After almost three years of controversy, a rock-mining company will begin digging into the foothills above the San Gabriel Valley, an operation that critics said would scar the mountainside, worsen air quality and cut off access to a popular trail head, the city of Azusa announced Wednesday.
Vulcan Materials, which for years has operated rock quarries in the area, said the new process will allow for greater re-vegetating of the hillside. The company said it planned to use a method known as micro-benching that is less visible than the current technique that leaves 40-foot-high pyramid steps -- locally known as the Mayan Steps -- up the hillside.
The company’s project, which was approved in July 2010, is expected to generate millions in revenue for the city and includes a pledge to create a new public trail head to the Fish Canyon Falls area, as well as money for scholarships and open space.
“This will improve the view not only from Azusa but from throughout the San Gabriel Valley,” Azusa Councilmember Robert Gonzales said in a statement.
Vulcan has operated a rock quarry at the mouth of Fish Canyon, a deep gorge in the foothills long favored by hikers. But the company said it wanted to streamline its operations by moving west, closer to its processing facility near the border of Duarte and Azusa.
Residents in adjacent Duarte demanded Azusa take its western neighbors into consideration, pointing out that they had the most direct views of the hillside. Duarte's mayor even threatened to boycott Azusa businesses and rode her bike to Azusa City Hall to drop off hundreds of letters protesting the proposal.
In a special election 2011, Azusa residents voted in support of the city’s development agreement with Vulcan.
The opponents' last hope was a lawsuit filed in August 2010 by the city of Duarte that sought to overturn the certification of environmental reports showing that the rock quarry would have no major effect on either city, aside from aesthetics.
But the city’s environmental impact report was upheld by both the state Superior Court and Court of Appeals “on all issues including air quality, traffic, and visual impacts,” according to a statement issued by Azusa on Wednesday.
“It is now time for Vulcan to be given the honest opportunity to make good on the promises made during the public hearing process,” City Manager James Makshanoff said in the statement. “We will be giving them that chance.”