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SIMULATED SEA; 800,000-GALLON AQUARIUM TO BE BUILT IN VENTURA.

Byline: David Greenberg Daily News Staff Writer

Plans were disclosed Wednesday for a $30 million aquarium and education center in Ventura Harbor, where an estimated 500,000 visitors a year will be able to view marine life in its seemingly natural habitat.

The centerpiece of the Channel Islands Marine Learning Center will be an 800,000-gallon aquarium containing exhibits of marine life found within 1,250 square miles of the Channel Islands. An education and research facility, sponsored by the Santa Barbara Channel Foundation, and the aquarium will be built next to the National Park Service Visitor Center.

``Education without entertainment is pretty dry stuff, and people won't stand still for it,'' said John Cahill, executive director of the foundation. ``The mission of the foundation is to increase the public's awareness, appreciation and understanding of our coastal waters. The best way for us to do that is through these kinds of facilities.''

Groundbreaking will be sometime next year with a goal for completion of work in 2002.

The exhibits will include marine life found in sandy beaches, rocky shores, tide pools, shallow seas, kelp forests and the open ocean. There also will be video exhibits and a combination of recorded and live-feed programs.

``People have not historically had the opportunity to learn about the outdoor marine environment without taking a boat out there,'' said Ventura architect David Sargent, the project's co-designer. ``We're not going to have plastic fish. The environment will be very similar to the actual environment the creatures live in. They are going to be swimming around very happily.''

Located on 4.2 acres along Spinnaker Drive, the center's highlights will be:

A $25 million, 32,000-square-foot aquarium containing an array of marine life, including sharks, eels, bass and sheepshead. It also will have reproductions of the sea caves found on the Channel Islands and the Ventura Pier.

A 42,000-square-foot outdoor area with birds, gardens and shellfish and other invertebrates in tide pools.

A $5 million, 20,000-square-foot education center, which will have classrooms, computers, laboratories and a theater.

Working in conjunction with the National Park Service and the Ventura Port District, the Santa Barbara Channel Foundation plans to secure most of the $30 million needed for the center through lease-revenue bonds.

The bond debt will be repaid through revenue estimated at $6 million a year from visitors to the center.

The preliminary design and a feasibility study will be funded through $100,000 in donations to the foundation and will be completed in two months, organizers said.

During a news conference Wednesday, organizers also displayed one of two single-person DeepWorker 2000 submarines to be used by the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary as part of a five-year study of marine life to be found at the aquarium.

The Sustainable Seas Expedition, which began Tuesday, is funded through a $5 million grant from the Goldman Foundation and $6 million in staff and equipment from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration and the National Geographic Society.

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PHOTO (Color) Plans for an education center and 800,000-gallon aquarium, to be built next to the National Park Service Visitor Center, were disclosed Wednesday at Ventura Harbor.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 27, 1999
Words:528
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