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Ventura County

Grand Jury Finds No Fault With Dam Project

Environment: The panel agrees with county officials that the Lang Ranch structure is needed to protect homes and habitat from storms.

June 01, 2002|HOLLY J. WOLCOTT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The controversial Lang Ranch Dam project in Thousand Oaks is necessary to protect homeowners and wildlife habitat in the event of a massive storm, states a Ventura County Grand Jury report released this week.

After hearing complaints about the dam at a Board of Supervisors meeting, the panel investigated the $5-million project by meeting with various city and county leaders and visiting the site, which is off Westlake Boulevard.

Critics of the dam have long argued that the structure will make the surrounding hillsides--where homeowners live--more susceptible to landslides.

County officials contend that no such danger exists.

"Concern about the building of the dam on unstable land was based on misinformation, and the fact is that all required studies have been made, and safety issues settled," according to the four-page grand jury report.

During its investigation, the panel learned that a landslide area does exist near the dam site, but that it is located more than 200 yards downstream and wouldn't compromise the structure. Additionally, the panel determined that geologists have confirmed the stability of the dam.

"I hope this report lends additional credence that this project was done with input from stakeholders on all sides of the issue and that many recommendations were incorporated," said Jeff Pratt, the county's flood-control manager.

Construction on the dam, which is expected to take about six months, started last month. The dam will be 661/2 feet tall and will include an 11.5-acre storm water retention basin, a debris basin and access roads.

Dam opponent Gerry Langer said in an interview that he feels the grand jury's investigation was incomplete. A group led by Langer sued to stop the dam, but dropped the legal action when officials said the project would go forward despite litigation.

The grand jury "didn't get any input from our geological experts," Langer said. "They would have learned that the boundaries of the landslide are not fully known ... and that, under those circumstances, it's not safe for a dam."

Langer, who led the Save Lang Oaks Fund, also said the county panel did not contact members of his organization or residents in the area who already have experienced minor problems with housing foundations.

"From my point of view, [the report] isn't worth the paper it's printed on," Langer added.

In addition to its lawsuit, Langer's group also had sought to stop the removal of 40 oak trees at the site. Grand jurors found that most of those trees had lived beyond their expected life span and that many were diseased.

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