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More time for Newhall Ranch comments

Posted: June 21, 2009 10:31 p.m.
Updated: June 22, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Critics, supporters and those who haven't made up their minds have 60 additional days to comb over the Newhall Ranch environmental report and make a public comment, according to a Fish and Game official.

The Newhall Ranch environmental report measures the impact of the proposed 21,000-home project at the intersection of Highway 126 and Interstate 5.

The 17,000-page environmental document on the proposed project was released April 27.

The public comment period for the report originally was scheduled to end June 26.

"We looked at the size of the document and took into account the concerns of the people and decided to extend the comment period," said Kirsten Macintyre, spokeswoman for the California Department of Fish and Game.

The public comment period extension gives people until Aug. 25 to comment on the environmental document.

Local environmental activist Lynne Plambeck welcomed the news of an extension. "They (Fish and Game) really needed to do this when you have such a large project," she said.

Plambeck is the president of Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment.

The group was part of a protest outside of the June 11 public meeting held by Fish and Game and the Army Corps of Engineers in Stevenson Ranch.

The meeting was held to discuss the environmental document and specifically, the plan to protect the endangered San Fernando Valley spineflower.

SCOPE members are digging through the 17,000-page document, but the small group of environmental activists needs more time, said Cam Noltemeyer, SCOPE member.

"We have volunteers looking at this," she said. "They had to give us more time with such a voluminous document."

Newhall Land and Farming also supports Fish and Game's decision to extend the public comment period.

"We recognize there is a lot of information out there," said Marlee Lauffer, Newhall Land and Farming spokeswoman. "We respect the agency's (Fish and Game) decision to allow extra time."

Plambeck, SCOPE and other environmentalists used the June 11 meeting as a way to express concerns about the project's ecological impact.

Plambeck, who is also a Newhall County Water District board member, aimed her criticism at the assertion by Newhall Land and Farming that the proposed project wouldn't impact the fragile local water supply.

"We've put in a public records request with the county to look at water reports," she said. "We're looking for proof of Newhall Land and Farming's claim that there is enough water.

Newhall Land and Farming maintains that the project will not have any additional impact on the amount of imported water purchased from the state water project.

"We made the decision a long time ago to not rely on additional state water," Lauffer said.

Newhall Ranch will use a mix of recycled water from Valencia Water Treatment Plant, which is owned by Newhall Land and Farming, a water recycling plant on the proposed project, and existing agriculture wells to provide water.

Plambeck said the plan to use recycled water for new homes is not smart planning, considering the current water crisis.

"We are all being asked to cut back," she said. "We can use that water for existing homeowners."

Notlemeyer's concerns about the proposed Newhall Ranch project focused on LandSource's July 13 bankruptcy hearing. LandSource owns Newhall Land and Farming.

Noltemeyer said Newhall Land and Farming should guarantee through bonds the planned mitigations on the project.

"We want to assure that if the project proceeds, the mitigations get done," she said.

"If Newhall Land and Farming gets broken up in a bankruptcy proceeding, we want assurances that the next developer who wants to build the project has to comply with the existing mitigations."

Lauffer said the mitigation must happen, no matter who builds the proposed Newhall Ranch project.

"If they're going to develop the property, they'll need to do the mitigations," she said.


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