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Coastal Lagoons Worth the Fight

April 14, 1985

My gratitude and that of all environmentalists to The Times and Jenifer Warren for the fine series on the coastal lagoons of San Diego County. These wetland areas and all such wetlands along the narrow coastal shelf of California represent a treasured yet precarious resource under increasing development pressure.

The unenviable battle to preserve the 33% of California's coastal wetlands not yet lost as healthy, productive habitats is a formidable one.

The conflicts posed by the encroachment of man and his activities upon the wetlands can only be resolved through an understanding of their value and the delicate juxtaposition of man and his environment.

In the forefront of this endeavor are a handful of state and federal agencies, together with constituency groups, scientists and environmentalists. A leading agency in the fight is the California Coastal Commission, which Gov. George Deukmejian has vowed to abolish.

Deukmejian is either sadly misinformed or lacks complete understanding of the purpose and duties of the Coastal Commission as mandated by the California Legislature in the Coastal Act of 1976. The governor proposes a 25% cut in fiscal 1986 in the commission's personnel and budget (a near 50% reduction since taking office a scant three years ago). Deukmejian bases his rationale on completion of local coastal plans by coastal jurisdictions.

Nothing could be further from fact. The citizen initiative of 1972 known as Proposition 20 and the Coastal Act that followed were built upon the firm foundation that certain statewide interests transcend those of purely parochial interests--among them, the protection and enhancement of coastal wetlands.

The role of the commission is not only to certify the plans of local governments but to maintain an ongoing presence through a five-year review of the approved plans, to serve as an appeal agency when certain local discretionary decisions may not comply with an approved plan, to resolve complex statewide coastal problems such as shoreline erosion, fishing policies and the conflicts imposed by offshore energy development or other activities.

We need a fully staffed commission to perform its mandated responsibilities, and we need public awareness of this issue, which in turn can be communicated to the governor.



League for Coastal Protection


The recent Times series on local lagoons was excellent. Those who want to contribute to preservation of our area's unique coastal wetlands should realize that an individual can make a difference through letters and telephone calls to governmental representatives and through support of organizations concerned with the environment.

Special attention, it seems to me, needs to be paid to:

- Our local governments' grading ordinances and the enforcement of those controls.

- Continued state budgetary support of the California Coastal Commission despite our governor's continuing attempts to drastically reduce that budget as a way to abolish the commission.

- Support for reauthorization of the federal Coastal Zone Management Act, originally enacted in 1972 as the national foundation for preservation, protection and development of coastal resources. Without reauthorization by Congress before September, the act will expire. The Reagan Administration is expected to oppose reauthorization, while the oil companies and the Chamber of Commerce are expected to propose weakening amendments.

Citizen action is needed to save our coast.



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