Re "Council to Consider Housing Project," Nov. 24, about the 144-home division proposed in the Santa Clara River flood plain in Fillmore.
It is disheartening to see new housing considered for a location with such a high potential for hazardous contingencies. I speak as a life member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, with 60 years of experience.
Based on the last decade's flood disasters, the new national policy of the United States is: "Stay out of, move out of, the flood plains." This is bolstered by the nation's top levee-promoter for flood protection, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The corps is now a vocal advocate of nonstructural solutions and wise land-use planning in flood plains, reserving flood-prone areas for farmland, wetlands and riparian habitats.
However, contrary to good sense and recent experience, our city of Fillmore proposes new building in the flood plain, protected by a newly introduced levee design.
The subdivision will project out into the Santa Clara River in a historically flood-prone area squeezed in between the city sewage disposal plant to the west and the Bardsdale Bridge (Route 23) to the east. The subdivision must be protected by a major levee projecting 250 feet farther out in the river than the bridge openings.
The proponents have ignored the damaging, flooding history of this reach of river. In a 1938 flood, 150 feet of the north approach to the Bardsdale Bridge washed out. The new bridge has the same abutment location and an alignment 36 feet closer to the proposed development. During this year's floods, the groins protecting the sewage plant required emergency repair.
The proponents of this project including Fillmore planning staff, and the city engineer and the Planning Commission have adopted a philosophy of "build now and hope for the best." In Southern California, the "Disaster Theme Park of America," hope is not a good recipe for security.
The sewage disposal plant at the west side of the proposed subdivision poses a special problem of environmental impact, since the prevailing wind is east-west along the valley. Concern about smell from the plant by residents is to be mitigated by a clause or covenant in the home purchase contracts. Should the smell become a nuisance, the purchasers of these $220,000 to $250,000 homes cannot bring legal action against the city of Fillmore or the developer.
The California Environmental Quality Act was designed to facilitate dialogue among the public, the government and the developer. It was intended to find an environmental balance. However, in this case an end run has been made. Instead of a full environmental impact report, a mitigated negative declaration has been prepared. For this the assumption is made that the construction of this project will result in a benefit to the environment and [that] there are no major environmental impacts to mitigate.
CLARENCE N. FREEMAN, Fillmore