The Board of Supervisors on Wednesday approved a plan to develop the 1,600-acre Bolsa Chica marshlands in Huntington Beach, an area including one of Southern California's largest remaining wetlands.
The supervisors ratified the plan approved Oct. 23 by the California Coastal Commission, allowing for development of a 1,300-slip marina, waterfront homes, restaurants and hotels, and called on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to begin drawing models for the project.
In exchange for development of the land, most of it owned by Signal Bolsa Co., 915 acres of wetlands must be restored sufficiently to sustain the birds and fish that use the marsh as their habitat.
A major issue still to be settled is whether to carve a navigable ocean channel into the development.
Environmentalists have opposed any plan to make the channel accessible to boats, but developers have said that without it the development will not be cost-effective.
Supervisor Harriett Wieder, in whose district the Bolsa Chica marsh is located, pointed out that "there are many, many complex issues that need to be addressed in the coming year" and said she would form an advisory committee to offer its views on the development.
The Coastal Commission insisted that Signal ensure that the wetlands be restored before permits to subdivide the parcels or build on them are issued.
The commission also required 100-foot-wide buffer zones around the central wetlands and smaller buffers around other areas to protect environmentally sensitive habitats from the construction.
Signal bought the land in 1970, exchanged some of it with the state in 1973, and later announced plans for development. Those plans touched off years of wrangling among the developer, environmental groups, and officials of state and county agencies.
Robert Fisher, planning director for the county Environmental Management Agency, said that the plan approved by the supervisors, "while not clearly pleasing everyone," did win "the consensus that this is a good plan."