Public Input Sought on Plans for Management of OCTA Open Space Preserves

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:      

 Nov. 10, 2015

FOR MORE INFORMATION:        

Joel Zlotnik (714) 560-5713
Eric Carpenter (714) 560-5697

 

 Public Input Sought on Plans for Management of OCTA Open Space Preserves

      Draft resource-management plans outline how wildlife and habitat are to be preserved through Measure M freeway mitigation program

 

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

As part of Measure M, the 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.

“Through the purchase of open space for the purpose of protecting the plants and animals that are native to the land, we are striking an important balance that helps keep Orange County motorists moving while preserving what so many cherish about living here,” said OCTA Chairman Jeff Lalloway, also the Mayor Pro Tem of Irvine.

The draft resource-management plans for the first five OCTA properties will be released for public review beginning Wednesday, Nov. 11. 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 will be able to review the plans and comment online by visiting www.OCTA.net/RMP.

Two public meetings also are planned to allow for review and comments in person. Those meetings will be held at Rancho Santa Margarita City Hall, 22112 El Paseo at the following times:

  • 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 21
  • 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 9

The 90-day public review and comment period ends Feb. 8.

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 $300 million over 30 years.

So far, OCTA has acquired seven open space properties, totaling more than 1,300 acres. The current resource-management plans are for preserves at Ferber Ranch, O’Neill Oaks, Hafen, Saddle Creek South and MacPherson.

Resource-management plans for OCTA open-space properties in Brea and Laguna Beach are being developed for public review in 2016.

In addition to the land purchases, 11 restoration projects are currently funded throughout Orange County. Funds will aid in removing invasive plant species and restoring about 400 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.