Harbor Boating Facility on Hold
Ventura County supervisors on Tuesday delayed plans for a $6-million boating facility at Channel Islands Harbor, citing inadequate study of a heron colony that nests in trees on the proposed site.
The supervisors ordered an environmental impact report on the project--a step that cheered residents bent on protecting wildlife, and their harbor views.
“This is what we’ve wanted all along,” said Trevor Smith, whose home is in nearby Hollywood Beach. “An EIR will identify alternate sites, and the county can pick the site that is least environmentally damaging.”
The 20,000-square-foot building is planned for a strip of parkland near the Whale’s Tail restaurant.
Students from Cal State Channel Islands and local secondary schools would use it for classes in sailing, kayaking and rowing, as well as marine studies.
But neighbors have fought the county Harbor Department’s plan, contending that half a dozen less intrusive spots are available around the harbor.
County officials received more than 100 letters of protest from residents claiming the Harbor Department had done a shoddy analysis of the project.
The Channel Islands Beach Community Services District, the equivalent of a town board in the unincorporated area, demanded an environmental impact report instead of the less exhaustive “mitigated negative declaration” that had been prepared.
On Tuesday, harbor Director Lyn Krieger reversed her position and agreed, canceling a July 2 hearing on the proposal and asking the supervisors to authorize an EIR. She said it would take six months to complete.
Earlier, Krieger contended that the herons would nest in other trees, staying at the harbor for its ample food supply.
But that contention was questioned by the California Coastal Commission. The county offered no scientific evidence to support its claim that the displaced birds would thrive elsewhere, the commission said in a letter to Ventura County planners.
Evergreen trees on the site are home to families of great blue herons, black-crowned night herons and snowy egrets. While other rookeries may exist in the area, they do not reduce the importance of the one that would be jeopardized by construction, wrote Morgan Wehtje, a senior environmental scientist with the state Department of Fish and Game.
Times staff writer Catherine Saillant contributed to this report.