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VENTURA COUNTY PERSPECTIVE | SECOND OPINION

County's Dam Plan Deemed Most Feasible of 17 Options

March 04, 2001|FRANK SCHILLO | Frank Schillo is a member of the Ventura County Board of Supervisors, representing the district that includes Thousand Oaks

The Ventura County Perspective article by Thousand Oaks City Council member Linda Parks ("Dam Project a Lesson in Input, Deceit," Feb. 25) included inaccurate, false and misleading information regarding the planning and permit approval of the Lang Ranch dam and debris basin project.

I challenge her to provide information in writing substantiating her allegations regarding staff she mythically referred to as "they."

The Army Corps of Engineers has licensed the county's design as the best and most feasible of 17 alternatives studied, including Parks' undersized off-channel proposal on the flood plain. Her imaginative allegations insult and potentially endanger both Lang Ranch residents and those downstream, particularly on El Monte [Drive], who have significant investments in their homes.

The Corps of Engineers' detailed 33-page environmental assessment supports the permit for the Ventura County Flood Control District's design and confirms that her off-channel alternative could potentially endanger homes in Lang Ranch and downstream.

The environmental assessment states: "The geologists concluded that an off-channel detention basin design requiring excavations at the toe of the landslide, in combination with the high ground-water table, could result in increased water infiltration potentially destabilizing the Erbes Road landslide and adversely affecting the area encompassing Westlake Boulevard, the Oakbrook Community Park and nearby residential communities."

I would also like to respond in more detail to some of the specific allegations in Parks' letter:

* That ". . . a biologist hired by Ventura County discovered a federally listed endangered plant at the site and that the information was wrongfully not shared with other public agencies."

I respond that it was Parks who discovered the federally listed endangered plant and brought it to the county's attention. After hiring a biologist to review and verify her findings, the county relayed the information to both the Corps of Engineers and the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service--those agencies having jurisdiction over this particular plant.

* That ". . . blasting 30 feet below ground would be necessary, raising questions on how the blasting would impact a massive landslide only a couple hundred feet away."

I respond that blasting was a preliminary concern. Blasting is no longer an issue; there will be no blasting required.

* That ". . . staff of both Ventura County and the city of Thousand Oaks agreed that the debris basin portion of the project was 2 1/2 times larger than needed but that their superiors wouldn't listen."

I respond that at a City Council meeting on March 21, 2000, at which Parks was in attendance, the engineering manager of the Flood Control District stated clearly and unequivocally that the debris basin upstream of Westlake Boulevard could be reduced to 18 acre-feet. The reduction in size was accomplished because the debris-producing character of the tributary drainage area had been dramatically altered subsequent to the debris basin's design.

* That ". . . county staff, in preparation for a public meeting, cautioned each other not to talk about the extra money that would be going into the county's general fund. As part of the deal that Supervisor Frank Schillo made with the city of Thousand Oaks. . . ."

I respond that, first of all, the agreement was not between myself and the city of Thousand Oaks, but rather between the Ventura County Board of Supervisors and the city. Second, the information about county staff seems to be taken out of context. It is quite possible that staff were being cautioned not to confuse the issue of the dam's location with the issue of the dam's funding, which is a much different point than the one implied. Finally, I would be interested in seeing the records Parks has that document county staff discussion on this matter.

* That ". . . no one had ever considered putting an off-line basin in the flat field . . . just a stone's throw from the dam site."

I respond that city and county staff have discussed with Parks on numerous occasions that this site has been considered at length and has been found to be unsuitable. It has been explained that the site essentially lies at the toe of the Erbes Road landslide complex (this has been confirmed by the state's geologist and supplemental geotechnical work) and that excavation in this area would destabilize the landslide mass. Why anyone would believe that this site has been overlooked and not thoroughly investigated is a mystery to me.

* That ". . . through our efforts to reduce the impacts of the project, we were able to get the debris basin downsized to 18 acre-feet--down from the 47 acre-feet that the Flood Control District director had insisted on a year ago."

I respond that more than a year ago, a new engineering manager was hired for the Ventura County Flood Control District. One of the first tasks put before this person was review of the Lang Ranch project as proposed. It was immediately apparent that the original design assumptions for the debris basin had changed due to ongoing development in the Lang Ranch area and Thousand Oaks. This fact was made public as soon as it was confirmed. Not once in the past year has the Flood Control District insisted that the debris basin be 47 acre-feet in size. Again, Parks' assertion is a mystery to me.

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