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Sespe Creek Protection Bill Only a Half-Measure

November 03, 1988

I would like to clarify a campaign statement by Congressman Robert J. Lagomarsino on the subject of Sespe Creek. A glossy brochure on environmental achievements mentions that he has introduced legislation to protect the Sespe as a wild and scenic river. This is in fact only a half-truth, literally.

The Sespe flows for 55 miles through some of Ventura County's most spectacular scenery. The bill currently in Congress, HR4746, is slated only to protect 27 1/2 miles of the creek. This is mainly because county water interests still have plans to dam the Sespe at two locations--Coldsprings, just above Rose Valley on Highway 33; and Oat Mountain, several miles upstream of Fillmore.

The Coldsprings Dam, to be 285 feet tall, will flood over 3 miles of Highway 33 right up to the climbing spot at Sespe Gorge. The Oak Mountain Dam, even bigger at 357 feet, will essentially halt the flow of sand and gravel down the Sespe onto Ventura County's beaches.

This will dramatically increase beach erosion, threatening oceanfront property south of the Los Angeles County line. The Oat Mountain Dam will also affect the Sespe's designation as a "wild trout stream" by the California Department of Fish and Game, it being by far the best of only three such streams between Monterey and Mexico!

The price tag per acre-foot of Sespe water may be $700 to $1,000. Currently, agriculture locally has an affordability limit of $200 per acre-foot. Less wasteful use of water at home and in agriculture will mean present supplies can go much, much further; and the recent proposal by United Water District to bring in state water down Piru Creek is designed to provide ample surplus for dry years.

The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act was passed by a Congress that foresaw a time when future generations might never know what a natural river looks like. Only 2% of all U.S. rivers are eligible for this protection. We will be working with our next congressman to increase wild and scenic protection for the Sespe in the 1989 Congress.

ALASDAIR COYNE

Keep the Sespe Wild Committee Ojai

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