Santa Clara River listed among nation’s top 10 of most threatened

April 15, 2005
Santa Paula News

The Santa Clara River (SCR) is again in the headlines with its designation as one of the nation’s 10 most endangered waterways for 2005.

By Peggy KellySanta Paula TimesThe Santa Clara River (SCR) is again in the headlines with its designation as one of the nation’s 10 most endangered waterways for 2005. American Rivers and its partners – including the Friends of Santa Clara River, Santa Clara River Alliance, Center for Biological Diversity, Heal the Bay and Ventura Coastkeeper – cited plans for the massive development planned along the SCR, which borders Santa Paula to the south.The results of four planned developments – including Newhall Ranch just across the Los Angeles County line in the river valley, will potentially increase the frequency and severity of flash floods from toxic runoff that could also harm the environment, according to American Rivers.Newhall Ranch, one of the largest urban development projects ever proposed in Los Angeles County, is of “immediate concern,” replacing 19 square miles of natural areas straddling the upper SCR, including 141 acres of the river’s floodplain. The project will smother 15 miles of tributary streams with concrete and channelize 17 more, according to the Washington, D.C.- based American Rivers.The Santa Clara River, which ranked 10th on the endangered list, runs from the San Gabriel Mountains above Acton in Los Angeles County for 84 miles to the Pacific Ocean. “Time may be running out for Southern California’s last natural river,” said American Rivers President Rebecca R. Woder.Ironically, the SCR was on its way to becoming a federally lauded natural river recognized nationally – a move that would have placed stronger restrictions on development – in the 1990s, an effort that was derailed by Rep. Buck McKeon, a Santa Clarita Republican.
Newhall Ranch has already closed about 15 miles of the river and its shoreline to the public; another 8,500 acres of development is planned for the more than 21,000 homes of the project.Ron Bottorff, president of Friends of the Santa Clara River points to the serious flashfloods along the river that occurred earlier this year during January and February causing massive damage in areas including to the Santa Paula Airport. “…they could only become more frequent if we continue to develop Santa Clara’s floodplain,” Bottorff noted.In addition, planned development along the river could destroy the habitats for about 30 species of animals that are classified by state or federal agencies as endangered, threatened or of special concern.Attention has already focused on the SCR before the storms earlier this year: last fall the Army Corps of Engineers and Ventura and Los Angeles counties announced an $8.2 million, four-year study of ways to balance growth with river protections.The Tuolumne River in Northern California was also place on the most endangered list.

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