Lehigh Southwest Cement officials proudly touted the draft environmental impact report for the Lehigh Permanente Quarry Reclamation Plan Amendment at a county planning commission meeting on Thursday, but residents remained adamant in maintaining it's flawed.
The public hearing was another step toward an expected approval of the EIR and the reclamation plan amendment, possibly as early as the March 22 Santa Clara County Planning Commission meeting.
just one week before, Lehigh officials were in attendance, but did not speak. On Feb. 2 representatives stepped up to the microphone, saying they were proud of the EIR, and pointing out future benefits to the environment.
"We’ve gone to great lengths to make this reclamation plan the model of our company’s commitment to environmental stewardship," said Plant Manager Henrik Wesseling. He told commissioners that the plan will add 1,700 oak trees, 8,600 pine trees, and reclaim 637 acres of shrubs and grasses.
Marvin Howell, Lehigh's director of land use planning and permitting, said the plan sets aside 600 acres as a permanent buffer, and that plans to backfill the existing mine will restore the view of ridge of the quarry that faces Los Altos Hills to similar elevations before mining began in the late 1800s.
He also said the reclamation work will restore stormwater drainage into Permanente Creek back to what it was naturally.
The creek is a key issue, since quarry activities are discharging high levels of selenium into the creek, which flows to San Francisco Bay. against Lehigh under the Clean Water Act. With the passage of the reclamation plan, the company will have to take immediate measures to reduce selenium.
Several residents, along with Cupertino City Councilmember Barry Chang, speaking as a representative of Bay Area Clean Environment and not as an elected official, raised water quality as an issue that requires further study and regulation.
One Los Altos resident, Libby Lucas, expressed concern that there was no consideration in the EIR of a
Residents from Cupertino, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills told commissioners there were other problems with the EIR.
"The EIR, we believe, is flawed," said Los Altos Hills resident Bill Almon, founder of the group Quarry No.
Almon said that under the California Environmental Quality Act both direct and indirect impacts to the environment should be measured, but the EIR leaves out an estimated 100,000 diesel truck trips to and from the plant each year.
He also said that any impact that can be "reasonably expected" should be considered, and a new pit, , is a reasonable expection and should be included.
The company dropped plans for a new quarry south of Permanente Creek last year. Howell, who spoke after Almon, said, "I want to make it clear we own 3,500 acres of land at this site. This reclamation plan will not provide for new mining in our ownership."
Almon also criticized the health risk assessment used for the report, calling it old data, as well as the model used to measure air emissions, saying the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) had plans to replace the model in the future.
Santa Clara County planners are accepting public comments on the draft EIR through Feb. 21. They can be mailed to the County of Santa Clara Planning Office, 70 W. Hedding St., East Wing, 7th Floor, San Jose, CA., 95110, Attention Rob Eastwood. They can also be emailed to email@example.com.
The entire EIR, as well as the reclamation plan amendment, are available on the county's website for public review.
This week there are two chances for the public to learn more or voice concerns. at 6 p.m. in the Los Altos Hills Town Hall, 26379 Fremont Rd. On Tuesday there's a Lehigh-related agenda item concerning air quality on the Cupertino City Council agenda. The council meets at 5:30 p.m. in the Cupertino Community Hall, 10350 Torre Ave.