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Ventura County

Residents Say Boating Center Site Is for the Birds

Oxnard: Group contends that harbor revitalization project will destroy a nesting area for blue herons.

July 10, 2001|MATT SURMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A group of Oxnard beach residents is upset about the possible site of a new boating center at Channel Islands Harbor, saying the project would destroy a prized habitat of about 100 blue herons.

The site, near Hollywood Beach, was chosen from seven possible locations as the front-runner for the marine activities building, where boating and other subjects will be taught.

"Our main concern is that they'll be tearing out a park, destroying the herons' nest and leaving them without a home," said resident Jonathan Ziv. County leaders say they will meet with residents to discuss the facility.

Supervisor John Flynn said the county would make a high priority of considering an alternative site. His office received a letter last week from the state Department of Fish and Game expressing concern about the birds that nest there.

State biologist Morgan Wehtje, who wrote the letter, could not be reached for comment.

In response to neighbors' concerns, county officials are pressing for an expedited environmental study of the proposed boating center. They are also planning to look at three other sites in the harbor area.

"I'm really sorry they're worried," said harbor director Lyn Krieger. "I frankly had never heard about birds over in that part of the park. They're all over the harbor."

The county recently received $4.5 million from the state Department of Boating and Waterways to build the facility, which county officials hope will increase use of the harbor.

The 19,000-square-foot, two-story building would include boat shops, showers, a training room, a deck area, a computer lab and a dining hall. It is part of a cooperative project with Cal State Channel Islands, which would run some of the classes at the site.

"It's part of a big plan to reactivate the harbor," said Flynn, who for years has been pushing increased development there. "It needs to regain the spirit it had in the early 1980s."

Flynn said he was concerned about residents' reports of a rookery, and thinks that the county could create another spot for the birds.

"I think a few people may be concerned their view will be impacted, and I don't blame them," he said. "We'll do the best we can."

County officials had been preparing to put up a sign about the proposed development. Even if approved, the project would still require an environmental study and review by the California Coastal Commission.

Ziv said he started distributing fliers opposing the project as soon as he learned about it.

There will be a public meeting of the Channel Islands Beach Community Services District at 7:30 tonight to discuss the project. The meeting will be held at Hollywood Beach School, 4000 Sunset Lane.

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