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The following information is from "America's Most Endangered Rivers for 2005". The full text can be viewed at www.americanrivers.org.

The River

The Santa Clara River, Southern California's longest free-flowing river, rises on the northern slope of the San Gabriel Mountains in Los Angeles County and flows through Ventura County to the Pacific Ocean. During its 87-mile journey to the sea, the river meanders past mountains, desert, and berry and citrus farms. The river and its associated aquifer provide drinking water and carry away treated sewage from communities such as Santa Clarita, Fillmore, Santa Paula, and Ventura.

Sixteen species of animals and plants that are close to extinction cling to existence in the river and in the forested corridor along the banks. At the mouth of the Santa Clara in Ventura County, brown river water collides with ocean waves and white foam. The sand and sediment carried by the river settles out to nourish the area's world-famous surfing beaches.

The Threat

Developers are seeking permits to build four huge housing projects and develop approximately 2,000 acres along the Santa Clara River. Additionally, Newhall Land and Farming is seeking approval for the five-village Newhall Ranch Project, one of the largest urban development projects ever proposed in Los Angeles County

If the developer secures the required permits for Newhall Ranch, it will unleash its bulldozers on 19 square miles of natural areas straddling the upper Santa Clara River, including 141 acres located on the river's floodplain. The developer plans to smother 15 miles of tributary streams with concrete and channelize 17 more.

These are the same heavy-handed and out-moded practices that have ruined almost every other river in Southern California. The consequences of burying and channelizing streams, paving wetlands, deforesting river banks, and the false security and hidden hazards of buried bank stabilization are well-documented -- polluted water, trash-strewn banks, and vanishing wildlife. Importantly, the type of development can also increase the frequency and severity of flash floods, such as those that swept communities along the Santa Clara in early 2005.

ven though construction has yet to start, the loss to the community has begun. Newhall has already closed about 15 miles of the Santa Clara and its shoreline to the public. As bad as the Newhall Ranch Project would be, there is more to come. Another several thousand acres of development are on the drawing board.

What's at Stake

Unless developers use 21st century techniques to reduce the damage that traditional development would have on the Santa Clara, the last major natural river in the area could be lost. The condition of the river is not just a sentimental matter. Newhall Ranch and other developments will send more pollution down-stream, and increase the risk of flash floods.

By fragmenting the riparian corridor and fouling the river with polluted runoff, overly aggressive development will push the southern steelhead trout, southwestern arroyo toad, the red-legged frog, and other endangered species closer to extinction.


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