The Ventura River is slowly moving to the east and could flood a sewage treatment plant, along with $30 million in planned improvements, during a heavy storm, an environmental document states.
But because the potential for flooding at the Ojai Valley Sanitary District is already present and flood-control embankments are in place, there is no reason not to upgrade the plant, the report concludes.
It would cost an additional $10 million to move the plant out of the river's flood plain, said Eric Oltman, manager of the sanitary district.
"We have the required 100-year flood protection" at the existing site, he said. "This project is already unreasonably expensive and will be paid by the residents of the Ojai Valley."
Environmentalists have welcomed the improvements, which were ordered by the State Water Resources Control Board to protect the quality of the river.
But it will not help the river or the district to have a state-of-the art facility if it is inundated during storms and dumps sewage into the river, said Mark Capelli, a biologist with the Friends of the Ventura River.
The plant should be moved to higher ground before the new filters and other expensive equipment is installed, he said.
"The site is now on a filled portion of the original river channel," Capelli said. "The historical photographs in the report indicate that the river is trying to reoccupy the site where the plant now sits."
The plant also lies close to the Red Mountain fault, Capelli said.
The environmental impact report states that the fault passes 1,100 feet north of the closest corner of the new equipment and would not cause a problem during an earthquake.
Public comments will be accepted through Nov. 22.