Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Winter swells and high tides

California saw two large swell events in January 2019, both coinciding with high tide events.

Swells generated in the north Pacific Ocean during winter months seasonally create large waves and surf in Southern California.  The CDIP model (Coastal Data Information Program) illustrates how west swells travel through the Santa Barbara channel with the energy focused on Ventura.

The January 9 swell had 14 ft waves at 15 seconds from a 280 degree westerly direction.  High tide was 5.1 ft at 10:26 am.

The January 18 swell had more energy with 16 ft at 17 seconds from 285 degrees, and 6.1 ft high tide at 6:36 am.

Although the swell dropped during the 6.8 ft "King Tide" on January 20, similar overtopping was observed along the promenade in Ventura.

The following is a collection of photos from these high surf, high tide events.

Ventura's Pierpont community suffered minor flooding with both these events, with wave runup into the streets in areas without dune protection.

Pierpont beach 1-09-2019 (photo: CSUCI)

Pierpont beach 1-09-2019 Pierpont beach 1-09-2019 (photo: CSUCI)

Pierpont beach 1-18-2019 (photo: Shawn Kelly)

The Ventura promenade was overtopped along its length.

Ventura Promenade Aerial 1-18-2019  (photo KGaston)
Ventura Promenade 1-18-2019

Ventura Promenade 1-18-2019
Ventura Promenade aerial view  1-18-2019  (photo KGaston)

Ventura Promenade emergency revetment 1-18-2019
Surfers Point bike path 1-20-2019
6.8' King Tide on this day had similar effect as the larger swell two days before

Surfers Point bike path 1-09-2019
Surfers Point bike path damage after swell 1-09-2019
Surfers Point bike path 1-18-2019  (photo KGaston)
Surfers Point bike path 1-18-2019

Surfers Point aerial -Fairgrounds parking lot 1-19-2019  (photo KGaston)

Surfers Point  1-19-2019 (photo KGaston)

 The Managed Retreat project functioned as designed, with eroded sand exposing the buried cobble berm, and minor overtopping into the foredune area.

Surfers Point Managed Retreat 1-1-09-2019
Surfers Point Managed Retreat 1-1-09-2019
Surfers Point Managed Retreat 1-09-2019

Although the swell and tide were higher on the 18th, driftwood and debris from the Ventura river  reduced wave runup in the managed retreat zone.
Surfers Point Managed Retreat 1-18-2019

Surfers Point Managed Retreat 1-18-2019


Thursday, January 31, 2019

Surfers' Point project moves forward

On January 22, 2019, the Ventura County Fair Board unanimously voted in support of the conceptual plan for Phase 2 of the Managed Shoreline Retreat Project.  Many thanks to the board members and all those who took time out of their morning to learn more about the project and show their support!

Concept Plan for Phase 2 of the Surfers' Point Managed Shoreline Retreat Project, Feb 2019

Last year the Fair board voted in support of a successful grant request to the California Ocean Protection Council which will provide the funding to complete final engineering and design in 2019.   Assuming grant funding is secured, this opens the potential for project construction by 2021.

In the meantime, this year's high tides and winter swells continue to damage the bike path, making  progress more critical than ever.

More info:  

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

LightHawk KingTide flight

On January 21-22, Surfrider Foundation partnered with LightHawk to fly over coastal areas around the country and document the King Tide.  Twice a year, King tides occur when the gravitational pull of the moon and the sun are in alignment, causing higher than normal ocean tides. King Tides provide an opportunity to see what normal high tides are going to look like in the near future due to sea level rise.

On the morning of January 21, I joined Ventura City Councilmember Christy Weir, and Alex McIntyre, Ventura City manager for a flight along the Ventura County coast.  Volunteer Pilot Thomas AmRhein expertly handled his Cesna as we covered 30 miles of coast from Port Hueneme to Carpinteria.  The tide was 7.0 ft above mean sea level at 8:40am.  "Normal" high tides are around 5ft to 6 ft for most of the year.

These are some of the photos, arranged from north to south:

Pitas Point overview, LightHawkVentura_1-19-2019

Pitas Point, LightHawkVentura_1-19-2019

Solimar Beach, LightHawkVentura_1-19-2019

Ventura Rivermouth and Surfers' Point, LightHawkVentura_1-19-2019

Pierpoint, Ventura, LightHawkVentura_1-19-2019
Santa Clara rivermouth and Ventura Wastewater Treatment Plant, LightHawkVentura_1-19-2019
Ventura Harbor, Ventura Wastewater Treatment Plant, LightHawkVentura_1-19-2019

McGrath Lake, LightHawkVentura_1-19-2019
Mandalay Power Plant, LightHawkVentura_1-19-2019

Oxnard Shores, LightHawkVentura_1-19-2019

Port of Hueneme, LightHawkVentura_1-19-2019

Many thanks to the good folks at LightHawk for making this flight possible!

LightHawk is the largest environmental flying organization in the country. Founded in 1979, LightHawk engages a network of almost 300 volunteer pilots to provide more than 400 flights each year. Partnering with more than 100 conservation organizations, LightHawk works to help solve pressing river, ocean, land and wildlife problems. Flights enable decision-makers, funders, scientists, media and community members to understand landscapes in a uniquely experiential way, inspiring them to make a difference.


More from Surfrider National:


Thursday, November 1, 2018

Surfers' Point Phase 2 concepts

Planning is moving ahead for Phase 2 of the Managed Shoreline Retreat project at Surfers' Point. The Surfers' Point Managed Shoreline Retreat project is one of the first managed retreat projects to be implemented in California. Developed in response to coastal erosion, it serves as a model of sustainable shoreline management for other similar projects up and down the California coast.

Funding limitations in 2009 necessitated a phased approach to construction, with the first phase completed in July 2011.  Phase 1 included relocation of the bike path and parking lot landward and construction of a man-made cobble berm to stabilize the shoreline.  In 2012 sand dunes were constructed on top of the berm using sand imported from nearby Pierpont beach, and seeded with native dune plants. Dune restoration and maintenance has been supported through ongoing volunteer work days.

High tides of August 2018 damaged the bike path
leaving it vulnerable to coming winter swells.
Phase 2 will address this problem.
Although Phase 1 has demonstrated the effectiveness of the managed retreat approach, only approximately half of the threatened shoreline infrastructure has been relocated. Additionally, several features of the project remain outstanding or require modification as a result of lessons learned.

With the recent award of grant funding, planning is now underway.  The objectives are to:
  • Design refinements for Phase 1 of the Managed Shoreline Retreat project
  • Prepare final site design layout for Phase 2
  • Prepare design alternatives incorporating all integrated features, including civil and coastal engineering, cobble berm, and beach and dune habitat and landscape improvements
  • Complete final plans and specifications to allow for the preparation of bid and contract documents
This work will result in a "shovel ready" project that will be eligible for grant funding to complete construction and implementation.  This project is a perfect candidate for the recent Proposition 68, Parks, Environment, and Water Bond passed by California voters in June 2018. 

The Surfers' Point Working Group met on October 9, 2018.  The consultant team presented initial concept drawings and renditions of the project.  The main concerns with Phase 1 are the parking and stormwater runoff system, as well as fencing and gates, lighting and landscaping.  Some initial options were presented for all of these items.

Design options are also being considered to relocate the remaining bike path and parking lot further inland on Fairgrounds property, out of harms way.  The initial concept presented for this "Phase 2" area involves widening Shoreline Drive to provide space for the relocated parking lot and bike path.  A similar beach restoration strategy as used in Phase 1, a cobble berm and sandy beach/dune area, would be constructed to provide long term protection for the new bike path.

The rendition below provides an aerial perspective of how this might look:

Surfers Point Phase 2 - aerial rendition of initial "Concept A"

In this proposal the City would dedicate Shoreline Drive to the Fairgrounds to provide for relocated parking.    The layout of the parking areas and potential improvements are shown below.

Surfers' Point Managed Shoreline Retreat - Initial conceptual layout "Concept A" for Phase 2, October 2018

Utilizing Shoreline Drive in this manner provides the potential for an increase in parking from what exists today.  Note that these are very preliminary concepts and will change based on input from the working group.

The long-term benefits of this approach include:
  • Incorporating City-owned Shoreline Drive into the Fairgrounds property
  • Relocating the threatened bike path and parking lot
  • Eliminating hazard and liability of the undermined bike path and associated debris 
  • Increased public access, safety, and day-use beach parking
  • Protecting Fairgrounds property from future erosion damage and flood risk
  • Aesthetic improvements to Ventura's most popular beach and recreation area

More on this blog:

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Hidden costs of Matilija Dam

A headline in the Ventura County Star states:

Thousands of residents live in homes protected by a levee that stretches 2.65 miles along the Ventura River, between the Pacific Ocean and Shell Road.

In the more than 3,500 residential, commercial and industrial structures lie an estimated $2.157 billion worth of infrastructure and property, according to studies prepared for the Ventura County government.

Experts with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers say that without rehabilitation, it’s likely the levee could in time breach or collapse entirely. 

When the initial levee was built in 1948, one thing not considered was the loss of sediment likely to result from construction of Matilija Dam, which had been installed on a major tributary only the year before, the corps noted.

“Basically, the foundation of the levee is higher than the potential bottom of the river,” said Paul Jenkin, Ventura County campaign coordinator for the Surfrider Foundation.

That means in a flood or high-rain event, the river could flow under the base of the levee, causing it to fail. The change has been notable. Initially, the levee was made with 8 feet of toedown, which means rocks extended that far below where the riverbed meets the base of the levee. Today, there is “minimal to no toedown protection,” the corps noted.

Poorly understood at the time the dam was built, these are the long-term costs of a sediment starved river.

Although the $25 million Ventura River Levee VR-1 project is not included as part of the Matilija Dam ecosystem restoration project, three other levees are.  The bulk of the planning and removal costs of dam removal involve the replacement, upgrade, or new infrastructure downstream of the dam to accommodate the restoration of the Ventura River's natural sediment transport.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Ventura Hilton Hotel

The City of Ventura has circulated notice of an MND (Mitigated Negative Declaration) for the hotel project on the corner of Figueroa and the Shoreline Drive across from the fairgrounds entrance at Surfers' Point.  Originally Embassy Suites, this is now a Hilton hotel.

Surfrider commented on this in 2009 when it was first proposed, with the primary concern that this new hotel would rely on city infrastructure (promenade seawall) that the city could not afford to maintain.  The past document did not account for sea level rise, which is required under CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act)

The current document is quite thorough on the future risk of sea level rise.  For example it states:

During a 100-year storm event, waves running up through the Park could enter the first floor of the hotel, potentially breaking through the south facing doors and windows, damaging facilities and potentially endangering hotel guests and workers. Even under current climatic conditions, this type of damage is not unprecedented; for example, recent damage to the Ventura Promenade immediately upcoast where the Promenade was undercut, and planters and seat walls were destroyed by wave attack during the severe 2015-2016 El NiƱo, requiring emergency rock revetment installation.

The document further states that:

the first-floor uses are limited to retail, parking, restaurant, lobby, and meeting rooms, not hotel rooms for overnight occupation, which may be subject to coastal flooding damage and threats to life and property. As discussed further below, future conditions under increased sea level conditions may exacerbate coastal flooding and wave run-up impacts. Mitigation measures identified below would reduce the risk of structural damage, injury, or death associated with 100-year storm events, making impacts less than significant with mitigation.

Suggested mitigation for this scenario include structural reinforcement, elevation of utilities, and worker evacuation training.

In 2009 Surfrider commented that the City collect fees on coastal development to ensure funding to maintain and repair the promenade and seawall into the future.  This planned beachfront development is entirely dependent upon Ventura's aging infrastructure for protection from future storm events.

The project includes realignment and improvement of Promenade Park:

The MND is downloadable here:

Earlier comments are on this blog here.

California Climate Change Assessment

On August 27, 2018, the California Natural Resources Agency released California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment.  The goal of these assessments is to "provide the scientific foundation for understanding climate-related vulnerability at the local scale and informing resilience actions. The Climate Change Assessments directly inform State policies, plans, programs, and guidance to promote effective and integrated action to safeguard California from climate change."

The Key Findings summarize the impacts on people, infrastructure, and natural systems, and "provides critical information that will enable more ambitious efforts to support a climate-resilient California."

The Fourth Assessment included a Coast and Ocean Summary Report for the first time; this report synthesizes the latest research... about the challenges facing our coast and ocean because of climate change and what actions we can take to increase their resilience.

The Fourth Assessment study found that sea-level rise has become the dominant concern for coastal managers, and most also face funding and financing barriers.

According to the LA Times,

"At Surfers Point in Ventura County, officials turned an eroding parking lot and collapsing bike path into a cobble beach backed by vegetated dune. It has fended off erosion, widened the beach and become the most visited beach in Ventura County, the report said. During high wave conditions in the winter of 2015-16, no damage occurred at the project site: Wave run-up reached the bike path only where dunes were absent.

Other parts of the local shorelines were not so lucky: Ventura Pier was damaged in the storm and the Pierpoint neighborhood suffered inundation, the report said."
This was documented on this blog: Surfers Point - first real test

More information:

California Natural Resources Agency; http://resources.ca.gov/climate/safeguarding/research/

Climate Assessment; http://www.climateassessment.ca.gov

In the news:  Climate change will be deadlier, more destructive and costlier for California than previously believed, state warns, LA Times, Aug 27, 2018