Monday, October 10, 2016

Matilija Dam in the News

"It is mostly silted up. It has out lived its usefulness. It no longer serves for flood control or water supply for the region and at the same time it blocks fish from coming up so this fits with the statewide priority of trying to deal with these old situations," said Secretary of California Natural Resources Agency John Laird.

Friday Oct 7, 2016 - VC Star

Local, state and federal officials toured the dam Thursday as Peter Sheydayi, interim director of the Ventura County Watershed Protection District, talked about recent steps forward and the work that still needs to happen.  For years, there has been widespread support to tear down the dam above Ojai. The problem is what to do with the about 8 million cubic yards of sediment that has built up behind it over the past six or so decades.

The project to tear down the dam started in 1999, Sheydayi told the small crowd that included John Laird, secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency, county Supervisor Steve Bennett, U.S. Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Westlake Village, and Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Carpinteria.

"From 2007 until very recently, we were still trying to get Congress to fund this project. We just sort of met with obstacle after obstacle," Schuchat said. The Coastal Conservancy has funded much of the state's share up to now in the process.  Instead, local officials want to look at whether they could fund the project without the Corps of Engineers. For now, that's just something to explore.

After the tour, officials returned to the Watershed Protection District's Saticoy office to talk about funding possibilities.

In the meantime, the next step is to take the concept that the groups agreed to and turn it into engineering drawings. Officials have applied for a grant from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to pay for that next phase of work.

October 6, 2016: Roundtable Discussion on Matilija Dam convened by Congresswoman Julia Brownley. Paul Jenkin presents the history of the project to federal, state, and local representatives.

KEYT: Matilija Dam one step closer to coming down


Friday, September 16, 2016

Watershed signs

Sign "Entering Ventura River Watershed" when leaving Sespe Creek on Highway 33 
Ventura County Watershed Protection District (WPD) recently installed signs at the watershed boundaries throughout the county.  Funding came from the WPD Stormwater Permittee Project.  Similar signs have been placed at visible sites on Watershed Protection District facilities throughout the county.

This was an idea that surfaced during initial community discussions with the Ojai Valley Green Coalition in 2008.   At that time very few local residents were aware of the significance of our watershed, or even what the term means!  Signs like this become part of a growing culture of watershed awareness.

Thanks to Ventura County WPD for implementing this public education opportunity!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Matilija Sand Trap

Sept 8, 2016: Ventura County Reporter article on Matilija Dam:

With a possible end in sight, all parties involved are optimistic for the future.

“It’s a good feeling knowing that there actually is a solution to this. We’re working every day to try and make that happen,” said Jenkin.

On Thursday, Oct. 6, the Ventura River Watershed Council will meet to discuss the Matilija Dam Ecosystem Restoration Project at Oak View Community Center, 18 Valley Road in Oak View from 6 to 8 p.m. For more information, visit

Read the article here: sand-trap-plan-for-matilija-dam-removal-will-rely-on-historic-rainfall

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

River Parkway progress

A recent news article in the Ventura County Star highlights the progress on the Ventura River Parkway.  Most notably, our two land conservancies have made major headway in acquiring floodplain properties and addressing the non-native giant reed (Arundo donax) while enhancing and maintaining recreational access.   Also mentioned is the interpretive kiosk at the Main Street Bridge,  National Recreation Trail status, pending mile marker installation, and recent progress on Matilija Dam.

The Friends of the Ventura River coalition has collectively made significant headway in recent years, and a key piece of our outreach has been the distribution of over 7,500 Ventura River Parkway Guide maps.  We just printed another run of these maps, which are once again available at the Patagonia retail store, Ventura Visitors Center, Real Cheap Sports, Open Air Bikes, The Ventura Bike Depot, the City of Ventura Parks & Recreation department, the Ojai Visitors Center and the Mob Shop!
This printing was made possible through sponsorships from Patagonia, The Ventura Visitors Bureau and BioResource Consultants in Ojai.

In the news: 

Plans for Ventura River Parkway, a route of trails from Ventura to Ojai, move along

On the web:


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Elwha site visit 2016

This summer I had the opportunity to visit the Elwha River, my first time back since the Elwha Science Symposium and the Celebrate Elwha festival back in 2011.
The former Elwha dam site, June 2016
Standing above the former  Elwha dam site, faint clues of the structure are still visible across the river on the left abutment.  Unfortunately some exposed steel remains in the river channel, resulting in the closure of all boating trips through the former dam site.  A sign upstream warns of the danger and indicates a mandatory portage over the ridge.  My hopes of floating the restored river will have to wait...
Upstream of the former Elwha dam site, June 2016
This is just a quarter of a mile above the dam site.  Vegetation has grown in areas previously inundated by the reservoir, clearly delineated by the light green line below the older evergreen trees.  Most notable is the vast amount of sediment that remains on either side of the meandering river channel.  This confirms predictions that not all of the sediment trapped in the reservoirs will be moved downstream.  These new river channels will continue to adapt to future floods and slowly transport sediment out to the coast.

Elwha river delta, after dam removal June 2016

Revisiting the beaches at the mouth of the Elwha was eye opening.  Where piecemeal seawalls once protected property threatened by a receding shoreline, a 300 yard sandy delta now extends out into Puget Sound.  Numerous sea birds gathered along the river and shoreline benefiting from the renewed ecosystem, and small, clean waves hinted of the renewed surf potential.

Port Angeles
One unexpected benefit that was evident to me was the change to the little town of Port Angeles.  In 2011, this seemed like a small town with little to offer other than the port and ferry.  Since then small tourist shops and a variety of  trendy coffee shops, restaurants, and other businesses have popped up.  It seems that dam removal has been good for the local economy too!

 On this blog:

Elwah Science Symposium

Watching the dams come down - Elwha beaches


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Matilija Dam poster update

The Matilija Coalition has updated the poster describing the Matilija Dam Ecosystem Restoration project.  The primary change is in the sediment management required for dam removal, which has been greatly simplified through using "natural transport" rather than expensive mechanical means to re-establish the stream bed upstream. 

Thanks to Cynthia Hartley for design, and photographers Raymond Powers, Jim Martin, and Matt Stoecker!

The previous version is here: 

Matilija Dam poster



Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Surfers Point Phase 2

Local news story outlines effort to move forward with Phase 2 of the Surfers Point Managed Shoreline Retreat project:

"Though recognized nationally for what it accomplished, returning the beach to its natural state rather than installing artificial and ultimately ineffective barriers, the project didn't face its first real test until Dec. 11.
It "reacted perfectly the way it was supposed to," said Paul Jenkin of the nonprofit Surfrider Foundation, which was heavily involved in the first phase. "It means that the beach adapted to the large waves."  The dunes and vegetation absorbed the energy of the waves while trapping the sand.
"It's a dynamic beach that comes and goes with the seasons. The ocean is able to give and take," Jenkin said.

Last week, the fairgrounds board agreed to be part of a working group that includes the city, BEACON, Surfrider and others to discuss the second phase.  Fairgrounds Chief Executive Director Barbara Quaid said getting everyone at the table was a good idea and allowed for discussions including "what goes into it, where's the money coming from, how does that affect the city, how does it affect the fairgrounds."

It's too early to say what could happen, but Quaid said the area in the first phase did what it was supposed to do and more.  "That was a tough decision to change the usage of our property," said Quaid, referring to the fairgrounds' lost parking lot. "But we knew at the time the board made the right decision. It was the right thing to do for the community."

Surfers Point plan: phase 1 included relocation of bike path and the west end of fairgrounds parking  - phase 2 includes relocation of remaining bike path and parking area 

Surfers Point plan: phase 2 includes relocation of bike path and remaining fairgrounds parking

In the news:  VC Star
On this blog: Surfers Point