The Bolsa Chica Co. began Thursday demolishing two unfinished World War II gun emplacements to the apparent chagrin of an environmental organization seeking to preserve the area.
Landowners say the demolition is the first step toward converting an existing oil field into a 1,100-acre wetlands preserve along with a 400-acre residential development.
However, Bolsa Chica Land Trust Vice President Jan D. Vander Sloot complained that removing the bunkers will cause an important part of the area’s history to be lost.
In response, Bolsa Chica Co. Senior Vice President Lucy Dunn said the California Coastal Commission had determined that the emplacements were not historical and had become nuisances that attract youngsters.
Dunn said the removal has been approved by state and Orange County officials and the work will take about six months. However, the Coastal Commission has ordered the project to be discontinued between Nov. 1 and April 1 to accommodate birds during the mating season, Dunn said.
The Army Corps of Engineers began building the gun emplacements at the Bolsa Chica Mesa near Warner Avenue and Pacific Coast Highway in 1943 as part of the U.S. coastal defense system.
But the Army did not complete the bunkers and decommissioned the structures in 1944 when it appeared that an enemy attack on Southern California was unlikely. No military equipment or guns or ammunition were installed.
Vander Sloot said the Bolsa Chica Co. is rushing the demolition because a permit received two years ago from the Coastal Commission expires Monday.
“They are preserving their option because they don’t want a public hearing, because they are afraid they can’t get a new permit,” Vander Sloot said.