The big money land owners want to develope the land zoned for open space, if the three existing lakes are coded PUBHx on Wetland Mapper, there must be some laws or regulations that offer some kind of protection from developing freshwater Wetlands.
Usually, all wetlands are protected by federal law, administered by the Army Corps of Engineers, which prevents filling or dredging for development without a permit. There may also be state laws and permits required as well (as there are in NYS). It doesn't matter whether the land is publicly or privately owned. Sometimes development is allowed, but usually there is a requirement that you replace the wetlands there or at another site with a larger area of wetlands, so there is "no net loss" of wetlands.
The laws are stronger in this regard than you might think, and many a "big money guy" who can buy off politicians has found you can't buy off the Army Corps of Engineers or the EPA. Also, there is a very strict scientific test for what a wetland is, and the ACOE gets to make the call with a proposed boundary delineation of what the "waters of the US" are.
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State, Local, and Municipal Law Attorney
Yes, there are federal regulations relating to wetlands. Here's a link to the EPA website that talks about it.
Any rezoning or development proposal will be subject to CEQA (the California Environmental Quality Act), and the impact on wetlands would certainly be identified as a potential adverse impact on the environment. It's too complex to discuss in a response on a site like this, and also depends on a lot of specific facts, but you might want to contact the city or county planning folks that has jurisdiction over any development and see what they have to say about any rezoning that the developer might be pursuing. It's also a public process that you can participate in (i.e. comment on environmental issues, proposals to rezone the land, etc..). If you are concerned I would encourage you to get involved...
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Real Estate Attorney
I agree with the previous answers and there will be Federal, State , and local provisions that will need to be address by the developer in the permitting process. There usually is also a public comment period and your local authorities can help you find out what is proposed. In addition there are a great many environmental groups that may be interested.
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