Friday, March 16, 2012

San Antonio Creek Bridge completed

A ribbon cutting ceremony was held this week officially opening the new bike path bridge at the San Antonio Creek confluence.  Construction began in September closing this section of the Ojai Valley Trail which runs along the river between Foster Park and the city of Ojai.  The project was completed ahead of schedule, re-opening the section of the popular trail.

The bridge was designed to span the floodplain, which is very wide in this location.  It appears our comments were heard, as the final product is a much longer bridge than originally planned.  The work was conducted so as not to disturb the adjacent pool, another concern that we had voiced during environmental review.

The bridge replaces a concrete culvert that passed low flows but was inundated during storms, preventing bicycle and pedestrian traffic, and also hindering steelhead passage into San Antonio Creek. The $1.8 million project was paid for through state and federal grants for fisheries enhancement, as well as $500k from Ventura County Parks.  The Channel Islands Bike Club also contributed $17k to the project.

The path was damaged during the 2005 floods, necessitating temporary reconstruction and the placement of rip-rap to prevent future streambank erosion.  The new bridge will solve this problem, and allow for the natural vegetation to re-establish along this part of the river.  Vegetation is important for fish and wildlife as it provides food and cover as well as shade to help keep the water cool in the hot summer months.

Rock rip-rap placed to protect bike path damaged in 2005
This was replaced with a new bridge in 2012

These types of projects, along with larger goals like removing Matilija Dam and restoring instream flows, are identified in the NOAA Steelhead Recovery Plan.  And although this expensive project will help the fish, the users of the this river trail will also benefit from an all-weather crossing and the aesthetic appeal of this unique bridge.

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