Two Environmental Threats To Huntington Beach That Need Your Attention

As we progress into 2014 with hope and energy, we should keep at the forefront of our minds two threats against the very land and water we love so much: a potential residential development in the Bolsa Chica mesa and the Poseidon Desalination Plant. To both we say nay. Here's what you need to know and can do to take action.

BOLSA CHICA MESA DEVELOPMENT

(Image courtesy of the Bolsa Chica Land Trust)

Once again, the Bolsa Chica mesa meets the menace of housing development by Signal Landmark. The developer aims to build 22 homes on the northwest five-acre parcel known as the Ridge—an area that the Bolsa Chica Land Trust describes as "a 9,000-year-old archaeological site." Signal Landmark received the green light from the Huntington Beach City Council in 2010 to erect 22 "green" homes on the site, but the Land Trust subsequently sued the city and developer Hearthside Homes to halt the project and demand a proper analysis of its full effects, according to the Huntington Beach Independent.

The suit remains at a standstill until the California Coastal Commission hears the issue, and it will this week. The hearing will take place in San Diego on Wednesday, January 8. Three of the Land Trust's main arguments against the development are that it will "forever destroy this rare and precious site," "destroy more of our open space and critical wildlife habitat" and "destroy one of the last remaining Sacred Sites for the Native American people." The Coastal Commission will consider whether or not the city can amend its Local Coastal Program and rezone the area to allow for the development at the hearing.

Here's how you can make a difference, per Bolsa Chica Land Trust Executive Director Kim Kolpin:

Email both Meg Vaughn (Meg.Vaughn@coastal.ca.gov) and Teresa Henry (Teresa.Henry@coastal.ca.gov) at the California Coastal Commission. Mark the agenda Item Number W24a, the application number Ridge LCPA (HNB-MAJ-1-12), and your name and your position of opposition to the project in the upper righthand corner of the first page of your submission. You can read the Land Trust's sample letter to the Coastal Commission here.

Attend the hearing. The Land Trust will provide roundtrip bus transportation to the all-day event, and interested parties should RSVP to Kolpin by calling 714-846-1001 or emailing kim@bclandtrust.org as soon as possible. The bus will depart at 8 a.m. Wednesday and will not return until roughly 6 p.m.

For more information on the Bolsa Chica land development, read the Huntington Beach Independent's "Commission set to decide on Bolsa Chica development" and the Bolsa Chica Land Trust's "Urgent News."

UPDATE, JUNE 13: Success! Kolpin updates us via email: "Yesterday afternoon, after a few hours of testimony, the City/Developer backed down and withdrew the application!! So, although this is not the clear win we had hoped for—if the developer wants to continue to pursue development, they have to start from the beginning at the City level. It was a good day!" See her formal letter of thanks to those who challenged the development below.

UPDATE, JUNE 11: The Land Trust will have signs and stickers ready for anyone who attends the June 12 hearing.

In other news, an addendum to the staff report was released on June 9 noting that all correspondence received so far has been in opposition to the project. Read it here.

UPDATE, MAY 31: The Ridge development project will be heard at the California Coastal Commission hearing on Thursday, June 12, at HB City Hall. The hearing is expected to begin at 9 a.m., and it is not yet known what time the item, #9a, will be heard. Kolpin advises those who wish to stand alongside the Land Trust to "deny the Ridge" to arrive at 9 a.m. Kolpin adds, "The more people who are in the chambers, the better." The Land Trust is also fighting to save the Goodell property adjacent to the threatened site.

View the Facebook event page here, and follow the Land Trust on Twitter for updates.

Another way to support opposition of the development is to write to the Coastal Commission as follows, per the Land Trust:

The top of the letter should include the Application number: HNB-MAJ-1-12 and "Opposition to the project". The address to include on the letter and where to send it:

The California Coastal Commission
South Coast Area Office
200 Oceangate, Suite 1000
Long Beach, CA 90802
Attn: Meg Vaughn/Teresa Henry

Main points to include are saving the entire lands both Ridge and Goodell, and keeping the zoning to open spaces- parks. The area is rich in archeological significance including cog stones, burial grounds and village.

UPDATE, JANUARY 9: The California Coastal Commission rezoning hearing on Wednesday was postponed at the last minute due to late submissions to the developer's staff report. Kolpin tells us that the developer submitted additions and changes to the report on Monday, tweaks that were unable to be viewed until Tuesday due to incorrect platform format. With the hearing slated for Wednesday, very few eyes viewed the 106-page addendum. Come Wednesday, the developer requested that the hearing be delayed. "It happened rather fast," says Kolpin, noting that late communications due to the recent holidays were abound. Here's what else she has to say about the issue:

Yesterday the item was postponed at the last minute. 50 of us made our way down there for kind of nothing in that we weren't able to speak, but we were completely prepared and we have a lot of support. I think that's what kind of spooked the developer into asking the city to postpone this. For us, it's good news because it just gives us even more time to build a stronger argument and gather more support here. Every day when there's not a building permit in place for the Ridge is a good day. We do not see it as a grave disappointment. We actually see it as a good thing.

When Ridge development previously landed on the table, around 600 people showed up to the hearing, which took place closer to home. "That will happen again," promises Kolpin. Opponents of the rezoning requested that the next hearing take place in closer proximity to HB, a query which was met with support from the Coastal Commission. Kolpin also notes that approximately 1,600 postcards opposing the development were received by the Coastal Commission over the past two weeks. Prepare your hearts and brains, HB. This land is our land.


POSEIDON DESALINATION PLANT

Huntington Beach (Photo by Lauren Lloyd)

For the past 15 years, Connecticut-based Poseidon Resources has believed that Huntington Beach needs a desalination plant, one that will extract ocean water off our beaches and convert it into freshwater to be sold to water districts. Orange County Coastkeeper, one of the plant's main opponents, states on its website that it "is not opposed to the construction and operation of desalination plants in Orange County as one of many tools to ensure a secure source of reliable freshwater," but does "oppose the use of expensive and environmentally damaging technology to augment water supply issues for the 'promise' of processed seawater, which would be the most costly option in California." OC Coastkeeper Executive Director Garry Brown calls the proposed facility a "political campaign, not a public works project."

Poseidon withdrew its second Coastal Development Permit (CDP) application at the November 13 California Coastal Commission hearing in Newport Beach after it failed to responsibly do its homework, "e.g. their incomplete application because of a lack of feasibility studies, conflicts of interest, and a poor greenhouse gas management plan," according to OC Coastkeeper. The environmental nonprofit says the project would cost $1 billion to build, resulting in increased water rates; use an annual amount of energy equal to the amount needed to power 30,000 homes; and kill billions of fish eggs, adult fish and other marine life. 

While hundreds of opponents of the plant celebrated a win over the controversial project at the hearing, Poseidon continues to work to keep the petition alive. OC Coastkeeper Associate Director Ray Hiemstra tells us: "Poseidon is still planning on going back before the commission at some time in the future to get the Coastal Development Permit (CDP). In the meantime they are trying to persuade the Orange County Water District (OCWD) to buy their water and convince the public that their project is a good idea."

Here's how you can make a difference, per Hiemstra:

  • Send a message to the Orange County Water District at oceandesalexploration@ocwd.com telling them not to buy Poseidon’s water.
  • Send a letter to the Coastal Commission telling them you are against Poseidon's proposed desalination plant in Huntington Beach. You can email the Commission at HuntingtonBeachDesalComments@coastal.ca.gov.
  • Join the Coastkeeper mailing list to receive monthly updates and action alerts. Click here to sign up.
  • Contribute to Coastkeeper so we can keep on fighting this war. Donate here.

To learn more about the Poseidon Desalination Plant, read Brown's "Going Green: Desalination Plant is Bad for the Region," Hiemstra's "Ocean desalination, the bigger picture" and OC Coastkeeper's "Huntington Beach Desalination."

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