Planning Commission approves gravel mine near Reedley

FRESNO, Calif.

Gerawan Farms wants to turn the property into a gravel mining operation. They want to dig down fifty feet and haul out more than a million tons of rock every year, for the next one hundred years.

Mike Mallory is the company's attorney and the project manager. "We think it's a great project. We spent a lot of time designing it so it would be environmentally friendly," he said.

But opponents like Mike Weinberg say it's anything but.

"We're concerned about all the impacts on air, water, traffic, on the other issues and we have questions as to whether we really need this gravel now, or for the foreseeable future," Weinberg said.

Both sides made their case to the Fresno County Planning Commission.

A group called Friends of the Kings River lead the opposition. Their attorney, Marsha Birch, said the mine developers had no plans to reclaim the property once it was finished, instead planning to leave 600 acres of water filled gravel pits.

"They will be open pits, filled with water, no habitat and it will be maintained intentionally to prevent habitat from forming," Birch said.

Ducks and geese will have to be kept away from the water filled pits because they are in the flight path of the Reedley airport.

The county has already approved several other gravel operations in the same area and Weinberg is questioning if the Valley can handle any more pollution from dust and gravel trucks.

"Asking me that , on a 105 degree day with already bad air quality, I would say no," Weinberg said.

But the Planning Commission agreed the pollution from the gravel trucks and the mine would be no worse than the present farming operation. They approved the Carmalita mine on a 6 to one vote. Opponents say they will appeal to the Fresno County Board of Supervisors and at least try to persuade them to make the project more environmentally friendly, with greater setbacks from the roadways.

The Planning Commision's approval of the Carmalita mine comes just two months after they rejected plans for a gravel mine on nearby Jesse Morrow Mountain. The Mexican cement company Cemex will be appealing that ruling to the Board of Supervisors.

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