CASTAIC GETS ONE MONTH REPRIEVE

On Tuesday the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted behind closed doors to keep the Castaic Lake Recreation Area open until Oct. 1, officials said.

     Tony Bell, spokesman for Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, said the unanimous action by the board buys more time for county and state officials to find a permanent solution for the lake.

     Bell said the funding came from the board’s general fund — an amount not yet disclosed.

     The lake was initially slated for closure Sept. 1, the date the county planned to throw it back to the state for lack of funds. The county signed an agreement in 1969 to manage the lake facilities at the county’s own expense until 2019. The county collects all recreation fees generated at the lake for that purpose.

     Last week state Attorney General Bill Lockyer’s office raised the specter of a lawsuit, sending a harshly worded letter to the county rejecting county’s decision to back out of the 50-year operating agreement.

     The supervisors’ vote Tuesday was held in closed session, where elected officials are allowed by law to deal with matters that are expected to end up in court.

     “It went into closed session because of pending litigation,” Bell said.

     “In the meantime, we are actively pursuing all other avenues of funding to find short-term and long-term solution to keep facility open,” Bell said.

     Leading the charge for a solution at the state level is Santa Clarita’s assemblyman, Keith Richman.

     He said Tuesday that he has talked to representatives at all levels of state government about the problem and that all will have to be involved in the long-term solution — from the Castaic Area Town Council and the city of Santa Clarita to the county of Los Angeles and the state of California.

     “(All of them will) have to sit down and work together to come up with a plan to keep the lake open,” said Richman, R-Granada Hills.  

    “Finger-pointing is not going to do any good,” he said of a political climate that appears to be growing more acrimonious by the day.  

    But, he said, “I think things are moving in the right direction. There is a possibility the state may be able to come up with some money to keep the lake open. It is critical that the county keeps it open in the interim.”

     Richman said there is a “good possibility” that unallocated funds in the state’s boating and waterways fund could be used for lake operations.

     “Language is being drafted (to that end),” he said.

     But the long-term solution, he said, will involve an examination of several options — such as the possibility of raising fees on cars and boats, adding long-term RV camping at a fee, and increasing the number of fishing tournaments and other events that could generate revenue.

     Richman said he has taken up the Castaic Lake issue even though Castaic is actually in Westlake Village Republican Anthony Strickland’s Assembly district, because his help was requested.

     “The people in Castaic know me. They called, and it’s our pleasure to help,” said Richman, who represented Castaic until the 2001 redistricting.

     Antonovich’s office said a broad, multi-agency task force of area merchants and representatives of the town council, city of Santa Clarita, county and state is being formed to explore funding options.

    “We are confident that (with) the cooperation with the state, we will able to fund the continued operation of Castaic Lake,” Bell said.