Speakers at a public hearing Tuesday on development on the Bolsa Chica wetlands urged the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to recommend preservation of as much of the ecologically sensitive area as possible.
"Whatever plan you accept, I would like to see maximum wetlands restoration," Dave Hall of Long Beach said.
The Army Engineers convened the hearing at the Huntington Beach Civic Center to get public opinions on an environmental impact statement on proposed development at Bolsa Chica. The area is composed of about 1,700 acres of wetlands and bluff lands near Warner Avenue and Pacific Coast Highway.
Joey Davis of Huntington Beach, who also testified at the hearing, said, "This is a sacred area, and one that we want to take care of."
Bill Halpin of Huntington Harbour said, "Let's save what we can of our wetlands--all if possible."
Several other speakers similarly urged the corps to emphasize the importance of saving as much as possible of the wetlands.
A compromise hammered out in 1989 by environmental groups and the major landowners of Bolsa Chica calls for some residential development around the wetlands. The proposal would require 1,109 acres to be left as "functional wetlands" but would permit about 5,700 residential units on bluff areas surrounding them.
The corps listed that proposal as Alternative One. Corps officials said, however, that 14 other options also will be studied. The other alternatives range from much heavier development than proposed in the compromise to no development whatsoever.
Many of the development proposals, the 1989 compromise among them, call for building a tidal inlet on Bolsa Chica State Beach to connect the wetlands directly to the ocean.
Bill Tippets, representing the state Department of Parks and Recreation, testified that state officials are not happy about seeing a portion of the beach taken to make the channel. He noted that Orange County government earlier this month made a cut into Huntington State Beach to complete the new Talbert Channel.
"We are losing public beach as each additional project goes through," Tippets said. He added that if a Bolsa Chica channel is approved by the corps, it should be built at the southern extreme of Bolsa Chica State Beach.
The corps said its environmental impact statement on Bolsa Chica will be complete late this year or early next year.