Thursday, November 30, 2017

Natural Shoreline Case Study

A report published in November 2017 features the Surfers' Point Managed Shoreline Retreat project as an example of Natural Shoreline Infrastructure for adapting to sea level rise.  The report states:

Sea level rise and erosion are major threats to California’s coast, requiring solutions to preserve the many benefits a healthy coastline provides:  flood protection, recreation, habitat for wildlife, water quality and more. Seawalls and other engineered structures, are commonly installed in order to hold the shoreline in place and hold back the ocean; however, they ultimately make the situation worse in most cases by increasing erosion and thus causing already vulnerable shorelines to shrink more.
Natural shoreline infrastructure is an alternative that is more likely to preserve the benefits of coastal ecosystems while also maintaining coastal access.  

Five projects that spanned the California coast and represented different coastal settings and corresponding approaches were selected for the purposes of this report. From South to North these include:

  • Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge Thin-layer Salt Marsh Sediment Augmentation Pilot Project,
  • Surfers’ Point Managed Shoreline Retreat Project 
  • San Francisco Bay Living Shorelines:Nearshore Linkages Project
  • Hamilton Wetland Restoration Project
  • Humboldt Coastal Dune Vulnerability and Adaptation Climate Ready Project

These case studies were designed to be useful examples for coastal planners, local governments, and others working on solutions and making decisions regarding climate-related coastal hazards.

Of these, Surfers' Point and Humboldt Dunes are the only projects implemented on the active coast, while the others are in bays and estuaries which are not directly affected by erosion by ocean waves.  And Surfers' Point remains the sole example of managed retreat in response to coastal erosion on a developed shoreline.

One key lesson from the Surfers' Point case study is: 

  • Restoration of the backshore is a more effective approach to re-establishing shore morphology with desired ecology, restoration, and ecosystem services than the more traditional approach of building the shore seaward.
The full report my be downloaded here: 

More information:

Reference:  Judge, J., Newkirk, S., Leo, K., Heady, W., Hayden, M., Veloz, S., Cheng, T., Battalio, B., Ursell, T., and Small, M. 2017. Case Studies of Natural Shoreline Infrastructure in Coastal California: A Component of Identi cation of Natural Infrastructure Options for Adapting to Sea Level Rise (California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment). The Nature Conservancy, Arlington, VA. 38 pp

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Matilija Dam news stories

Thanks to a $3.3 million grant from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the project will take a huge leap toward completion of the final design phase for removing the dam.

“What we’re seeing with dam removal is that a river will restore itself quicker than anyone predicted,” said Jenkin.

The good news is coastal systems naturally recover quickly after a dam is removed.  But in order for recoveries like that to happen, old dams must be torn down and sediment must be dealt with. 
Matilija Dam would be a prime candidate. It provides no recreational value, no flood control and no water to the area. It has trapped 8 million cubic yards of sediment in its reservoir, and by 2020, it will be completely silted up.  It presents a major safety risk, and its owner, Ventura County, wants it gone. Patagonia, the outdoor gear maker, has thrown its considerable weight — and more than $275,000 — behind the removal effort. The river runs through the backyard of the company's headquarters.

...regarding "Managed Shoreline Retreat":

"The real aim is to give the beach room to adapt over the course of decades," he said. "In drought, we have a scarcity of sediment in the system and the beach naturally retreats. Then we have a flood cycle and the beach grows back again. Trying to hold that line interrupts the whole process."

And here's the latest on the Elwha dam removal project:

High Country News Sept 2017


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Ventura County accepts $3.3M grant

Tuesday May 23, 2017: The Ventura County Board of Supervisors adopted a Resolution Approving and Authorizing the Acceptance of $3,300,504 in California Department of Fish and Wildlife Restoration Grant Funding for the Matilija Dam Removal 65% Design Planning Project; and Authorization for the Ventura County Watershed Protection District (District) Director to Execute the Grant Agreement; Watershed Protection District Zone 1; Supervisorial District No.1.

Since 1999, the Ventura County Watershed Protection District (VCWPD) has engaged in a multi-stakeholder effort to remove the obsolete Matilija Dam from the Ventura River watershed. The (Project) is a watershed-scale project with multiple components that will enhance the Ventura River and its tributaries to benefit native wildlife and restore ecosystem function.

Importantly, the project will also address the liabilities posed by the obsolete dam and associated downstream infrastructure. While the aging dam is itself an ongoing liability to the County of Ventura, this project also provides the means to upgrade the downstream bridges, levees, and the Robles diversion to accommodate changes in sediment transport and flow elevations in the Ventura River. Each of these downstream projects will address current infrastructure deficiencies that will only worsen if Matilija reservoir is allowed to completely fill with sediment.

In March 2016, the Matilija Dam Design Oversight Group (DOG) reached consensus on an approach to dam removal that provides a cost-effective solution to sediment management. This plan was developed with new information based on the lessons learned from other recently implemented large dam removal projects, which provides an opportunity to greatly reduce the cost of removing Matilija Dam.

The Project has demonstrated strong support from public funding sources, as evidenced by the $3.3 million California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Grant. There is also significant philanthropic support through the recently- launched “Open Rivers Fund,” a ten-year program of Resources Legacy Fund (RLF).

The work plan funded through this California Department of Fish and Wildlife grant will help advance this project to “shovel ready” for future implementation funding opportunities. We are optimistic that, with such broad support, Matilija Dam can be removed in the coming decade.

More information:

Supporting documents: Ventura County Board of Supervisors 

On this blog:

Matilija Dam

Friday, April 28, 2017

Coastal Trail Award

Recognition for the Surfers' Point Managed Retreat Project at last week's California State Parks annual Trails and Greenways Conference.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Matilija Dam Funding Plan

In March 2016, the Matilija Dam Design Oversight Group (DOG) reached consensus on an approach to dam removal that provides a cost-effective solution to sediment management.  Following this consensus, the Matilija Funding Subcommittee was formed with volunteers representing various stakeholder groups.  The Subcommittee has focused on developing a Funding Plan, while simultaneously pursuing funding opportunities for the Project.

This year, the VCWPD, with support from the Matilija Funding Subcommittee, has secured a $3.3 million California Department of Fish and Wildlife Proposition 1 Grant. This funding will advance the Project to the 65% design phase and complete the environmental and permitting requirements over the next 3 years.

The Funding Plan was developed to provide an overview of possible funding sources for the remaining design, permitting, and construction of the Project.  Cost estimates were developed based on an analysis of the project timeline and costs of the various project components.  The document may be downloaded here: Matilija Dam Removal and Ecosystem Restoration Funding Plan April 2017

The shorter timeline assumes sufficient funding is available to construct all downstream project components simultaneously, during 2021-2022, with dam removal complete by the end of 2024. This “best case scenario” also assumes no waiting period for dam removal following construction of orifices in the face of the dam (i.e., the required high storm event would occur immediately following the construction of the orifices). The longer timeline assumes the same planning schedule, but with sequential, not concurrent, construction of downstream infrastructure and includes a three-year waiting period for dam removal. In this case the dam is not removed until 2031, a 15-year project.

Total cost estimates shown were developed for "2017 dollars" as well as an escalated figure that includes inflation, and projected construction and management cost increases.  The proposed “Uncontrolled Orifices with Optional Gates” alternative project ($111M in 2017 dollars) is a more economically feasible and expeditious project than the congressionally authorized Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) Alternative 4b project ($205.8M in 2017 dollars) that was previously contemplated for the Project.

These preliminary estimates also indicate that the overall cost of removing Matilija Dam will increase over time, and that a longer timeline will be subject to both inflation and increased program management costs. Therefore, there is an advantage to completing the project on a shorter timeline, although this would of course be dependent on the availability of funds.  Strong support from state agencies, (and unlikely federal appropriations to the original ACOE Project plan), provides a path forward for the less expensive local plan in a timely manner.

The report outlines a diverse array of current and potential state, federal, local, and private funding opportunities are potentially available to fully implement the project.  Moving quickly to access the immediately available funding options presented in this plan (particularly CDFW and Coastal Conservancy Prop 1 funding), leads to substantial cost savings over time. But, it’s also important to note that this approach brings the Project to a level of readiness for possible benefit from one of the evolving legislative opportunities. This includes a state water bond or local tax measure pass with provisions favorable to implementation of Project components. However, the County may only be able to apply for and access funding if preliminary design work and downstream components are complete. Having a “shovel ready” project is critical to take advantage of existing state funding and evolving legislative opportunities. If successful, this strategy will not only lead to dam removal sooner, but significantly reduce the overall cost of the Project.


Matilija Dam Removal and Ecosystem Restoration Funding Plan April 2017

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Matilija Coalition receives award

Matilija Coalition Earth Day Award
L to R: Matt Stoecker, Diane Underhill, Kathy Bremer, Paul Jenkin, Supervisor Steve Bennett,
Hans Cole, and Candice Meneghin
 April 18, 2017: the Ventura County Board of Supervisors recognized the Matilija Coalition for "Excellence in Environmental Stewardship" as part of their Earth Day awards.

The Matilija Coalition is an alliance of community groups, businesses, and individuals committed to the environmental restoration of the Ventura River watershed. Since 2000, the Matilija Coalition has worked to achieve the following vision: a free-flowing Ventura River from the mountains to the sea; a thriving population of steelhead trout in its waters; a healthy, native ecosystem; a wide, sandy beach along the coast; and opportunities for public enjoyment, education, and recreation for current and future generations.

The Matilija Coalition and its members have played an integral role in the multiagency Matilija Dam Ecosystem Restoration Project, and the Matilija Coalition steadfastly advocates for an ecologically sensitive, cost effective, and timely removal of Matilija Dam. The Coalition has maintained an active role in the various technical working groups and, through many years of this work, helped achieve the 2016 consensus decision reached by stakeholder agencies around a preferred dam removal alternative. Since spring 2016, members of the Coalition have helped lead the effort to identify sources of funding for the Matilija project, and have been instrumental in seeing state and private funders commit to supporting the next phase of the project through California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Prop 1 Watershed Restoration Grants program and the new “Open Rivers Fund”, a project of the Hewlett Foundation and Resources Legacy Fund. 

On a watershed level, the Coalition has helped lead and maintain the Friends of the Ventura River group, which was responsible for development of a Ventura River Parkway vision and trail guide. The trail guide has become a popular resource locally, and is available in both English and Spanish. In 2014 Ventura River Parkway Trail was dedicated as a National Recreation Trail.   The Friends of the Ventura River website includes an archive of relevant technical and historical documents.  

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Surfers Point stewardship days

Surfrider and the City of Ventura continue to sponsor volunteer work days at Surfers Point.  Spring weeding is an ongoing part of the ongoing dune restoration process.  The two events this year focused once again on the non-native plants "Sea Rocket" and "Ice Plant."

Over 20 volunteers came out for the morning on February 11, with over 50 on April 9.  The timing was perfect, with the opportunity to remove fresh sprouts in February and the remainder before seeds matured in April, so that next year we should see reduced re-sprouting.

Volunteers weeding Sea Rocket (foreground)
BEFORE - non-native Sea Rocket in foredunes (Photo Dave Hubbard)
AFTER - only native plants remain, with room to spread (Photo Dave Hubbard)

Careful removal of Sea Rocket amongst native flowering plants

These Cal Lutheran students removed a large growth of Ice Plant near the Ventura River levee