Monday, November 28, 2011

Ojai Quarry to be shut down

Santa Barbara ChannelKeeper has been documenting the impacts of the Ojai Quarry for many years.  Despite the intervention of numerous public agencies, the quarry continues to impact the endangered steelhead trout and  downstream water quality.

Now, according to the VCStar, "Ventura County officials are moving to shut down an Ojai quarry over what they say is the owner's refusal to follow an approved cleanup plan and provide a financial assurance payment that he says would cost close to $3 million."

A public hearing on the Ventura County Planning Department's "Notice of Revocation" of the Mosler Rock Ojai Quarry's Conditional Use Permit (C.U.P.) has been postponed to December 15th.

According to the Ojai "Stop the Trucks" coalition, even as the State of California issues a "30 Day Notice to Delist" the Ojai Quarry as an acceptable supplier to government agencies and the Ventura County Planning Department files a "Notice of Revocation" of the quarry's Conditional Use Permit (C.U.P.), another County agency, the Ventura County Watershed Protection District continues to not only receive deliveries of rock from the mine for a project in Camarillo, it has allegedly been accepting loads that far, far surpass the C.U.P.'s allowable daily loads. 

The Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Ojai Quarry was approved by Ventura County in 1995  under a 'statement of overriding considerations.' The document states that although the quarry will have significant environmental impacts, the Ventura County Flood Control District (now the 'Watershed Protection District') needs the rock for 'rip rap' levee construction.  Today the environmental impacts have been realized:

Impact to Scenic Highway - Highway 33 in the Los Padres National Forest is designated as a scenic highway.  The quarry impacts the viewshed along Highway 33, and the bare hillside is now visible for miles down the Ventura River valley.

Impact to Steelhead Trout - the Southern Steelhead was listed in 1997, two years after the EIR was certified.  The quarry sits above North Fork Matilija Creek, which is now critical habitat and the last remnant of headwater habitat for this endangered species.

  • Fish Passage: Large boulders block fish passage, and will be an ongoing problem.  The existing creek needs to be restored for fish passage and to stabilize the slope to minimize future impacts.  Because Matilija Dam, Casitas Dam, and agriculture and urbanization block fish passage to the headwaters, N Fork is the only accessible tributary potentially available to the endangered steelhead.  With passage blocked at the quarry, and downstream habitat impacted by the quarry (see water quality below), steelhead viability is limited in the Ventura River.
  • Water Quality:  Santa Barbara ChannelKeeper has documented impacts from fine sediment both to water quality during storm events, and to downstream habitat.  Fine sediment smothers spawning gravels, and can prevent fish eggs from hatching and kill fry, smolt, and juvenile steelhead.  
Impact to Water Supply:  Erosion of fine sediment also impacts water supply, as this sediment is diverted at Robles into Casitas Reservoir impacting storage capacity and water quality for municipal supplies.  In a recent news article, The New York Times listed the Mosler Rock Ojai Quarry as one of the top “toxic waters / polluters” in the Ojai Valley as part of a national review of compliance with the Clean Water Act.

Legacy Impact:  These impacts will continue without remediation and restoration of the site.  Without the bond for remediation, who will pay?  Does the taxpayer bear the burden for decades of impact?  

Stop the Trucks:

The hearing before the Ventura County Planning Commission  in support of Ventura County Planning Department’s “Notice of Revocation” of the Mosler Rock Ojai Quarry’s Conditional Use Permit (C.U.P.), is now scheduled for 8:30 am on December 15th, at the Government Center on Victoria Avenue in the Chamber of the Board of Supervisor’s on the ground floor.

The hearing is expect to last most of the morning, if not most of the day.  Please attend for at least part of the day to show your support of the move to revoke the quarry’s Conditional Use Permit.