In Brief

Oil site an orphan no more

State officials said May 23 that they have finished dismantling a so-called “orphaned” oil production and storage site in Oxnard near an Amtrak rail line along Fifth Street.

Through its Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources, or DOGGR, the California Department of Conservation plugged the well — which has sat idle since March 2004 — after a request from the Ventura County Department of Environmental Health. From 1990 until that date, the well was operated by Yorba Linda-based Geo Petroleum, Inc. When the company shut down, its facilities were declared deserted. However, in 2005, vandals caused a 30-barrel oil spill that DOGGR paid to clean up (one barrel equals 42 gallons).

Contractors from a Bakersfield company helped DOGGR plug and abandon the wells. Another company removed 11 tanks varying from 250 barrels to 10,000 barrels in capacity, as well as other equipment. Before the tanks were demolished, vacuum trucks removed 4,000 barrels of fluid, which was then sent to a disposal and recycling facility in Bakersfield.

The project cost $219,000. Ventura County provided a $10,000 bond posted by Geo Petroleum and unforeseen costs were paid for through the sale of salvaged steam generators.

Ammonia leak leaves Oxnard Onion processors outside

An ammonia leak at an Oxnard onion processing plant sickened one employee and prompted the evacuation of 180 others, the Ventura County Star reported May 29.

A plant supervisor who detected the May 28 leak at Gills Onions was released from the hospital the same night, the article said. Employees were evacuated and taken to another building after the ammonia — which is used as a refrigerant — was detected.

The leak caused authorities to close Mountain View Ave. in Oxnard from Richmond Ave. to Rose Ave., as well as Pacific Ave. from Fifth Street to Wooley Road. Despite the closures, officials told the newspaper there was no danger beyond the plant.

River Parkway efforts flowing with grant news

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) a national nonprofit based in San Francisco and dedicated to land conservation, announced May 29 that the California State Coastal Conservancy awarded a $100,000 grant to help plan efforts for the Ventura River Parkway.

News of the grant comes on the heels of passage by the Ventura City Council of a resolution in support of the Ventura River Parkway.

The proposed project would provide new public access to the river and connect with existing regional and city trails. It would include an interpretive trail through Downtown Ventura and connecting local landmarks with the hilltop Grant Park and the river.

“Ventura is renowned for its beautiful hillsides, canyons, and rivers,” said Reed Holderman, western regional director for TPL. “But its proximity to Los Angeles puts it directly in the path of development spreading along the 101 corridor. We are working to protect one of Southern California’s last great coastal landscapes so the public can experience nature close at hand.”

Another conservation effort led by the Nature Conservancy is underway on the Santa Clara River. The new effort is planned as part of broader plans for a 10,000 acre Hillsides Preserve. TPL is working with the Ventura Hillsides Conservancy to coordinate the River Parkway efforts and hillside protection.

Farm photos sought from kids

The Ventura County 4-H and Junior Master Gardeners Program and the Ventura County Fairgrounds are sponsoring an agriculture themed photography contest open to youth living in Ventura County.

The contest is divided into age groups; 9-13 and 14-18, with four categories; agriculture products, agricultural equipment, agricultural places and agricultural people.

“We are happy to give Ventura County youth the opportunity to look around, to focus on what makes our county great and share that with the community in a personal, artistic format,” Said Susan Gloekler, Ventura County 4H Program Supervisor.

All entries will be included in a photo gallery on the Ventura County Fair Web site, and at a special reception and gallery show. Winners will be awarded prizes and will be featured at the 2007 Ventura County Fair, “An Old Fashioned Fair,” from Aug. 1 through Aug. 12.

In Brief

Firehouse incident not too hot for city

An investigation by the Ventura Police Department downplayed the extent that personnel at a Ventura City Fire Department station on Seaward Ave. were involved with a sultry photo shoot.

City officials received an anonymous letter April 27 claiming that fire department members invited models from Simply Seductive, an outcall exotic dancer service, for an April 5 photo session at the fire station (the company’s offices are located nearby).

The 150 page police report said that fire employees waved to Simply Seductive employees who were shooting photos in an alleyway across the street from the station. Models and photographers then came to the front of station without being invited.

No one tried to stop the photography until the women started removing their clothes. According to the investigation, a supervisor stopped the shoot, the incident was reported, and the women – who never entered the station – left.

Although the photos appeared on Simply Seductive’s Web site, they were removed at Fire Chief Mike Lavery’s request.

Lavery said there were not serious violations and that the department would continue to welcome community members, but there would be more awareness of potential problems.

“We experienced communication and documentation lapses,” he said. “These violations will be appropriately dealt with at both the supervisory and line personnel levels.”

Law enforcement weak in harbor

Public safety could be at risk in the Ventura Harbor, a new report from the Ventura County Grand Jury indicated May 21.

The investigative body concluded that the Ventura Port District needs to allocate more resources to the Harbor Patrol for residents of the harbor to have adequate law enforcement.

“Law enforcement services provided to the District by the harbor patrol as well as the Ventura Police Department are very basic,” the report said.

Among other findings, the investigation found that no annual or monthly report is made to the public of all crimes and incidents at the Harbor.

The Harbor Patrol has operated as a separate law enforcement body since 1976. Although they carry handcuffs and pepper spray they do not carry firearms or batons.

According to the report, officers have not offered around-the-clock service since 1991. Between 2 and 6 a.m., calls to the Harbor Patrol are directed via a recorded message to an on-call officer.

Although the police department responds to calls throughout the city of Ventura, its response to the harbor can take 20-25 minutes and it is not required to offer additional services, despite the fact that Harbor Patrol officers may not be properly equipped to handle some calls at the Harbor.

Program honors 52 graduates

A May 19 graduation ceremony and reception will honor 52 people who successfully completed the Women’s Economic Ventures Self-Employment Training Program. The event will be held from 9 a.m. to 12 noon at the Thousand Oaks Campus of Teledyne Scientific Co.

The graduates completed a 14-week, 56-hour program that offered guidance on starting, operating, and expanding a business. Classes were taught in Oxnard, Thousand Oaks, and Ventura, as well as Santa Maria and Santa Barbara. Forty-six completed the program in English and six completed the program in Spanish.

Enrollment was open to anyone who completed a free orientation. The next English language orientations are June 13th, July 11th, and Aug. 8 from 6-7 p.m. The next Spanish language orientations are the same days from 7-8 p.m.

Drunk driving crackdown planned

All fourteen law enforcement agencies in Ventura County will coordinate on a four-day Memorial Day crackdown from May 25 through midnight, May 28. The Avoid the 14 program is the second of its kind in the county targeting those targeted for driving under the influence (DUI).

The program will include a sobriety checkpoint scheduled for Saturday, May 26, in Santa Paula between 7 p.m. and 1 a.m. Law enforcement officers from the Coast Guard’s Channel Islands Station will also educate boaters on area piers and board vessels in search of boating-under-the-influence subjects.

Avoid the 14 is being coordinated by Senior Officer Humberto Jimenez of the Oxnard Police Department. Sheriff’s deputies will work overtime and nearly all available California Highway Patrol Officer in Ventura and Moorpark will conduct patrols.

A similar crackdown at the end of 2006 netted 281 DUI suspects. The next event will take place over the Labor Day weekend.

In Brief

Capps to Schwarzenegger: Say no to LNG

Congresswoman Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara) joined three other members of Congress to send a letter to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger asking him to reject a liquefied natural gas, or LNG, facility proposed 14 miles off the Ventura County coast.

Schwarzenegger has until Monday, May 21 to decide whether or not to approve plans for Cabrillo Port, an LNG importation terminal backed by BHP Billiton. If he rejects the project, federal officials would not be able to issue permits for the projects, although they could do so if he says nothing for or against it.

The governor’s decision follows two setbacks for BHP in April. That month, both the California State Lands Commission and the California Coastal Commission rejected elements of the proposal they were required to evaluate. Although the lands commission decision could still be challenged in court and the coastal commission decision could be overruled by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, opponents of the project have enjoyed renewed momentum since the rulings.

Capps, who represents Oxnard, along with Sam Farr (D-Salinas), Hilda Solis (D-El Monte) and Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto), told Schwarzenegger in the letter that the project would “degrade our environment, negatively impact the south central coast economy, and harm our state’s coastal resources.”

Dam those reeds

A bamboo-like plant growing in the Ventura River bed will be the focus of an eradication effort that is part of the first steps to restore natural habitats in preparation for the removal of the Matilija Dam.

Wildscape Restoration, Inc., a Ventura-based firm that specializes in environmental planning, monitoring, and habitat restoration, will coordinate the public outreach for the plan to remove Arundo donax, a giant, non-native invasive reed. Outreach will include a May 23 meeting at the Chaparral School Auditorium in Ojai planned to inform the public about the project.

Anna Huber, a Wildscape Restoration employee, said that Arundo grows faster than and out-competes bamboo native to the river. Because it has so quickly invaded the watershed, Huber said, native animal and bird species have not had time to adapt to its presence and are losing their habitat. The reeds also choke the river during floods, consume water at a faster rate than native species, and increase fire hazards.

The community meeting was planned to keep the public informed about why the removals are happening and to help contact landowners adjacent to the river in order to get access through their property.

Two wheels of change

Employees who ride their bikes to work on May 17 have a chance for some special treats.

As part of Bike-to-Work Day in Ventura, city officials, the Ventura County Air Pollution Control District, Ventura Climate Care Options Organized Locally (VCCool), and the Ben & Jerry’s scoop shop in Santa Barbara teamed up to give bike riders free ice cream. The event is part of National Bike-to-Work Week.

After completing a bicycle survey available around Ventura, riders who bike to work or school are being asked to turn them in at one of two “Bike Stations” in the city. One is located in Downtown Ventura at the intersection of Main and California Streets. The other is in front of the Ventura County Government Center in the bus circle at the intersection of Thille and Victoria Ave. Both stations are open between 6:30 and 9:30 a.m., and riders who turn in surveys will receive vouchers for a free ice cream cone at any Ben & Jerry’s scoop shops.

Help prevent forest fires

United States Forest Service officials announced May 14 that, effective immediately, burning permits for private property in the Los Padres National Forest are suspended. The Forest Service is also increasing the number of firefighting crews and equipment dispatched to wildfires.

The changes come at the start of High Fire Season and only weeks after the Forest Service reopened parts of the Los Padres that have been closed to visitors since the Day Fire, which burned more than 160,000 acres from Labor Day, 2006 through September and into October. That fire damaged sensitive areas in the Sespe Wilderness, the scenic home of a California Condor Sanctuary.

Unusually dry forest conditions could mean that fires will occur earlier in the season and grow at a faster rate, the Forest Service said in its announcement. It has also reissued warnings and guidelines for campfires. More restrictions could take place as the fire season progresses and visitors are urged to check with the forest service nearest their destination for current conditions.

In Brief

Cracking down on DUIs

In Ventura County, law enforcement campaigns to keep intoxicated drivers off the roads are nothing if not direct. Called Avoid the 14, the focused efforts to weed out impaired drivers encourage citizens to avoid the 14 law enforcement agencies throughout the county.

“What we do is over the three weeks at the end of the year and also for Labor Day and Memorial Day weekends — four days each — we run [driving under the influence] crackdowns,” said public information officer Jan Ford. “Crackdowns” include sobriety checkpoints throughout the county, in-city DUI patrols and California Highway Patrol’s institution of maximum enforcement periods, when they put 80 to 85 percent of their available officers on the road. Increased patrols are funded by the California Office of Traffic Safety through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The most recent effort was spread over three weeks, from Dec. 15 of last year to Jan. 1. The 18-day campaign meant that the holiday season ended with no DUI-related fatalities and 410 arrests in both Ventura County and Santa Barbara County, which hosted the identical Avoid the 12 program.

Some 35 officers from both counties were honored last week for their achievements. Of special distinction were officers Wayne Goral and Sam Clarkson, both of the Moorpark CHP, who both logged in nine DUI arrests during the campaign period.

Feeding the green machine

Inspired by “the old idea of the person looking over the fence,” as well as Ventura County’s iconic two trees, longtime Ventura resident Eileen Murrie designed what would become the flagship entry of the Ventura Cloth Bag Project, a contest hosted by Ventura Climate Care Options Organized Locally (VCCool).

Now the logo for a line of Ventura Cloth bags, Murrie’s design features a friendly pair of eyes gazing upward at grass-like mussed hair with two trees sitting atop.

“It could all be done very simply. It showed a lot of vegetation,” Murrie said. She added that her motivation was to create an image that would “be a symbol of the city” and show the project’s efforts to “preserve the pristineness of the community.”

Murrie took home a $200 prize and will see her design printed on reusable cloth bags.

Secondary prizes were given in the categories of Hand-Crafted Message (Skylar Fordahl), Inspirational (Aubrei Norris), Playfull Green (Kay McHenry), Most Heart-Felt (Brianna Norris), Nurturing Image (Paula Mae Pugh), Peaceful Creation (Ashley Sharifi), as well as to Class of Young Artists (students from Los Altos Middle School).

Locally owned businesses may also sponsor the bags by applying to have their logos put on the back under the snappy motto, “Buy local, support a sustainable Ventura.” Bags will be available for sale by June as part of an effort to inspire local consumers to use reusable bags.

Dr. Chouinard to you

Malinda Pennoyer Chouinard, Patagonia co-founder and local historic preservationist, will be called to her alma mater to accept an honorary doctorate in recognition of nearly four decades of public service.

The Board of Trustess of California State University, Fresno will award an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters to the 1969 graduate at the commencement ceremony on May 19. Chouinard orginially graduated with a bachelor’s of art and secondary teaching credential and was noted for her leadership involvement with the Associated Women Students. As the university noted in announcing their decision, Chouinard overcame dyslexia while at school.

The award recognizes the positive social impact Chouinard and her husband Yvon have had on both corporate and environmental culture. On-site child care was provided by Patagonia beginning in 1984 and the company has committed itself to sustainable business practices, including its use of recycled materials in garment production.

Locally, Chouinard is credited with opting for conservation over development when she chose to preserve a historic building in downtown Ventura as the company expanded.

In conferring the award, Fresno State also recognizes the $22 million Patagonia has donated to environmental organizations, and its founding involvement in the charitable organization One Percent for the Planet, a network now 148 companies strong that donates one percent of yearly profits to “green” charities.

Chouinard will share honors with broadcaster Roy Christoper, an eight-time Emmy winner and frequent Fresno State guest lecturer.

Staying sober at special events

Law enforcement agencies across the county are focusing on special events where alcohol is served.

In Simi Valley, Lieutenant Roy F. Jones of the Simi Valley Police Department instructed the city to serve alcohol in specific containers and to stop serving alcohol an hour before an event ends. He also instituted regulations that on-duty event personnel were not to consume alcohol at the city special event site while wearing event logos.

Throughout Ventura County, local law enforcement agencies have partnered with Project SAFER, a community coalition created to foster public security at the local level. Together, these groups offer hour-long training in Responsible Beverage Service (RBS) that is free to Ventura County nonprofits on the day of special events.

Instruction is available to the groups on how to judge intoxication, recognize phony identification and operate ID scanners. Project SAFER will also provide a quick summary of the legal liabilities involved in serving alcohol. For more information, call 256-4321.








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