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Valley Public Radio Staff
Mon October 29, 2012
Jesse Morrow Mountain Project Headed Back to Supervisors
Plans for a controversial hard rock mine on Jesse Morrow Mountain east of Sanger will once again go before the Fresno County Board of Supervisors next month. The supervisors will be asked to approve the project's environmental documents at a meeting scheduled for November 13.
The effort to approve the 400 acre mine and asphalt plant stalled in August after supervisors deadlocked in a 2-2 vote on the project's environmental impact report (EIR). The Fresno County Planning Commission also rejected the project in May, but CEMEX, the multi-national construction materials company which owns the proposed mine, appealed that decision to the Board of Supervisors.
The 2-2 vote in August effectively put plans for the mine in limbo, but Fresno County law allows projects that fail to get an affirmative majority vote to be reheard. The rehearing will only involve the EIR, not the project's conditional use permit. That means even if the EIR is approved at the November 13 meeting, another vote would still be necessary before the project could actually begin.
At the August 28 meeting, supervisors Susan Anderson and Henry Perea questioned the project's impact on cultural resources of local Native American tribes. Members of at least one tribe consider the mountain sacred. Anderson and Perea also questioned the need for additional aggregate material in the region. Supervisor Judy Case recused herself due to a potential conflict on interest involving her husband's employment by a competing firm. That left the vote locked in a 2-2 tie, with supervisors Debbie Poochigian and Phil Larson voting to certify the EIR.
The new vote on the EIR will take place after the November election, but before a new supervisor is seated, replacing Anderson, who declined to run for re-election. It will also occur just weeks after the Board of Supervisors approved another aggregate mine, known as the Carmelita Project, along the Kings River.
The project has sparked intense opposition from residents, Native American groups and environmental activists. Project supporters say the mine would help create dozens of jobs and provide needed construction materials for Central California. Opponents say it would pollute the air and water, and destroy a scenic site along Highway 180, the entrance to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks and the Blossom Trail.