Zone 7 Water Agency directors have urged CEMEX to provide more transparency for the public. CEMEX is in the process of filing changes to its reclamation plan for its gravel pits next to southwest Livermore.

Board members commented on the reclamation plan at their Aug. 21 meeting after a special presentation by CEMEX, a Mexico-based sand and gravel company.

In 2015, CEMEX surprised Zone 7 by not even telling the agency about its plans to extend operations at Lakes A and B, two quarries that eventually will be turned over to Zone 7 as part of its Chain of Lakes to be used for the storage of water.

Zone 7 has categorized the lakes’ future by function: detention of raging storm waters, groundwater basin recharge and storage of recycled water. Valley cities are already using recycled water for parkway irrigation; lake storage could enhance the usage.

Instead of receiving official word from CEMEX about its plans for the two quarries, Zone 7 heard about the plan indirectly from neighbors in southwest Livermore. Director Sarah Palmer, who lives near the affected Oaks neighborhood, happened to hear about it just by chatting with one of her neighbors.

Resistance by neighbors, who formed Tri-Valley Preservation Association (TVPA), led to talks with CEMEX.

The dialogue resulted in the announcement that CEMEX would no longer mine Lake A after all. It would complete its reclamation plan there, then turn Lake A over to Zone 7 by 2023.

CEMEX also surprised Zone 7 directors in 2015 by announcing that Lake B won’t be turned over to Zone 7 in 2030, but in 2056 or 2058.

Directors who were on the board at that time looked shocked when they heard the news. It meant putting the Chain of Lakes on the back burner for another generation, because Lake B is important for the flow to other lakes north of it in the chain. These lakes are mined by two other companies. Zone 7 owns three of the 10 in the chain, all in an unincorporated area next to Pleasanton.

The Lake B delay will be caused by mining Lake B an additional 100 feet lower, bringing the bottom depth of the pit to 250 feet. CEMEX has the right to do it, without question, because it is heir to earlier mining permits from a predecessor company in the 1980s.

Clear Communication

With that background on the issue, Zone 7 directors insisted at their Aug. 21 meeting on the best possible transparency from CEMEX about the steps it will take in putting the reclamation plan in effect, and the importance of the public’s role in commenting on the process.

Zone 7 played up the CEMEX presentation ahead of the meeting by sending out a half-dozen reminders over three weeks to news media and the 600 regular subscribers to its online newsletter. Meeting attendance was larger than usual.

There were few audience comments, but directors asked technical questions, and insisted that CEMEX communicate with the public using clear, non-technical language.

Director Michelle Smith McDonald said many in the audience may not have understood the technical numbers. She suggested that CEMEX develop an outreach plan that the public understands.

“We urge Zone 7 and CEMEX to work together on the plan,” Livermore Valley Chamber of Commerce CEO Dawn Argula said, noting the Chamber’s appreciation of their “due diligence” in keeping the water supply safe.

Argula said it is “awesome” that the gravel companies will turn over their mined-out quarries to Zone 7 for the Chain of Lakes. “We are planning for future generations, just as past leaders have,” she said.

CEMEX consultant Yasha Saber said the company has a communication plan in place, and part of it will be the posting of information on the quarry website at http://cemexeliotfacility.com/. The formal name for the two gravel pits is Eliot Quarry.

Debbie Haldeman, Western Region Director of Government Affairs and Communication for CEMEX, said, “We always try to meet with the community, and always talk in lay person’s terms. We are constantly evolving communication plans, and are happy to give site tours.”

Aggregate Needed Nearby

CEMEX representatives stated that the Bay Area will need 2 billion tons of sand and gravel over the next 50 years. Keeping construction costs down will be important. The closer the quarries are to the job sites, the cheaper the construction.

Nearby projects that have used aggregate concrete include upgrades to Interstates 580 and 680, the new Kaiser care facility in Dublin, the Gale Ranch development in San Ramon, and Irby Ranch, which is under construction in Pleasanton. Cutting transportation mileage helps curb air pollution, too, so CEMEX is converting many of its vehicles to clean-burning trucks.

Savings are important to the taxpayers, commented Haldeman. Some 45% of construction in the region is paid by tax dollars, she said.

Happy Trails

Tamara Reus, President of Friends of Open Space and Vineyards, commented that she was pleased to see trails included in the reclamation project.

Saber noted that the Lake A segment of the trail already is in place. The Lake B portion would be developed before it’s turned over to Zone 7.

Zone 7 does not manage any recreational facilities, but coordinates with cities, the Livermore Area Recreation and Park District and East Bay Regional Park District when they want to operate and maintain trails on Zone 7 land.

Zone 7 is only one stop along the path to reclamation plan approval. The Alameda County Planning Commission, Board of Supervisors and federal and state environmental regulators are also on the way.