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Supervisors approve buffer zone agreement in Pala

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors approved an encroachment protection agreement to maintain a military buffer zone for a 37.8-acre site in Pala planned for purchase.

The supervisors’ 5-0 vote August 6 authorized the encroachment protection agreement with the Department of the Navy and also set a September 17 hearing date to acquire the parcel adjacent to Mount Olympus Preserve. The property would be purchased from the Lavonne A. Lauderbaugh Trust for $416,000, and the Navy would contribute half of that amount.

Mount Olympus separates Rainbow from Pala, and the draft North County Multiple Species Conservation Program includes the land as a preserve both for its sensitive species such as the Rainbow Manzanita and for its value as a linkage and corridor for animals, including large animals such as deer, mountain lion, coyote, and bobcat.

Because of the corridor linkage value of the Mount Olympus Preserve area, the site in Pala has been considered suitable for the Department of Defense’s buffer zone program. The DOD’s Readiness and Environmental Protection Initiative allows branches of the military to enter into agreements with eligible entities to share the costs of acquiring real property in the vicinity of military installations.

The purpose of the program is to limit development which is incompatible with military activities, and although the Pala site is not adjacent to Camp Pendleton its value as a wildlife linkage corridor benefits the base’s environmental protection program.

The easement agreement ensures that the property will not be developed and also restricts uses of the property to those which are compatible with Camp Pendleton operations. The Department of the Navy, which handles real estate services for the Marine Corps, will pay $208,000 of the $416,000 appraised value.

In addition to funding half of the purchase cost, the County of San Diego will also pay $3,200 for title and escrow fees, $8,500 for staff costs to complete the transaction, and $38,000 for one-time stewardship costs to cover vegetation management, gates, signage, and erosion control.

The county’s $257,700 total cost will be obtained from budgeted Multiple Species Conservation Program acquisition appropriations, and the county will subsequently be responsible for long-term management and maintenance of the property.

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