Heat's On for Approval of Chula Vista Bayfront Plan

Times Staff Writer

With federal wildlife officials standing by their contention that Chula Vista's bayfront plan would harm three endangered species, elected officials this week are putting new pressure on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to approve a permit for a first stage of the project.

In a letter mailed Friday to the chief of the Corps of Engineers in Washington, D.C., U.S. Sen. Pete Wilson (R-Calif.) said he believes the 500-acre development proposal "represents an environmentally sensitive approach." He urged the Corps to allow construction to begin.

Meanwhile, a daylong briefing on the project has been scheduled in Chula Vista today by Mayor Greg Cox. The briefing, to include a bus tour of the site, is expected to be attended by officials of the Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, representatives of the owner of property proposed for development, Cox, and at least one member of the Chula Vista City Council.

The bayfront plan, proposed by city officials in 1974 as a way of capitalizing on under-utilized waterfront real estate, has been fought for years by environmentalists who say it would destroy a stretch of marshy habitat crucial to the survival of plant and bird species.

Last month, sources close to the Corps of Engineers said the agency intended to deny the city a permit to build a first phase of the project--a road across a section of the Sweetwater marsh complex to Gunpowder Point, where the city hopes to build a hotel. The denial was to have been based on the Fish and Wildlife Service's opinion that the road would jeopardize three endangered species.

But the Corps of Engineers opted March 12 to withhold its decision after Cox made an eleventh-hour request for more time to rebut the Fish and Wildlife Service's opinion. The Corps of Engineers gave him until Apr. 4 to make his case.

The briefing today is to include a presentation of the bayfront plan by city officials, a bus tour of the site, lunch and an afternoon visit by the head of the regional office of the Corps of Engineers. It is to be followed at 4 p.m. by a meeting of the City Council.

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