Plans for a controversial aggregate mine on Jesse Morrow Mountain east of Sanger have stalled after the Fresno County Board of Supervisors failed to approve the project after a marathon meeting Tuesday night. The supervisors were being asked to reverse a decision by the Fresno County Planning Commission, which rejected the project in May.
Project supporters needed votes from at least three supervisors for both the project's environmental impact report (EIR) and conditional use permit in order to win approval for the mine. Supervisor Judy Case had previously announced that she would recuse herself from the hearing, over a potential conflict of interest involving her husband's employment as an accountant for a competing firm.
After hearing hours of testimony from project supporters and opponents, a motion to certify the project's EIR failed on a 2-2 vote, with supervisors Phil Larson and Debbie Poochigian voting yes, and Henry Perea and Susan Anderson voting no. Perea and Anderson said they had concerns over the way the study addressed the cultural impact of the site, which is called sacred by at least one local Native American tribe. Anderson also said the study should have used more current population growth projections for the region when predicting the amount of aggregate rock that Fresno County will need in the coming decades.
Even if the EIR had been approved, a second vote could still have gone against the mine. Supervisor Poochigian, who said she thought the EIR was adequate, told the audience that she still could not support the project. She said the scenic environment along Highway 180, which takes visitors to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, would be forever altered by the project. "There's probably no berm high enough, no trees tall enough," said Poochigian, talking about the visual impact of the project.
It's unclear whether the CEMEX will continue to push for approval of a revised version of the project. The company had claimed that the mine would generate over 100 jobs in the area if it won approval. CEMEX officials said Tuesday that the company's existing operations on the San Joaquin River near Friant would continue for at least the next five years.