Santa Margarita Group
31915 Rancho California Road
Ste. 200-133, Temecula, Ca. 92591
(951)506-9607; fax (951)506-4497
June 17, 2016
The Hon. Michael S. Naggar, Mayor
City of Temecula
41000 Main St,
Temecula, CA 92590
Dear Mayor Naggar and Councilmembers:
The Santa Margarita group of the Sierra Club (San Gorgonio Chapter) has been a willing and pleased community partner with the City of Temecula on many projects and endeavors. We admire and appreciate the City’s ongoing efforts to improve and protect the quality of life for its residents. We gratefully recognize your strides to make Temecula an environmentally-friendly place to live as shown by your ongoing support for the Murrieta Creek Regional Trail and other Sierra Club projects, the Jefferson Corridor plans and the improvements to your city-trail system. Thanks, too, for your willingness to provide continued contact and information to our group and the public, a very important service to the community.
But we have been contacted by several highly reputable entities that are concerned about the Altair project, particularly about the significant impact that the project would have on wildlife movement in Linkage 10 (upland connection), constrained Linkage 13 (Murrieta Creek connection) between the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve and the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve and in constrained Linkage 14 (start of Santa Margarita River – Temecula Creek – Pechanga Creek connection.
Wildlife movement between the Santa Ana Mountains across Interstate 15 to the Palomar Mountains has been a concern for decades. We are now at a point where it appears that the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve is in the center of the last viable linkage for wildlife that connects the Inland Mountains to the Coastal Mountain Range. We must face the fact that enhancing our last wildlife corridor system may be the only way to save the wildlife that are now stranded on the west side of Freeway 15.
Unfortunately for the Altair project, the south end of the site’s footprint intrudes on land that could possibly be the area for a wildlife corridor system that could alleviate the problem. The area that must be enhanced and protected involves the intersection of Corridors 10, 13 and 14. The easiest first step is to plan for the widest corridor possible on this site while the Western Bypass, the Temecula Parkway clover-leaf and the Altair projects are in the making.
The City of Temecula could do what the MSHCP failed to do; plan for the wildlife corridor infrastructure. Transportation infrastructure was the theme of the Plan, but there were only “linkages” described—not a true infrastructure for wildlife movement. Temecula could be the Champion of the MSHCP and show others how a City can take the Plan a step further and actually implement a working “linkage”.
Several changes to the project could accomplish this.
1) Moving the Villages A and G and the South Parcel (Civic Use site) to the east of the Western Bypass.
2) Any mitigation of land parcels should have equivalency to a formal Criteria Refinement as the MSCP describes, if a “Biologically Equivalent or Superior Determination” cannot be made for a proposed refinement, or if there is a reduction in Criteria acres, then an amendment to the plan must be sought, with concurrence of the wildlife agencies. The 270 acres of land proposed in the DEIR for protection near Corona is not satisfactory habitat or siting for this purpose. Land parcels that could enhance Linkages 10, 13, and 14 or lands adjacent to I-15 that would enhance those linkages would be appropriate.
3) Funding for a complete “Project Study Report,” to be prepared by
Caltrans to preliminary engineering standards, proposing a system of wildlife crossings for I-15 should be provided. Parcels to be acquired, culvert improvements and a connection from the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve and the Temecula Golf Course Plan that would make a viable Temecula River wildlife corridor would be studied.
4) Endangered Habitat League has suggested a Corridor Recovery Study be a condition of approval for the Altair project. “This would be conducted by the City, and informed by ongoing mountain lion research being conducted by UC Davis Wildlife Health Center, within a reasonable period of time. It would assess the Temecula Creek Inn golf course and proposed development project, and how to restore movement for mountain lion and other species on this property so as to make viable connections between Linkage 10 and Constrained Linkages 13 and 14”. We strongly support this proposal.
We feel that your primary goal and ours coincide, that the City of Temecula be in compliance with the MSHCP. Once that goal is met, Temecula can show the region how the Plan should be responsibly implemented by putting our recommendations into effect. Temecula would be an example to all participants in the MSHCP, which would be beneficial to everyone.
The Santa Margarita Group of the Sierra Club
Pam Nelson, Chair