Little consensus on releases, cost
By Jesse Phelps
When it comes to the numbers surrounding
steelhead, about the only thing people agree on is that there
is too few of them, and that it will cost a lot of money to restore
The key stumbling block is the proposed fish ladder at Robles
Diversion Dam, which diverts water from the Ventura River channel
to Lake Casitas. Representatives of Casitas Municipal Water District
and many local residents have expressed concern that, should
sufficient water for the fish be allowed to run down the channel,
lake and groundwater levels could be negatively impacted.
Serious disagreement on the amount of water required for fish
passage has emerged. The National Marine Fisheries Service has
provided a figure of 2,000 acre-feet per year, a figure Casitas
calls its maximum safe yield.
"We say it'll be more than that," said Coultas. "The
screen is very fine and what happens if the facility gets plugged
up?" Casitas' General Manager John Johnson estimated the
requirements to be more in the neighborhood of 3,200 acre-feet.
"John's calculation of 3,200 includes other operational
criteria," said Coultas. "My gut is that it's somewhere
The passage has already cost Casitas somewhere between $500,000
and $750,000. "We have about a half million in for just
the design," Coultas said. He also said the total project
estimates are about $6.2 million "but won't know until the
bids come in."
Coultas also said the amount of water necessary in the river
for the fish to swim "appears to be a matter of opinion.
According to NMFS, it takes about 50 cubic feet per second. This
refers to the depth of water over the shallowest riffles. The
river changes every time there's a big storm so it seems to be
something of a moving target."
Steven Howard, staff scientist and fisheries biologist for Entrix,
a biological consulting firm in charge of the river's Habitat
Conservation Plan, said that "50 CFS will distribute quite
a linear distance. Spread it out like that and then it's not
that much water. If you have a channel that's just 3-feet wide,
it's pretty deep. It all depends upon the channel morphology."
Howard explained that "big huge boulders" and other
obstructions can cause trouble spots.
"They probably got that number by looking at the worst bottleneck
spots on the river," said Howard. "There's a certain
time of year when they'd want to target the fish coming up the
river, in between storm events, when fish could be stranded in
Debate continues, but Coultas expressed something close to surety
that construction will proceed soon. "I'm 99 percent sure
the ladder will be built. What kicked this off was a lawsuit
from California Trout. CalTrout would proceed with the suit in
the event the ladder wasn't built. Obviously a judge is going
to look at it and say, 'Yeah, there's an endangered species and
we better build it.'"
Many of the agencies involved in the Ventura River Watershed
Habitat Conservation Plan will hold a public meeting on Feb.
19 in the Topping Room of the E.P. Foster Library in Ventura
from 7 to 9 p.m. The fish passage will be among the topics on
the table and anyone with interest is encouraged to attend.
The Ojai Valley News
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