City to Judge: More Time Needed to Review Water Plan to Disperse Seals

By KELLY WHEELER

City News Service

A Superior Court judge today gave the city of San Diego a month to respond to a plaintiff's plan to use a sprinkler system to disperse a colony of harbor seals from Children's Pool beach in La Jolla.

City officials were supposed to brief Judge Yuri Hoffman today on how they were going to use the amplified sounds of barking dogs to get the seals to leave the area.

But the city's legal representative told the judge that the city needed time to respond to the alternative sprinkler plan - called the Scarecrow - submitted Friday morning by an attorney representing plaintiff Valerie O'Sullivan.

Assistant City Attorney for Civil Litigation Andrew Jones said the plaintiff's plan to disperse the seals would require the city to shut down the beach. He said the Scarecrow plan might require a permit and could be a violation of the Clean Water Act.

At present, there is a federal court order in place preventing the city from dispersing the seals.

The judge told city officials he wants a plan in place when the federal order is lifted.

"At some point, it will be lifted,'' Jones told reporters outside court. "At that point, we will be required to proceed. We're ready to do that.''

Jones said the plan to use the sound of barking dogs to get rid of the seals - estimated to cost between $600,000 and $700,000 - is the best plan to carry out a Superior Court order to remove the animals.

"Now, if the (barking dogs) plan doesn't work, we'll try a different plan,'' Jones said. "We've said that all along. We're willing to look at other plans. No matter what plan you use, you're going to require human beings to carry it out.''

Hoffman ruled last month that the law requires the removal and dispersal of the seals from the Children's Pool area.

Today, the judge said he wanted to hear the city's alternative plans in case the barking dog idea falls through.

Jones told the judge last month that the city didn't have the money to pay for the barking dog plan, but said state legislators were close to approving a bill that would give the San Diego City Council the power to decide what happens to Children's Pool.

Sullivan's attorney, Paul Kennerson, told the judge last month that the seals could be removed at a much lower cost that the city estimated. But he said a proposal to broadcast the sound of barking dogs to get rid of the colony of seals wouldn't work.

Children's Pool, also known as Casa Beach, is protected by a sea wall built through a gift by the late philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps. The beach was given to the city on the condition that it maintain it exclusively as a public park and swimming area.

A different Superior Court judge in 2005 ordered San Diego to restore Children's Pool to its "pre-seal'' condition by dredging the beach to reduce the bacteria levels caused by seal excrement.

The judge also ordered the city to take down a rope that separates the seals from visitors during pupping season.

   
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