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Our View: New desalter marks a true watershed moment in Ventura County; Remembering Bob Gonzales

By   /   Friday, December 3rd, 2021  /   Comments Off on Our View: New desalter marks a true watershed moment in Ventura County; Remembering Bob Gonzales

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Camarillo Mayor Charlotte Craven speaks at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for Camarillo’s new groundwater desalter on Nov. 30. (courtesy photo)

The Oxnard Plain took a big step forward toward sustainability on Nov. 30 when Camarillo’s North Pleasant Valley Groundwater Desalter began operating after two years of construction.

The facility is located near the intersection of Las Posas Road and Lewis Road and will become fully operational after testing is completed early next year. The desalter is a complex, dual-purpose plant that removes salts that are ruinous to crops from the groundwater and treats brackish groundwater, producing around 3,800 acre-feet per year of drinkable water.

“It’s been a long, complex undertaking to get to this point,” said Camarillo Public Works Director Dave Klotzle in a statement.

The desalter will eventually pay for itself, as it will reduce the city’s reliance on state water from 40% to around 13%, saving an estimated $50 million over 20 years. And more than $35 million of the $66.3 million cost comes from state and federal sources.

There is a saying in Hollywood that it takes 20 years to have an overnight success, and for the desalter, it has taken a full two decades to move from recognition of the salt intrusion problem, to environmental review, design, funding and construction. For Camarillo Mayor Charlotte Craven, area farmers and the citizens of Camarillo this is indeed, as she put it, “a watershed moment.”

In the face of unprecedented drought, climate change and demands for better management of groundwater, it is going to take more innovation and creativity to navigate through a new generation of water supplies and sustainable agriculture in the Oxnard Plain, the Santa Maria Valley, the Santa Clara River Valley, Paso Robles and other water strapped areas. Let’s put the lessons of the Camarillo desalter to good use.

IN MEMORIAM: BOB GONZALES

At a time when crime is on the rise and wisdom is needed to manage our way toward safer streets and communities, it is sad to note the passing of one of the region’s law enforcement titans.

Robert “Bob” Gonzales, who recently passed away at age 71 due to complications from cardiac surgery, was one of those legends. In Santa Barbara County he was known for his swift rise from his 2019 hiring as human resources manager at the Sheriff’s Department to a recent promotion to chief administrative officer.

Bob Gonzales

But his career in law enforcement goes back to 1972, when the Santa Paula native and Ventura College graduate applied to join the Santa Paula Police Department. He held every sworn position in the agency over the next 33 years, the last seven of them as chief of police for his hometown.

As successful at politics as he was at law enforcement, he served two four-year terms on the Santa Paula City Council, including stints as mayor and vice mayor. He also served as a board trustee for the Santa Paula Elementary School District and the Ventura County Community College District.

Gonzales was the kind of guy who knew a lot because he had seen a lot. As the region grapples with rising homelessness, shoplifting that’s looking more and more like grand larceny and rising problems with drug-related deaths, he will be missed tremendously. Condolences to his family, to Sheriff Bill Brown and to his many friends in Santa Paula.

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