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Santa Clara River Nominated for U.S. Heritage Status

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Santa Clara River, one of Southern California’s longest and wildest remaining rivers, is among 20 in the nation nominated to become an American Heritage River.

A federal advisory committee had narrowed the list of possible choices to 25 a few weeks ago, said Vicki Musgrove, a senior administrator at the Ventura County Flood Control Department. The list was recently narrowed further.

President Clinton is expected to choose 10 rivers from those nominated in October, Musgrove said Monday.

Last September, Clinton signed the American Heritage Rivers Initiative, designed to give key national rivers support and recognition. Local governments along the 10 chosen rivers will receive streamlined access to federal funding and other resources.

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“It gives no protective status and no direct funding,” said Charlie Casey, a director at Friends of the River, a nonprofit organization in Sacramento that helps preserve and protect rivers throughout the state.

“But it puts cities in touch with existing federal programs that could help them get funding,” he said. “I can’t underscore enough what this would mean for a community that gets this. It cuts through the red tape and gets cities focused federal support, and it gives the river national recognition.”

Members of the Santa Clara River Management and Enhancement Plan committee nominated the river for American Heritage status. The group consists of residents and officials in Ventura and Los Angeles counties.

For years, a large group from the Friends of Santa Clara River has tried to prevent development along the river, which runs from Angeles National Forest and through Santa Clarita to the ocean. Just east of the Ventura County line, the Newhall Land & Farming Co. proposes to build Newhall Ranch, a city of 70,000 people with 24,680 homes along five miles of the river.

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