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   Conservation Issues of the Ventana Chapter | monterey county

Legislation Extending Fort Ord Reuse Authority Introduced in the Assembly

February 2012

The former Fort Ord in Monterey County contains nearly 28,000 acres which stretch from the Monterey Bay to Salinas. Contained within this acreage are former shooting ranges, training ranges, housing areas, office buildings, unexploded ordinance, sensitive and endangered habitats and species, hazardous materials, contaminated groundwater and a greatly varied mix of deteriorated and brand new infrastructure and buildings.

In 1990 the U.S. Army announced that it would close Fort Ord and dispose of the property. So in 1994, the State of California established a special agency known as the Fort Ord Reuse Authority (FORA) to supervise the conversion of most of the base to civilian uses. Overseen by a board comprised of 13 voting members from local cities and the County of Monterey, FORA is responsible for the planning, financing, and implementation of the conversion of most of the land in accordance with a Base Reuse Plan (BRP). FORA was given 20 years to accomplish these tasks.

When FORA released an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the proposed conversion in the late 1990's, Sierra Club successfully sued for more protection of natural resources. This resulted in a settlement agreement requiring FORA to comply with a wide range of conditions on future development.

The State legislation that created FORA provides that it will terminate in June, 2014 and the responsibility for reuse and redevelopment of the former base will then be distributed to other agencies as decided by the Monterey County Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO). In the fall of 2011, as a result of the Chapter's long history with FORA, Assemblymember Bill Monning sought Sierra Club's support for extending FORA's termination date from 2014 to 2020.

Based on information gathered from meetings with FORA staff and through consultation with other environmental groups, Sierra Club has concluded that there are several reasons for supporting an extension of FORA:

First, there is no certainty about how LAFCO would distribute FORA's responsibilities. Since Monterey County is considering an environmentally-destructive project for Fort Ord land under its jurisdiction (e.g. Monterey Downs, a proposed 450-acre mixed use development featuring a 6,500-seat indoor equestrian sports arena and horse racing track, a town center, a hotel, a sports club and more than 1,500 housing units), the Sierra Club did not want to take the chance that Monterey County might assume FORA's responsibilities.

Second, the termination of FORA would remove an extra layer of administrative review that currently exists for proposed development projects on Fort Ord. As long as FORA endures, projects approved by member jurisdictions cannot proceed unless FORA finds them consistent with the Base Reuse Plan.

Third, dissolution of FORA would possibly terminate the 1998 settlement agreement between Sierra Club and FORA.

Finally, this settlement agreement provides specific criteria that FORA must use in its findings of consistency with the Base Reuse Plan. For example, the Fort Ord Habitat Management Plan must be implemented for each applicable development project. Additionally, no development shall be approved by FORA until water supplies, wastewater disposal, road capacity and infrastructure have been identified.

Sierra Club's unique advocacy non-profit standing and broad range of other conservation work required the Ventana Chapter to work within the guidelines of State and National Sierra Club in the process of considering FORA's extension. Assemblymember Monning introducing the bill to extend FORA as AB 1614 on February 8 at which time he stated:

"To continue to facilitate the transition of Fort Ord from a military base to land that can be used by civilians we need to continue to remove the military munitions that remain on Fort Ord land. The only way these hazardous contaminants can be removed effectively and safety is through the continuation of FORA."

Sierra Club's support for the extension is explained in the attached January 19, 2012 letter from FORA Committee Chair Tom Moore to Assemblymember Monning. (see attached pdf of Sierra Club's January 19 letter to Assemblymember Monning)

For information about the Sierra Club's support for National Monument status for 15,000 acres at Fort Ord, please see the article on the conservation page under Fort Ord.

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