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Commentary: Effects of Banning Ranch on humans must be considered

A city the size of Bishop in population is about to be built on the last few acres of coastal open space in Orange County. The enormous development is proceeding to approval under the radar of many residents of Costa Mesa, Huntington Beach and Newport Beach.

Based on the environmental impact report and the developer's materials, the project, if approved, would take 10 years to construct and would require the excavation of 2.5 million cubic yards of contaminated soil. The traffic figures to gridlock Pacific Coast Highway and major intersections in the surrounding cities and further burden local freeways.

The project includes 1,375 dwellings in buildings as tall as 60 feet, plus a resort hotel and commercial center. Oil operations would be consolidated and continued in the non-buildable area. Contaminated soil would be stockpiled onsite, where it could yield unknown levels of contaminants indefinitely.

How can a project promising such devastating environmental effects be approved? The reason is that most people are unaware of how the project will affect them.

The Banning Ranch Conservancy has vigorously opposed the project before the California Coastal Commission and the city of Newport Beach, but the focus is on the project site as a habitat for endangered species and other wildlife. The humans who will suffer adverse effects have not had their voices heard.

The Newport Beach City Council adopted a Statement of Overriding Considerations so that public health and other environmental effects are trumped by expected revenue.

The Coastal Commission has not yet made a decision but may put business considerations ahead of environmental protection unless the people affected become actively involved and push for denial of the project or major modifications to protect public health and safety.

The people of Costa Mesa, Huntington Beach and Newport Beach can express their concerns to the coastal commissioners by writing to the California Coastal Commission, 45 Fremont St., Suite 2000, San Francisco, CA 94105-2219. A copy also may be sent to the nearest district office at 200 Oceangate, 10th Floor, Long Beach, CA 90802-4325.

Alternatively, concerned residents can use a letter drafted by the Banning Ranch Conservancy at banningpledge.com/speakup.

Eleanor Egan is a resident of Costa Mesa.

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