July 16, 2013: Marin IJ Article

San Rafael quarry gets asphalt permit

Posted: 07/16/2013 marinij.com
By Nels Johnson

The San Rafael Rock Quarry won permission to recycle asphalt from Marin roads projects despite opposition from neighbors who worried the move will intensify operations.

The Board of Supervisors acted on a unanimous vote on a motion by Supervisor Susan Adams, who added a permit will not be extended in two years unless the quarry is in compliance with all 173 conditions that regulate quarry operations.

Adams, juggling a politically sensitive issue in her district, went on at length Tuesday about why it made sense for the quarry to import “asphalt grindings” from Marin projects for re-use, noting arguments made by county staff, quarry owners and others.

In light of opposition from the community, including the Point San Pedro Road Coalition, “this is really challenging for me as to how we come to a decision,” she said, following commentary from colleagues indicating they all supported the plan. “I know I’m going to make some of my friends not happy.”

Adams added that “if we do not pass this, my fear is that the county will not have the resources” to repave North San Pedro Road, a $3 million project mostly in San Rafael.

Dave Crutcher, a spokesman for the Point San Pedro Road Coalition, said he was disappointed by the board action, saying the group is “inclined” to go to court but has made no decision. “The board clearly didn’t understand the issue,” he said.

Crutcher, who asked officials to delay action because the coalition’s attorney was unable to attend the hearing, cited a court order specifically prohibiting importing of asphalt material. County lawyers argued the order was no longer in effect.

At issue was a plan for what the county said required a “narrow” permit amendment, allowing the quarry to collect paving “grindings” left over during repavement projects that occur within the county, for stockpiling at the quarry and recycling into asphalt products there. The quarry already makes “virgin” asphalt at the site. The proposal to stockpile up to 38,200 tons of old asphalt concrete ground up when old roads are prepared for repaving would not change the maximum 250 daily truck trips allowed at the quarry — and would have beneficial impacts including recycling, cost efficiencies and cutting greenhouse gases spewed when hauling the material elsewhere. “There are no new or significant impacts from the proposed grinding reuse,” according to Eric Steger, assistant director of public works. Simply put, trucks that now arrive at the quarry empty to pick up asphalt will instead arrive filled with asphalt grindings, he said. “There is no expansion” of use.

Aimi Dutra Krause, whose family owns the quarry, noted the proposal promotes sustainability and recycling and would cut greenhouse gas emissions spent transporting grindings out of the county. She estimated 27,400 fewer miles would be logged on the road if the grindings from just two Marin roads projects this summer were sent to the quarry instead of elsewhere, such as Dutra’s Richmond plant. “Most importantly there is not going to be an increase in operations,” she said.

A crowd of about 75 attended the hearing, with many supporting the quarry, including Marin Sanitary Service CEO Patty Garbarino, the Marin Builders Association, and several construction executives, as well as several neighbors. But other neighbors who spoke opposed the quarry move.

Crutcher called the issue crystal clear: A court order barred any such asphalt move. “There is no exception,” he said. “That issue has been decided. It’s over.”

But the county board, noting contrary assertions from county lawyers, indicated broad support for the plan, noting greenhouse, recycling, cost cutting and efficiency arguments. “If I would be making this decision I would be supportive of it,” he said, deferring to Adams, the district supervisor. “I do think is this is a more efficient use and a greener use,” added Supervisor Katie Rice. “I too think there is some significant public benefit,” noted Supervisor Kate Sears.

Adams, eventually saying she agreed with colleagues, called the debate a “deja vu experience,” noting community contention about quarry operations she helped ease by regulating operations several years ago. “Now we are here today with lawyers poised and a lot of passion,” she observed.

Following years of controversy, supervisors approved a new permit three years ago. In addition to conditions limiting quarry truck trips, operating hours, noise, dust and related matters, the permit established an inspection and monitoring program involving air quality, noise, seismic activity, biological studies, finances and marsh restoration.

The action capped a tangled history that included permit violations, neighborhood alarm, litigation, court orders and environmental studies. In 2004, Marin Superior Court Judge John Sutro criticized the Dutra Group, which acquired the business in 1986, for expanding mining operations without permits but said Dutra had the right to make a fair profit by mining the quarry bowl without regard to depth or duration, and the right to mine portions of the property known as South Hill. Sutro noted the quarry’s status as a valuable asset of regional importance. It provides rock riprap for Delta levees.

Quarrying operations have been under way in the area since the 1870s.

Contact Nels Johnson via email at ij.civiccenter@gmail.com. Follow him at twitter.com/nelsjohnsonnews