Community Commentary: Columnists have mesa plans all wrong

Earlier this year, when we saw the plans for the restoration of the lower bench of the Bolsa Chica Mesa, we were thrilled. After all that has been achieved at Bolsa Chica, "CPR (Community Promoted Restoration) for the Mesa" is the next step in continuing community leadership in its restoration.

"CPR for the Mesa" will create diverse, thriving native habitats, including native grasslands and a coastal sage scrub plant community. Working in harmony with nature, the plan creatively manages and overcomes the enormous challenges of this 118-acre restoration to return the mesa to a more natural state. The first phase of the plan will be funded through a Proposition 50 grant.

The Bolsa Chica Land Trust has a solid foundation for this project. For 14 years, the Bolsa Chica Stewards have partnered with the California Department of Fish and Game to restore native plants on the edge of the mesa. In that time, the Land Trust's volunteers have planted more than 22,000 native plants.

The project is designed by Guy Stivers. Stivers is a respected landscape architect at Shipley Nature Center. He also guided Los Angeles' recent transformation of a rundown block in Sun Valley into a model "green street," with drought-tolerant, native vegetation and water-saving features that capture enough water annually to supply the street's residents. The L.A. Times calls the project "the Rolls-Royce of L.A.'s Green Street initiative."

Inexplicably and sadly, this restoration plan was attacked in a Huntington Beach Independent column last week ("More like a 'heart attack for the mesa," Natural Perspectives, Feb. 10). The columnists have never been consistent in their criticism of projects at Bolsa Chica. We don't understand why they've attacked a restoration project while failing to criticize past development projects at Bolsa Chica.

Lets get the facts straight.

The columnists do not believe adequate biological assessment was done. Wrong. Department of Fish and Game biologists reviewed this plan as part of an eight-month project plan evaluation and gave it their support. It continues to be reviewed as part of a public environmental assessment process, and will be reviewed before the California Coastal Commission as well.

The columnists think the small, single vertical-axis wind turbine in the plan will harm wildlife. Wrong. These special turbines are used in the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska and at other refuges to generate electricity precisely because they do not harm wildlife like the large horizontal turbines do.

The columnists claim that the plan will plow the entire mesa three times a year, disturbing wildlife. Wrong. In reality, the plan will remove 10 acres of non-native plants per year that are of little use to wildlife and replace them with native grasses and other plants that will support a greater diversity of animals.

Because our community helped to save much of Bolsa Chica, it's important to us that our community be involved over the next five years. Opportunities for community involvement and benefits to the community include:

• Volunteering and educational programs open to everyone, from school children to seniors;

• On-site training in new technologies for community college students pursuing "green collar" careers; and

• A new trail and enhanced wildlife viewing for our residents and visitors.

In the last 30 years, the people of Huntington Beach have been in the forefront of the environmental movement. Together, we saved much of Bolsa Chica, but we also lead in other areas. Our residents are among the leaders in recycling waste statewide, our Chamber of Commerce sponsors a Green Expo, and our city is becoming a model for saving energy and water. Even our visitors' bureau has gone green, recently publishing a sustainable business guide.

As council members, we're excited about this project because it will keep Huntington Beach at the forefront of cutting-edge green initiatives and technology. "CPR for the Mesa" will be a model for restoration throughout the state and will ensure our community's continued environmental leadership for years to come.

JOE SHAW and CONNIE BOARDMAN are members of the Huntington Beach City Council. Boardman is also the president of the Bolsa Chica Land Trust and Shaw a member of its board of directors.

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