Hard going for Lazy River
by Kelly Feser Eells
As Casitas Municipal Water District reviewed bids submitted
for the construction of an approved alternative swimming facility
- the "Lazy River" - the Ventura Audubon Society, with
support from the Ventura-based Environmental Defense Center,
was appealing to Superintendent Steve Bennett's office for "timely
In a letter dated Oct. 20, 2002, Audubon Society President Neil
Ziegler recounted his organization's frustrations with the district
and its interpretation of the 1970 Lake Casitas General Recreation
Development Plan; frustrations, he explained, that have been
mounting since the approval of the Blue Heron Water Playground
in the mid-1990s.
"The district claimed an exemption to the California Environmental
Quality Act" for that project, said Ziegler. "This
exemption, CEQA Section 15303, specifies 'accessory structures
including garages, carports, patios, swimming pools, and fences.'
These are obvious references to residential, non-commercial structures
but this and other CEQA exemptions have been narrowly defined
in (subsequent) court decisions."
A "joint challenge (issued by the Audubon Society and the
EDC) to the Lazy River proposal," said Ziegler, prompted
the district to perform a "limited Mitigated Negative Declaration"
- approved Sept. 11 - "covering only this," the third
phase of the so-called water park project.
He notes that, while the MND was forwarded to the Los Angeles
Regional Water Quality Control Board and California's Department
of Fish and Game, "both have stated their lack of jurisdiction
over this property" and declined review. The County of Ventura
was also invited to submit comments, but it, too, "claims
no jurisdiction or enforcing authority."
The Audubon Society has also appealed to, and is currently awaiting
reply from: Sen. Jack O'Connell; Congressman Elton Gallegly;
Sen. Barbara Boxer; Sen. Diane Feinstein; and Ventura County
Grand Jurist Thomas Black.
In the meantime, the project was released for bid and, on Oct.
23, district board directors voted unanimously to award Caliber
Pools, an Azusa, Calif.-based firm, the contract for its construction.
Director Jim Coultas points out that, in addition to submitting
one of the lower bids (coming in somewhat under the projected
$1 million estimate), "Caliber appears to be better"
all-around, with a résumé that includes pool projects
for both the 1984 Olympics and California State University-Northridge.
Most channelized or, "lazy," rivers have a uniform
depth of 3 feet, and safety codes dictate that their width be
a minimum of 15 feet. Many have what is known as a "family
friendly" entry, which does double duty as both inner tube
pickup point and lounging area. Because Caliber's was a generalized
proposal, "any director will be welcome" to offer specific
design input as staff negotiates the contract and the project
While a summer 2003 opening would be "ideal," Coultas
adds, "Obviously, we'd rather have it done right than fast."
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
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