Vulcan explains the environmental case for proposed California quarry

Vulcan held a public consultation about its planned quarry in Madera County, California to address concerns from local residents.

Michael Linton, Vulcan’s project manager for the Austin Quarry, aimed to reassure local residents about the impact of the quarry.

In the nearly 11,000-page Final Environmental Impact Report, he said it was determined by three separate hydrogeologists the quarry would have little effect on the water supply, which is common for similar “hard rock” sites.

Additionally, he said while some 85 acre-feet of water would be used by the quarry each year, it would provide 100 acre-feet to offset that use.

The quarry site will also have a stormwater basin, Linton said, which will collect any water drilled by the quarry and pumped over, as well as capture rainfall to further recharge the aquifer.

“All we want to do is provide the facts to the public,” Linton said. “That’s our job, not trying to persuade people, as much as we’d like to.”

Linton added Vulcan agreed to fully fund construction of both an eastbound travel lane on Highway 145 from the project site to Highway 41, and an additional southbound lane on Highway 41 from that intersection to Avenue 15 about three miles south. He added 17 intersections along Highway 145 will be improved as well.

A majority of people at the meeting said they didn’t oppose the project itself, but want it in a different location where such potential impacts wouldn’t be felt.

Similar fears are expected to be heard by the five-member Madera County Planning Commission Tuesday, when it meets to vote on the quarry’s approval.

Norman Allinder, Madera County Planning Director, said whatever the vote, the decision is likely to be appealed and sent to the board of supervisors for discussion and review several months in the future.

“Multiple parties have inquired into the appeal process,” Allinder said. “An appeal is very likely on this big of a project.”

The Austin Quarry, if constructed as proposed, will operate for a maximum 100 years. It will mine up to 2.5 million tons of aggregate annually, of which the county will receive a fee of 10 cents per ton for the first five years of operations, with increasing fee amounts every five years.

If the estimated 250 million tons of materials are exhausted before 100 years, the quarry operations will cease at that time, with reclamation work funded by Vulcan to restore the site for water and wildlife, completed within three years per federal law.

The quarry will employ between 15 to 40 employees on site throughout its lifespan.

A 12-foot berm will be in place along Highway 145 to obstruct views of the aggregate processing plant to the southwest corner of the 671-acre site. From Highway 41, rock outcroppings will obstruct the public’s view from the mining area as well. Vulcan also owns 2,000 acres to the west of the quarry for sound and sight buffers.

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