In November 2000, the California Coastal Commission with little discussion voted unanimously to bar residential development on the 100-acre lower bench of the Bolsa Chica mesa and to set it aside as a protected habitat. The reasons for that bold decision were clear. Due to its proximity to the Bolsa Chica wetlands, the lower bench's impact on the wetland, if it were to be developed, would have been significant. But most importantly, the lower bench had become and continues to be a critical foraging habitat for raptors and coyotes.
Now the Bolsa Chica Land Trust is proposing a 10-year project that is purported to restore the mesa's biological vitality. Unfortunately, the organization chose to present its plans in a brief document known as a Mitigated Negative Declaration. The document is so meager and sketchy in details that it is impossible to determine what impact, positive or negative, the project would have on the mesa's sensitive wildlife. Normally, a full Environmental Impact Report would be required for a project of this magnitude, the preparation of which calls in experts in various fields to methodically determine a project's impact. None of this is evident in the negative declaration.
It is unknown what effect the implementation of this project would have on the habitat values of the area during the 10 years of its operation. For example, part of the project is to plow the area periodically in order to control non-native plants and to harvest plant materials for composting. What happens to the small prey on which the raptors depend for food? This and scores of other questions are left unanswered in the negative declaration.
While we support efforts to improve habitats in Bolsa Chica, there is just too much at stake to accept a "trust us, we know what we're doing" approach. This project demands a full Environmental Impact Report.
David and Margaret Carlberg
Public should reach own conclusion