SCOPE - Newhall Ranch River Impacts

The Santa Clara River arises in the Angeles National Forest east of Soledad Canyon and flows for 116 miles through the Santa Clarita Valley, Fillmore, and Santa Paula to the seashore in Ventura County. The riparian woodland along its banks is remarkably unspoiled and supports many species of rare birds, plants and animals. It is home to the endangered least Bell's Vireo,and a tiny silver fish, the Unarmored three-spined stickleback. The river flows past farms and citrus orchards on its way to its estuary, an outstanding rest stop for migrating shore birds.

In 1994, the US Fish and Wildlife Service dedicated a 12-mile, 3500' wide reach of the river as "critical habitat" to protect the least Bell's Vireo. The critical zone extends west from I5 to VenturaCounty; this is right in the middleof the Newhall Ranch project.

The Newhall Land and Farming Co has long cherished a lucrative future for its Newhall Ranch in this area. They are boldly planning to build a new city of almost 25,000 units for 70,000 people on this 12,000acre parcel west of I5. The effect of a development of this magnitude is simply staggering. There is no firm water source to supply the project which will require some 19,000 acre feet per year. 1500 acres of rich farmland will disappear at a time when there is mounting concern - especially in California - for vanishing agricultural production. Increased traffic from thousands of autos in an area which isalready plagued with high air pollution is unconscionable. Paving over open land for roads, homes and businesses wil increase storm water runoff, adding to the flood potential. And the runoff will carry oil and gas and other familiar urban sources of pollution into the river. The Newhall Ranch is a flagrant example of urban sprawl that is engulfing the few remaining unspoiled places in Southern California.

The Santa Clara River never runs dry in this reach of the river where groundwater is pushed to the surface by underlaying bedrock. When the rains come it can be a truly wild and vigorous river, sometimes changing its course.Yet the Newhall Ranch Project would impose earthen fill into the floodplain, with artificial banks, to construct subdivisions and commercial centers close to the river's edge.

In this day and age, it is a cardinal sin to build in a floodplain. The cost of cleanup can be steep, and is usually paid for by the unsuspecting taxpayer. .Levees with rip-rap will destroy our Wild River and the first flood that destroys a home could prompt a call for even more channelization. Haven't we learned our lesson from the LA River?

Mike Kotch, president of SCOPE, points out that there are already 52,000 approved but unbuilt units in the Santa Clarita Valley - there is simply no need for this project at this time.

You should also plan to attend the July 28,1997 For more information, contact Mike Kotch, SCOPE President at 805-257-2131.

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Upload and copyright© Jul-5-1997 by SCOPE