Smooth sailing for Lazy River
By Jesse Phelps
Construction of the Lazy River water attraction
at Lake Casitas is back on track with full clearance from above.
As reported Friday, the cease-and-desist order issued by the
Bureau of Reclamation on Feb. 21 that mandated Casitas Municipal
Water District shut down construction on the park, its latest
addition to lakeside recreation, has been reversed.
Satisfied that the park will not have significant negative impacts
on the environment and assuaged by recent talks with the district,
the bureau lifted the order on March 26, according to a press
release from Casitas Municipal Water District General Manager
The bureau, which originally had concerns both about the construction
itself and a lack of response from Casitas to its queries, conducted
a National Environmental Policy Act review over the last several
weeks. According to Casitas and confirmed by Michael Paul Jackson,
deputy area manager for the South-Central California office of
the Bureau of Reclamation, the review resulted in a Finding of
No Significant Impact, or FONSI. The latest development has disappointed
"I was actually surprised that the Bureau of Reclamation
had acted so swiftly in providing the FONSI for the Lazy River
because of the incredible importance that is looming next year
when the Teague Watershed is being cleared out. All the lifetime
estates are coming to an end.
And the Bureau actually knows, or they
should know, that all of that development south of Highway 150
will jeopardize the effectiveness and the ability of the Teague
Watershed to function as it's supposed to," said Russ Baggerly
of the Environmental Coalition of Ventura County.
Jackson, in response to concerns about the watershed, said that
he'd heard that "folks preferred an alternative swim site
to swimming in the lake." He also lauded Casitas for its
quick and responsible action since receiving the order. "That
was principally getting us all environmental documentation that
they had and $5,000 for us to do our own federal environmental
review," he said.
Casitas representatives predictably expressed joy at the finding.
"We are pleased that Reclamation has approved this project
and feel that Reclamation's FONSI validates Casitas' initial
environmental assessment of the Lazy River as a facility that
has no significant impacts to the environment of Ojai,"
Casitas describes the Lazy River as a ribbon-like channel about
1,400 feet long, which will allow "park customers to relax
while floating on an inner tube." The project, along with
the adjoining water playground, is envisioned by Casitas as a
"safe and supervised recreation for kids and parents during
the summer ... that will create approximately 20 additional employment
opportunities for local teens."
Vocal opposition from some local groups, who see not job opportunities
but the potential for erosion and the contamination of the water
table, is likely to continue but for the time being, Casitas
will be happy with the support of the Bureau of Reclamation.
Having navigated the rapids, Casitas plans
to take advantage of the calmer waters by getting back to work,
according to board member Jim Coultas. Coultas said last week
that in light of the new findings, Casitas will re-initiate construction
The Ojai Valley News
to the news