How stopped Friant Ranch project ever got approved still a mystery

On Jun. 8, 2014, in “Court orders thorough air-impact review for planned Fresno County development project,” attention is focused on Fresno, California-area sprawl in general and, in particular, on the planned Friant Ranch community and on the halting of work on the controversial project.

A planned retirement village, Friant Ranch is to be sited on a total of 970 acres near the town of Friant east of Fresno, that is, of course, if it manages to see the light of day. To put things in perspective, the city of Fresno covers an area of 112 square miles.

What is both important and helpful to understand is that the area is one of America’s worst air offenders for both fine particulates and ozone (or smog).

The region is also tasked with meeting the requirements of California Senate Bill 375 (the Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act of 2008), that is, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, in this case by five percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and by 10 percent below 2005 levels by 2035. That is the challenge.

Missing air quality component

As I understand things, the reason work on Friant Ranch was ordered stopped was because missing from a corresponding environmental impact report (EIR), is a key air quality component, apparently.

Without the air quality component what this says to me is impact to air quality wasn’t considered. What I fail to comprehend is how the project could have gotten prior approval to move forward without considering air-quality impacts, if indeed air-quality impacts were not considered. In my view, it has to be made certain omissions on this order never happen again. Moreover, when it comes to area environmental impact attributable specifically to development, if there are traffic and travel (vehicle miles traveled) impacts, find out just what those are; if there are air quality impacts, determine what those are; and if possible effective and at the same time sensible mitigating strategies to reduce traffic, travel and extra pollution or prevent its formation altogether are identified, list what these are. If none of this was done in the existing Friant Ranch EIR, my question is: Why not?

Now that an air quality component has been ordered for the EIR in question, I hold on to the hope that regarding all future San Joaquin Valley-based proposed or planned residential, commercial, industrial, transportation and agricultural development projects, that every EIR contain in it an air quality component whereby a detailed analysis showing to what extent and how air quality would be affected, be included. Action along these lines would do much to ensure the corresponding EIR air quality component is, in fact, being done and proper protocol is being followed.

Back to the main topic at hand, it remains to be seen what identified air pollution and/or other environmental mitigating strategies will be presented provided, of course, the Friant Ranch development project is allowed to move ahead.

Either way the outcome should be interesting.

– Alan Kandel