Coastal Commission alerts HMB to problems with Foothill Bypass
Although there has been no formal proposal to build the Foothill Bypass yet, the California Coastal Commission is already making it clear that the environmental challenge may be too great to overcome.
Chris Kern, Coastal Program Manager for the North Central Coast District, has written a strongly-worded letter to Half Moon Bay City Manager Debra Auker, writing in response to an article in the June 6 issue of the County Times. Click the link below for the full text of the letter, but the key paragraph is:
John [sic] Gardner is quoted in the article as stating: “You could route a two-lane bypass through and around those wetlands and then come up with a mitigation plan that would be embraced by the Coastal Commission.” This is incorrect. In accordance with the foregoing discussion, we would not support construction of a new roadway through wetlands because that would be prohibited under the Coastal Act and the City’s LCP.
Mike Ferreira says that the $150 million estimate attributed to him in the County Times article is for the four-lane version of the bypass from Young Avenue to Main Street: "Charlie’s estimate of $40 million for the two underpass version is probably low-end-accurate assuming minimal specifications."
June 6, 2006
Half Moon Bay City Manager
501 Main Street
Half Moon Bay, CA 94019
SUBJECT: Foothill Boulevard and LCP Wetland Protection Policies
Dear Ms. Auker:
This letter is in response to an article in today’s San Mateo County Times regarding the construction of Foothill Boulevard. Commission staff is not aware of and has not reviewed any actual plans or related environmental impact analysis for this project. As such, the following comments are limited only to the issue presented in the news story concerning wetland impacts of the project and the wetland protection policies of the Half Moon Bay Local Coastal Program (LCP). Of course, any coastal development permit application for this project would need to consider all issues under the LCP, such as other sensitive habitats, traffic and circulation, visual resources, alternatives, etc.
Coastal Act Section 30233 specifies that wetlands may be filled only: (1) when there is no less environmentally damaging feasible alternative, (2) where feasible mitigation measures are provided to minimize adverse environmental effects, and (3) only for eight specifically enumerated types of development. Neither the construction of new roads nor the expansion of existing roads is identified as a type of development that may be permitted in wetlands under Section 30233. Any type of development that is not specifically identified in Section 30233 as allowable may not be permitted in a wetland no matter what mitigation measures are offered. In other words, the wetland fill prohibition under the Coastal Act may not be overridden by providing mitigation. In Half Moon Bay, Section 30233 is carried out by the LCP wetland and sensitive habitat policies, which also prohibit the construction of new roadways in wetlands and other sensitive habitat areas.
The application of the Coastal Act’s wetland fill prohibition is well established through years of regulatory actions by the Coastal Commission and local governments with certified LCPs and has been upheld by the state’s courts (e.g., Bolsa Chica Land Trust v. Superior Court (1999) 83 Cal.Rptr. 850.).
John Gardner is quoted in the article as stating: “You could route a two-lane bypass through and around those wetlands and then come up with a mitigation plan that would be embraced by the Coastal Commission.” This is incorrect. In accordance with the foregoing discussion, we would not support construction of a new roadway through wetlands because that would be prohibited under the Coastal Act and the City’s LCP.
I hope that these comments clarify the Commission staff’s position concerning this project, but please feel free to contact me if you wish to discuss this matter further.
Coastal Program Manager
North Central Coast District
cc: Jack Leibster, Planning Director