Nov. 15, 2012
Monica Lara, OVN correspondent
The Mosler Ojai Rock Quarry hurdled its final obstacle Tuesday when the Ventura County Board of Supervisors denied an appeal that could have cost the business $100,000 or more to meet state environmental standards.
“I am very surprised,” said Larry Mosler, owner of the Mosler Ojai Rock Quarry. “It is proper finally.”
Filed by the Stop the Trucks! Coalition, an Ojai activist group, the appeal sought to revoke the expansion of a reclamation plan approved by the Ventura County Planning Department in April, for the area around the quarry. The reclamation plan had been amended to include four acres outside of its original boundary, mostly above the north fork of the Matilija Creek. The Supervisor’s decision means Mosler must also be restore the additional area to its natural condition after mining operations are complete or if the mine is abandoned.
The boundary was extended because portions of the additional land had been altered to meet federal safety standards, including removing rocks that might have fallen from steep slopes near the mining operation.
According to Mosler, the unsafe conditions had been created by mining operations that had taken place before he bought the mine in 2005.
“We have to do the work then reclaim it,” Mosler said. “It is going to be 100 percent better than what it is today. It’s going to be stable with less risks to safety.”
The Stop The Trucks! Coalition appealed adding the addition land into the reclamation plan because it fears the cleanup will have a negative impact on Matilija Creek and it steelhead habitat.
“It falls short,” said Michael Shapiro, chairman of the Coalition. “The reclamation plan is flawed with the money set aside woefully underfunded and someone is going to get stuck holding the bag.”
The quarry had to pay $250,000 to the county as financial assurance for the reclamation, up from $20,000 earlier this year, according to Brian Baca, Ventura County planning manager.
Supervisors Steve Bennett (Dist. 1) and Linda Parks (Dist. 2) agreed with the Coalition that the potential impact created new risks and warranted a new, or supplemental, environmental impact report to include the effects on the steelhead.
“We have to be certain what the impacts are,” Parks said.
To produce the new EIR, required for state mining regulations, Mosler would have to pay about $100,000 to the county for a report that could take six months to a year to complete. It is a process Mosler will have to undergo in 2015 if he wishes to renew the quarry’s conditional-use permit.
Had the decision gone against Mosler, he could have appealed to the state’s Mining and Geology Board, which would have likely brought state oversight; a consideration that concerned Supervisor Kathy Long (Dist. 3).
“Are we picking the right battle here?” Long asked during the hearing.
Supervisor Peter Foy (Dist.4) agreed.
“I’d hate to have the state dictate what we have to do,” said Foy. “This (a review of the EIR) will come up again pretty quickly.”
Long, Foy and John Zaragoza (Dist. 5) voted to accept the reclamation plan amendment expecting to address the environmental concerns again in 2015. Bennett and Parks voted against it.
Although Shapiro said the Stop the Trucks! Coalition has no plans to take court action, the battle is expected to continue in 2015 when the conditional use permit is being reviewed.
“We hope at that time we will have the personnel and backing to challenge the EIR A to Z,” Shapiro said.
For now, Mosler is relieved the he has won this round.
“I am good,” Mosler said. “I plan for the quarry being here another 15 years.”