Council debates steelhead
By Jesse Phelps
The southern steelhead has migrated into
the Ojai City Council Chambers and, as is becoming the norm,
it continues to stir up controversy in its wake.
What was meant to be a two-sided presentation by the Matilija
Flyfishers and Casitas Municipal Water District turned quickly
into a communitywide debate before the council cut the line.
Bill Loehr and Alasdair Coyne of Matilija Flyfishers brought
a petition before the council petitioning its members to urge
Casitas to reach agreement with the National Marine Fisheries
Service on water release and flow requirements for the fish.
At issue is the proposed fish ladder at Robles Diversion in Meiners
Oaks. The diversion, which channels water from the Ventura River
to Lake Casitas, blocks passage of the endangered southern steelhead
to its natural headwater spawning grounds in Matilija Canyon.
"There are few communities that can support steelhead in
their back yards," said Coyne. "Ojai can and we should
take measures to make sure they are here forever."
Coyne, Loehr and John Johnson, executive director of Casitas,
presented slides detailing Lake Casitas water levels over the
years since its erection. Then central debate centers on how
much water should be released to aid the passage of the steelhead
and as yet, no agreement has been reached. Until such an agreement
can be reached, the ladder will remain but a proposal.
In an unusual break with the tradition of the council, public
speaker cards were taken having to do with the presentation.
Local activists Larry Yuva and Russ Baggerly spoke on the importance
of both the ladder and council's involvement in the process.
"Your voice represents over 8,000 people," said Baggerly.
"And we want to hear it."
After much debate, council at last decided, in a three-to-two
vote, to bring the topic back as an agendized item at a future
meeting. Councilperson Rae Hanstad pointed out that Ojai's main
concern is for its water customers and that agriculture should
be a part of the discussion.
Other parts of Tuesday night's meeting's discussion focused on
a discussion of Visitor's Bureau Services, block grant funding
distribution, street improvements, water rate increases and information
items from the p
olice chief Capt. Gary Pentis.
Pentis focused on laws for stand-up scooters. As the scooter
craze has continued, both gas- and electric-powered scooters
have proliferated. With that proliferation has come modifications
in look, style and speed. Pentis warned that, though the scooters
may seem harmless, they are subject to many laws.
No one under 16 is allowed to ride scooters on public streets
and no scooters are allowed on streets with speed limits over
25 miles per hour. In addition, scooter riders are subject to
the helmet law and neither passengers nor packages can be carried
Every year, the council receives community block grant funding
from Housing and Urban Development, a small portion of which
is allocated for distribution among worthy community causes and
projects. As per usual, requests far exceeded this year's allotment
of nearly $12,000.
The council heard presentations from 11 groups seeking funding,
including the Ojai Library, which intends to improve accessibility
to the handicapped and expand the homework center by upgrading
computers and expanding staff.
Council reacted most favorably to the City of Ojai Recreation
Dept., which was seeking to renew past funding for its Recreation
Enrichment Voucher for low-income youth to offset the cost of
participating in recreation programs.
Favorable nods from the council went to a variety of services
for the elderly and youth substance abuse counseling provided
by the Palmer Drug Abuse Program, which would provide a weekly
intervention group at Nordhoff and counseling.
Other groups vying for dollars included Rain, a local group providing
shelter for the homeless a self-employment training program for
women and a consumer credit counseling service.
City Manager Dan Singer addressed the issue of Southern California
Water's proposed rate increases. He recommended that council
authorize Mayor Joe DeVito and himself to take appropriate actions
to object to the increases, saying, "The squeaky wheel gets
oiled. We need to keep our interests at the fore."
Singer quoted statistics showing that on average, Ojai's water
prices far exceed countywide norms. In 1999, Southern California
Water Company rates were $60 per month to Ojai residents, compared
to a figure of $43 per month around the county.
Singer also presented a recommendation for council to reject
all bids submitted for the El Paseo Road Sidewalk and Street
Improvements Project, as new sources of funding are imminent
and the project is coming in over budget currently.
That would push back the date of the project, which would improve
safety for children walking to school at Matilija by widening
sidewalk space and reworking crosswalks and roadways at the corner
of El Paseo and Bristol, to June, rather than the original date
set for Spring Break, 2003.
The meeting, at the suggestion of Mayor Pro-Tem Sue Horgan, was
adjourned in the memory of Ojai philanthropist Florence "Jimmi"
Clapp. Horgan mentioned that Clapp, aside from being a most generous
benefactor, was also a friend and a fervent attendee of council
meetings. "I'll miss her wisdom," said Horgan, before
council adjourned to chambers for closed session
The Ojai Valley News
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