A Ventura citizens group has failed to collect enough signatures to qualify an initiative for the November ballot that would have forced the city to build a $120-million pipeline to import state water from Northern California.
But the group said it will now aim to turn in enough signatures to have a special election called on the issue.
“A lot of people are very much interested in seeing the pipeline built, but it’s summer and many people are on vacation, and we just didn’t have enough time to collect the signatures,” said Jim Barroca, executive director of the greater Ventura Chamber of Commerce.
Barroca is also a member of the executive committee of the Assn. for Quality Water Alternatives, the group behind the ballot initiative, whose members include many of the city’s developers and business and real estate leaders.
The group had until 5:30 p.m. Monday to gather 7,500 signatures, or 15% of the electorate. The initiative drive started May 21, but fell 500 signatures short of the required number, AQWA officials said.
Although the group missed the deadline for the November ballot, it still has until Sept. 20 to qualify the measure for a special election, said Ventura City Clerk Barbara Kam. A special election would be held 88 to 103 days after the signatures are turned in, she said.
AQWA officials said they will meet Thursday to decide whether to continue the initiative drive, and most of its leader have said they will.
The city is paying for a study on the cost and feasibility of building the pipeline, which would connect Ventura to the state water project at Lake Piru or Castaic Lake. Council members have refused to put the issue on the ballot until that study is completed.
The special election would cost about $30,000 and Ventura taxpayers would have to foot the bill, Kam said. She said a November ballot would cost about half as much as a special election.
Councilman Gary Tuttle, a pipeline opponent, reacted angrily to AQWA’s announcement of its intention to call for a special election. “When a special-interest group makes a city spend money on something it is already working on, I have a problem,” he said.
Tuttle said he was equally opposed to the possibility of cutting that cost by having the council place the initiative on the November ballot. “That’s blackmail,” he said.
Councilman Todd Collart, who is undecided about state water, as is the majority of the council, said “This is a no-win situation. We’ll have to find a third alternative.”