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CONSULTANT HIRED TO STUDY WEED REMOVAL.

Byline: Patricia Farrell Aidem Staff Writer

A coalition formed to eradicate an invasive nonnative plant in the Santa Clara River system has hired a national environmental consulting company to come up with a battle plan.

AMEC Earth & Environmental will be paid $550,000 by the Ventura County Resource Conservation District, a group that includes the city of Santa Clarita, to conduct environmental studies for the project and to draft the removal plan.

The goal is to rid the Santa Clara and its tributaries of bamboo-like arundo donax - giant reed. Studies will cover the river's nearly 700-square-mile upper watershed, targeted first in the removal plan because arundo tends to spread downstream.

The river runs from Acton, through Santa Clarita and west across northern Ventura County to the Pacific.

Arundo, introduced by Spanish colonists as an ornamental plant, can grow to 30 feet, gaining as much as 6 inches a day. It grows in dense stands and crowds native plants while taking over habitats of the fish and animals that live in the river and along its banks. Arundo sucks up huge amounts of water from river banks, where pools quickly form when the weed is removed, according to scientists who have worked in other areas to rid waterways of the pest.

The weed is both a flood and fire hazard. Heavy growth can block water flow during storms, causing backup that floods neighborhoods. And, in summer months, it quickly dries, creating fuel for fires. Last year, a small fire that started near Val Verde was nearly controlled when flames hit the Santa Clara and quickly ignited arundo. The fire spread rapidly downstream toward Santa Paula and to Moorpark before wind drove it back three days later toward Stevenson Ranch.

The environmental work will begin immediately and is scheduled to be completed in December 2005. Preparing the eradication plan will involve collecting information, including Geographical Information System data, field surveys and baseline water quality data, said AMEC senior resource biologist Manjunath Venkat, who is managing the project.

AMEC is the company that completed a $372,000 river enhancement and management plan for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works. The latter project provides guidance for the preservation and enhancement of the physical, biological and economic resources in the Santa Clara's flood plain.

Patricia Farrell Aidem, (661) 257-5251

pat.aidem(at)dailynews.com
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 31, 2004
Words:391
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