Fire management plan for Santa Margarita River property likely to be approved

The May 22 Fallbrook Public Utility District (FPUD) board meeting will likely include the approval of a fire management plan for FPUD’s Santa Margarita River property.

The April 27 FPUD board meeting included discussion about developing a fire management plan for the 1,384-acre property. A 4-0 FPUD board vote approved further review of developing a fire management plan with input from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and the North County Fire Protection District.

The fire management plan is associated with a tentative sale of that property which includes an equestrian easement to be granted to the Fallbrook Trails Council. Donna Gebhart is the Fallbrook Trails Council representative in the negotiations. Al Gebhart, husband of Donna Gebhart, is on the FPUD board and recused himself from the vote which could be related to the future purchase.

“As part of the pending sale there is scheduled to be a management plan for that property,” said FPUD general manager Brian Brady.

That overall management plan includes a fire management element.

“What the board has asked staff to do is investigate the cost of the plan as well as the elements contained in that management plan,” Brady said.

In the late 1940s the FPUD board decided to pursue building a dam on the Santa Margarita River, and the district purchased a 1,384-acre property planned for the dam. Issues involving Camp Pendleton water rights needed to be resolved at higher government levels, and by the time that occurred environmental and funding issues prevented the dam from being built. The plans for the dam have been replaced with the Santa Margarita Conjunctive Use Project, which would enhance groundwater recharge and recovery capacity within the lower Santa Margarita River basin and develop a program which would increase available water supplies for Camp Pendleton and FPUD.

In September 2015, FPUD’s board approved a sale agreement of the 1,384-acre property to Western Rivers Conservancy for $9,975,000 while allocating the revenue for funding to construct the Conjunctive Use Project facilities. The expectation is that the land will be placed into a permanent conservation easement, and the purchase and sale agreement stipulated that a recreational trails easement as well as a long-term stewardship agreement will be finalized before the close of escrow.

The process would involve The Wildlands Conservancy undertaking the role as the long-term steward of the entire land with an equestrian easement being granted to the Fallbrook Trails Council. Concurrence in writing by FPUD, Western Rivers Conservancy, The Wildlands Conservancy, and the Fallbrook Trails Council will be necessary for the agreement to be finalized.

The purchase and sale agreement stipulated an escrow closing date of December 31, 2016, unless Western Rivers Conservancy chose to increase the deposit and extend escrow to June 30.

One Response to "Fire management plan for Santa Margarita River property likely to be approved"

  1. grunt   May 18, 2017 at 3:01 pm

    Would this plan stop, curtail, or reduce the public access to the river?


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