Written by The Business Journal Staff
After a lengthy, standing-room-only special board meeting on Monday that drew heated comments from both supporters and opponents, the Madera County Board of Supervisors approved the controversial Austin Quarry, an aggregate mining project proposed by Vulcan Materials.
Following the 11-hour hearing, the vote was 3-2 in favor of the project, which is expected to create 40 to 50 permanent new jobs during its 100-year lifespan, mining up to 2.5 million tons of aggregate annually.
Located near Highways 41 and 145, the 671-acre quarry site has been a lightning rod for controversy, with more than 200 Madera Ranchos residents living near the site packing Monday’s hearing to voice their concerns about the project’s impacts on water supply, traffic and the environment.
Vulcan, which is headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama, and also operates Valley facilities in Fresno, Kerman and Selma, has responded to concerns from opponents of the Madera quarry by vowing to make improvements to alleviate traffic on Highways 41 and 145.
During an earlier hearing before the planning commission, the company also agreed to create sight and sound buffers and set aside a large part of the quarry site for open space and natural wetlands.
Addressing residents’ water concerns, Vulcan has also agreed to import the 85 acre-feet of water a year the project will use into the county for a zero-net impact.
Vulcan will pay a fee per each ton of material transported that would add up to about $250,000 for local road improvements at full production.
Supervisors David Rogers, Rick Farinelli and Tom Wheeler voted in favor of the project. Supervisors Brett Frazier and Max Rodriguez voted against it.
Supervisors who supported the project said the aggregate that the quarry will produce is needed to meet Madera’s rapidly increasing development needs.
The Madera Oversight Coalition was one of a number of community groups fighting the quarry’s approval at Monday’s hearing. Bruce Gray, chairman of the coalition, told the Sierra Star that the group would most likely file a lawsuit challenging the supervisors’ decision.
“The board is ruled by money,” Gray said. “They’re putting money over people, every time, every day.”