South Bay is a world of environmental contrasts--a place of fertile salt marshes and the county's two toxic dumps. It's a place where a rare plant thrives in the grassy strips next to sidewalks, and rare birds fly in each spring to nest on vacant fill.
The following is a sampler of environmental controversies simmering in South Bay:
- The Chula Vista Bayfront Plan--For more than a decade, environmentalists' opposition and regulators' reservations have hung up this scheme to develop 500 unused acres on the city's bayfront. Now two endangered bird species, the California least tern and light-footed clapper rail, and an endangered plant, the salt marsh bird's beak, have delayed the project.
- The Second Channel--Three South Bay cities have resuscitated a long-dormant plan for a second entrance to San Diego Bay, cutting through the Silver Strand. But wildlife officials fear for the loss of the South Bay's shallow-water habitat and the salt marsh home of tern and other bird species rarely found in California.
- Otay Mesa development--Botanists predict that the imminent development of this vast plateau will mean the decimation of the remaining "vernal pools" that are home to the rare Loma Alta mesa mint. Also threatened is the Baja California rose, a desert flower discovered last year on the western side of the mesa and believed to be the only U.S. example, according to Mitchel Beauchamp, the botanist president of Pacific Southwest Biological Services.