Friday, November 20, 2015 (another case study) News and Features:

Thursday, November 12, 2015
Coastal erosion has repeatedly damaged surfside bike paths and parking lots near Ventura, California. It took local groups with varying viewpoints more than a decade to agree upon a strategy, but the first phase of their solution is now complete.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Surfers' Point case study

Surfers' Point serves as a case study in a recently published paper, “Factors Influencing Local Decisions to Use Habitats to Protect Coastal Communities from Hazards.”  Researchers at Scripps Institute of Oceanography examined the processes by which three projects using "Natural Infrastructure"(NI) were implemented.   The complete document is available online at Ocean and Coastal Management.

The three cases are:

  • Ferry Point Park Living Shoreline, Queen Anne's County, MD
  • Surfer's Point Managed Retreat, Ventura, CA
  •  Durant's Point Living Shoreline, Dare County, NC

In all three cases, the recognition of a need to address shoreline erosion and associated coastal flood hazards was a starting point for the projects. Each project involved multiple stakeholders through formal and informal decision making processes. For instance, the design of each project involved engineers as well as stakeholders. Similarly, each process had to be permitted by local, state, and sometime federal agencies. At the time of these projects, all three states at least implicitly recommended or preferred NI and non-structural solutions to coastal erosion, but the permitting process was still more cumbersome for NI than for gray infrastructure (i.e. concrete seawalls) and gray infrastructure continued to be the most commonly chosen option.

The researchers identified common influences on decisions to use habitats for coastal protection. In each case, "innovators" who perceived that the benefits of natural infrastructure outweighed the costs served as champions for habitat-based approach over "gray infrastructure."  Common to each case was the use of visuals and trusted persons to influence decision makers.  For instance, conceptual illustrations were used to communicate the approach, and licensed engineers were able to provide technical support for the new or experimental approach.

The results suggest that some of the biggest policy opportunities may be at the state level, rather than the national level, and the MD Living Shoreline Protection Act provides an important model for state-level natural infrastructure policy.  This suggests that conservation scientists and practitioners should specifically focus on replicating the MD Living Shoreline Protection Act in other states as appropriate, building the capacity of engineers and government scientists to develop standards to design and evaluate NI in order to support community decisions, and to continue to develop and deploy decision support tools such as

More on this blog:

Dana Kochnowera (a,b), Sheila M.W. Reddy (b), Reinhard E. Flick (c), Factors influencing local decisions to use habitats to protect coastal communities from hazards, Ocean & Coastal Management, Volume 116, November 2015, Pages 277–290

a. Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093-0208, USA
b. Office of the Chief Scientist, The Nature Conservancy, 334 Blackwell Street, Suite 300, Durham, NC 27701-2394, USA
c. California Department of Parks and Recreation, Division of Boating and Waterways, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA 92093-0209, USA

Monday, September 21, 2015

Matilija Dam - Studies and Next Steps

On September 17, 2015,  the Matilija Dam "Design Oversight Group" met to receive a presentation from the consultant team and discuss the next steps toward removing the obsolete dam from the Ventura River. The meeting was well attended by local, state, and federal agencies and interested locals.

Background:  In 2012, the California Coastal Conservancy agreed to sponsor an independent study to find a way to manage the fine sediment trapped behind the dam.  These studies are now complete, and are available at

The good news:  Three dam removal concepts have been developed that resolve the issues that stalled the project in 2008.  Each of these alternatives greatly reduce the cost of the project and enhance the long term benefits of dam removal.  These are described below.

What's Next for Matilija Dam?

Ventura County has solicited comments from the stakeholder organizations and government agencies that make up the Design Oversight Group.  The group will meet again before the end of the year - hopefully there will be agreement on a path forward so we can take the next steps necessary to remove the dam in a reasonable time frame.

Dam Removal Concepts:

The consultants underwent an exhaustive initial screening process to consider the whole spectrum of dam removal concepts.  The team ultimately agreed to carry three alternatives forward for more detailed analysis.  This work was presented last year at the Matilija Dam meetings May 28, 2014.

The three concepts are as follows:

Dam Removal Concept-1: Containment Berm with High Flow Bypass
The primary objective of this dam removal concept would be to use one high flow event, having a minimum average daily flow of approximately 1,700 cubic feet per second (cfs)4, to quickly erode and transport as much fine sediment and organic material as possible out of the reservoir and through the downstream reaches to the ocean.  The dam would be removed by diverting the river into North Fork Matilija Creek through a tunnel in the mountain to dewater the reservoir.  The next big flood to occur would then create a natural channel and flush the sediments downstream and out to the ocean.
Cost: $40.4 million

Dam Removal Concept – 2A: Uncontrolled Orifices/2B: Optional Gates
The objective of this dam removal concept (DRC-2A) would be to erode and transport as much fine sediment as possible from the reservoir, while minimizing costs and time associated with large bypass/containment structure construction and sediment removal. The fine sediment mobilization would be achieved by allowing flow through two uncontrolled orifices, whose opening would be coordinated to coincide with a sufficiently high flow event (as summarized for DRC-1). The orifices are sized to pass the minimum high flow event in an unpressurized condition and are located to maximize mobilization of the reservoir sub-area sediments from the upstream face of the dam.
Cost: $18.5 million (2A) or $20.4 million (2B)

Although it may seem like a bold proposal, this has been done before.  See Watching the Dams Come Down - Condit

Dam Removal Concept – 3: Temporary Upstream Storage of Fine Sediment
The objective of this dam removal concept is to provide a concept that optimizes the Federal project (EIS/R Alternative 4b) but reduces the volume of excavated sediment and eliminates the need for a dredge-and-slurry system. These objectives are achieved by handling and temporary stabilization of a portion of the accumulated sediment within the reservoir and allowing limited release of a portion of the accumulated sediment. The dam would be demolished and removed during the final season of channel excavation, with the goal of providing limited fish passage through the site immediately after dam removal.
Cost: $49.7 million

Evaluation of Dam Removal Concepts:

DRC-3 is effectively a refinement of the project developed during the Corps of Engineers Feasibility Study from 2000-2004.  (see Matilija Dam poster.)  The current studies were conducted because the cost of sediment management for the preferred Alternative 4b had escalated to approximately $113 million (in 2015 dollars.)  The DRC-3 concept presented here reduces sediment management to approximately $49.7 million by eliminating an expensive slurry pipeline and over 70 acres of permanent downstream disposal area.  

Dam removal concepts DRC-1 and DRC-2 are intended to minimize the duration and associated high turbidity impacts to downstream water diversions and ecology by concentrating the majority of fine sediment erosion and transport into a single storm event.  In other words, the majority of the fine sediment would be intentionally flushed out during a single flood.

These are essentially "Natural Transport" alternatives, intended to make use of the high energy that the Ventura River exhibits during large winter storms.  During the first high flow, Matilija Creek would cut though the sediment deposits upstream of the dam and create a channel similar to that which existed before the dam was constructed.  The creek would then be constrained by the high walls on either side and much of the sediment would remain in place for many decades into the future.

Erosion of sediments from behind the dam is now understood, from theory and practical experience, to occur in two phases as shown below:  

From an initial, unchanneled condition, “Phase I” erosion occurs as the river cuts a channel into the fine sediments in the Reservoir and Delta sub-areas.  “Phase II” erosion occurs once the creek erodes down to its historic channel and fine sediment is no longer being directly mobilized by the flow.

Under these dam removal scenarios, all the Phase I erosion would occur during the first flood.  The analysis concludes that this event would create extremely high sediment concentrations in the river downstream and all the way out to the ocean.  However, this condition would only last for about a day while the river is cutting down into the sediment.  Once this channel is established, all future floods would result in Phase II conditions, in which sediment concentrations are approximately the same order of magnitude as existing conditions for flooding in the Ventura River watershed.

How would this affect steelhead another aquatic life in the river?
The figure below indicates severe effects, perhaps 60-80% mortality for steelhead downstream. However, other dam removal projects on the west coast have shown that, in the real world, steelhead and salmon that have been blocked by dams for generations are able to hide out in clear flowing tributaries and then almost immediately find their way upstream, sometimes within days of such an event.  If you think about it, fires and floods historically created just such conditions in natural watersheds where native fish evolved.

How much will the complete Dam Removal project cost?
A preliminary "Range of Magnitude" cost comparison of the sediment management concepts are presented in the table below:

Note that these costs do not include the downstream mitigation components identified in the 2004 Feasibility Study including levees, bridges, and water supply infrastructure improvements. This could be an additional $50 million or more, making DRC-3 a $100 million project.  On the other hand, DRC-2 reduces sediment management to $18.5 million making it perhaps less than a $70 million project.  Note that all these alternatives will require additional engineering and environmental analysis.

How long will it take?
The key to the natural transport strategy in this drought-and-flood environment is to set up the project and “wait” for a high flow event.  Although the current drought seems like forever (4 years), historically we have experienced a median of two years between high flow events.
Each of the alternatives considered would achieve dam removal and a free-flowing river within 2-5 years, although DRC-1 may take up to 6 years due to the additional construction and risk.  (Note that this is the time AFTER additional engineering design and environmental analysis and permitting has been completed, which will be several years at best.)

Which alternative is best?
The three alternatives were ranked based on the cost, risk, and benefits and impacts to habitat and water supply.  Largely because of it's simplicity, the orifice concept comes out on top:


Download the reports:
Read more:
.           - Matilija Dam
.                    Matilija Coalition Comments

Surfrider Foundation Ventura County Chapter Meeting
When: October 6, 6pm
Where: Meeting room at the Social Tap Restaurant and Bar, 1105 S Seaward Ave, Ventura
Peter Sheydayi, Ventura County engineer in charge of Matilija Dam will discuss the project.

Friday, July 24, 2015

KCET - CA Coastal Trail

KCET, the nation's largest independent public television station, is producing a series on the California Coastal Trail.  Starting at the Mexican border this past winter, they are making their way north to highlight communities along the 1000 mile trail.

In this episode they visit Surfers Point in Ventura: 

Restoring Surfer's Point at Seaside Park:  "I think if you look back in history, we've made a lot of mistakes in how we've treated the California coast," explains Paul Jenkin, member of the Surfrider Foundation of Ventura County.

In other episodes, 

Ventura's mayor gives an overview of the city;
Ventura: Channel Island Views and Laid-Back Shores

and Surfrider's Chad Nelsen is featured in the episode on his hometown;
Laguna Beach: Where Art and Nature Thrive

Visit KCET for the entire series on the California Coastal Trail

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Ventura demonstration water recycling plant

Ventura city officials raise a glass of recycled water
 at the press event for the "Pure demonstration facility" 

On July 16, 2015, Ventura Water unveiled the new "Pure demonstration facility." The plant is a pilot wastewater recycling plant that produces 20 gallons per minute of treated drinking water from the tertiary treated water that is currently discharged into the Santa Clara River estuary.  The plant is part of a statewide initiative to demonstrate the feasibility of direct potable reuse (DPR.)
The components of the facility are shown below.  Visit the city's sustainable water website for an interactive version of this graphic and more information.  Tours are being given every Saturday from 9 to 11 am for the general public. Tours are limited to 20 people. Please sign up for the public tours before noon on the Friday before the tour by emailing Gina Dorrington ( or calling (805) 677-4131. Private groups interested in week day tours can also be accommodated with advanced notice.

In the news:

South Coast Community Experimenting With System To Turn Wastewater Into Drinking Water, KCLU

Ventura unveils pilot program aimed at increasing recycled water supply, VC Star

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Local Heroes - Keeper of the Coast

Local Heroes honored in the July 2, 2015 issue of the Ventura County Reporter include Paul Jenkin, "Keeper of the Coast."  The article highlights Paul's work as the "environmental guy" with the Ventura County Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation including Surfers' Point, Matilija Dam, and projects aimed at restoring the Ventura River watershed.

“As keepers of the coast, when you’re educated and aware of what’s going on,
 I think you have a duty to call attention to the issues that affect the coast"
"Think globally, act locally"
- Paul Jenkin

Read the full article here:

Paul Jenkin, the “environmental guy” in the Ventura County chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, grew up traveling, a citizen of the world. He began surfing in Florida during college, where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in ocean engineering.

In 1989, Jenkin, who currently resides in Oak View, moved to Ventura County to work for a Navy contractor but his concern about the environment only intensified.

“Believe it or not, in the ’80s and ’90s I was really concerned about climate change; and seeing what was going on, I was driving myself crazy,” he stated.

His wife advised him to take action and he adopted what has now become his mantra: Think locally, act locally.

“You can’t solve the world’s problems, but locally you can effect some positive change and that’s what I set my mind to do.”

The Surfrider Foundation was founded in 1984, and its global chapters are dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of oceans, beaches and waves. All chapters are run by volunteers. At the Ventura County chapter, Jenkin is the Ventura campaign coordinator, aiding in the management of existing campaigns and monitoring current issues.

Most notably, the Ventura chapter was involved in the Surfers Point Managed Shoreline Retreat project, which tackled worsening coastal erosion and a crumbling bike path at Surfers Point.

According to Jenkin, one of Surfrider’s key functions is not only providing a voice for local activists who are concerned with coastal issues but also offering a way to create real change.

“As keepers of the coast, when you’re educated and aware of what’s going on, I think you have a duty to call attention to the issues that affect the coast,” he explained.

For example, the Matilija Coalition was founded in 2000 to enable collaboration between individuals and organizations regarding the removal of Ojai’s Matilija Dam. The structure promotes the erosion of beaches and decline of fish because it hinders flow of the Ventura River into the ocean. Matilija Dam is the biggest dam at over 200 feet to be considered for removal in the country.

Today, the dam still stands but Jenkin hopes removal will happen within the next decade. He’d also like to see more people become increasingly informed, stating that education programs intended to enhance public awareness on issues facing the coast are also a priority for Surfrider.

Consequently, he produced the film Watershed Revolution with National Geographic photographer Rich Reid. It aired nationally on PBS, on local cable and was not only screened locally but in several film festivals.

“We wanted to build awareness that our local watershed sustains us and there are many people in the community committed to protecting and restoring the Ventura River. We hoped to inspire people to get involved.”

Besides remarking that better water management is crucial. especially during a drought, he advises choosing a relatable cause, then moving forward and slowly making a difference.

“We are all environmentally conscious; it just depends whether we act on it or not,” Jenkin said.

At present, as a member of Friends of the Ventura River Coalition, he looks forward to further progress on the work focused on the Ventura River Parkway.

For more information, go to

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Surfrider letter re: Ventura 2015 Comprehensive Water Resources

May 18, 2015

Ventura City Council
501 Poli St
Ventura CA 93001
Sent via e-mail


Dear Ventura City Council;

The Ventura County Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation has been engaged in local water issues for almost two decades.  We recognize that waste equals pollution, which directly affects the health of our coast and those of us who enjoy ocean recreation.  We believe that a truly integrated water management plan is desperately needed so that the City of Ventura can become sustainable within the limits of our local water supply.

The current drought has exposed the vulnerability of the City of Ventura to uncontrolled variations in water supply.  Ventura has reached what some call “Peak Water.”  Water supply is the most critical issue our community faces, and future generations depend on today’s decisions.

Unfortunately, our review of the 2015 COMPREHENSIVE WATER RESOURCES REPORT reveals some glaring errors and omissions that not only represent undisclosed limits to our water supply, but also missed opportunities in attaining sustainable water management.

We recommend that City Council:
Reject the 2015 COMPREHENSIVE WATER RESOURCES REPORT until these errors are resolved, and
Impose a building moratorium during the current severe drought.

The following are some of our concerns with the 2015 COMPREHENSIVE WATER RESOURCES REPORT:

1. Casitas Municipal Water District (Casitas)

The report does not mention transfers outside the CMWD district boundary to the east side of Ventura.  Under current drought conditions this transfer will likely have to be eliminated. Also, the report assumes a drought reduction of the City’s supply from Casitas of 20%, while CMWD is mandated to reduce overall demand by 32%

2. Ventura River Surface Water Intake and Upper Ventura River Groundwater Basin/Subsurface Intake and Wells (Foster Park)

Currently flows have dropped to a historic low at Foster Park.  The report notes that the City’s ability to draw water from the Ventura River has been significantly impacted by the current drought. However, the long-term estimates for increased yield from 4200 to 6700 acre feet per year yield from Foster Park are not realistic due to physical and legal constraints.
1. Future water supply estimates from Foster Park are based on the wettest years, which in reality only occur once every 7 to 10 years.  Therefore, the expectation for increased yield from Foster Park do not account for the physical limitations of a variable climate – many years there simply will not be that much water to extract.
2. In the future, extractions at Foster Park are likely to be legally constrained.  Reduction and elimination of surface flows in the “Live Reach” of the Ventura River threaten the endangered steelhead as well as recreation and water quality.  Ongoing litigation by Santa Barbara Channelkeeper questions Ventura’s water right with regard to instream flows and the public trust.

3. East side groundwater supply:

Aquifers on the east side are impacted by overdraft and subject to long-term salt-water intrusion.  Poor water quality necessitates blending to achieve potable water standards.  The City of Ventura is just one of many users of these aquifers.  Depending on future drought and urban and agricultural uses these sources may also become more limited.

4. Recycled Water:

The report only anticipates a small increase of 700 AFY in reclaimed water for the 2025 water budget.  Reclaimed water is the city’s best opportunity to enhance water supply reliability.

Ventura Water Reclamation Facility  (VWRF)

The city is bound under under the Wishtoyo/HTB legal settlement to increase reuse of VRWF effluent to at least 50% by 2025.  This could yield a significant increase in water supply while at the same time reducing the impact to the estuary and McGrath State Beach, which has been closed due to flooding.

Ojai Valley Sanitary District (OVSD)

In contrast, reclamation of  OVSD effluent will greatly reduce flows in the lower Ventura River.  Currently, in dry years, nearly 100% of the flow in the lower Ventura River is OVSD effluent.  Removing this effluent from the river will further compound the impacts from over-extraction at Foster Park and result in a dry river.  Therefore we do not anticipate that this is a viable future source of water for Ventura.

5. What population may be supported by the current and future supply?

This is the most important question facing the city today. It appears that Ventura is overestimating the current and future water supply in order to justify continued urban growth.  This places an undue burden on current and future residents.  We recommend that a building moratorium be enacted until this question is answered and a clear plan for future water management is developed.

6. How can Ventura better plan for the future?

Why did Ventura miss out on Prop 40 IRWMP funding?
The County-run Watersheds Coalition of Ventura County (WCVC) program has successfully secured millions of dollars in state funding for local projects.  Despite investing thousands of hours of staff time as well as fiscal sponsorship for WCVC, the City of Ventura did not submit any proposals for IRWMP grant funding.

Surfrider has consistently advocated that Integrated Water Management is the key to attracting grant funding to achieve optimum use of available water supplies.   This is best achieved on multiple scales using a watershed planning approach.  Coordination with other local agencies, and capturing and using resources near their source are essential to provide resiliency to future changes.

An Ocean Friendly Garden is a small-scale example of this strategy.  Water that runs off roofs and driveways is captured in the landscape providing an adequate supply of water for native plants as well as reducing flooding and water quality problems downstream.  Greywater may be used on-site to support fruit trees.  By capturing and using water onsite, wasteful irrigation is eliminated and water that used to run off the landscape is captured so as to contribute to the local aquifer. Many small Ocean Friendly Gardens add up to neighborhood-scale benefits.

On a larger scale, water that is currently channeled off the landscape by the storm drain system should also be captured and utilized.  Such improvements to the urban landscape provide an even greater opportunity to capture and infiltrate stormwater and eliminate the liability from polluted runoff.  This could be highly beneficial in stressed aquifers such as those in East Ventura.

Similarly, wastewater may be captured in locations with reuse opportunities through small local “scalping plants.”  Such plants should be planned for East Ventura where groundwater recharge or direct reuse can help maintain depleted aquifers.

We join with other members of our community and encourage you to make the right decisions to ensure Ventura’s prosperous and sustainable future.


Dan Glaser
Chair - Surfrider Foundation Ventura County Chapter

click here to download the letter

 click here to download 2015 COMPREHENSIVE WATER RESOURCES REPORT  pdf 

click here to download the City's response