Dishing the dirt — 2,800 acres of it

The Calabasas/Agoura Hills Community Center overflowed with more than 500 residents from Malibu, Calabasas, Hidden Hills, Agoura Hills and Thousand Oaks and San Fernando Valley who joined protesters, elected officials, lawyers, scientists, and environmentalists Saturday to insist the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers perform an independent Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed Ahmanson Ranch Development.

The 2,800-acre Ventura County project has been approved by the county but awaits approval by the Army Corps of Engineers. Meanwhile, politicians and environmentalists are pushing for a federal Environmental Impact Statement, including studies on its potential impacts to Malibu Creek and Malibu traffic, as well as noise and air pollution.

The Ahmanson Ranch Development, owned by Washington Mutual, will result in creation of a “new town,” with two 18-hole golf courses and a clubhouse, 3,050 residential units, 400,000 square feet of commercial/office space, a 22,000-square-foot town-hall complex, a 300-room hotel and three schools. Mass grading will result in moving 40 million to 45 million cubic yards of dirt — about 50 times the volume of the Rose Bowl.

The project will be accessible only from Calabasas, Los Angeles and L.A. County. This will add 46,260 average vehicle trips daily, with 37,540 of those trips on the streets of Calabasas and Los Angeles. L.A. County would shoulder many associated infrastructure costs for roads, sewers and drains. In addition, project developers have requested L.A. County sheriff, fire and emergency services.

Elected officials, including Rep. Brad Sherman, Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, Assemblywoman Sheila Kuehl, as well as mayors and City Council members from Calabasas and Agoura Hills, urged the Corps to complete a projectwide Environmental Impact Statement and to withhold “404” permit for the first phase of construction until this study is done.

Once issued, the 404 permit will allow the developers to dump 51,000 cubic tons of dirt into the waters of East Las Virgenes Creek and its tributaries. Expert, science-based testimony described numerous adverse environmental impacts of accelerated erosion and downstream sedimentation on water quality, sensitive habitats, plant species, and fish and animal populations, including several endangered species in Malibu Creek and surrounding canyons.

Kuehl stated a new “EIS process will give communities access to information they need and create a vehicle for making sure their voices are heard.”

Comments will be accepted through March 9: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Los Angeles District; Regulatory Branch; Attn: CESPL-CO-R-98-50287-BAH; 2151 Alessandro Drive, Suite 255, Ventura, CA 93001.

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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