With Rindge Dam, More Is at Stake Than Steelhead Trout

Ronald L. Rindge of Moorpark is the grandson of pioneer Mailbu rancher May Knight Rindge, for whom the dam is named

Reporter Steve Hymon's March 1 interview with Jim Edmondson regarding the Rindge Dam and steelhead trout in Malibu Creek prompts this rebuttal:

* There is no record or proof that steelhead ever migrated much farther than the site of the dam, which is to be expected as two or more waterfalls blocked such progress.

* Steelhead thrived in Malibu Creek below the dam for more than 35 years after it was built in 1924.

* Steelhead declined in Malibu Creek starting in the 1960s due to effluent flows from the Tapia sewage treatment plant and tainted water runoff from the urbanizing upper watershed. In fact, the dam provided a Shangri-La environment for steelhead in this magnificent wild area, enabling them to flourish until degradation of the waters destroyed their habitat.

A 1989 report by Entrix Inc. confirmed that Tunnel Falls above the dam was a barrier to steelhead migration. The report identifies four major barriers to fish migration: Rindge Dam, Tunnel Falls and two other barriers above the falls. Entrix proposed a fish ladder to provide fish passage over the dam and a different type of ladder and concrete trough to surmount the six-meter drop in the falls area. These low-cost solutions have been rejected by federal and state agencies.

Instead these agencies are aggressively pushing to irrationally spend $10 million to $30 million (20 to 60 times the Entrix proposals) to remove the dam with no assurance that steelhead numbers would increase.

The government's plan is ill-conceived and an affront to taxpayers who have a right to expect conscientious stewardship of hard-earned taxpayer dollars. A rational plan would be to clean up the waters of Malibu Creek first and then reintroduce steelhead below the dam to see if they could be brought back in the numbers that existed from 1924 to 1960.

Removal of Rindge Dam would be a monumental blunder. There are far less costly proposals to enhance steelhead populations in the streams of the Santa Monica Mountains.

There are serious concerns involving the lives, health and property of the human species if the dam is removed. Rindge Dam is a multimillion-dollar asset to taxpayers that can be used for water storage or treatment, fire repression, flood control, protection from upstream sewage spills, protection from catastrophic blockages of Malibu Creek caused by storms, earthquakes or unstable geology.

The stakes are far greater than the single issue of steelhead trout.

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