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A gut-and-amend bill to exempt a multimillion-dollar Los Angeles law enforcement communications project from environmental review was sent to the governor Friday night.

Assembly Bill 1486 cleared its final legislature hurdle in the Assembly, 59-1, receiving bipartisan support.

The measure by Assemblyman Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, is touted as a way to expedite construction of an $80 million voice and data communications system for the region's 34,000 first responders.

Supporters of the project say the ability for emergency service providers to communicate with each other is particularly acute in the Los Angeles region, which has over 50 law enforcement agencies and 31 fire departments.

AB 1486 was subject to little public scrutiny, however. It was amended to contain the CEQA exemption Aug. 24, just one week before the Legislature adjourned for the year Friday. Previously, the bill was a placeholder for budget-related legislation.

Lara's proposal would provide an exemption from California Environmental Quality Act review for the design, site acquisition, construction, operation or maintenance of certain elements of the communications project.

AB 1486 potentially could hasten construction of 239 tapered monopoles and dozens of land mobile radio systems, known as LMRs. Both elements of the communications system would hold antennas, microwave dishes and other components.

The exemption would apply only if certain conditions were met - for example, if there would be no substantial adverse impact on wetlands, riparian or historical areas, and if operation of the project would meet Federal Communications Commission standards.

Supporters contend the exemption is necessary to ensure that the project, the Los Angeles Regional Interoperable Communications System, can be built quickly enough to meet strict deadlines for accessing millions of dollars in federal grants.

Opponents counter that the massive communications system is precisely the kind of project that warrants environmental review.


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