Conservation Update, 2012 Sep | Green Vision, Transportation Corridor, El Toro, Cadiz Water, Bolsa Chica, Chino Hills Fire Study, Saddle Crest, Sunset Park

From the Desk of Celia Kutcher, Conservation Chair



Friends of Harbors, Beaches, and Parks will host a free Green Vision workshop on Saturday, September 22nd, 10 AM to noon, at the Theater in the Muth Interpretive Center at Upper Newport Bay (2301 University Drive, NB). To register, email

Catherine Engberg of Shute, Mihaly and Weinberger will cover the three “Government in the Sunshine” laws:

  • The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which gives the public the right to access information from the federal government. It is often described as the law that keeps citizens in the know about their government.
  • Public Records Act Requests (PRA), which gives the public the right to access information concerning the peoples’ business.
  • The Brown Act, which was enacted in response to mounting public concerns over informal, undisclosed meetings held by local elected officials. City councils, county boards, and other local government bodies were avoiding public scrutiny by holding secret “workshops” and “study sessions.” The Brown Act applies to California city and county government agencies, boards, and councils.

A PowerPoint, with useful and important information, and handouts will be provided to participants. For more information, contact 714-779-7561.


The OC Transportation Corridor Agency (TCA) is now proposing to build the SR-241 toll road in segments, the first segment to run from the road’s present terminus at Oso Parkway, in Mission Viejo, almost to Ortega Highway in San Juan Capistrano. The latest Endangered Habitats League Newsletter,, covers a recap and update of the situation. In late June, TCA representatives made a presentation on the first segment to a gathering of OC enviro-group representatives. The attendees had many questions and comments; the final comment was that all OC enviro groups remain solidly opposed to the road in any of its proposed forms. The Save San Onofre Coalition is gearing up for lengthy court battles against any toll-road extension.


In late June, the FBI took ownership of the 900-acre El Toro Natural Area. The property was long a part of the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, and was designated as a critical element for habitat connectivity in the 1995 Central-Coastal Natural Communities Conservation Plan/Habitat Conservation Plan (NCCP/HCP). (More background: Conservation Report, May-June 2012; CNPS Bulletin, July-Sept 2012.)

Many OC cities, agencies, groups (including OCCNPS) and individuals supported the site’s long-planned NCCP/HCP role during the Environmental Assessment process for transfer of the El Toro site from the FAA to the FBI, last spring. The FBI’s responses show that it does not recognize:

  1. The absolute importance of the property to functioning of the wildlife corridor–one of the NCCP/HCP’s prime purposes.
  2. That the wildlife corridor is constrained to passing through the El Toro Natural Area by the residential development all around the property, emplaced since 1996.

After the transfer, Laguna Greenbelt, Endangered Habitats League, Natural Resources Defense Council and a number of local and regional enviro groups teamed up to pursue other possibilities (mainly local and regional political) to gain the FBI’s cooperation with NCCP/HCP goals. Those possibilities have been exhausted. The team has unanimously concluded that legal means will have to be employed to gain some traction in negotiations toward the FBI’s cooperation. A legal team has been assembled, of multiple law firms and some of the best attorneys for the federal issues involved. Though much work will be done pro bono, $20,000 to $50,000 is needed to cover the law firms’ out of pocket expenses.

ACTION NOW:  Send a donation by the end of September, marked “El Toro,” to Endangered Habitats League, 8424 Santa Monica Blvd., Suite A 592, Los Angeles, CA 90069-4267.


The Santa Margarita Water District (SMWD) recently approved a proposal to pump groundwater from the Cadiz Valley in the Mojave Desert and bring it via the Colorado Aqueduct to OC. SMWD is the lead agency in the scheme. Much of the water will go to support development of Rancho Mission Viejo, OC’s last large development. See more at:

The approval came after hours of public-hearing testimony, much of it opposing the project. A sizable group of Cadiz-area residents traveled all the way to Rancho Santa Margarita to solidly oppose the project, as did most of the speakers from a remote feed near Cadiz.

A water project, per se, is somewhat out of CNPS’ focus on native plants. But CNPS is a participant in the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP), which works to evaluate the cumulative impacts of renewable energy development (i.e. industrialization) in the desert and plan for the conservation of desert flora and fauna. Groundwater pumping for export, especially on the scale of the Cadiz project, is also industrialization of the desert. OCCNPS’ comments at the SMWD hearing put CNPS on record as opposing the Cadiz project.

UPDATE, Sept. 6:  The Center for Biological Diversity, the National Parks Conservation Association, the San Gorgonio Chapter of the Sierra Club, and the San Bernardino Audubon Society have filed a lawsuit against the Cadiz Water Project.  See their analysis of the EIR’s flaws at:

CONGRATULATIONS TO THE BOLSA CHICA LAND TRUST for “20 years of Saving It Not Paving It!” The Trust is celebrating with a Birthday Gala, Sept. 15, 2012, 6-10 PM; details at All event proceeds will go towards land acquisition–helping to set the tone for the next 20 years at Bolsa Chica.


Hills For Everyone (HFE) has just released A 100-Year History of Wildfires Near Chino Hills State Park. See HFE undertook the study after witnessing the devastation wrought by the Freeway Complex Fire in 2008.

The study documents the fire history of the area of Chino Hills State Park between 1914 and 2011. The overall area includes the neighboring cities of Brea, Yorba Linda, Corona and Chino Hills. Fire perimeters and points of origin are used to articulate the problem months, weather conditions, and “hot spots” of fire ignition. A feature of this study includes digital maps that the public, agencies, and jurisdictions can interact with via Google Earth.
A few statistics from the study:

  • 101 of the 103 fires included in the study were human caused.
  • More than 262,000 acres have burned over the last 97 years.
  • Arson, power lines, and automobiles are the three main causes of fire ignitions.
  • The average fire burns 2,717 acres.

These statistics indicate that, though fires are a natural part of the ecosystem, there is nothing natural about the size and frequency of the fires destroying SoCal’s wildlands year after year.


On July 25th, the OC Planning Commission approved the Saddle Crest development, planned for Santiago Canyon Road near Cook’s Corner. The OC Board of Supervisors will make the final decision on the project, possibly in Sept. See background at and OCCNPS’ Conservation Report, July-Aug. 2012.
ACTION NOW:  Donate to the Rural Canyons Conservation Fund’s war chest for possible legal action, P.O. Box 556, Trabuco Canyon, CA 92678-0556.


On Aug. 9, the Coastal Commission approved a Coastal Development Permit for the 15-acre Sunset Ridge Park in Newport Beach, immediately adjacent to Banning Ranch. The final version of the Park plan is much improved over the original version. See for a detailed update and extensive background, and to donate to their ongoing campaign to preserve Banning Ranch.


The Friends of Harbors, Beaches and Parks published its new OC Green Vision Map in July. The map is available online,, where it can be zoomed in on and studied in great detail. There’s also downloadable high- and low-res versions. Active Conservation Projects and Potential Conservation Lands are clearly shown, as are various other land designations, streamcourses, and more. The map will be an even greater help to OC’s enviro community than the very helpful previous versions!

Post A Comment