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Bolsa Chica’s Amigos Reelect President

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A change in the direction of Amigos de Bolsa Chica, a powerful environmental group supportive of a proposed development at the Bolsa Chica wetlands, was averted Wednesday after critics failed to gain enough votes to oust the group’s president.

“I’m disappointed,” said Herb Chatterton, a founding member who had attempted to nominate a slate of opposition candidates at the organization’s annual meeting but was rebuffed.

“There (are) a lot of Amigos that are concerned that the group had lost some of its stridency.”

Said incumbent President Chuck Nelson, who was reelected by a vote of 55 to 39: “I feel good. It’s clear that many of the members agree with the direction of the Amigos to protect and restore the wetlands.”

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Some members said they had been planning a challenge for weeks after gradually becoming disaffected by what they described as the Amigos’ abandonment of its original environmental goals.

“People found other ways to express their environmental concerns, because they were no longer feeling like the Amigos were addressing those concerns,” said Marge Allen, a longtime member critical of the organization’s recent direction. Being in the Amigos, she said, “became increasingly less rewarding.”

The disaffection was fueled last month when the Orange County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a plan by the Koll Real Estate Group to build 3,300 homes in and around the Bolsa Chica wetlands near Huntington Beach.

In exchange for permission to build the homes, the Koll group agreed to spend about $48 million to restore 950 acres of degraded wetlands by, among other things, constructing a functioning tidal inlet connecting the marsh to the ocean. Several Amigos members, including Nelson, had spoken in favor of the plan--support that was seen as a critical factor in the supervisors’ approval of it.

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