Friends has worked with SCOPE on several outreach events, notably including two one-day river forums in Santa Clarita (1994 and 2014). More than 50 slide talk presentations to various interest groups and college classes have been presented, including especially Oxnard College, California Lutheran University, the League of Women Voters, Conejo and Ventura Audubon Societies, and political groups.
Patagonia, most especially, has not only been a major donor over the years, but hosted our founding meeting at its Ventura facility on June 15, 1993. Friends could not have been an effective organization over the years without the help of Patagonia. The annual Patagonia Salmon Run has been our major tabling/public outreach event for 23 straight years.
The primary restoration project has been replacing Arundo donax and other invasive plants with native vegetation at the 220-acre Hedrick Ranch Nature Area upstream of Santa Paula. Friends became stewards of this property in 2001 as the first purchase by the California State Coastal Conservancy’s River Parkway project. Fifty acres have been restored, with approximately 30 to go. The Ventura Audubon Society, UCSB’s RIVR Lab, and the Los Padres Chapter of the Sierra Club have supplied the bulk of the volunteers who have participated in this project.
In addition to habitat restoration, Friends has most recently worked on endangered species recovery in partnership with California Trout through a grant from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife . This project involves developing a replacement for an Arizona crossing which is blocking passage of the endangered southern steelhead on Sisar Creek (tributary to Santa Paula Creek). After the design phase is concluded, funds will be sought for removal of the existing concrete roadway and emplacement of a 90-foot span steel truss bridge.
Friends served from 1993 to 2006 on the Steering Committee of the Santa Clara River Enhancement and Management Plan (SCREMP), which was an extensive river planning effort put together by Ventura and Los Angeles counties, the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the California State Coastal Conservancy. The committee’s recommendations were, however, never fully accepted by some participating agencies and, unfortunately, the plan was never implemented. The process, however, spawned the Coastal Conservancy’s Santa Clara River Parkway Project and has resulted in the protection of over 3500 acres of riparian and upland habitat.
In addition to working with primary partners, over the years Friends has worked with the following organizations in promoting river and habitat conservation policies to city and county governments, federal agencies, and other decision-making entities: Institute for Ecological Health (Davis, CA); Sierra Club, California (Sacramento, CA); Sierra Club, Angeles Chapter; Ormond Beach Observers; Keep the Sespe Wild; Los Padres Forest Watch; Friends of the River (Sacramento, CA); Citizens for Responsible Oil and Gas; Surfrider Foundation; Trust for Public Land; and The Nature Conservancy.
Friends has participated in numerous lawsuits against river channelizing projects as well as development projects having unacceptable impacts to the river and its wildlife. Two of the most recent and most effective are described below.
Newhall Ranch: The most notable of these has involved 20 years of litigation (a dozen or more lawsuits) against Los Angeles County’s famous Newhall Ranch project, which involves the construction of over 20,000 homes and several million square feet of commercial development along six miles of the Santa Clara River. Friends’ partners in this effort have been the Environmental Defense Center, SCOPE, the Center for Biological Diversity, Wishtoyo Foundation’s Ventura Coastkeeper Program, the California Native Plant Society and the Sierra Club. Parts of the project have now been given final approval by Los Angeles County. However, much has been achieved through litigation to limit and mitigate project impacts. These include a reduction in project size by about 4,000 units; protection of 1500 acres of the critical Salt Creek wildlife corridor; very substantial improvement in the treatment of Native American sites; and far better protection for the endangered San Fernando Valley spineflower and unarmored threespine stickleback.
Six Flags Magic Mountain Campaign: In 2011, based on an employee tip, it was discovered that trash and souvenir items from Magic Mountain were strewn in its side channels to the Santa Clara River. Subsequent sampling during storm events also demonstrated exceptionally toxic levels of metals such as copper, zinc, aluminum, and iron spewing from Magic Mountain’s discharge points. In April 2012, Wishtoyo, Ventura Coastkeeper, and partners Los Angeles Waterkeeper and Friends of the Santa Clara River, initiated a Clean Water Act citizen suit enforcement action to abate this egregious pollution from the 260-acre amusement park. In December 2014, a federal court found Magic Mountain in violation of the Clean Water Act for its toxic discharges. This paved the way for a settlement in 2015 to ensure the Santa Clara and Pacific Ocean are protected from toxic discharges of metals and trash. Under the agreement, Six Flags must treat its polluted discharges to legal limits or infiltrate its stormwater to groundwater.