CONSERVATION GROUPS APPEAL SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY’S APPROVAL OF RECREATIONAL COMPLEX WITHOUT ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW
Request for Environmental Review of Development Project near Lake Arrowhead
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 28, 2004
Contacts: Patrick Marley, Save our Forest Association, (909) 338-4636
Peter Jorris, San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society, (909) 867-3536
Kassie Siegel, Center for Biological Diversity, (909) 659-6053, x. 302, (909) 961-7972 (cell)
Steve Farrell, Sierra Club, (310) 362-8410
Today the San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society, Sierra Club Mountains Group of the San Gorgonio Chapter, Save our Forest Association, and the Center for Biological Diversity filed an appeal to the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors requesting the appropriate environmental review of a large recreational complex in the San Bernardino Mountains. The Church of the Woods Project, located in Rim Forest near Lake Arrowhead, includes a school for 860 students, temporary amphitheater, skate park and recreational facility, auditorium and ministry building, ballfield, chapel, retreat, and maintenance building (“the Project”). The Project is proposed for a dense grove of coniferous forest adjacent to the San Bernardino National Forest. The administrative appeal challenges the Planning Commission’s approval of the Project based upon a “Mitigated Negative Declaration,” a cursory level of environmental review allowed only for projects with no possibility of causing major environmental impacts.
“We support the Church of the Woods congregation and their desire for a larger facility, but cannot allow the County to ignore the laws designed to protect public safety, quality of life, the environment and imperiled plants and animals,” said Peter Jorris of the Audubon Society. “The County of San Bernardino must follow the law and fully disclose, analyze, and mitigate the Project’s impacts.”
The appeal seeks review and disclosure of issues related to air quality, traffic congestion, habitat for endangered and threatened species, land use, noise, aesthetics and the cumulative impact of all projects in the area, prior to any development at Rim Forest.
The County has failed to conduct even the most basic air quality studies. According to the South Coast Air Quality Management District the Central San Bernardino Mountains has the highest ozone contamination in the entire South Coast Air Basin. The South Coast Air Basin, including much of Los Angeles and the Inland Empire, has one of the worst air quality ratings in the U.S. The County has not required an assessment of what impacts the increased ozone emissions or carbon monoxide “hot spot” will have on the children or adults using the facility. Nor has the County disclosed the amount of particulate pollution the Project will generate. One study found that in San Bernardino County alone, 486 deaths per year are attributable to the elevated levels of particulate pollution. Children are especially vulnerable to air pollution.
Many residents in the community have expressed concern that the complex, with over 500 new parking spaces, will cause problems with traffic congestion in the rural mountain town. The complex would require the County to place several new traffic lights in the area, and expand roads to meet the new facility demands. The project is located on a current evacuation route and the size of the project has caused alarm from many residents, especially after the recent Old Fire of 2003.
The project site is also home to several threatened and endangered species including the San Bernardino Flying Squirrel, which occurs only in the San Jacinto and San Bernardino Mountains and is believed to have disappeared from the San Jacinto.
“We support the congregation’s decision to move to a new facility, but the County is violating the law by failing to prepare an Environmental Impact Report,” said Kassie Siegel of the Center for Biological Diversity. “An Environmental Impact Report will lead to a safer and cleaner project proposal that is less damaging to wildlife and National Forest.”
Today’s appeal to the Board of Supervisors, requests that the County require a full Environmental Impact Report before approving the Project. The County initially requested an EIR for the project, but, in a highly unusual move, changed its decision mid-way through the approval process.
releases. . .