Debate Over River Turns ‘Edgy’

A new environmental group has entered the fray in a bid to halt the master-planned Newhall Ranch development slated for the banks for the Santa Clara River west of Valencia.

“We’re looking at trying to save a river, save the animals that live in the river,” Leo Grillo, president of the conservation group Animals on the Edge, said Tuesday.

Grillo says his group has hired a photographer to document the current state of the river’s ecosystem and present the photos to county officials who make the final decisions on development.

“We’re looking at trying to save a river, save the animals that live in the river,” he said.

“Just to name a fish or a bird or a toad … we want to show people what their life is like. Now they’re real. We’re showing them what’s at stake.
“Santa Clara River belongs to the world,” Grillo said. “You have an obligation not to destroy the river.”

Newhall Land Development Inc. says its development will conserve the river.

“Newhall Ranch has, from the very beginning, been designed with a focus on preserving the Santa Clara River,” spokeswoman Marlee Lauffer said. “It will continue to flow naturally and the habitat is protected.”

Newhall Ranch would be a 20,000-home, 12,000-acre project located west of Interstate 5 and east of Highway 126 flanking the Santa Clara River, which provides a home for several endangered plants and animals.

The environmental impact report for the Newhall Ranch project’s first phase, Landmark Village, is being circulated, and the public comment period ends March 17.

A 100- to 200-foot buffer would separate the river from the community, Newhall Land documents state.

Lauffer noted that Newhall Land has worked on the project since 1996 in a “transparent and open process.

“It’s been discussed and analyzed, it’s been part of the entire public approval process,” she said.

Lynne Plambeck, frequent Newhall Ranch critic and president of Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment, said she hadn’t heard of Animals on the Edge but knew Grillo and was glad he had gotten involved.

“We need everyone who wants to get out in front and think about this issue,” she said. “Animals certainly are on the edge.”

Comments on the Landmark Village environmental impact report can be sent to supervising regional planner Samuel Dea at the Department of Regional Planning, Room 1362, 320 W. Temple St., Los Angeles or by e-mail at Landmark-Village@planning.lacounty.gov.

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