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From the Monterey County Herald
Serving Monterey County and the Salinas Valley

Posted on Wed, Apr. 7, 2004

Concern over preservation plan
State agencies say company's proposal inadequate


Three state agencies have voiced concerns that Pebble Beach Co.'s proposed Del Monte Forest Preservation and Development Plan is long on development and short on preservation.

The letters from the state Department of Fish and Game, Water Resources Control Board and California Coastal Commission, are among 89 he has received on the plan from individuals and organizations, said senior planner Thom McCue of the Monterey County Planning and Building Inspection Department.

All of them, he said, will be presented to the county Subdivision Committee when it meets Thursday in Salinas to review the project.

The Del Monte Forest Preservation and Development Plan calls for construction of a 216-acre, 18-hole golf course; a golf driving range; a total of 160 suites at the new golf course, the Lodge at Pebble Beach and the Inn at Spanish Bay; relocation of the Pebble Beach Equestrian Center to a 41-acre site in the Sawmill Gulch area; creation of 33 residential lots within five subdivisions; construction of 60 employee housing units; and relocation and construction of roads and trails.

The plan also sets aside 492 acres for preservation as forest land and critical wildlife habitat in eight parcels ranging from just under an acre to 233 acres.

As proposed, the projects require removal of 17,971 trees, including 15,391 Monterey pines, 1,769 coast live oaks, 273 planted Bishop pines and 538 planted cypress trees. The largest tree removals involve the new golf course, equestrian center and driving range.

The state Coastal Commission staff commented that "we don't believe the DEIR (draft environmental impact report) accurately frames the environmentally sensitive habitat area issues associate with the project and Measure A and has mostly overlooked our previous comments in this regard."

Pebble Beach Co., according to the coastal planners, appears to rely more on fixing environmental impacts than avoiding them altogether, and the draft report doesn't correctly identify the extent of environmentally sensitive habitat areas within the forest and the proposed development areas.

The commission staff notes that the Del Monte Forest project area contains at least 19 species of plants that are considered rare or endangered, seven of which are state or federally listed, and is habitat for at least 13 special-status wildlife species.

State Fish and Game officials said the report doesn't adequately describe the variety of "sensitive ecological communities" in Del Monte Forest, including Monterey pine stands, wetlands and dunes that support different species of plants.

They also expressed reservations about removing conservation easements in the Sawmill Gulch area to allow development of the new equestrian center there.

Pebble Beach Co., in its environmental report, is relying on approval of coastal plan changes that have not yet been submitted by the county to the commission, according to the Coastal Commission staff.

Commission staff members recommended that the draft environmental report be recirculated to the public with their comments and concerns included, and that Monterey County first submit the Measure A Local Coastal Program approved by county voters in 2000 for commission certification and wait until after the Coastal Commission has acted on it before further considering Pebble Beach Co.'s project.

The state Water Resources Control Board's Division of Water Rights questioned the draft environmental report's assertion that water is available for the project.

California-American Water Co. has legal rights to draw only 3,376 acre-feet per year of the 11,285 acre-feet it diverts from the Carmel River, said state water officials.

The state's decision to allow Cal-Am to continue to draw the 11,285 acre-feet "should not be construed as finding that there is a legal supply for most of the water that Cal-Am provides to its customers," water officials said.

While Pebble Beach Co. has said it plans to use reclaimed wastewater to irrigate its golf courses, Cal-Am would have to draw additional water from the river to serve new houses, a golf course clubhouse and other facilities, according to the state.

The public hearing by the Subdivision Committee is at 10 a.m. at the county courthouse, Church and Alisal streets, Salinas.


If you go
• What: Hearing on Pebble Beach Co.'s Del Monte Forest Preservation and Development Plan
• Where: Board of Supervisors' chambers, Monterey County Courthouse, Church and Alisal streets, Salinas • When: Thursday 9:30 a.m. Pebble Beach hearing at 10 a.m.


Kevin Howe can be reached at 646-4416.