Fish and Wildlife Department Seeking Input on Proposed Ballona Interpretive Center

Two local nonprofits are opposed to placing the building on the wetlands.

Residents who wish to voice their concerns over the proposed interpretive center that would sit on part of the remaining 600-acre Ballona Wetlands area can do so by writing the Fish and Wildlife Department by March 1. 

The 46,000-square-foot interpretive center, expected to cost about $50 million and financed in party by the Annenberg Foundation, would house exhibits on wildlife and domestic animals and include an auditorium, classrooms, facilities for animal adoption and office space for staff.

The adoption program would consist of rooms for dogs and cats, a holding area for future adoptions and veterinary services.

When the interpretive center was publicly announced on Jan. 27, both the Ballona Wetlands Land Trust and the Ballona Institute opposed placing the building on the remaining wetlands area and suggested that a suitable alternative off-site be considered.

“Our opposition to constructing facilities within the protected ecological reserve is very simple – we don’t have the luxury to further erode an ecosystem that is already greatly diminished from its original state,” the Ballona Institute states on its website. “There are still undeveloped acres of land adjacent to or near the ecological reserve that the Annenberg Foundation could help us acquire that would be more suitable for this construction project.”

A phone message left with the Annenberg Foundation was not returned.

The California Fish and Wildlife Department, formerly Fish and Game, will analyze the proposed project’s impacts for aesthetics, recreation, biological resources and land use and planning among several factors in the environmental impact report.

The report, started on July 25, 2012 and drafted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Fish and Wildlife, will assess the environmental effects of restoring the 600-acre Ballona Wetlands. Revisions will include alternatives to the interpretive center project, including a scenario in which no center is built. 

In their report, engineers are also including options that will analyze the impacts of maintaining the wetland as-is or restoring a smaller portion of the 600-acre site. 

The Ballona Wetlands stretch from Playa del Rey to Venice. The site is owned by the state and managed by Fish and Wildlife as an ecological reserve. The California Coastal Conservancy and the California State Lands Commission are partners in the planning and restoration of the wetlands.

The development decades ago of Marina del Rey and the Ballona Creek Flood Control Channel severed the connection between the ocean and the freshwater Ballona Creek, leaving the wetlands unable to support many of the native species that once lived there, according to Fish and Wildlife.

The Ballona Wetlands Restoration Project aims to return the daily ebb and flow of tidal waters, maintain freshwater circulation and improve the overall ecosystem to give native species a chance to survive. Once restored, the wetlands could resume its role as a refuge for the millions of birds that travel from South America to Alaska each year.

The public may comment on the scope of the interpretive center until March 1 by writing a letter to Ballona Wetlands Restoration Project C/O Donna McCormick 1 Ada, Suite 100 Irvine, CA 92816 or by emailing Donna.McCormick@icfi.com.

To learn more about the Ballona Wetlands restoration, visit www.ballonarestoration.org

John Davis February 02, 2013 at 01:33 AM
The CaDFW is proposing to violate the California Environmental Quality Act by the submission of an "amended NOP". CEQA does not allow for more than one submission of a NOP. This is exactly what CaFW is doing, CEQA Guideline 15082(a) requires the NOP to be submitted to the State Clearinghouse immediately after deciding that an EIR is required for a project. CEQA Guideline 15082(a) (4) {b) then requires requires that each responsible and trustee agency and the Office of Planning and Research shall provide the lead agency with specific detail about the scope and content of the environmental information related to the authority and responsibility of such Agencies. CEQA Guideline 15803 requires that scoping will be necessary when preparing an EIR/EIS jointly with a federal agency. Only after the NOP is provided to the State Clearing House does Guideline 15083 require a scoping hearing which is necessary when preparing an EIR/EIS jointly with a Federal Agency. Unless CaDFW begins again, and allows scoping for the proposed 4500 square ft. Office - Retail Building, it will be running against the law. John Davis
Hans Laetz February 04, 2013 at 05:41 AM
Where does it say in CEQA or case law that an NOP cannot be amended? The CEQA Guidelines section 21092 (b) 2 allows agencies substantial latitude in the format of an NOP, "provided that there has been substantial compliance with the notice content requirements of this section." In fact, CEQA specifically calls for an amended NOP when new information is uncovered. Section 21092.1. The agency appears to be bending over backward to get the NOP done correctly, and you go all lawyer on them. That's bad enough, but you got the law wrong.
Walter Lamb February 04, 2013 at 11:38 PM
I don't view this as a legal issue so much as an ecological issue. The restoration project team conducted an analysis and found that the limited size of the existing restoration site posed a challenge to maintaining biodiversity. We are heading down a one way street when it comes to conserving our natural open spaces for future generations. I think that anyone who thinks this will be the last compromised acre hasn't been paying attention to the history of this ecosystem and hasn't paid attention to many of the flood control features included in the larger restoration plan. ....
Walter Lamb February 04, 2013 at 11:39 PM
... There are a number of key facts that are being glossed over by the Annenberg Foundation and the CDFW: 1) The driving desire for this project is the creation of the companion animal adoption and care facility. That was what the Foundation tried to build on public land on Palos Verdes, before residents rejected the proposal. See the brochure for that proposal here: [https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B-y1V3mUqBDXWG5XUGl2bXdzT2s/edit?usp=sharing] I am supportive of adoption centers, but there is no reason to build one on an acre of open space in an already limited ecological preserve. 2) The land in question is not as degraded as Annenberg and CDFW are describing it to be. It currently supports numerous species of wild birds. There have been active volunteer restoration and stewardships on this parcel for many years. 3) There was no communication with any stakeholder groups prior to this announcement. The public was given only 30 days to respond, which is insufficient, given that we are still requesting basic information about the proposal which should have been pro-actively shared with the community. 4) There is already an interpretive center at Ballona. It was established when the Friends of Ballona Wetlands settled with the developers at the time back in 1990. It is called the Bollana Discovery Park and it consists of 1.7 acres in Area D, in which there is still large parcels of undeveloped land. ...
Walter Lamb February 04, 2013 at 11:40 PM
5) The lack of public access that CDFW and Annenberg point to as something that this proposal would remedy is an artificial problem. It is CDFW that has restricted access. Now that we know that such restrictions were not put in place to protect the ecological integrity of the land, then there is no reason that CDFW can't allow managed access to that area in order for the public to get a better appreciation for what is there currently. CDFW and the Annenberg Foundation are well aware that the more people know about the details behind this proposal, and the more time they have to think about the project, the more they will realize that it is an inappropriate use of the land. This is about the flow of money, not about preserving the integrity of the ecosystem for future generations. Walter Lamb Ballona Wetlands Land Trust www.ballona.org/annenberg
John Davis February 10, 2013 at 07:59 PM
RESPONSE TO POSTER In regard to Guideline 21092(a), the specific notice requirement for a NOP is set forth by Guideline 15082(a) which requires only one NOP to be filed at one specific time, as soon as the Agency determines an EIR is necessary. Invalidation of the original NOP did not occur. No action as defined by the Bagley Keene Act has yet happened. The 2012 NOP is not inadequate. The 2013 NOP is a fake and has no legal merit. In regard to Guideline 20192.1, no Environmental Impact Report has yet been acted upon (Bagley Keene Defines Action). Therefore, there is no Environmental Impact Report yet, only an EIR Process, which is not the same as an EIR. Since no EIR exists at this time notice is not required to be given again if significant new information is “added to an Environmental Impact Report”. Today, there is no EIR.
Hans Laetz February 10, 2013 at 08:04 PM
Nothing in the law says the process cannot be restarted with an amended NOP. And the law gives the proposing agency great latitude so long as the minimum requirements are met. It's overwrought, overly-procedural arguments like yours that have state legislators and even the Democratic governor lined up to blast holes in CEQA. That's too bad.
John Davis February 10, 2013 at 08:24 PM
When read conversely, the Guidelines prohibit more than one submission of an NOP at different times for the same Project. The allowance for multiple NOPs would beg the following questions; How many NOPs can be filed on a single project, or is it unlimited? What is the latest date at which an NOP can be filed, even after the FEIR? If the State Legislature, both Democratic and Republican, intended to open such a CEQA black hole, then it would be reflected in the Legislative Intent, which it is not. This is not a Democrat v. Republican debate. It is a question as to if DFW is willing to follow the Rule of Law employing due process, or if it will make up new rules as it goes to suit its wants. John Davis
JohnCySmith.com March 01, 2013 at 04:47 AM
Marcia Hanscom March 13, 2013 at 09:31 PM
Then there are the federal legal issues - which the Army Corps of Engineers appears to be ignoring. Why would they not re-open scoping too? The 30+ acres that Annenberg is now saying they will "use" (usurp?) - DO have federal legal issues that are related and need to be considered in scoping.


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