October 16, 2012
The Fort Ord Reuse Authority is moving ahead with controversial munitions clearing in the Parker Flats area.
Since Oct. 10, the Environmental Services Cooperative Agreement remediation crew has been cutting undergrowth in the 12 acres known as the Leprechaun’s Pipe. FORA Associate Executive Officer Steve Endsley says the work has been approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Toxic Substances Control: "What they’re doing out there is the preparatory work they’ve been planning on all along.”
The initial field work involves cutting understory growth, but plans also call for the removal of trees as necessary—a flash point for environmentalists who see the work as a favor to developers eyeing the property, particularly the proposed Monterey Downs horse park and residential complex.
Endsley says efforts will be made to prevent the cutting of trees, in consultation with an arborist, though some trees may be limbed to provide machinery access. An update from ESCA, which oversees the remediation work, states, "No healthy oak trees larger than 6 inches [in diameter] will be removed."
That restriction may be a result of a legal threat from Carmel attorney Zan Henson, representing the conservation group Veterans Wild Fort Ord. “Our lawyer met with [Henson], so my assumption is they’re proceeding on the basis of some kind of common understanding," Endsley says.
Henson clarifies: "We did not reach a deal that minimized the tree cutting, but I understand from conversations with the FORA representatives that our threat of a lawsuit did cause them to reconsider their approach, and then they voluntarily came up with this new phased approach they are pursuing that will not involve clearcutting."
Meanwhile, FORA has closed the public access corridor on 8th Avenue, a critical artery for hikers, bikers and equestrians who recreate on the former Army base. Endsley says he assumes that's in connection with the Leprechaun's Pipe field work and not a follow-through on FORA's prior warning that it would cut off the access corridor if the public did not respect trail closures.