Jesse Morrow Mountain battle heats up as vote approaches

FRESNO, Calif.

Artist Kathy Gillis believes it would destroy the beauty of the foothill region.

"Oh it would be sad, it would be an eyesore," Kathy Gillis said. "I can't imagine even thinking what it would look like."

But a group called Friends of Jesse Morrow Mountain can imagine. They've put up a billboard in Downtown Fresno illustrating what they believe the mine will do to the mountain.

Group leader Gene Otto told a news conference on Wednesday the mine is an eyesore and a threat to public health. "The blasting they are going to be doing at the top of the mountain is going to send up dust and dirt that's going to be settling on Clovis and out into Fresno."

The area below the mountain is already home to gravel mining operations, and their big trucks. Donna Hacker of the Sierra Gateway Trust says seven hundred more CEMEX trucks a day will be a hazard.

Hacker said, "This will make the level of service on our state and county roads beyond what is safe."

CEMEX has launched its own ad campaign promoting the benefits of the mine. In a written statement CEMEX spokesperson Sara Engdahl said, "CEMEX is optimistic that the Board of Supervisors will see the numerous benefits of the mine, including jobs and substantial income for Fresno County."

Supervisor Henry Perea said the usually business friendly board faces a tough decision. He said, "In the past I think the board has in general been supportive of gravel mining operations, but this is obviously still gravel mining but it's different because we've never mined the foothills, so I don't know."

CEMEX says the gravel, or aggregate is needed, for local construction projects, but they plan to use much of the rock they blast from the mountain for railroad beds.

Both sides will make their case to the Board of Supervisors next Tuesday. Because a huge crowd is expected the meeting has been moved to the ballroom in the basement of the County Plaza Building, downtown.

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