Lewis Griswold

Griswold: Woodlake mine owner John Alltucker dies at age 92

John Alltucker, who owned the controversial Kaweah River Rock gravel mine in Woodlake, died Dec. 14 in Eugene, Ore. He was 92.

Mr. Alltucker made headlines when he sought to expand his gravel mine.

Dave Harrald of Visalia, the mine's retired general manager, said his former boss embodied the best of the Great Depression-World War II generation because of his self-reliance and integrity.

"He told me, 'Profit is important, but you've got to treat your customers right, treat your employees right and do the right thing for the community,' " Harrald said.

Mr. Alltucker was born in Exeter in 1920 and spent summers in Mineral King where his family had a cabin. At 13, he started working as a mule packer in the Sierra.

He graduated from Stanford University with a degree in mining and geology and was working in Utah when Pearl Harbor was attacked. He joined the Navy, serving as an officer in the South Pacific.

After the war, he obtained an advanced degree in civil engineering at Stanford, then worked as a project engineer for the Kiewit engineering company building the Friant-Kern Canal.

In 1959, he bought a sand and gravel mine in Eugene. In 1966, he took over Kaweah River Rock and would fly to Woodlake from Eugene in his private plane, timing visits to attend Woodlake Rotary Club meetings.

In the 1980s, he sought county permission to expand the gravel pit onto farmland, a plan opposed by some farmers and others concerned about potential effects on groundwater supplies. The proposal lost twice but finally won approval from the Tulare County Board of Supervisors after an on-and-off drama that lasted 22 years.

One opponent said he respected how Mr. Alltucker carried out the fight.

"We could disagree greatly and passionately," said farmer John Kirkpatrick. "He was always a gentleman. He always spoke with respect and so he was a man of character."

Growth plan

Visalia's long-term growth plan approval process should pick up speed in early 2013.

On Jan. 22, the Visalia City Council meets to approve the proposed Visalia General Plan update or make changes to it, and then authorize the start of a $300,000 draft environmental impact report.

But it's unclear how smooth the process will be.

Visalia City Manager Steve Salomon said last week he will release his own recommendations suggesting adjustments to the General Plan. Releasing them this week will give the council and the community time to ponder them, he said.

The proposed General Plan already includes a compromise on the hot issue of designating retail development on farmland at the intersection of Highway 99 and Caldwell Avenue.

In March, the council delayed approval of the plan after a community debate erupted. Developers with Mooney Boulevard interests argued that a big new retail node could harm Mooney.

A consultant suggested extending south the boundaries of the Mooney retail district and designating Highway 99 at Caldwell for "super regional" retail if the equivalent of an Ikea store comes knocking.

But the council has yet to approve the compromise and gets its first formal crack at it Jan. 22.