The owners of the Ozena Valley Ranch gravel mine in northwestern Ventura County have told the county they will shut down the mine and return the property to farmland.
The Ventura County Planning Division received word on Nov. 29 from a consultant to Alliance Ready Mix, a concrete company based in Santa Maria that leases the Ozena mine, that it was withdrawing its application for a new county permit, said Dan Klemann, the manager of the county’s industrial and commercial permits section.
The mine is in the Lockwood Valley, a rugged area more than an hour’s drive north of Ojai. It is owned by the Virgilio family, which also owns the surrounding farmland and open space, and operated by Alliance.
The Ozena mine has been open since 2001. Its original permit expired in 2006, and since then, the mine had operated under the terms of the old permit while the owners sought a new one.
At first, the Virgilios asked the county for permission to expand the mine. Their request was scaled back repeatedly, until what remained this year was a request to continue current operations for another two years, Klemann said.
Alliance and the Virgilios had also volunteered to stop sending trucks from the mine south on Highway 33 through Ojai, a practice that had infuriated some in the Ojai Valley and sparked the creation of a group called Stop The Trucks. Members flooded the county with complaints accusing Ozena of sending gravel trucks through Ojai outside of the permitted hours, and they were lobbying the county to reject Ozena’s request for an extended permit.
A hearing was scheduled before the county planning director on Nov. 30 to decide on the two-year extension, Klemann said. It was cancelled when Alliance’s consultants notified the Planning Division by e-mail the day before that the firm was pulling its application.
Ozena no longer has a valid permit, and the closure is effective immediately, Klemann said.
“They can’t do any more mining activities,” he said. “They’re not supposed to be mining today. They have to proceed with reclamation. … It was such a small operation that reclamation isn’t a major process. It’s really just moving off the equipment and spreading that dirt around and then returning it to a condition where it can be used for agriculture again.”