Release of Impact Study in Progress Is Criticized

On behalf of the Building Industry Assn., I would like to respond to a recent article regarding Huntington Beach's environmental review of the Bolsa Chica development in the city ("Early Bolsa Chica Study Urges No Development," May 10).

As a result of recent litigation, (Superior) Court Commissioner (Eleanor M.) Palk ordered an early release by city staff of a "screen-check" Environmental Impact Report (EIR) relating to the development of the Bolsa Chica Highlands with preservation and restoration of about 1,100 acres of wetlands and open space. If this becomes standard practice, it will severely set back the cause of careful environmental analysis by public and private entities.

First of all, the public needs to understand just what a screen-check EIR is. A screen check is the very first step in compiling a comprehensive EIR.

It is no more than a compilation of raw, unsubstantiated data from a variety of sources. This document was not approved by city staff, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or even its own author, the Chambers Group.

The reason screen checks are not made public is to give those agencies responsible for preparing the draft EIR a working document to verify or amend the information so that the public and key decision-makers receive accurate, useful information relating to development alternatives for the project.

Even the final EIR is never intended under California law to provide recommendations. The purpose of the EIR is to provide an independent analysis of a range of possible alternatives, from maintaining the status quo to the proposed developer plan and variations. It is only one of several tools used by the decision makers to help evaluate a proposed project within their jurisdiction.

Using this document as a credible source for news stories perpetuates misinformation and public confusion.

Hopefully, this unfortunate court decision to release very raw, preliminary information will only temporarily confuse the issue and not permanently hinder the process of informed public discussion of important issues affecting the community. Let the independent environmental review be complete and accurate before it is released for public scrutiny.

CHRISTINE M. DIEMER

Christine M. Diemer is executive director of the Building Industry Assn. of Southern California, Orange County region.

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