County to weigh appeal of quarry OK


Map courtesy of No on Austin Quarry

 

The Madera County Planning Commission okayed the proposed Austin Quarry by a 3-2 vote in a lengthy and contentious meeting July 19-20.

If the appeal fails, the Vulcan Materials Company-owned quarry and plant would mine and process “aggregate” (crushed stone, sand and gravel used in construction work) in rural Madera County about 12 miles east of Madera and eight miles north of Fresno. The site would be three miles east of the Bonadelle Ranchos in an area zoned for agriculture.

“I haven’t made my decision yet,” said Supervisor Tom Wheeler, whose district would include the project, “but the main statement I want to make is the MOC, the Madera Oversight Coalition, are putting out so many lies and mistruths about the quarry and scaring everyone. There’s so many lies I just can’t believe it and I told them. I met with them.”

The Oakhurst-based coalition has actively campaigned against the project, claiming it will negatively impact the Madera Ranchos and Oakhurst. But Wheeler contends that the coalition has misinformed the public about its impact on traffic, the aquifer and more.

“They can only mine 2 and a half million tons (of aggregate) a year,” Wheeler said. “If they put those kinds of truckloads out (as foes claim) they’d be out of rock in a month or two or three. By their agreement, that’s all they can mine. They have to pay us 10 cents a ton (with fee increases after the first five years). Madera Quarry only pays us five cents a ton. The whole thing is to keep out the competition, just like the Chukchansi are doing with the Monos.”

Madera Quarry is roughly north of the proposed Austin Quarry, between the Ranchos area and Yosemite Lakes.

Wheeler said he is “still trying to get educated about it ... I’m sure there’ll be a lot of stuff presented to us that day. I’ve heard from staff they’ve got a big pile of papers from the lawyer of the quarry” that were submitted near the end of the workday Friday.

The quarry, processing plant, entrance road and landscaped berms would occupy 348 acres of a 671-acre site for as long as 100 years, delving as deep as 400 feet. Open 24 hours a day, it would employ 15-40 workers. When the complex eventually shuts down, the area would be returned to agricultural use.

The special meeting will be at 9 a.m. in the Board of Supervisors chambers of the Madera County Government Center, 200 W. 4th St.

For information for and against the project, visit www.austinquarry.com and www.noaustinquarry.org.