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LandWatch Delivers Impressive Response Letter on the Draft Environmental Impact Report for GPU5

The DEIR comment period recently ended on February 2nd and because of member support, LandWatch evaluated the DEIR with exhaustive thoroughness and precision. On February 2nd LandWatch delivered a comprehensive 162 page letter to the county evaluating the DEIR. It included 70 additional pages of expert analysis from biologists, and water and traffic engineers. Together, the LandWatch comments and our expert testimony represent an impressive accomplishment that will help us push for a better General Plan for the people and environment of Monterey County.

Our review of the DEIR raises three primary concerns about GPU5:

  1. GPU5 abandons the 1982 General Plan Policy which prohibits the cultivation of steep slopes over 25% everywhere except Carmel Valley;

  2. GPU5 leaves unresolved on-going challenges of the protection of the hills and bench-lands rising out of the Salinas Valley and concerns about the sustainable development of the Wine Corridor; and

  3. Projects already in the approval process which will NOT have to comply with GPU5 (“pipeline projects") pose significant and unavoidable environmental impacts.

Steep Slopes. The DEIR did not provide meaningful analysis of the environmental impacts of altering the current slope policy. The LandWatch analysis clearly demonstrates that significant impacts of erosion and sedimentation are the likely result of the conversion of these steep slopes for new cultivation. Abandoning the 1982 prohibition of new cultivation on steep slopes is a serious flaw in GPU5 and it must be rectified by a clear and unequivocal prohibition of new cultivation on steep slopes throughout Monterey County.

The Wine Corridor and the Hills and Bench-lands of the Salinas Valley. LandWatch endorses the economic objectives of the Wine Corridor, but the development of the corridor needs to be balanced with protections for the environment. Significant impacts concerning traffic and water make the hills and bench-lands of the Wine Corridor in the Salinas Valley vulnerable. GPU5 does not prohibit or sufficiently regulate further subdivision in these hills and bench-lands. Increased residential development could conflict with the goals of the Wine Corridor by exacerbating traffic and water problems. If policies protecting the hills and bench-lands in GPU5 are not strengthened, the projects which come forward in the Wine Corridor are likely to become future battlefields and a major area of focus for LandWatch in the coming years.

Pipeline Projects. There are a number of subdivision applications in the approval process which will NOT be governed by GPU5. Their approval is not yet guaranteed but the DEIR does not account for the units of these projects (which may be approved) as part of the DEIR’s accounting of the “full build-out number." This is a major concern that must be addressed by the DEIR. Pipeline projects will be an on-going focus of LandWatch because many of them pose serious environmental consequences.

Despite the concerns raised by the DEIR and the need for new language prohibiting the new cultivation on steep slopes, LandWatch remains cautiously optimistic about the adoption of GPU5. In its current form, GPU5 represents significant progress toward the compromise the Board of Supervisors promised voters after the stalemated election of June 2007. Here are the enforceable policy gains in the current draft:

If you’d like to read LandWatch’s thorough and impressive 162 page letter, please click the link below:

If you’d like to look at the expert testimony and exhibits to the LandWatch letter, please click on the links below:

 

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