If approved, mine would double traffic through the Ojai Valley, May 6 hearing set for Chaparral
By Sondra Murphy
The next round of battles against increased diesel truck traffic through Ojai is coming soon.
If approved, Ozena Valley Ranch Mine could bring 200 gravel trucks a day through the Ojai Valley on Highway 33, doubling their current allowance.
The Ventura County Planning Division has scheduled an environmen-tal impact report scoping meeting for May 6 at 6 p.m. in Chaparral Auditorium, 414 E. Ojai Ave.
All interested persons and affected agencies are invited to attend the meeting in order to assist the Resource Management Agency and county planning division identify any issues that should be addressed in the EIR and to provide comments on the scope of analysis of the EIR.
The proposed project site is located in Lockwood Valley in the northern portion of the unincorporated area of Ventura County, near Highway 33 and Lockwood Valley Road. It seeks to expand the Ozena Valley Ranch Mine, a gravel mine and processing facility, and to introduce fish farm activities on the project site.
The latter would include raising for sale bass, catfish, trout and other California Department of Fish and Game-approved species in stock ponds. The mine also hopes to raise mosquito-eating gambusi in separate, above-ground vessels.
The RMA and Planning Division have determined that the proposed project has the potential to create significant and adverse impacts, which must be analyzed as part of the EIR. Those impacts include transportation, noise, lighting glare, air quality, visual, archaeology, and hydraulic hazards or flooding within proximity to the Cuyama The proposed project includes the continuation of a nine-acre stock pond and processing of sand and rock for sale, as well as the delivery of aggregate products via Highway 33, north- and southbound through Lockwood Valley to Interstate 5. Production limitations are expected to remain at 250,000 tons and a daily average of 66 one-way trips each year.
The mine also proposes the excavation of a second 15-acre, 40-feet-deep stock pond, resulting in the processing of about 750,000 cubic yards of sand and rock for sale, the importation of recyclable concrete and asphalt with which to process aggregate, the importation of aggregate materials and the increase in the daily maximum, one-way truck trips to 200. It is unclear how many of those trips would pass through the Ojai Valley.
“We are really busy with our lawyers and consumed with analyzing this project from the angle of the applicable (California Environ-mental Quality Act) laws and that’s really what this hearing is about,” said Michael Shapiro, chairperson of Stop the Trucks! “We are communicating to the scores of people who wish to be in attendance that this is not a lynch mob, but a hearing to evaluate the EIR and what can be done to mitigate the impacts. That’s where our focus should be.”
Shapiro said there will be another meeting before the Ventura County Planning Division in which concerns may be voiced regarding the impacts to water, air quality and other environmental issues. “Part of the project requires they ship this product and right now they’re choosing to ship down Highway 33,” Shapiro said. “This highway was built in 1933 during the Roosevelt (Work Projects Admin-istration.) People could never have imagined that it would be someday a major industrial corridor … We think there is something very, very wrong in forcing Ojai, that has nothing whatsoever to do with industry, to accept a by-product of industry flowing into this valley, especially since there are other sources of aggregate that Caltrans could get without having to punish Ojai into being an unintended victim to satisfy their need for aggregate. So these are some of the broader issues we’re looking at.”
Shapiro added that STT’s lawyers are attempting to come up with a compromise with the mine. “If Ozena made an agreement with us, like Diamond Rock, that they would not send aggregate down 33, then we would not press the environmental issues,” said Shapiro. “In short, there’s a way out of expensive litigation that would drag, inevitably, the County of Ventura and Caltrans in; a very big mess and expensive. That potential could all go away the second Ozena says they are not sending trucks out on Highway 33.”
Besides allowing citizen input, the meeting should help to clarify the details of traffic and operations by Ozena Mine. “We are urging the citizens of all ages throughout the Ojai Valley to attend this Ventura County scoping meeting on May 6 at 6 p.m. in Chaparral Auditorium,” said Shapiro.