Commentary: Give the Coastal Commission the power to fine

Not only does coastal Orange County have a rare chance for a new nature preserve or state park, it also has the poster child for why the California Coastal Commission needs to be given real enforcement power through fines — as called for in a bill before the state Senate.

Although agencies sometimes do overload common sense in a maze of regulations, the Coastal Commission has proved to be an important, last-stand protector of nature along California's magnificent coast.

Through humble beginnings in the 1970s and a wise culture that values citizen action, the commission is key to making sure many miles of the Central Coast's rolling hills will meet the sea 100 years from now with a quiet grace that stands far above our current squabbles.

If reasonable people were to agree on basics like striking a balance between give and take, land owners might embrace the idea of saving significant tracks of untouched stretches of nature. These open areas are meant to be shared with future generations. It's called a legacy, and this is one of the best kinds.

Such is not yet the case with the local proposed Banning Ranch development.

The land has been used for 70 years as an oil field, yielding its owners more than enough profit. Somehow, a native California ecosystem has survived on Banning Ranch, standing in sharp contrast to the intense economic activity that surrounds it. The corporate owners have done their best to minimize the habitat.

Enter the Coastal Commission and the possibility of real fines for this kind of action.

If the bill passes, perhaps companies like Shell, Exxon and Aera Energy will finally get it. Maybe the Coastal Commission has to push back in a language they understand — money in the form of fines.

The proposal is Assembly Bill 976, and your representatives are waiting for your call.

Former longtime Newport Beach and Costa Mesa resident KEVIN NELSON now lives in San Clemente.

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