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Mendocino County Today: April 9, 2012

THE FIRST SHOWDOWN on the Harris Quarry is tomorrow. (Monday, April 9th.) The Supervisors will vote to approve (or not approve) the Environmental Impact Report and rezone which would allow not only this one but asphalt plants in any area in the County where aggregate is mined from rock. The EIR has already been unanimously approved by the County Planning Commission. The Supervisors are expected to vote to support their Planners. There is substantial opposition from neighbors, however, who are reinforced by ‘Seabiscuit’ author Laura Hillenbrand. The famous racehorse spent his retirement years just down the hill from the quarry.

TO THE BOARD of Supervisors: I am an historian and author of the book, “Seabiscuit: An American Legend,” which was the basis of the 2003 seven-time Oscar-nominated film “Seabiscuit,” much of which was set in the beautiful rangeland around Willits. I am distressed to hear of the proposed expansion of the Harris Quarry and the construction of an asphalt plant on that site. Aside from my concerns about the new construction's impact on the environment and on public safety, I am distressed to think of this historic and pristine rangeland being forever marred by a pollution-belching eyesore. Ridgewood Ranch, from which the plant will be highly visible, is a major tourist attraction for the region, as thousands of fans of Seabiscuit journey there to see where so much of the horse's historic life took place, and where his body now lies. Please vote no on this project, and preserve this historic treasure. — Laura Hillenbrand, Washington, DC.

NEIGHBORS complain that the project would not only triple the amount of aggregate produced at the quarry, the asphalt produced on-site would make the whole show so noisy and generally noxious that the rural peace of the area would be disturbed on a much larger scale than it is disturbed now.

THERE IS ALSO  concern about the traffic hazard on 101 presented by slow moving trucks entering and exiting the quarry from busy Highway 101, presumably at all hours.

ASSUMING the Supes approve the EIR and rezone, the next question will be the permit itself, which will be Showdown Two. It will probably be crafted to at least partially mitigate the many problems caused by the expansion of the quarry's operations.

EXACTLY how large the upcoming Willits Bypass looms in the quarry operator's plans is unclear, although many speculate the obvious — that the owners hope to sell a lot of their product to Caltrans for the Bypass, a huge project just over the hill.

NORTHERN AGGREGATES presently extracts up to 75,000 cubic yards a year from the mountainside; it wants to increase that volume to 200,000 cubic yards. The company, owned by Randy Luccheti and Frank Dutra of Willits, also requested permission to install an asphalt plant, which would require rezoning about 18 acres of their land atop Laughlin Ridge from rangeland to industrial, and open the door to similar operations in other areas of the County.

RARE as they are here in Mendocino County, and on the off chance any of them dare read this fine publication, the County Republican Central Committee will meet Saturday, April 14, 2012, 10am-noon at the Henny Penny Restaurant, 697 S. Orchard Ave (corner of Gobbi), Ukiah. For further information contact: Stan Anderson, 707-321-2592.

STATE PARKS is belatedly considering the true costs involved in closing certain parks, and as State Parks attempts to save $22 million in annual operating costs it's clearly going to cost the agency more than a few million in storing, for instance, the rare crystalline gold nuggets at the California Mining and Minerals Museum in Mariposa, painting masterworks showing early 20th century San Francisco street scenes and coastal landscapes at Shasta State Historical Park, and Jack London's home and writing memorabilia in Sonoma County. This stuff not only has to be catalogued and carefully preserved, it has to be done by museum-trained people who know how to do it.

RECOMMENDED READING: “Killing the Messenger.” And a rather terrifying read at that, but a well told account by Thomas Peele of how a racist Oakland cult, an offshoot of the Black Muslims, itself a racist cult, terrorized that reeling city for 30 years, passing themselves off as a self-help operation called Your Black Muslim Bakery. It was a descendent of the utterly corrupt founder of the group, Yusuf Bey, who murdered Chauncey Bailey, a black reporter whose investigations into the group could be stopped only by his murder. The cult lasted as long as it did because of the usual politically correct cowardice of East Bay politicians, including (of course) Jerry Brown and Ron Dellums. Although lots of people, including the cops and the DA, not to mention the politicos, knew the Beys were murderers, rapists, thieves, and chiselers, the alleged good they did was seen as somehow outweighing their long reign of inner-city terror.

DOES MENDO need lots more asphalt?

Or should it bring more asphalting to a halt?

In story after story

whether it’s gravel mine or quarry

No matter how the Supes vote they’re at fault.

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