The EPA deflates Proposed Development Plan on Newhall Ranch

On August 6th, Region 9 of the Environmental Protection Agency criticized the Army Corp of Engineers’ Final Environmental Impact Statement for the massive Newhall Ranch development along the Santa Clara River in Los Angeles County.  American Rivers listed the Santa Clara in our 2005 America’s Most Endangered Rivers™ (PDF) report as a result of the threats posed by this development. Under the Corps’ proposed alternative, the development would install rock rip rap along more than 4 miles of the Santa Clara River, and would bury or modify more than 15 miles of tributary streams such as Piru, Castaic and Sespe Creeks. The EPA informed the Corps that unless the proposed project is significantly modified, EPA might veto the permit the Corps must issue to allow the project to proceed.  American Rivers played a pivotal role in the EPA’s 2008 veto of the massive Yazoo Pumps project in Mississippi.

This is good news for the Santa Clara River. Friends of the Santa Clara River wrote, “Village centers and residential subdivisions would line the river corridor. They would sever the natural transition zone from riparian to surrounding upland and produce numerous degrading ‘edge effects’ on the river’s woodlands. The narrow river corridor and its woodlands need much more buffering from urban encroachment than is provided in Newhall’s Plan.”

According to the EPA, the Newhall Ranch Resource Management and Development Plan was lacking a sufficient strategy to minimize or mitigate harmful effects of the project. The EPA wrote it does not believe the proposed mitigations “will replace the ecological functions provided by the existing natural features” or “that surface water quality will be protected from the project’s stormwater discharges”.

To know more about vetoing practices specifically with the Corps, please visit American Rivers’ news release, written by American Rivers President, Rebecca Wodder.