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River 'Preservation' Is Hurting Farmers

June 01, 1993

* The May 9 editorial regarding Santa Clara River preservation issues reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the river's hydrology, biology and farming history.

The river is essentially a natural storm drain which flows heavily several days a year, but usually has no flow at all--other than waste-water discharge.

The Santa Clara River has been farmed since the 19th Century, by farmers who own the land upon which the river sporadically flows. Those farmers have for six or seven decades channeled the river in order to protect their orchards and farm fields. Over those many decades, farmers with bulldozers have successfully created earthen levees, dikes, river crossings and other temporary structures. With the exception of extraordinary flood events, the earthen levees have historically protected valuable orchards and fields. The topographic conditions created by the annual channeling of alluvial sediment along the Santa Clara River has therefore created the current biological status quo which you seek to maintain.

Beginning three or four years ago, federal and state regulators have made it increasingly difficult for farmers to protect their land through earthen levees, river channeling, rock groins or other emergency measures. As a result, hundreds of acres of farmland and millions of dollars in agricultural investments have washed away down the river, without compensation, in the name of preservation.

The editorial asserts that the farmers' request to continue historic river maintenance activities is excessive. However, unless you suggest that all Californians abandon without compensation their homes and businesses so that native flora and fauna can take their place, you are forcing the Santa Clara River farmers alone to sustain catastrophic losses fostered by societal guilt from decades of urban excess.

GLEN M. REISER

Oxnard

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