code” crowd to rest easy. It has not worked.

  2. The county cannot meet its needs for asphalt and particularly for rubberized asphalt, the new standard paving material, from within its own boundaries and must pay outside contractors to produce and truck it into our projects. We have lost considerable revenue and payed extra fees for this transport to no benefit.

  3. Asphalt only has a one to two hour holding time between mixing and application. There are no other suitable quarry sites on major thoroughfares within the county where this plant could be relocated.

  4. Mendocino County has lost out for the past ten years on State compensation for the use of rubberized asphalt as a means of disposing of worn out tires. This loss amounts to at least one hundred thousand per year.

  5. A new system of on and off ramps are to be installed to further reduce the danger when trucks must enter or exit Highway 101. We welcome this, its an improvement.

Several facts are obvious to all but the fear-inspired “Keep the Code” cabal:

  1. The noise and discomfort of living down the hill from a quarry were well-known to the people who still live there: In fact they actually bought their land from the owners of the quarry. Only now, after more than 20 years have they started to raise a ruckus about noise, safety and the like.

  2. Asphalt does not produce fumes or poisonous gases that could threaten the small community located more than a mile away. Studies and tests by the California EPA and others have determined that there is no measurable danger from the asphalt operation. In all 46 of the California counties we have local asphalt plants that operate safely and without problem. These studies have been available since the first EIR report but Keep the Code does not pay any mind to them. Those of us who have worked in oil refineries, asphalt plants and petrochemical facilities have testified before the County to the modern efficiency of the plant design but are totally ignored by “Keep the Code” in its lust to spread fear.

  3. The new state of the art asphalt mixing facility proposed at the Harris Grade is located on the other side of the crest of the hill, and cannot even be seen from the Harris Grade Community. The mixing silos are pressurized and the gases recycled to the inlet of the plant, reducing emissions to practically zero.

  4. The current asphalt mix plant on North State Street is very old and is located right in the middle of a densely populated area of Ukiah/Calpella.

It is time to put and end to this controversy, approve the modern design recommended by our Planners, and make our County self-sufficient in paving materials. We certainly do not need to waste our meager tax resources on a legal battle after all of this waste of time and loss of revenues.