Shutting down the lake

County drawing up plan to close facility

CASTAIC -- County officials are preparing plans to end operations at Castaic Lake after a funding bill failed to pass through the state Legislature.

The Castaic Lake Recreation Area is due to close Sept. 30, according to a transitional plan that the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation was drafting Monday.

Late last week, the state Assembly recessed until January without considering a Senate bill that would have provided $900,000 to keep the lake open for boating, fishing and swimming.

"We're disappointed because we were hopeful for the rescue from the state funding," said Sheila Ortega, spokeswoman for the parks department. "It was really deflating to hear that that wasn't going to happen, but we have not given up hope."

The lake, owned by the state but operated by the county, has been verging on closure all summer due to a county budget shortfall. The state, in worse financial shape, has said it cannot afford to fund it.

County officials, with 14 years left on a 50-year contract to run the lake, have been threatening to relinquish control of the recreation area to the state. State officials say that such action would result in the immediate closure of the lake.

So far, such a drastic decision has been avoided due to funding injections from county Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich and the county's general fund, but resources are running thin, according to Tony Bell, a spokesman for Antonovich.

"This is not a good sign,"Bellsaid.

According toBell, Antonovich is working with state legislators to figure out another solution.

"We've come up with stopgap measures before against all odds, and I am confident that we will be able to do it again,"Bellsaid.

If the county closes the lake, state officials will secure the lake and all recreational operations would be halted, according to Steve Caps, spokesman for the state Department of Parks and Recreation.

"We don't have the funds to operate it," Capps said. "We had meetings within the state government to discuss security measures if the lake is closed by the county."

The state has not yet finalized its security plan if the lake is closed, but several access points would be gated and the California Highway Patrol would likely patrol the area.

Assemblyman Keith Richman, R-Granada Hills, expressed dismay about the decision and said that the lake's future is once again completely uncertain.

"I'm very disappointed," Richman said. "The county and the state department of parks are going to need to discuss where we go from here."