Judge Ochoa Grants Environmentalists’ Petition To Preserve Big Bear Eagle Habitat

San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge Gilbert Ochoa has ruled in favor of conservation groups and found the Marina Point Development on the shores of Big Bear Lake lacks valid permits.
Nearly seven years after a petition and complaint challenging the project was filed, the court’s ruling makes clear that unless San Bernardino County issues new approvals, the project construction cannot move forward. The project threatened habitat for bald eagles and other wildlife.
“We’re thrilled that the truth of the situation has finally been set straight and the court has upheld the law,” said Roman Silberfeld, chairman of the board for Friends of Big Bear Valley. “We are happy to help protect our beautiful rural community and majestic natural resources with this action.”
Friends of Big Bear Valley and the Center for Biological Diversity filed the original complaint in San Bernardino County Superior Court in June 2014. The suit challenged the county’s issuance of demolition permits even though the underlying approvals for the project had expired. County code sets a five-year deadline from the date of project approval for concrete steps toward that project’s timely completion to be taken. Marina Point did not take the necessary steps to keep the permit alive, according to the ruling issued last week.
“To obtain a new approval, this project will now have to perform proper environmental review, as should have been required two decades ago,” said Sandy Steers, the executive director of Friends of Big Bear Valley. “The bald eagles and other species and unique habitats detrimentally impacted by this project can finally be protected.”
The Marina Point Development project was approved in 1991, based on an environmental review from 1983. The court of appeal has ruled that the 1991 environmental review was deficient. When work on the project began again in 2014 after years of delay, conservation groups took notice and filed a legal challenge. The Law Offices of Babak Naficy represented the conservation groups.
“I am delighted that this long-running saga has finally come to an end and the good guys prevailed,” said Naficy.
The now-expired project was a condominium complex consisting of 19 three-story condominium buildings on 12 acres of undeveloped lakefront, along with an expansive 175-boat slip private marina, clubhouse, restaurant and other shared facilities.
“Marina Point threatened the long-term survival of Big Bear Lake’s iconic bald eagles, a pair of which now nest year-round within a mile of the project site,” said Aruna Prabhala, a Center for Biological Diversity senior attorney. “As the lake’s shoreline gets more and more developed, and bald eagle habitat is lost, it’s become increasingly important that we preserve foraging and nesting areas.”
Friends of Big Bear Valley is a locally based, nonprofit environmental education organization with over 130,000 members and online activists dedicated to protecting and preserving the unique and irreplaceable natural habitat of Big Bear Valley.

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