Watershead, Fall 2004
The River
Management Plan
Newhall Ranch

Impact Sciences Criticized by L. A. County

In a strongly-worded statement released this past summer, Los Angeles County Regional Planning Director, James Hartl, roundly criticized Impact Sciences, Inc. for the "unsatisfactory quality" of recent environmental review work on the 23,000-home Centennial Project in northwest L.A. County. The work of consultants such as Impact Sciences must be held to a high standard if rigorous environmental review of L.A. County projects is to be achieved, because the County allows developers to directly hire consultants who prepare environmental documents.

Impact Sciences prepared all Environmental Impact Reports for the 21,000-home Newhall Ranch Project, the subject of years of litigation by Friends. A botanist employed by Impact Sciences had, in 2002, refused to cooperate with investigators attempting to determine whether Newhall Land and Farming Company had destroyed an endangered plant on the Newhall property. The botanist had evidently signed a "confidentiality agreement" with the company that precluded her speaking of the San Fernando Valley spineflower destruction incident. Impact Sciences is the consultant on Santa Clarita's Riverpark project now under review by the city Planning Commission.

John Buse, attorney for the Environmental Defense Center, offered the following comment, as reported in the July 1, 2004 Los Angeles Times: "County planners now appear to be directing much-needed attention to environmental reports prepared by the consultant Impact Sciences. It is unfortunate that the County did not apply similar oversight to reports prepared for the massive Newhall Ranch development. When biologists raised concerns regarding the Newhall reports similar to those described for more recent projects ('inaccuracies in species identification, improper location and mapping … and generally incomplete and careless work overall'), these criticisms were brushed aside by Impact Sciences. They were not, in my view, adequately reviewed by County planners, with the consequence that Impact Science's reports were arguments for the development, rather than objective reviews of its environmental effects. Los Angeles County should stop allowing developers to oversee the preparation of environmental reports and start exercising greater control before approving future large-scale developments like the Centennial project and the individual phases of Newhall Ranch".

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