Thursday, June 1, 2023

Surfers' Point funding ok'd

 At the June 1st meeting of the California Coastal Conservancy the board approved $16,200,000 to the City of San Buenaventura (Ventura) to construct Phase 2 of the Surfers Point Managed Retreat Project, a sea level rise adaptation project that relocates existing infrastructure landward and restores beach dune habitat, in Ventura. 

Surfrider submitted a support letter saying:

Surfers’ Point has been the flagship campaign of the Ventura County Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation since its inception in 1991.  For more than 30 years our members have advocated for the community-based solution to coastal erosion offered by this project.  The construction of the first phase in 2011 has proven the efficacy of this approach and we look forward to completing the project.  In recent years the rapid loss of the remaining bike path and parking lot has increased the urgency to relocate this visitor serving infrastructure out of harms way.  Implementation of the proven buried cobble berm and sand dunes will restore nature-based resiliency to this extremely popular stretch of coast.

Construction will begin after Labor Day, 2024

On this blog: Surfers Point


COASTAL CONSERVANCY Project No. 08-057-02 Staff Recommendation June 1, 2023

 In the News:

Ventura gets $16M to move crumbling path, parking lot farther from crashing waves

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Klamath River dam removal begins

After nearly two decades of planning, construction recently began on the estimated $450 million Klamath River Renewal Project.  The project involves the simultaneous removal of four dams to restore the second largest river in California.  The project is overseen by the independent nonprofit Klamath River Renewal Corporation formed in 2016 to navigate the complex regulatory and legal issues associated with dam removal.

ASCE provides a good technical summary of the project here:  Construction begins on removal of 4 Klamath River dams.  In 2009 we noted that Klamath Dam removal study supports sediment releases, and each of the four dams will utilize natural transport for disposal of the majority of the fine sediment that has accumulated in the reservoirs.  Most of the concrete and other materials will be disposed at or near each of the dam sites.  

The Klamath River suffered a dramatic and notorious fish kill in 2002 when over 34,000 fish, mostly adult fall Chinook salmon, were found dead in the Lower Klamath River. This fish kill was unprecedented for returning adult salmon on the Klamath River, profoundly affecting the Yurok People and other local residents both economically and spiritually.  The river suffered another fish kill following the fires of 2022.  The major contributing factor to unhealthy fisheries in the Lower Klamath River has been the presence of the large reservoirs which accumulate agricultural runoff and fertilizers which heat up in the hot summer months and fuel toxic algae.  Removal of these dams will eliminate the release of this toxic hot water into critical salmon habitat.  Most importantly this project will restore one of the most productive salmon runs in California to benefit the Native American communities who have depended on fisheries for their livelihood, health, and cultural practices since time immemorial. 

Also of interest is the The Klamath Mitigation Fund which "is a voluntary claims-based compensation program in which impacted property owners can participate.  The Fund is designed to provide compensation for specified physical impacts to private properties caused by the Klamath dam removal project. The Fund will be administered by independent Fund Administrators based on criteria established from extensive technical analysis. The Fund Administrators will organize information sessions by potential claim (slope stability, flood risk, and groundwater well impacts) to explain the analysis and approach. They will ultimately make independent compensation decisions and manage settlements with individual property owners for physical damages demonstrated to be caused by dam removal. Such payments (which will settle claims) will avoid the need for litigation to resolve such damages.”

In the news:   

First Klamath River dam to be removed by end of summer  

The massive dam removal on the Klamath may save salmon but can’t solve the West’s water crisis

With one down, Klamath dam removal proceeds on schedule

On this blog:

Klamath Dam removal study supports sediment releases


Klamath River Renewal Corporation

Klamath Mitigation Fund

Construction begins on removal of 4 Klamath River dams, ASCE 5/11/2023

The Klamath River Fish Kill of 2002 

Klamath River Fish Kill 2002 (Earthjustice) - YouTube video

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Ventura Water Pure Ocean Outfall

The City of Ventura is planning to construct an ocean outfall extending approximately 6,800 feet offshore from Marina Park near the Ventura Harbor.  The outfall and associated pipeline will ultimately serve to dispose of concentrated "brine" from the planned "Ventura Water Pure" wastewater recycling facility.    A new underground pipeline will connect the existing Ventura Water Reclamation Facility to the outfall.  

Initially the City will discharge up to 4.7 million gallons per day (MGD) of tertiary-treated water through the ocean outfall. The Ventura Water Reclamation Facility currently discharges tertiary-treated wastewater into the Santa Clara River Estuary (SCRE) near its connection to the Pacific Ocean.  In March 2010, the Ventura Coastkeeper and Heal the Bay filed a lawsuit alleging that the discharges of the tertiary-treated effluent into the estuary violated State and Federal law.  The City settled and entered into a consent decree requiring the City to develop alternatives that would improve conditions for the habitats and species within the estuary.  The first phase would discharge up to 90% of the City's treated wastewater offshore by 2030.  

The City is also currently planning for the Ventura Water Pure reclamation facility which would further process the tertiary wastewater using reverse osmosis and other treatments to allow injection into local aquifers.  This would provide a new source of water through Indirect Potable Reuse (IPR) to help accommodate the City's growth.  The byproduct of this process is a concentrated "brine" which will be disposed offshore through the ocean outfall.  

Construction will mainly impact Marina Park and the harbor area to install the plumbing necessary to disharge offshore as shown in the illustration below. A 20-inch diameter high-density polyethylene (HDPE) Conveyance Pipeline will connect from the wastewater treatment plant at Harbor Boulevard and Olivas Park Drive, extending north along Harbor Boulevard, then west on Schooner Drive, and northwest along Anchors Way where it would connect to the Harbor Crossing. The 20-inch pipe will be bundled with two 8-inch sewer pipes in a 36" pipe to be drilled 30 feet below the harbor bottom to connect with the Ocean Outfall at Marina Park.  

The City completed their environmental analysis of this project in 2019 with an addendum in 2022.  


Surfrider has advocated for water recycling over the past decades, and this ocean outfall is a necessary component of this.  Recycling is accomplished by reverse osmosis which generates a “brine” that has to be disposed of.  Once the WaterPure facility is operating this outfall will be primarily for brine disposal.  In the interim, while the facility is being constructed, the outfall will be used for offshore disposal of tertiary treated wastewater.  This would effectively relocate the disharge from the estuary/nearshore to a mile offshore in Pierpont Bay to comply with a court order resulting from Wishtoyo/HealtheBay lawsuit.
Some of Surfrider's prior comments on this issue are here:

There are some unavoidable impacts with this project, but in the long term it should lead to improvements in our regional water supply and water quality as well as eliminating the impacts to the Santa Clara River Estuary.  Concerns include whether offshore currents could bring the effluent back onshore and of course the implications of sea level rise.   Coastal Commission Staff recognized the sea level rise concerns by reducing the permit from 50 yr to 30 yr at which point they would revisit it.

A big concern is the City's ambition that this outfall could one day be used for an intake of ocean water for desalination.  Surfrider and others have concerns about ocean desalination due to the impacts on the marine ecosystem and the carbon footprint of this energy intensive process.  


California's Ventura Gets $173M in EPA Loans for More Resilient Water Supply, ENR, May 24, 2023

Key funding comes through from EPA to boost water supply in Ventura, VC Star, May 24, 2023

Ventura has been awarded federal loans covering half the costs for a program to convert treated wastewater into safe drinking water and reduce discharges of effluent into the Santa Clara River estuary.

Speaking at a news conference Tuesday at the city's water reclamation plant, officials said the venture will benefit the environment, boost water supplies by up to 20% and protect the community against drought.

The financial award is a "monumental milestone," Ventura Mayor Joe Schroeder said at the invitational event where federal, state and city officials celebrated the nearly $174 million in funding and promoted the benefits of the project called VenturaWaterPure.

The loans will pay for half of the $354 million to be spent on an initial phase, program Director Linda Sumansky said. Around 60% of the roughly 5.5 million gallons of treated effluent going into the estuary daily will be diverted and an advanced purification plant built. A second phase allowing all the effluent to be diverted will cost another $80 million.


Ventura Water Pure:
Library of Documents:

Pending permit applications include:

California Coastal Commission: Staff Report, Exhibits
State Lands Commission:  Staff Report

Friday, March 10, 2023

Santa Ana Bridge Replacement

On October 17, 2022 Ventura County Public Works Agency (VCPWA) hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the official opening of the new Santa Ana Boulevard Bridge.  This bridge is the first major infrastructure component of the Matilija Dam Ecosystem Restoration Project, and was deemed necessary due to existing deficiencies in the height and length of the bridge.  The new bridge is 50 percent longer than the old bridge, an increase that will partially restore the Ventura River’s natural channel capacity. 

The bridge was replaced to widen the river and eliminate the "bottleneck" at this location to better pass flood flows.  Widening the river at this location will improve natural sediment transport and migration habitat for the federally-endangered southern California steelhead and other species. 

The first test soon came with the flood of January 9, 2023.  Flood waters passed freely beneath the new bridge, while the old bridge may have backed up flows and potentially sustained damage.  

Santa Ana Bridge - the recently replaced bridge during the flood of Jan 9 2023
photo: Rich Reid

Santa Ana Bridge - the recently replaced bridge during the flood of Jan 9 2023
Photo: Ventura County

Diagram illustrates how the replacement Santa Ana Bridge widens the Ventura River

Overhead view of the new Santa Ana Bridge, Jan 2023

Aerial view looking upstream at Santa Ana Bridge during construction 10-9-21

The bridge replacement was planned to minimize disruption to local traffic by constructing the new bridge upstream before switching traffic and demolishing the old bridge.  Funding was provided through a grant from the CA Dept of Fish and Wildlife, and construction was completed on schedule before this historic wet winter.

The new Santa Ana Bridge following the flood of Jan 9, 2023

In the news:

Santa Ana Bridge expansion will help with dam removal, Ojai Valley News June 14, 2019

New bridge is one more step toward goal of dam removal, Ojai Valley News Oct 13, 2022

Aerial photos courtesy Rich Reid

Friday, February 24, 2023

More funding for Matilija Dam

On February 16, 2023, the state Wildlife Conservation Board approved a $4.3 million grant to the Ventura County Watershed Protection District for a planning project that will complete final design plans for Matilija Dam removal.  Since 2016, the Matilija Coalition has assisted the County with successful grants totaling over $36 million for the project. Although there is much work to be done, including construction of downstream bridges, levees, and water supply infrastructure, this grant creates a path to be prepared for dam removal by 2030.

Meanwhile, this year’s significant winter floods have moved large quantities of sediment down Matilija Creek, almost completely filling the obsolete reservoir with sand destined for the beach.

Sedimentation in Matilija reservoir 2-11-2023

More info:

In the news:

On this Blog:

Surfers Point in the news

 Ventura made the news recently with the headline “Here's how one beach in Ventura County is trying an innovative strategy to combat erosion

February 17, 2023, VENTURA, Calif. (KABC) -- The severe storms that hit California this season could end up costing the state in excess of $1 billion.

Coastal communities seem to move mountains in an effort to slow the beach erosion that threatens life near the ocean. But about 10 years ago, Surfer's Point in Ventura County became the site of a test for a managed-retreat strategy as the best way forward.

"It's really the nature-based solution and finding ways to work with nature so that people can still access this area," says Bill Hickman, Southern California regional manager for the Surfrider Foundation.

Building on the success of the first phase of the project, the City of Ventura has submitted a grant application to pay for the construction of the $16 million “Phase 2” Managed Shoreline Retreat.  The project will relocate the damaged Fairgrounds beach parking and bike path and restore the shoreline with a protective cobble beach and dunes.  The State Coastal Conservancy will make a decision this summer.  

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

January 2023 Flood Overview

Aerial images provide perspective on how the Ventura River responds to flood.  The wide floodplain is typical of high sediment yield watersheds, featuring braided channels that shift with each major flood event.  The flood of January 9, 2023 ripped out large areas of vegetation and "re-set" the floodplain.   These images were taken shortly after the storm and are organized downstream to upstream. 

Ventura River near Foster Park - flows overtopped the bank near the City of Ventura Nye Wells

Flooding near Foster Park - several homes were damaged 

Ventura River near Oak View - stream bank erosion damaged the Ventura River Trail and broke the main sewer line - combined with a similar broken line on San Antonio Creek 14 million gallons of sewage were estimated to have spilled into the river closing beaches for more than a week

Ventura River downstream of Santa Ana Bridge

Ventura River at Santa Ana Bridge - the bridge was recently replaced widening the river to accommodate high flows and future increased sediment transport with Matilija Dam removal

Live Oak levee upstream of Santa Ana Bridge - similar damage occurred in the 2005 flood - this levee is currently in final design for reconstruction as part of the Matilija Dam Ecosystem Restoration Project

Ventura River at Highway 150 bridge

Ventura River above Highway 150
the Ventura River Preserve protects open space for recreation and  natural floodplain management 

Robles Diversion - the flood filled the forebay with sediment and breached the timber cutoff wall
Casitas Municipal Water District quickly implemented emergency repairs to restore water
 diversions to Lake Casitas

Ventura River upstream of Robles Diversion
stream bank erosion exposed and broke the Matilija Conduit which supplies Casitas water to property owners upstream

Ventura River near Ojala - this view looking upstream includes Matilija Canyon and Matilija Dam - flood flows severely damaged the Camino Cielo crossing which provides access from Highway 33 to several properties - a new bridge is being designed as part of the Matilija Dam Ecosystem Restoration Project

Photo published in the Ojai Valley News shows the extent of debris flows on Highway 33 - the Highway was closed indefinitely for repairs 

Damage to Highway 33 along North Fork Matilija Creek - photo published by CalTrans

(all photos courtesy Rich Reid except where noted)

Hindsight Analysis of the 2023 Flood

Forecasters predicted 8 inches of rain for the January 6 storm.  However, after the first 8 inches accumulated on already saturated ground another 8 inches fell in less than 8 hours on the ridges and in Matilija canyon.  The the third in a succession of atmospheric rivers, this storm ultimately delivered over 18 inches to the steep mountains of the Ventura River watershed.

The USGS flow gage at Foster Park is the primary indicator for flood flows on the Ventura River.  This hydrograph includes the upstream USGS gage below Matilija Dam.  Unfortunately neither of these gages measured the peak of the flood on January 6.

Ventura County Watershed Protection District provides a chart with flood impacts expected for specific flows at certain gages.  The chart below shows these impacts for the Foster Park gage.

Extrapolating these impacts it is reasonable to assume that with the closure of Highway 101 Foster Park probably experienced peak flows over 40,000 cfs.  According to the USBR chart below this corresponds to perhaps a 20 year event in the lower part of the watershed.

However, based upon Casitas Municipal Water District reports of over 23,000 cfs at the Robles Diversion it is likely that the upper watershed experienced a 50-year event.  This would be consistent with the damage experienced in Matilija Canyon and along Highway 33, which is likely to remain closed for a year.  (The last time the cutoff wall at Robles Diversion failed was 1969.) 

Note that Watershed Protection estimates that damage to the homes near Foster Park would not occur until the 60,000 cfs flow level.  As illustrated in the photos above this year's flooding did impact those residents suggesting that possibly vegetation and debris backed up flows under the Casitas Vista bridge below Foster park.  This neighborhood was recently removed from the FEMA 100-yr floodplain.

Also note that, as predicted, flows over 25,000 cfs resulted in damage to the Ojai Sanitation District sewer line along the bike path.  (Another sewer line also failed on San Antonio Creek along with significant property damage in that tributary.)  

The flood of January 6, 2023 was a historic event with significant impacts to infrastructure and property in the Ventura River watershed.  (The chart below was compiled before the 2005 flood)

On June 1, WPD hydrologist Scott Holder provided an overview of the flood for the Ventura River Watershed Council.  His flow estimates and other data are presented in the slides below:

And the Ventura River Water District published their June 1 water supply update showing lake and aquifer levels: