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

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Surfer Magazine cover

Surfer magazine cover shot of Ventura point...  a winter to remember!

Surfers' Point Jan 11, 2016photo: APJenkin

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Watching the dams come down - Elwha beaches

Elwha River delta following dam removal, 2015
Elwha River delta at the start of dam removal in 2012

Elwha River in Washington state has received a lot of attention as the river restores itself following removal of two dams in 2011-2012.  The most dramatic changes are visible at the rivermouth, where previously eroding beaches have been replaced by a rapidly growing delta.

Check out this 360 view of rivermouth

Ventura Rivermouth following the floods of 1969
Studies estimate that the removal of Matilija Dam will increase sand and cobble
 delivery to the coast by 30% over 50 years

In the news:

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Ventura River - Instream Flow program

The Ventura River has been identified as one of five priority streams in the California Water Action Plan (WAP.)  The State Water Board and CDFW are currently working to identify potential actions that may be taken to enhance and establish instream flow for anadromous fish in these five priority streams.


The streams identified for the WAP effort are primarily coastal streams where the survival of salmon and steelhead (together referred to as salmonids) are of particular concern. Of the 22 distinct groups of anadromous salmon and steelhead in California, 13 (59%) are in danger of extinction and are in need of enhanced protection.

The Ventura River provides an opportunity to advance state water management policy by integrating groundwater and surface water management for the first time.  On March 28, 2016, a team representing the State and Regional Water Resources Control Board and California Department of Fish and Wildlife toured the watershed.

Instream flow team at Robles Diversion fish passage

More info:  State Water Resources Control Board
                   California Department of Fish and Wildlife

On this blog: http://www.venturariver.org/search/label/groundwater

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Matilija Dam stakeholders select local project

On March 17, 2016, the Matilija Dam "Design Oversight Group" met to determine consensus around one of the three alternatives in the AECOM/Stillwater reports and how to move the project forward.

Following a long discussion, the issue was put to a vote.  Printouts depicting the three project alternatives were hung on the wall, and each stakeholder was given a green "stickie dot" to indicate their preference.  (A yellow dot was provided for a "backup" 2nd choice, if they chose to do so.)

The result was almost unanimously (95%) in favor of Dam Removal Concept 2:

0  votes  (3 backup)     -       DRC-1 Containment berm with high flow bypass = $40M
18 votes (1 backup)     -       DRC-2 Uncontrolled orifices with optional gates  = $18.5/$20.4M
1  vote    (1 backup)     -      DRC-3 Temporary upstream storage                      = $50M

This outcome was not unexpected, given the discussion during the previous meeting last September.
However, this is a very significant decision in that marks a departure from almost 15 years of discussion in which sediment was seen as damaging to both local interests and the river, and in which the Corps of Engineers was perceived as the only path to funding the project.  This vote included the local water districts, the City of Ventura, resource agencies including NOAA, Fish and Wildlife Service, State Dept of Fish and Wildlife, Army Corps of Engineers, as well as Matilija Coalition member organizations.  This method of releasing sediment through a low level outlet was demonstrated on Condit Dam in 2011.

Project Funding and Completion

The meeting agenda included discussion of the alternatives developed in the final reports and the potential funding pathways to complete the project.

This chart was presented as an outline of the processes required to complete the project.  It is assumed that Alternative 2 would be pursued as a local project, depicted by the green path, as this dam removal concept is significantly different from that which was previously authorized through the Corps of Engineers. 
Process overview for project completion presented at March 17 Matilija Dam meeting
Much talk was centered around the difficulty in funding a Corps of Engineers project given the current political climate.  Congress has restricted "new starts," and the Office of Management and Budget has kept with its determination that, when it comes to a locally owned facility such as Matilija Dam, the federal interest is limited.  In hindsight it is clear that delays in the project resulted in a missed opportunity following authorization through WRDA 2007 (the Water Resources and Development Act is the mechanism for Congress to approve Corps of Engineers projects nationwide.)
Matt Stoecker (DamNation), Hans Cole (Patagonia Inc) and Paul Jenkin (Matilija Coalition) at the White House Council on Environmental Quality offices in Washington DC, March 3, 2016
This sentiment was confirmed in discussions with congressional representatives and appropriation staff during a recent trip to Washington sponsored by Patagonia as part of their DamNation campaign to gain support for the removal of "Deadbeat Dams."

The project selected is by far the most cost effective means to remove Matilija Dam, and is free from congressional roadblocks.  However, despite less than $20M cost for dam removal, the total price tag will likely include tens of millions more in downstream projects previously determined necessary to accommodate restored sediment flows down the river.

Next Steps:

The next step is to identify and secure funding to complete the necessary engineering and environmental permitting to get the project "shovel ready."  This work will likely take another couple of years.  In the mean time, Patagonia has been appointed to lead a funding subcommittee to help secure funding for project implementation. 

More info:
matilijadam.org: the final Dam Removal Concepts and Water Supply Mitigation Options reports are posted to the website.  They contain final changes to the reports, mostly in response to comments submitted by members of the Design Oversight Group.

On this blog:   http://venturaecosystem.blogspot.com/search/label/Matilija%20Dam

On the web:  Matilija-Coalition.org

In the News: