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A 'Wiser Investment'

May 24, 1987

Over the last several years, I have read many articles about the dam the Fallbrook Public Utility District is planning to build on the Santa Margarita River. I often wondered casually how this proposed dam site compared to my "secret spot" in the DeLuz area.

Several weeks ago, I went on a guided hike presented by the Audubon Society and discovered to my shock that my all-time favorite wilderness "spot" also is the very same location slated to be inundated with more than 100 feet of floodwater. Gone forever the incredible beauty and rich diversity of plant and animal life?

I have been visiting this riparian woodland for the last 10 years, usually once, never more than twice a year. I have limited my own enjoyment of this area partly as a result of the poison oak rashes that are just about unavoidable but also, more importantly, because the river landscape there is so pristine and wild and beautiful that I believe even my short-term presence along with my dog is of some detriment to the wildlife environment.

There is a tremendous feeling of distance from civilization along this river. There also is an alteration in the sense of time, as the area remains completely undisturbed by the last two centuries of progress. Many areas in the North County may once have been like this, but most were either cleared for farming or "improved" with flood-control projects. Many are bracketed by highways, and some of the flood plains are now full of car dealerships and shopping malls.

The river has survived all these potential threats only to now be selected for a dam site. While I concede there may be some very legitimate bureaucratic logic for pursuing the construction of this dam, those bureaucratic reasons could never justify the associated loss of our natural resources. I have seen some articles on the experimental scheme for habitat replacement, and I've driven past the site on Willow Glen where quite obviously many thousands of dollars were spent on the emplacement of irrigation pipes. The intent is to create a man-made "wilderness," sustained through a plastic pipe water system. Ha. Ha. Ha. How would such a costly system survive even moderate flood conditions? Rather than waste money on this bogus mitigation plan, Fallbrook's utility directors should make every effort to fully investigate the alternative proposals for storing their water.

One example I would like to see would be for Fallbrook's water officials to approve funding for an in-depth, independent study of the feasibility of using underground aquifers as water depositories. I understand Rancho California is currently using this method of water storage with no significant drawbacks.

Such a procedure would require much, much lower start-up costs than building a dam and operational costs would likely be comparable with either program. Doesn't that sound better than planning the destruction of about two miles of the county's most scenic and critically indispensable wildlife habitats?

RUSSELL D. SPENCER

Vista

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