Natural Perspectives: More like a 'heart attack for the mesa'

February 09, 2011|By Vic Leipzig and Lou Murray
  • The Bolsa Chica mesa is currently covered with arm-pit high grasses and wild radish, with isolated clumps of coastal sage scrub.
The Bolsa Chica mesa is currently covered with arm-pit… (Courtesy Lou Murray,…)

The Bolsa Chica Land Trust has prepared a restoration plan for a 118-acre portion of the Bolsa Chica mesa, most of which is currently fenced. The area includes Warner Pond and the former Bolsa Chica Gun Club site, both of which are environmentally sensitive sites.

The Land Trust calls its plan "CPR for the Mesa." On its website, it reports that its plan will cost $4.3 million to implement. Wow. Would that be our tax dollars that it hopes to spend?

I wouldn't call this plan CPR for the mesa. When I read the Negative Declaration prepared by the California Department of Fish and Game in regard to this plan, it about gave me a heart attack. There are so many flaws and problems with this plan that it is hard to know where to start.

A Negative Declaration — or Neg Dec for short — is basically a document that says that the project will have no adverse effect. Many factors are taken into consideration when preparing a Neg Dec, including the effect on the biological resources, aesthetics, cultural resources such as Native American artifacts and more.


Edmund Pert, a regional manager with DFG, reviewed the Land Trust's proposed restoration plan and found that although "the original scope of the project could have had a significant impact on the environment, there will not be a significant effect because revisions/mitigations to the project have been made by or agreed to by the applicant."

I disagree with that statement. I believe that an adequate biological assessment was not performed and that the project will indeed have a significant impact. The impacts to wildlife are so great that a full Environmental Impact Report (EIR) should have been prepared. That would have required DFG to consider other alternatives, including no project at all. This is public property, and the public should have a say in what happens there.

I'm not writing this just as an environmental columnist. Over the past 20 years, I have worked on restoration, research and monitoring projects at Bolsa Chica, the Huntington Wetlands and Shipley Nature Center. Vic and I were lead writers for the inch-thick biology section of one version of the Ballona Wetlands Environmental Impact Report. Vic, also a professional biologist, served on the Huntington Beach Planning Commission for six years, as well as four years on the City Council. We have a bit of experience with these matters.

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