Lawsuit Challenges Sprawling Salton Sea Development Project

Mar 08, 2012, 17:54 ET from The Sierra Club from ,The Center for Biological Diversity



RIVERSIDE, Calif., March 8, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- The Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity filed suit against Riverside County for its approval of the Travertine Point project, a proposed sprawling development along the Salton Sea that would include 16,655 houses and apartments and more than 5 million square feet of commercial space. Designed to house more than 40,000 people in an isolated area, the project is expected to significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions and further degrade the region's poor air quality. The project will also cause irreparable harm to the adjacent sensitive wilderness areas of Anza Borrego Desert Park and Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument. 

"This proposal for a large new town on the shrinking Salton Sea is the wrong project in the wrong place at the wrong time," said Erin Chalmers, an attorney with Shute, Mihaly, and Weinberger, LLP, who represents the Sierra Club in the case.

Filed in Riverside County Superior Court, the lawsuit says the county failed to disclose or mitigate the full extent of the project's environmental impacts under the California Environmental Quality Act and conducted inadequate environmental review of serious traffic impacts on the region.

"This project is another example of poorly planned growth that will increase desert sprawl and leave residents miles from any jobs," said Aruna Prabhala with the Center for Biological Diversity. 

The five-phase, 35-year development plan would bring thousands of people to the desert and harm threatened species and irreplaceable cultural resources on adjacent, protected parkland.

"Anza Borrego and the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains are state and national treasures," said Jeff Morgan, chairman of the Tahquitz Group of the Sierra Club. "The project's feeble provisions for protecting sensitive parkland are sorely inadequate."

The project is the latest in a decades-long series of development proposals for the Salton Sea shoreline, nearly all of which have previously been abandoned. Long-term success of this project depends on the state of California restoring the Salton Sea, at a cost of $9 billion, and widening SR-86S, neither of which is likely to occur in the near future. The failure of either the sea restoration or highway widening would likely halt the project, thus freeing the developer from having to complete its mitigation obligations in Riverside County's approved Travertine Point Specific Plan.

SOURCE The Sierra Club; The Center for Biological Diversity