A Ride Week pledge barely kept on the final day
When I do not have other obligations or need to run errands requiring a car, I like to ride my bicycle to work. Consequently, at the beginning of this month, when the Ventura County Transportation Commission and Ventura County Air Pollution Control District organized “Ride Week” to promote bikes, carpools and mass transit, I pledged participation.

This time, every day of the week seemed to require a car until, finally, on Friday, faced with the potential of a broken promise, I squeezed in a bicycle commute day. For others who have children and get as busy as I do, let me make a suggestion for reducing tailpipe emissions, wear and tear on local infrastructure and personal hours stuck in traffic.

If you drop off a child at school, leave your car near the school, take your bike out of the back of the car, and bike the rest of the way to work. It is not a full ride commute, but it helps.

For a more comprehensive, long-term plan, at rideweek.org you can obtain a customized electronic RideGuide from VCTC Commuter Services, providing potential carpool and vanpool matches and enrolling you into a free Guaranteed Ride Home program for carpoolers.

More information: www.goventura.org.

A pledge to protect: Flood Preparedness Week
Spouses vow to protect each other, and parents promise to protect children, but until heavy rains start, not everyone thinks about protection from floods. Flood Preparedness Week, coordinated locally earlier this month by the Ventura County Public Works Agency, emphasized ways that residents can work with public agencies to prepare for floods.

The coming El Niño storms may seem like a blessing after our long drought, but for those who are unprepared, the downpours could be a curse. Our parched local hillsides may not retain much water, so some areas could experience flooding, heavy debris flow and mudslides.

Information on flood-prone areas is available through the Ventura County Public Works Agency or through the FEMA digital Flood Insurance Rate Maps accessible at www.vcfloodinfo.com.  

To protect yourself financially, you might consider purchasing flood insurance. For some, the best available insurance may be through the National Flood Insurance Program.

Even if your property is not located in a flood prone-area, it can quickly become subject to rising waters. Drainage ditches, channels, pipes and gutters should be routinely checked for debris, trash, and blockages, and kept clear at all times.  Blockages of creeks or other waterways should be reported, and trash or debris should never be dumped into drains or channels.  

Home and business owners can conduct property evaluations to identify potential electrical hazards and to determine the best evacuation route in case of a flooding emergency.  Families should have predetermined evacuation plans, a list of items to take, an emergency supply of food, water and other essentials, and a designated place to meet after evacuation orders have been issued.  Sandbags can be kept on hand and used before and during heavy rain to guide water and debris away from homes and other structures.  If heavy flooding does occur, residents are encouraged to tune in to Ventura County radio stations for updates and instructions.  

Keep an eye on the environment and prepare for floods.

More info: www.vcfloodinfo.com

Sand bag vendors: www.fire.countyofventura.org (under the public information tab).

Ventura County Guide for Flood Prevention and Preparation: http://www.vcfloodinfo.com/pdf/HomeownersGuideforFloodPreventionandResponse.pdf.

Keeping promises, keeping landscape
When many local residents replaced lawns with more drought-friendly options, they promised family and neighbors that their new landscape would be an attractive alternative.

While elaborate dry creek beds and artificial turf will survive the coming El Niño storms intact, many landscape designs do not include borders or edging to keep material such as wood chips, bark, mulch, small rocks and decomposed granite on the property.  

Materials like wood chips, bark and mulch are light and can float off during rain storms if there is no barrier to stop them. Even though many people view plant material as a natural substance, in our waterways it reduces oxygen levels and increases nitrogen and bacteria levels, carrying with it pollutants such as fertilizers, pesticides, dirt and pet waste.  
You can keep your “eye on the environment” and save your landscape by installing a border around your drought-tolerant landscape before the heavy rains start.

More information: www.cleanwatershed.org.

The Eye on the Environment column is a public service of the Ventura County Public Works Agency and is written by David Goldstein. This week, Kay Allen assisted with the portion about landscape design, Briana Frank assisted with the portion about Flood Preparedness Week, and Devon Cichoski assisted with the portion about Ride Week.