Conservation Update, 2017 Nov | Aliso Creek, Esperanza, Madrona
From the Desk of Celia Kutcher, Conservation Chair
Two projects, intended to improve two segments of lower Aliso Creek, have recently been proposed:
1. The Army Corps of Engineers and OC Public Works Department have released the Draft EIS/EIR for the proposed Aliso Creek Ecosystem Restoration Project. This project has been several years in the planning. The EIS/EIR can be downloaded: http://www.spl.usace.army.mil/Missions/Civil-Works/Projects-Studies/Aliso-Creek-Study/. Comments deadline is November 13.
The project covers the creek’s five miles within Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park, plus another two miles upstream to Pacific Park Drive. The project’s primary purpose is to restore the creek bed to a more natural profile. To that end, several changes in infrastructure are called for in the project area.
In particular, in the segment within the park in which the channel is deeply eroded, the plan calls for filling the channel bottom and lowering its sides to restore the floodplain and its functions. This will allow healthy riparian habitat to be restored along what now is a barren, vertical-sided, mile-plus-long, 25-foot deep gully. Such work will need to be done with heavy machinery, making it probably the most controversial part of the project.
2. A plan to restore the 7-acre estuary at the mouth of Aliso Creek has been proposed by the Laguna Ocean Foundation. The plan would remove most of the parking lot that is now on the inland side of Coast Highway at Aliso Beach, and the channelization that was done long ago. That will allow restoration and enlargement of the wetlands, and their aboriginal environmental functioning. The Foundation’s website has a thorough discussion of the project’s purpose and goals: https://www.lagunaoceanfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Aliso_Creek_Estuary_Restoration_Public_Meeting.pdf.
OCCNPS supports the principle of restoring the creek to a more natural, functioning habitat. We are still studying these proposals to see if they are likely to fulfill that principle.
The above two projects are separated by the golf course, now known as “The Ranch,” that has long existed in Aliso Canyon. It is an about 1-mile stretch of private land between the two project areas, which are on public land.
Two lawsuits in which CNPS has been a co-litigant have recently been decided in “our side’s” favor!
1. Esperanza: The Court ruled that the County must re-circulate the Esperanza Hills Environmental Impact Report because of its deficiencies and inadequate analysis on project description, fire evacuation/access, and water use. Details: http://www.protect-our-homes-and-hills.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/POHAH-Appeal-Press-Release-FINAL.pdf
2. Madrona: The Court agreed that the Madrona project violates the City of Brea General Plan, specifically its Woodland Protection Policy, and that the Environmental Impact Report should have considered the grading standards in the Carbon Canyon Specific Plan. Details: http://www.hillsforeveryone.org/PDFs/news/articles/2017/HFE-PR-101717.pdf