LONG BEACH — The Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners has unanimously approved an agreement under which the Port of Long Beach would help pay for restoring a large portion of Huntington Beach's Bolsa Chica wetlands in exchange for permission to build landfill on at least 227 acres of harbor land.
"We're very excited," Geraldine Knatz, the port's director of planning, said Monday after the port's four commissioners approved the agreement with little discussion. "It's been a long time coming."
Monday's action represented the first formal step in implementing the historic agreement, which provides that the Port of Long Beach and Port of Los Angeles contribute $62 million between them to protect 930 acres of the wetlands now slated for a controversial housing development by the Koll Real Estate Group.
The land in question represents about 75%--virtually the entire wetlands portion--of the Koll group's 1,200-acre Bolsa Chica parcel. If implemented, the agreement would reduce the planned development from 3,300 to 2,500 homes, putting the wetlands in the hands of the federal government, which would oversee the restoration of a part of it.
"We just feel that the public wins under either deal," said Lucy Dunn, Koll senior vice president, referring to both the company's original plan and the one now under discussion.
According to Knatz, the unprecedented agreement--announced last week after lengthy negotiations--is expected to be signed by seven local, state and federal agencies in the next few days and is slated for formal consideration by the Port of Los Angeles on Wednesday.
To make it happen, Dunn said, the Koll group and the U.S. Department of the Interior already have reached agreement on an undisclosed price for which the government--working through an intermediary--could buy the wetlands.
The port's approval of the plan was applauded by people on virtually all sides of the issue.
"It's a dream come true," said Adrianne Morrison, executive director of Amigos de Bolsa Chica, an environmental group founded 20 years ago to protect the wetlands. "This completes our mission statement."
Connie Boardman, president of the Bolsa Chica Land Trust, said that although her group supports the proposed federal purchase of the wetlands, its members remain opposed to construction of the 2,500 homes still planned.
"We're happy about it," she said of Monday's action. "It's a first step. . . ."
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Wetlands Agreement Under the plan, the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles will provide $62 million for partial restoration of the Bolsa Chica wetlands. Koll Real Estate Group, the landowner, would reduce plans to build 3,300 homes on the wetlands and would confine development to the mesa area. 2,500 homes to be built 344 acres to be restored Source: Koll Real Estate Group