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Water Storage Plan Draws Praise and Criticism

A plan to store millions of gallons of drinking water underground near Moorpark was both praised for its environmental sensitivity and criticized for its environmental effects at a hearing before Wednesday night.

After hearing public comments on a draft environmental impact report, the Calleguas Municipal Water District’s board of directors will consider the testimony and vote at a future meeting on whether to approve the report.

Glen M. Reiser, an attorney for landowners in the 81-square-mile North Las Posas Basin, said the $20-million project would provide a water supply large enough that the county could triple its population. He also said that introducing treated water into the underground basin could cause dangerous chemical reactions.

Reiser represented a Moorpark landowner who successfully sued to block a pilot program testing the underground storage system.

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But Cassandra Auerbach, a Sierra Club activist who follows Ventura County water issues, said she supports the proposal to drill 25 wells in the basin and inject water underground.

“This has got minimal environmental impact and major benefits,” Auerbach said. “It isn’t going to fuel growth. That’s ridiculous.”

Auerbach said that cheap and plentiful water in Ventura County will help farmers irrigate their crops and decrease the likelihood of development. She called Reiser’s objections “false and inflammatory.”

“I think this is a brilliant project and very farsighted,” she said.

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Calleguas General Manager Don Kendall said the project is chemically safe and environmentally sound.

“We’ve done our homework,” Kendall said. “Storing ground water is the best way to preserve agriculture, to protect the environment and to accommodate planned-for growth.”

Bob Paulger, manager of Proctor & Gamble Paper Products in Oxnard, testified Wednesday that his firm depends on Calleguas for a steady supply of water. “We think this project is absolutely vital,” he said. The county’s water supply is now “terribly vulnerable” to earthquake or drought, he said.

Save Open Space, an environmental group, was not represented at the hearing. But Director Mary Weisbrock said the group will probably file written comments opposing the project.

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“It appears that it’s very, very growth-inducing,” Weisbrock said. “They’re on the way to be another L. A. County, to have unplanned growth and urban sprawl.”


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