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Series a Wakeup Call to Salvage What's Left of County Wetlands

August 16, 1992

Our congratulations go to Marla Cone and Danny Sullivan on the extensive collection of data and Russ Arasmith and Dennis Lowe for their outstanding graphics in (the series) "The Wetlands: Orange County's Embattled Resource" (Aug. 2 and 3).

The comprehensive coverage of all of the wetlands issues precluded the authors from focusing specifically in detail on any one area. I feel it is important to recap the Bolsa Chica planning history since the mid '70s.

Through public awareness and pressure spearheaded by the Amigos (de Bolsa Chica), the Surfriders and other environmental organizations, the Coastal Commission's conditionally approved Marina Plan was no longer acceptable. Our group fought that plan tenaciously, seeing increased acreage for wetlands restoration being offered by the developer from the original 300 to 600, to 915 acres.

Our prolonged lawsuit initiated in 1979 continued, and we initiated a plan of our own for Bolsa Chica which called for 1,200 acres of wetlands to be restored, modest development of homes on the mesa uplands and an ocean inlet to ensure biological success.

In October, 1988, the process of the Bolsa Chica Planning Coalition began. For the first time in the tumultuous 15 years of planning the Bolsa Chica Wetlands, the five main interests were brought together with a facilitator to resolve their issues--the county, the city of Huntington Beach, the state, the landowner (Signal Bolsa), and the grass-roots environmental group (the Amigos de Bolsa Chica).

In 1989 after six months, the BCPC Concept Plan was forged. The essential elements were 1,109 acres of wetlands/open space, no marina or hotel resort complex, all residential development to be determined by the local public planning process, and the developer would have the right to request permits from the Army Corps of Engineers to fill 100 acres of wetlands at the interior of the property unopposed by the Amigos. And of key importance to the Amigos, a detailed restoration plan would be developed for Bolsa Chica using the finest scientific minds available.

This BCPC Concept Plan is the plan that is currently going forward by Signal Bolsa (now managed by the Koll Co.) and the city of Huntington Beach, which is now the lead agency. The draft EIS/EIR will be released this month with detailed analysis of the BCPC plan and the many other alternatives. The public will be involved, and the Amigos de Bolsa will submit their comments on the various elements of the plan as the scientific evidence reveals the impacts of development related to the wetlands. Public input will continue to be received by the city.

ADRIANNE MORRISON, Executive Director, Amigos de Bolsa Chica

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