Jesse Morrow Mountain fight isn't over

FRESNO, Calif.

The company has faced non-stop opposition from local residents who are keeping up the pressure. At a Planning Commission hearing, held in the County Plaza Building, mine opponents like Michael Becker of Fresno argued the gravel mining operation would create an eyesore along Highway 180, which is a scenic route into Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

"I can't believe it would be possible for you to make any decision other than no," Becker said. "This is a scenic highway to the premier national parks in our area."

Dr. Gene Otto, who leads the group called Save Jesse Morrow Mountain, believes dust from the mine and smog from the hundreds of huge gravel trucks on Highway 180 would be a major air pollution problem.

"How are we ever going to get our pollution under control? And now they want to up the smog, and let them put a gravel mine out there, it's just insane," Dr. Otto said.

CEMEX presented an altered proposal to the Planning Commission. Their new plan reduces the size of the mine and limits its operation to 50 years, instead of 100.

CEMEX Spokeswoman Sara Engdahl said the changes will ease the impact: "With the new alternative we're proposing only three per cent of the mountain will be mined, so, you know in the larger scheme of things the impact is very, very low and most of the operations will not be visible from the roads, at all."

But Cemex's unwillingness to pay more than a token amount to improve Highway 180 was a problem for some commission members, and in the end, four of the seven members at the meeting voted against approving the plans.

However, the fight will continue. CEMEX will now appeal to the Fresno County Board of Supervisors.

Gene Otto said:" That's a whole 'nother ball game."

That means more debate and a possibly lengthy public hearing process before a decision on the future of Jesse Morrow Mountain is finally made.

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