A tentative agreement to preserve the habitat of two endangered bird species was reached Thursday by two environmental groups and a host of government defendants, but talks were continued when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said it will refuse to accept title to the property unless the agreement is modified.
According to George Blackmar, attorney for the Santa Fe Land Improvement Co., which is the property owner, Wildlife Service officials objected because the agreement to deed the property to the federal agency did not include the easements to a planned hotel development on Gunpowder Point.
The disputed property lies in Chula Vista, where state and federal officials have planned a four-lane California 54 freeway project, the widening of Interstate 5 and development of a flood-control channel for the Sweetwater River. Under the agreement, the City of Chula Vista and Santa Fe would be barred for two years from proceeding with the planned hotel project on Gunpowder Point, which lies south of the Sweetwater River, on San Diego Bay.
Blackmar said that the talks will continue until an agreement is reached. U.S. District Judge Gordon Thompson ordered all parties to hammer out a compromise. He had threatened to block all of the construction projects unless the habitats of the California least tern and the light-footed clapper rail were protected.
The Sierra Club and the League for Coastal Protection sued to stop the construction. The defendants include five U.S. government agencies, Caltrans, San Diego County, the City of Chula Vista and Santa Fe.