Friant Ranch Project faces legal challenges

FRESNO, Calif.

The Fresno County Supervisors approved the project last month, despite objections from the City of Fresno and the San Joaquin River Parkway and Conservation Trust.

In its legal filing the City of Fresno said the County, "abused its discretion, and failed to proceed in a manner required by law" in approving the project's Environmental Impact Report.

In its separate lawsuit the San Joaquin River Parkway's said the Friant Ranch plan "violates state planning and zoning law" and is "inconsistent with Fresno County's general plan."

River Parkway Director Dave Koehler says it's a bad example of urban sprawl that will impact the river and surrounding recreation areas like Lost Lake Park. "The leapfrog growth is an issue and particularly those things that fall out of leapfrog growth."

Koehler says a big concern is the plan for a sewage treatment plant to be located in old gravel pits adjacent to the San Joaquin River.

"The impacts to fish, to recreation impacts to water quality it's just too risky to place here next to the river."

Fresno County Supervisor Henry Perea supports the development and doesn't believe it will pollute the river. "There were sufficient studies done and experts that came into the board that guaranteed that would not be an issue in terms of discharge into the river."

Perea believes it's good to direct growth toward the Friant area, instead of on farmland.

Perea isn't pleased the City of Fresno is suing the County. "Because you know it's not the smart card for government to be suing government."

But City Attorney James Sanchez and Parkway Director Dave Koehler told Action News the legal actions were taken to get the County to work with the developer to better deal with issues like traffic, air and water pollution and other problems associated with the urban sprawl the project creates.

The Friant Ranch Project is being developed by the family of Madera County Supervisor Frank Bigelow. He was not available for comment.

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