Eye on the Environment

Eye on the Environment

Can you dig it? Ask your public works agency

By David Goldstein 08/28/2014

Report of a hillside dig
Construction workers know to check for utilities before digging a large hole. Architects and engineers know to secure permits before moving lots of dirt. But what should you do if you see heavy equipment on a hillside near your home, operating in your favorite hiking spot or moving the earth in what you thought was a protected stream bed?

A reader recently contacted the VCReporter, alarmed about the possibilities of what might be happening near her home in the Skyline neighborhood of Ventura. A hillside above Arroyo Verde Park was losing vegetation to the blades of a dozer, and it looked (to some who saw the grading or the photo) as if the slope might be destabilized into a drainage area below.

If you are worried about construction activity, grading or even outdoor storage likely to threaten a streambed, waterway or flood control channel, the first agency you might want to report it to is the Ventura County Public Works Agency’s Watershed Protection District. By calling or emailing Karen Martia, at 662-6882 or Karen.martia@ventura.org, you can activate an investigation. If you can clearly identify the location of the suspicious activity, the Watershed Protection District will make sure its flood control and drainage areas are protected.

If the District owns the land outright, operations crews might simply be sent to fix the problem. For example, it can dismantle an illegal fence across a channel, preventing the fence from accumulating material and blocking the flow of water. Consequences are not as swift in some other cases, but if the district owns an easement or if a waterway is threatened, public agencies will compel landowners to abate any violations.

The county and the cities also provide information on when a grading permit is required. If you want to know about grading requirements or current projects, contact your local Public Works Agency or Planning Department. For any land use permit, including grading permits, in the unincorporated area of the county, two helpful resources are the One Stop Permitting Website at http://onestoppermit.ventura.org/ and the Citizen Access website at https://vcca.ventura.org/landing.html. Both websites are designed to help people with the county’s permit process and with determining the status of a permit or complaint.

The digging near Arroyo Verde Park turned out to be an authorized utility repair job, but public works agencies can help you keep an eye on the environment when you see digging in your area.

A different type of digging
Another reader contacted me with a question about a very different type of digging: “Are we allowed to dig a hole and bury a deceased pet in our backyard?”

The answer is “no.” Home burial is illegal because shallow burials result in odors and attract animal scavengers, ranging from cockroaches to coyotes. Chemicals used to euthanize pets can also poison scavenging birds.

You have many better alternatives.

Most veterinarians rely on cremation contractors. For example, the Santa Paula Animal Clinic passes on its cremation contractor’s charges, ranging from $83 to $171, depending on the size of the pet and whether customers want the ashes returned.

In some cities, an animal control department does not charge to pick up deceased, licensed pets. Charges vary by city (ranging from $30 to $95) for pickup of unlicensed pets. These departments generally put the bodies into a cooler and transport consolidated loads to the Ventura County Animal Adoption Center (shelter) in Camarillo.

The county shelter also accepts deceased pets from the public, charging pet owners only the actual cost of cremation or a flat fee for disposal. Bodies for disposal are collected by a rendering company. Rendering is the most environmentally sustainable choice and also the most economical, costing only $5 for a licensed dog. Once per week, D&D Disposal brings deceased pets from Ventura County to West Coast Rendering in Vernon, where pet bodies are heat-sterilized and then converted into grease and proteins, which are used in products ranging from fertilizer to cosmetics.

Perhaps taxidermy is the most sentimental of options for handling a deceased pet’s body. Specialists use freeze-dry technology, since traditional taxidermy does not retain details of a pet’s body or face. One company, accepting deceased animals by overnight parcel delivery and shipping back what it calls “a loving and lasting alternative” to cremation or burial, charges $795 for a pet weighing seven to 10 pounds, plus $60 for each additional pound.

The only legal ways your beloved but deceased hole-digging dog can be buried in a hole is at a landfill (legal, but only when direct-hauled, not through your garbage can, ranging in cost from $30 to $110 ) or at a pet cemetery (the nearest one, in Calabasas, charges $650 for the most basic dog burials).

You can keep your eye on the environment when your pet passes by using options for safe disposal.

David Goldstein is an analyst with the Ventura County Public Works Agency, and material for this column was provided by Nancy Brochart, Bram Sercu and Alicia Rutledge.


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