Colton Reaches Delhi Sands Fly Protection Compromise With Fish & Wildlife

(February 5) The more than two-decade-long ban on a swathe of property in Colton along the Santa Ana River has apparently drawn to an end, as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on February 2 issued a development permit for the property.
The Colton City Council lost no time in approving the agreement relating to that permit, doing so at its February 3 meeting.
The ground in question was declared off limits for development in 1993 as a consequence of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s determination that dunes along that particular portion of the Santa Ana River served as critical habitat for the Delhi Sands flower-loving fly, which had been placed on the endangered species list.
The Santa Ana River has its headwaters at the base of the San Bernardino Mountains above Highland. The river winds through San Bernardino to Colton, down into Riverside County and then on to Orange County with its ultimate terminus in the Pacific Ocean. The nectar-feeding Delhi Sands flower-loving fly, breeds in sandy soil and sand dunes, which once existed in plentiful supply along the Santa Ana River. Most of those dunes, however, have been destroyed by development, leaving a usually dry but sometimes marshy area along the north bank of the river just before it heads into Riverside County as one of the last three sites known to contain sufficient sandy soil for the fly to proliferate.
The city of Colton has long been in a dialogue with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its parent agency, the U.S. Department of the Interior, over steps to be taken to preserve adequate habitat for the fly while allowing development on surrounding property to proceed. There had been numerous proposals of set asides and land swaps intended to leave portions of the river’s banks in a pristine state, but those had never been actuated or, in some other fashion, fell through.
Over the years there have been recriminations from city officials and others toward the federal government over what was characterized as Fish & Wildlife’s obstruction of projects locals deemed of consequence and value to the city’s economy. Some, ignoring the long term consequences of species loss and ecological degradation, charged federal officials with being more sympathetic to the fortunes of an insect than to the economic wellbeing of the city’s residents and its businesses.
The final agreement hammered out between the city and the federal government requires Colton to set aside 50 acres of undisturbed land along the river’s banks as breeding habitat for the endangered fly in exchange for development of 416 acres near the 10 Freeway at Pepper Avenue, near the campus of the county’s Arrowhead Regional Medical Center.
Of that 416 acres, some 250 acres have already been developed but are currently lying fallow. That acreage can be developed again without requiring further studies. Another 80 acres, which is relatively undisturbed and has never been extensively developed over the last century, can also be developed. One six-acre segment of Slover Avenue must be closed and combined with seven acres of the 33-acre Hermosa Gardens Cemetery as part of the 50-acre breeding habitat, according to documentation relating to the city’s acceptance of the deal.
Colton, which has had extensive exchange with landowners in the area over acquiring river bank property, will now move ahead with purchasing an adequate amount of that property to fulfill the terms of the agreement with Fish & Wildlife.

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