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Sierra Club withdraws appeal of Avila's Harbor Terrace campground project 

The Sierra Club withdrew its appeal of the Harbor Terrace project July 29, clearing the way for the coastal development. The environmental group filed the appeal June 24 with the California Coastal Commission, claiming that increased tourism from the campground would increase use of the fish-cleaning station located on the Harbor Pier. 

The cleaning station was previously called out as a threat to pelicans, which scavenge fish carcasses left by sport fishers. At the station, pelicans also get access to different fish than they would normally eat, which presents a choking hazard for the birds. Additionally, there was a concern that pelicans were coming into contact with fish oil, which can cause their feathers to be less insulating. 

The Sierra Club was seeking improvements to the station that would keep pelicans from foraging there and keep oil out of the water. Sierra Club representatives were not available for comment as of press time, but according to its website, the issue had not been properly addressed in the project’s environmental impact report, or in discussion before the Board of Supervisors. 

Harbor Manager Steve McGrath said he was caught off guard by the appeal. The Harbor Commission was already addressing the issue before the appeal was filed. McGrath said the commission formed an ad hoc committee to find a solution, and on June 23, two days before the appeal was filed, the commission allocated $25,000 to fix the station. 

The Harbor District implemented some changes to the station, but according to the Sierra Club, the fish oil was still being dumped into the water at low tide. Days before the appeal was withdrawn, local Sierra Club Director Andrew Christie blogged about the improvements. 

“Since we filed the appeal—and, doubtless, because we did—the Port San Luis Harbor Commission has notably accelerated the pace of short-term protective measures such as chicken wire installed on two sides of the cleaning station.”

The commission met again on July 28, and the Sierra Club was apparently satisfied with the commission’s approval of a plan and funding to remedy the situation. The appeal was withdrawn the following day.

McGrath said the next phase is negotiating the ground lease. The Harbor Commission will consider lease agreements with private companies to build and operate the site. The campground will have upscale bungalows for people interested in a glamping experience as well as RV camping, car camping, and walk-in camping. The project is expected to be a significant revenue stream for the Harbor District, but McGrath could not say how much money the site is expected to generate until the bids are in. The project has been criticized because many of the campsites are expected to be expensive. Still, McGrath said the project will provide an alternative to $400-a-night hotels. 

One of the best parts of the project, McGrath said, “Is that it’s not just an RV park. … You’ll be able to show up in your 1980 Plymouth with your tent from Kmart and enjoy the same amenities.” 

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