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CAMPAIGN 2000

Voters Want to Start Plans for Diablo Canyon Site

Preservation: A nonbinding initiative to protect 14 miles of coastline gets overwhelming support.

March 09, 2000|SALLY ANN CONNELL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

SAN LUIS OBISPO — Residents overwhelmingly voted to start planning for a distant future when the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant is no longer operating.

The so-called DREAM Initiative asks officials of San Luis Obispo County to bar development along the 14-mile stretch of pristine coast where the plant is located.

The property is one of the largest chunks of undeveloped oceanfront land in private hands on the Central Coast. Backers of the initiative want to preserve the natural habitat and allow agriculture and public use on the land when the Diablo's reactor licenses expire in 25 years.

"This seems like the first time folks have planned so far down the road since John Muir looked at Yosemite Valley and said this needs to be preserved for all time," said county Supervisor Peg Pinard.

Pinard said the initiative--approved Tuesday by three-quarters of the voters--establishes a clear mandate for supervisors when they consider a new general plan for the area.

"What we have learned from the past is, if you don't look down the line, a series of small decisions will gum up the works," she said. "How treasures get lost is a path already well known. This is the public saying, 'We want to do things differently.' "

PG&E has expressed qualified support for the initiative, which is nonbinding.

"This only has implications after the plant is no longer operating," Jeff Lewis, a spokesman for the utility, said Wednesday. "Now, our job is to get back to running the plant in a safe manner."

Diablo Canyon was the last nuclear plant built in California and went online in the mid-1980s after two decades of protests. The plant is on 13,000 acres southwest of San Luis Obispo.

Backers of the initiative said they would now turn their attention to raising money from conservation groups and other sources to purchase conservation easements in the area.

"We're not done," said Sam Blakeslee, the financial planner who drafted the initiative. "This is the mandate we were looking for to go straight to Sacramento and Washington to identify these irreplaceable lands and meet with groups dedicated to preservation."

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