Quarry conundrum | SierraSun.com

Quarry conundrum

Christine Stanley
Sierra Sun

Ryan Salm/Sierra Sun

In just a few months, the first of more than 30 road improvement projects will begin along the Interstate 80 corridor and California highways in the Tahoe Basin.

Demands for construction material will increase dramatically, and it’s all supposed to come from Truckee’s quarries.

“The big issue here is asphalt and concrete,” said Jeff Thatcher, senior project manager for Teichert Aggregates, a company that operates quarries at Boca, Martis Valley and near Glenshire.

The Martis Valley mine currently produces an annual average of 130 to 140 tons of concrete every year to service local needs, Thatcher said, but in order to meet the demand for Caltrans projects that will start this summer and extend over the next five years, the mine will need to push out more than 200 tons annually.

“For the first time in a long time, California has actually allocated the money to re-do the roads and bridges, but California is so far behind on road improvements that they are scheduling all these things within a five or six-year window,” Thatcher said.

“Caltrans doesn’t always understand that building in Tahoe and Truckee is at a high cycle, and when you start to piggy-back projects there are lots of issues.”

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Those issues are far from being sorted out, Thatcher said, and include such matters as increasing the capacity of the Boca quarry, balancing state and local aggregate demand, and forecasting the amount of materials needed for upcoming projects, such as the Sierra College campus, Planned Community 1 in Truckee, and road and sidewalk improvements in Kings Beach.

“We know that our existing customers are the contractors in the Tahoe area, and we will service them before we serve Caltrans, but we are trying to find a way to do both,” Thatcher said. “If we run short, we’ll have to import, but we’re not sure how we’ll do that.”

Meanwhile, nine road improvement projects are planned for the I-80 corridor from Colfax to the state line. The first two projects will begin this year and will repair sections of the interstate from Kingvale to Donner Summit, said Caltrans District Director Jody Jones. The remaining projects will get underway in 2008 and 2009.

In addition, shoreline highways (89, 267, 28 and 50) will see nearly two dozen water quality improvement projects that will also require building materials.

“It’s going to be interesting because there is going to be a lot of pressure from the state to keep mines open and to expand them,” said Nevada County Supervisor Ted Owens.

One such locale is the Boca quarry, which Teichert would like to expand by 40 acres, said Thatcher.

That site has already created quite a stir among Hirschdale residents, who have voiced concerns over increased traffic, noise levels and dust since last summer when the demand for gravel for Martis Valley and Caltrans construction brought streams of heavy trucks onto Hirschdale’s road.

“My concern for the constituents in Hirschdale is that we need to find a way to co-exist with the Boca quarry, understanding clearly that the state has their crosshairs on that mine,” Owens said. “It produces all their needs for the Tahoe basin and the I-80 corridor. It’s very strategically located.”

Teichert has already submitted an application to the state to expand the mine, Thatcher said, but the green flag won’t come without some serious preparations.

“There is no way to get the material out (of Boca quarry) without running through Hirschdale,” Thatcher said. “We are talking to Caltrans about installing off-ramps (on I-80), but the process, because it’s a federal highway, is not going to be a quick process. We will not expand the mine without the off-ramps.”

Thatcher said Teichert is not looking to expand the other mines because the Martis quarry is already as big as it can be, and there is tonnage limitation on the product that can come out of the Truckee mine.