[Center for Biological Diversity] – The Santa Clarita Organization for Planning the Environment (SCOPE) and the Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit Thursday contending that Los Angeles County illegally skirted environmental laws to redraw the boundaries of the Santa Clara River’s floodway to accommodate increased development. The floodway is depicted in maps showing areas subject to flood risk, where new development is subject to strict standards.
The county’s revision narrows the floodway’s boundaries along a stretch of the Santa Clara River between Interstate 5 and the stalled Newhall Ranch proposal. This portion of the river is home to many rare animals and plants, including arroyo toads, unarmored threespine stickleback, Santa Ana suckers, least Bell’s vireos, willow flycatchers and yellow-billed cuckoos. The county narrowed the river’s floodway in an area slated for another Newhall Land and Farming Company development known as Entrada North, which is proposed to contain more than 1,100 residential units and 2.6 million square feet of commercial buildings. The county has not yet approved or even prepared an environmental report for the Entrada North development.
“It is troubling that the county redefined the river with no consideration of how that will affect the environment or potential flooding of downstream property owners,” said Lynne Plambeck, SCOPE’s president.
The county claims its approval of the floodway revisions was exempt from California’s premier environmental law, the California Environmental Quality Act, which requires full disclosure and analysis of an action’s environmental effects, as well as the adoption of measures to avoid or reduce those effects.
“Without any concern for the health of the river or the wildlife that depend on it, the revised floodway opens the door to new construction in floodplain areas where it was not previously possible,” said Center for Biological Diversity Senior Counsel John Buse. “The revisions will clearly harm the river and its wildlife. There is no basis for waiving full public review under the California Environmental Quality Act.”
SCOPE and the Center are represented by the Law Offices of Babak Naficy, San Luis Obispo, California.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 990,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.