Pictured: Rain totals from Ventura County Public Works Agency – Watershed Protection. 

by Kimberly Rivers

Sheriff suspends visitation at jails due to COVID

On Dec. 28 the Ventura County Sheriff’s office reported that inperson visitation at both the Todd Road and Main jails in Ventura County would be suspended to prevent further spread of COVID. 

“The number varies every day,” said Commander Mark Franke with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office. Testing generally occurs weekly among both staff and inmates, while some staff members, depending on their duties, are tested more often. Inmates are also tested when they are booked into the jail. The testing schedule is planned according to recommendations from Ventura County Public Health. 

As of the morning of Dec. 29, 18 inmates at the Mail Jail and 51 inmates at the Todd Road jail have tested positive for the virus. All who test positive are monitored, but as of Dec. 29 no inmates currently require any treatment. 

Commander Mike Hartmann, of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office, said that no inmate has required hospitalization since the pandemic began, but in the event that anyone needed care for more severe symptoms they would be transferred to Ventura County Medical Center. 

The statement issued on Dec. 28, reported a “spike in COVID-19 cases,” in the jails and the suspension of in person visitation was being done out of an “abundance of caution.”

“Inmates are offered vaccinations, it is not mandatory,” said Hartmann. The jails have weekly vaccination clinics and 627 inmates have received their vaccinations at the jails since the beginning of the pandemic. He emphasized that the occurrence of COVID in the jails tends to mirror outbreaks that occur among the general public and the current spike was expected. There has also been an increase in COVID cases among jail staff. 

The Main Jail, at the Ventura County Government Center has a capacity of 823, and the Todd Road Jail in Santa Paula can house up to 796 inmates. Hartmann confirmed the current inmate population is roughly 1100. 

Meiners Oaks Water District seats up for election

Three seats on the five seat Board of Meiners Oak Water District (MOWD) in the Ojai Valley will be up for grabs in 2022, which could result in a majority of seats changing hands if new candidates step up to run, and are successful. 

The seats currently held by Board President Mike Etchart, Vice President Jim Kentosh and Loni Anderson are up for election in 2022. 

Candidates for all elected positions, including special district boards must file a 700 Form which declares any real property and investment interests held so as to determine whether there would be any conflict of interest for that person to serve.

The district serves 1,280 water connections in the Meiners Oaks area with groundwater from four active wells, or sourced from Lake Casitas, paying a surcharge, when the wells do not produce enough water. Water for the district is stored in three large tanks on property off Highway 33 owned by the district, which initially served as a water reservoir with a dam on an unnamed stream that drained to the Ventura River, and according to state records was filled in with debris including cement, asphalt, metal, plastic and dirt. The tanks were then installed on top of the filled reservoir. One tank was removed in 2015, which required “rubble removal work.” dirt compaction and a drainage plan, according to meeting minutes. A section of the stream remains and still flows when it rains below the site of the old reservoir and current tank farm. 

Duties of elected officials serving on water district boards are focused on ensuring the district has adequate water supplies to provide to customers, infrastructure is maintained, appropriate fees are billed and collected and water quality meets legal requirements. 

Terms with MOWD are four years in length. Regular meetings are once a month, with other Special and committee meetings held as needed.

MOWD is one of 30 special districts in Ventura County.

The declaration of candidacy period of the Nov. 8, 2022 election for all positions is July 18 through Aug. 12, 2022. More information on all special district positions that will be on the ballot in 2022 visit: www.recorder.countyofventura.org/elections/

Drone disturbs Bald Eagle Nest

On Dec. 26 at approximately 7:30 a.m. a member of the group of photographers monitoring the active bald eagle nest at Lake Casitas photographed and reported a drone disturbing the nest. 

The female eagle, called Hannah, left the nest quickly, with the male, called Mr. Majestic, following her. 

Harassing or disturbing active nesting sites is a violation of various state and federal laws, including the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Lacey Act. These federal laws make it illegal to “pursue, shoot, shoot at, poison, wound, kill, capture, trap, collect, destroy, molest or disturb eagles,” according to information from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service. Those prohibitions include “getting too close.” For breeding pairs that includes staying at least 660 feet away. 

The prohibition applies to waterways and the air, applying the law to drones. It’s also illegal to trail or pace a flying  eagle with the drone. 

Penalties include misdemeanor criminal conviction with maximum penalty of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine for a person or $200,000 for an organization. Subsequent offenses are felonies with increased penalties. www.fws.gov/midwest/news/DronesAndWildlife.html

Rain totals

As of 9:00 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 30 rain totals for the past seven days ranged from 13 inches to just under four inches at various locations across the county. 

The highest rainfall total was 13 inches in the Sunset Hills Area at Bard Reservoir east of Highway 23. Rain totals near the coast were closer to four and five inches, with higher rain tallies – six to over nine inches – across the Ojai Valley. 

The hills above Fillmore and Santa Paula ranged from just over six up to 10.25 inches, with the higher elevations getting more rain. 

As of 9 a.m. on Dec. 30 Lake Casitas was recorded at 34.4% of capacity, showing just how much rain is needed to fill the lake. Prior to the rains over the past week the lake was hovering at 33%. 

Thursday morning Highway 33 north of Ojai was reported closed in both directions due to slides related to the rain and an update from the National Weather Service stated the storm was expected to hang over Ventura and Los Angeles Counties through the afternoon. 


Ventura County COVID Update

On Dec. 29, Ventura County reported 1,052 new COVID-19 cases since Monday, from 12,750 test completed. 92 people were reported as hospitalized on Wednesday from symptoms related to COVID, with 18 requiring care in the ICU.

The county reported four people have died in the past three days from the COVID virus. Those deceased ranged in age from 58 to 93. 

The county reported an R-effective rate of 1.08, indicating the virus is spreading. The R-effective rate tells the number of “secondary infections” that will occur when one person tests positive, meaning that one person will pass it on to more than one person. If the number is under 1 that indicates spread is decreasing, with numbers over 1 indicating increasing transmission. California is currently reporting an R-effective rate of 1.45 statewide. https://calcat.covid19.ca.gov/cacovidmodels/ 

Ventura County reported that potential delays in reporting may “lead to underestimates of” the R-effective rate and that “testing patterns over the Christmas and New Year holidays will result in abnormal trends.”

Testing and vaccinations are available for free across Ventura County. Information is online at: www.venturacountyrecovers.org

Oxnard temporarily closing city offices 

In a statement released Wednesday, Dec. 29 the Cit of Oxnard reported that due to “increased transmission of COVID-19 in Ventura County, Oxnard City Hall and most city facilities and programs will be temporarily closed to the public starting January 3, 2022. The City will reopen facilities and programs as soon as it is determined to be safe, but anticipates at least three weeks of closures to the public.”

Most city services will remain available remotely. Offices and facilities that will be closed to the public include: 

-Oxnard City Hall and Civic Center
-Oxnard Service Center
-Oxnard Housing Department (1470 Colonia Rd. and 300 N. Marquita St. locations)
-Oxnard Police and Fire Department lobbies
-Oxnard Police Department Records and Property Room
-Del Norte Buy-Back Center
-Four Senior Centers (Colonia, South Oxnard, Palm Vista, Wilson – including Lawn Bowls)
-Senior nutrition meals will be available for pick-up
-Four Youth Centers (South Oxnard, Colonia, Southwinds, PAL)
-Three Libraries (Colonia, South Oxnard and Main Branch)
-Three Basketball Gyms (Colonia, PAL, Rio Vista)
-Oxnard Tennis Center
The following City programs will be suspended until further notice:
-Special Populations
-All Recreation Classes
-Youth & Adult Sports
-Library Programs
City employees will be available via phone and email and virtual appointments will be available during normal business hours. 
The City’s online resources include:
-Library Electronic Resources: www.oxnard.org/library/
Oxnard City Council and Committee meetings will continue to meet virtually during their regularly scheduled times.