OCTA Seeks Public Input on Open Space Preserves

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OCTA Seeks Public Input on Open Space Preserves

ORANGE – Public input is being sought on draft plans released this week that will guide the management of valuable wildlife and habitat on the Orange County Transportation Authority’s open space properties in the Aliso Canyon Preserve in Laguna Beach and Hayashi Preserve in Brea.

As part of Measure M, Orange County’s half-cent sales tax for transportation improvements, OCTA has purchased seven open space properties from willing sellers to preserve the land and permanently ensure that valuable animal and plant species can thrive for generations to come.

The preserves are being purchased to offset the impacts of construction on 13 Measure M freeway projects being built throughout Orange County.

The draft resource-management plans for the last two of the seven OCTA properties have been released for public review. The plans outline how the open-space properties will be managed and monitored to ensure that wildlife and native habitat are protected.

The plans also address fire-prevention measures and managed recreational use of the properties by the public where and when appropriate, while still ensuring that endangered animal and plant species remain unharmed.

The public can review the plans and comment online by visiting www.OCTA.net/RMP.

Three public meetings are also being planned to allow for review and comments in person. One is planned for 2:30 p.m. on Oct. 4 at OCTA headquarters, 600 S. Main St. in Orange, during the OCTA Environmental Oversight Committee meeting.

The time and exact location of the other two public meetings, which will take place in Brea and Laguna Beach, are being finalized and will be posted online.

The 90-day public review and comment period ends Dec. 1.

Measure M, originally approved in 1990, was renewed in 2006 with support from nearly 70 percent of voters. When planning for the renewed Measure M, OCTA believed it was important to work with the environmental community and wildlife agencies to find the best way to offset the effects of construction of freeway projects on the environment.

Rather than take a piecemeal approach to mitigating individual project impacts, OCTA took a comprehensive approach, allowing for the preservation and protection of large areas of open space with the most sensitive habitat and wildlife. That approach resulted in the Measure M Freeway Environmental Mitigation Program.

Through the process, OCTA has worked closely with local environmental groups and with state and federal wildlife officials to develop a conservation plan. In exchange, the wildlife agencies have agreed to streamline the permitting process, allowing OCTA to more quickly deliver much-needed freeway projects.

A total of 5 percent of Measure M’s freeway budget is available for this program, expected to total more than $280 million over 30 years.

So far, OCTA has acquired seven open space properties, totaling more than 1,300 acres. Previously, resource-management plans were approved for the other five preserves – at Ferber Ranch, O’Neill Oaks, Hafen, Saddle Creek South and MacPherson.

In addition to the land purchases, 12 restoration projects are currently funded throughout Orange County. Funds will aid in removing invasive plant species and restoring about 350 acres of open space to its native habitat.

The areas now being protected connect with other open space giving wildlife greater area to move. They also include endangered and threatened habitat and species, including plants, fish, reptiles, birds and mammals.
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