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VENTURA COUNTY ROUNDUP | Los Padres National Forest

Dam Foes Welcome Visit From Babbitt

August 30, 2000|JENIFER RAGLAND

Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt will visit Ventura County to help tear down a small chunk of Matilija Dam, a move county leaders and environmentalists say symbolizes his support to eventually raze the entire 190-foot-tall structure.

County Supervisor John K. Flynn said the Oct. 12 visit is a good sign, because Babbitt supports tearing down the dam.

Babbitt oversees the Bureau of Reclamation, the lead federal agency studying the Matilija removal project. But that agency needs congressional approval to continue.

Flynn said the county hopes the bureau and the Army Corps of Engineers--which doesn't need congressional authorization to act--will work together on the project.

The dam was built in 1947 to reduce flood hazards on the Ventura River. But it is now clogged by 6 million cubic yards of sediment.

Babbitt has long championed eliminating obsolete dams. Matilija is the largest of several dams he will visit across the country.

"Babbitt's appearance means it's time to move beyond studying something to death and it's time to start removing it--the dam and the public nuisance it creates," said Jim Edmondson , conservation director for California Trout Inc., which has pushed hard for the dam to be demolished.

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