07 May 2009

Chino Hills Champion Carbon Canyon Chronicling, Continued

This week's edition of the Chino Hills Champion included the front page headline article by reporter Marianne Napoles on the legal settlement reached between the Metropolitan Water District and the preservation group Hills for Everyone concerning the MWD's construction of a 1+ mile road for"emergency access and safety purposes" to the Robert B. Diemer water treatment facility (see the above photo taken of construction there in March) atop the hills between Carbon Canyon, Telegraph Canyon and Yorba Linda. As noted by a MWD spokesperson, the Diemer plant (see the profile of this plant in this blog on 15 April) is the only of the five plants in their system that lacks a secondary access.

When the California Department of Parks and Recreation agreed to grant a partial easement to add to the MWD's existing property for the road in exchange for over $1.7 million for park improvements, including providing staff for the now-stalled state park visitor center below the Diemer plant which would share the new road, Hills for Everyone filed suit claiming that the Department "sold out park values in exchange for money" and also objecting to the fact "the the road would climb a 45-degree slope through oak and walnut woodlands that are protected by a Habitat Conservation Plan."

As a result of the settlment, the MWD can now go ahead and solicit bids in June or July and expect a contract award in October for the $10-12 million road. Meantime, the money paid to Hills for Everyone will, according to the organization's executive director, Claire Schlotterbeck, be utilized to acquire walnut woodland habitat within Carbon Canyon to expand the size of the state park.

What is striking to this observer is that any discussion about building the secondary access road on the Yorba Linda side, which would involve less of a steep climb, be more accessible to less impacted arterial roadways than Carbon Canyon Road, and avoid disturbing any wildlife habitat and be at cross purposes with the function of a generally passive-use state park, had, evidently, been stunted and stymied by the residents of relatively new, upscale communities who did not want a secondary road to cross or come near their subdivisions.

If MWD recognized that Diemer, which has been open for over four decades, needed a secondary access road, was there an attempt before the housing developments went in to secure an easement from prior property owners? Did these owners refuse because of potential diminished value for their coveted land?

It just seems like people generally consider open space parkland less important than their own neighborhoods (or potentially developable [is that a word?] property) when it comes to something like this--especially for a road that is stated to be only for "emergency access and safety purposes."

At any rate, this settlement is a "classic" mitigation, in which there seems to be a reasonable compromise and consensus about how to offset the effects of this road on the state park by adding more land to it elsewhere, not unlike the expansion of the state park on the north side of Carbon Canyon above Olinda Village as mitigation for the Olinda Ranch subdivision, if I have my understanding of that situation correct.

On another related note, Ms. Schlotterbeck reported to the Champion that over 400 volunteers turned out on 25 April for an Earth Day cleanup and repair project to plant trees and fix fences that were burned in the Freeway Complex Fire last November. There were about 250 people expected to come, so the response was a pleasant surprise, to be sure. Corporate sponsorship from the Stater Bros. supermarket chain and from Coca-Cola, as well as a significant presence from scouts and the Chino Valley Young Marines were main contributors to the impressive turnout.

Also in that day's issue is another matter that was posted in this blog on 13 April, which was the request of the Chino Hills Neighborhood Services Department for photographs of Sleepy Hollow to copy for use in displays at the Sleepy Hollow Community Building and at City Hall. There is a collection day tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at City Hall, but persons can also send CDs to Bonnie Michaels at the Neighborhood Services Department, 14000 City Center Drive, Chino Hills, CA 91709.

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