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New Wetlands Bill Would Check Bolsa Chica Ruling

February 25, 2000|SEEMA MEHTA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Two Southern California lawmakers joined a San Diego assemblywoman Thursday in introducing a bill that would counter a recent Bolsa Chica court ruling that has had a chilling effect on coastal development projects.

Assembly members Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) and Thomas Calderon (D-Montebello) joined Denise Ducheny (D-San Diego) in backing the bill, Ducheny aides said.

The wording of the legislation introduced Thursday was unavailable.

A draft released last week, which outraged environmentalists, would amend the state's landmark 1972 Coastal Act and allow builders to destroy degraded wetlands and other sensitive habitats if superior habitats are created elsewhere as compensation.

The law also would change the definition of wetlands in a way environmentalists say would eliminate most current Southern California wetlands from protection.

The proposal comes in response to an April 1999 state appeals court decision that prohibited destruction of wetlands and two "environmentally sensitive habitat areas" for residential development at Bolsa Chica.

The ruling, developers say, set a tighter standard that has stalled or altered projects up and down the coast.

Several environmental groups from Orange and Los Angeles counties--including the Bolsa Chica Land Trust, Huntington Beach Tomorrow and the Sierra Club--have planned a rally Sunday in Long Beach to protest the bill.

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