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Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
North County Times
April 10, 2000


Once again it is time to call our elected officials to tell them their current agenda in no way benefits the people they pretend to represent. In February, Assemblywoman Denise Ducheny, with the support of the Building Industry Association, introduced a bill that would allow development in California's remaining wetlands. Not only would the passage of this bill sound a death knoll for a myriad of endangered species, it would also complete the Los Angelesization of San Diego County.

The Building Industry Association is a rapacious lot, with profit always placed before environmental concerns, hence their endorsement of Assembly Bill 2301. The question is why Assemblywoman Ducheny has become their Fairy Godmother? The proposed Assembly Bill 2301, is a serious departure from past legislation introduced by Ms. Ducheny. Assembly Bill 981 NCCP established state funding standards for endangered species habitat restoration and preservation regarding local Natural Communities Conservation Plans. Why would Ducheny saddle up next to the Building Industry Association, and alienate the Sierra Club and other environmental groups, not to mention anger the California Coastal Commission? Term limits and the pursuit of higher office might have something to do with it.

Assembly Bill 2301 would amend the California Coastal Act to allow residential, commercial, and recreation projects on sensitive coastal habitats. The 1976 California Coastal Act, enacted by the State Legislature to provide long-term protection of California's 1,100-mile coastline for the benefit of current and future generations, has protected the lagoons that now define San Diego's coastal North County. Wetlands that would have long ago been graded and filled to make room for tourist hotels and Los Angeles style development. Considering 95 percent of Southern California's coastal wetlands have been destroyed by development, it is obvious the California Coastal Act already favors the building industry.

Existing law requires that environmentally sensitive habitat areas be protected against any significant disruption of habitat values, requiring only uses dependent on those resources be allowed within those areas. Assembly Bill 2310 would allow uses not dependent on the habitat values under certain conditions. Haven't those conditions already been set? That's why the California Coastal Act was enacted in the first place.

The push to develop every remaining piece of open space in San Diego County, means with the passage of AB 2310 we may soon see shopping centers, housing tracts, and other definitions of smart growth in our severely degraded coastal wetlands. How is this protection?

The Building Industry Association, always the first one to the table and the last to leave, believes continued development would be good for the environment. Citing that AB2310 requires the destruction of wetlands and habitat to be mitigated by the restoration and maintenance of wetlands elsewhere, developers support this bill as an open invitation. Basically the passage of this bill would result in a net loss of at least half of what remains.

Contrary to what developers believe, wetlands are not as easily replaced, as the Sport Utility Vehicles they drive. With Only 5 percent of coastal wetlands remain. Is it possible to restore habitat that no longer exists, and where will these mitigators find biologically superior coastal wetlands as the Bill requires?

The question before us is simple. Are the lagoons of North County important to us? If so, please write or call your representative and ask them to protect the little that remains.

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