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SLR River Park acquisition on capital needs assessment list

Acquisition of land for the San Luis Rey River Park has been placed on the county’s Capital Improvement Needs Assessment Program for Fiscal Years 2008 through 2013.

The 2008-2013 needs assessment was approved by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors on a 5-0 vote June 24. It covers facilities projects slated for capital improvement between 2008 and 2013 but does not include funding for those projects.

The supervisors’ vote, however, also referred the program to the county’s Chief Administrative Officer to determine timing and funding mechanisms to implement the individual projects.

The plan includes approximately $705.7 million in partially funded and unfunded priority projects along with currently funded and approved projects totaling approximately $808.9 million.

Because the capital planning process which includes the Capital Improvement Needs Assessment Program focuses on facilities, road projects are not included on the capital improvements list.

A Facilities Planning Board prioritizes projects based on criteria including benefits and linkage to the county’s strategic plan.

The partially funded and unfunded projects on the list consist of seven projects estimated to exceed $10 million, which were ranked by the Facilities Planning Board, and 14 projects estimated to cost under $10 million, which were listed but not ranked.

Additional projects have been identified but require further analysis to define their scope and will be brought to the Board of Supervisors for future inclusion on the Capital Improvement Needs Assessment Program list during a subsequent year.

The currently funded and approved projects include the Fallbrook branch library, which was on the 2007-12 needs assessment approved in May 2007 and which was fully funded in March 2008.

The Fallbrook library was one of 11 unfunded and partially funded projects exceeding $9 million in last year’s needs assessment and was tied with the future Ramona library for eighth among the 11 projects.

The 2008-13 partially funded and unfunded major projects include additional land acquisition for the Multiple Species Conservation Program. The MSCP land acquisition ranks third among the seven major projects, behind the Las Colinas Women’s Detention Facility and the Rancho San Diego Sheriff’s Station.

The county’s 2008-09 budget which was also approved June 24 includes $10 million for MSCP acquisition funding, and previous authorizations have funded $37,395,114 for MSCP land purchases. The estimated additional cost to acquire approximately 14,000 acres for the MSCP is $224,423,600.

“We continue to acquire lands from willing sellers and work to seek grant money,” said Renee Bahl, the director of the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation.

The future San Luis Rey River Park will include open space areas including trails, staging areas, and habitat preservation corridors, and since those open space areas are mostly if not entirely within the draft North County Multiple Species Conservation Program boundaries (the final master plan will require certification of a completed Environmental Impact Report) the MSCP funding will be available for purchases of open space land within the San Luis Rey River Park.

The river park plans also include active recreation such as ball fields, play areas, and picnic facilities, and that land would not be eligible for MSCP funding.

The Capital Improvement Needs Assessment Program only addresses land acquisition for the river park. Because the boundaries of the river park are yet to be determined and land will be purchased only from willing sellers, no specific additional funding estimate is available.

The San Luis Rey River Park will cover approximately 1,600 acres, and the linear park will stretch for approximately nine miles. In July 2005 the county appropriated $5 million for land acquisition for the river park, and an additional $3 million was appropriated for the river park when the county’s 2006-07 budget was approved in June 2006.

“It’s a great project, and we continue to move forward,” Bahl said.

The minor capital projects also include a Vector Control facility for North County, which would be located in San Marcos and is estimated to cost $2.5 million.

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