Sonoma County judge strikes down Roblar Road quarry OK

A Sonoma County judge has struck down the approval for a controversial rock quarry west of Cotati, saying key parts of the environmental impact report were inadequate.

The final ruling, issued Thursday by Judge Elliot Daum, could derail the project by requiring the county and quarry developer John Barella to conduct a new environmental report, or overhaul large parts of the existing one.

Opponents of the 70-acre Roblar Road quarry, including neighbors and environmentalists, welcomed the decision, with one leading advocate, Petaluma environmentalist Bill Kortum, calling it "historic."

"I'm ecstatic," said Donna Spilman, a boardmember on Citizens Advocating for Roblar Rural Quality, the group that sued the county and Barella following the project's approval, on a 3-2 vote, by the Board of Supervisors in late 2010.

Barella, his attorneys and county attorneys could not be reached Friday morning for comment.

The quarry, first proposed in 2003, is one in a long line of mining projects that have divided county residents in recent decades. Two previous quarry proposals by other applicants on the Roblar Road property were shelved in the late 1980s and early 1990s after they ran into opposition.

Barella's project would produce about about 11 million cubic yards of construction-grade rock, worth about $60 million, over at least 20 years. Supporters say it would be a sustainable source of local aggregate and badly needed jobs.

But opponents argued the quarry's impacts were not sufficiently studied or spelled out in the county's environmental report.

Daum agreed with several of those core claims in his tentative ruling issued in late June. The 34-page final ruling this week mirrored that preliminary decision, using strong language in some instances.

Studies of possible water contamination linked to a long-closed landfill adjacent to the quarry were "utterly inadequate," he wrote.

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