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 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 North Fork Matilija Creek - photo published by CalTrans

(all photos courtesy Rich Reid except where noted)

Thursday, February 2, 2023

Ventura Rivermouth after flood

On January 9, 2023, flows on the Ventura River peaked over 35,000 cfs.  At this flood stage overbank flows enter agricultural lands and flow through the RV Park and were high enough to flow over Highway 101 stopping traffic.  These flows exit to the ocean through the historic second mouth of the river in Emma Wood State park visible to the left in the photo below.  Although the official flows are not yet in, this was perhaps a once-in-a-decade flood similar to 2005.

High flows transport significant amounts of sediment down the river and into the Pacific Ocean.  A large cobble berm formed at the rivermouth and was transported along the shoreline at Surfers Point by the coinciding large Pacific swell.  Subsequent swells and tides continue to rearrange this berm, and sand has moved into the rivermouth with a reduced wave climate.  Surf conditions since the flood indicate nearshore sand bars, and this sand will move onshore making for wide beaches in the summer months.    

Ventura Rivermouth 1-10-2023

Taylor Ranch and RV Park upstream of Ventura Rivermouth 1-10-2023

Ventura Rivermouth 1-18-2023

Surfers Point 1-18-2023
Ventura Rivermouth 1-18-2023

Ventura Rivermouth 1-31-2023
(credit: Dr. K Patsch)

(All photos courtesy Rich Reid except where noted)

Friday, July 1, 2022

Ojai Quarry Amended Reclamation Plan and Sale

 On October 21, 2021, the Ventura County Planning Commission approved the Reclamation Plan Amendment (RPA; Case Number PL18-0136) prepared for the Ojai Quarry mining facility. This action by the Planning Commission became effective on November 2, 2021, since an appeal of the Planning Commission’s decision was not filed within the 10-day appeal period specified by the Non-Coastal Zoning Ordinance. The decision to approve the RPA constitutes a final administrative action by the County of Ventura on the PL18-0136 application.

According to the Ojai Valley News, the Planning Commission;

approved changes to the plan requested by quarry owner Larry Mosler, and denied the appeal by environmental groups Los Padres ForestWatch, the Environmental Coalition and the Ojai Stop the Trucks! Coalition. Reclamation of mined lands is necessary to prevent or minimize adverse effects on the environment and to protect the public health and safety, and a plan for the process once mining operations have ceased is required by state law. In 2017, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors authorized mining operations at the quarry to continue until 2046. After operations cease, the site will be returned to open space. On June 25, Ventura County Planning Director Dave Ward approved changes to the quarry’s former plan, which would have required approximately 97,000 cubic yards of material to fill overexcavated areas at the quarry at 15558 Maricopa Highway. Under the amended reclamation plan, the existing ground surface in the overexcavated area will be allowed to constitute part of the final reclaimed surface, largely eliminating the need for backfill. On June 30, the appellants filed an appeal to Ward’s decision citing two grounds of appeal, the first stating the county’s decision was issued in error because ongoing violations of permit conditions exist regarding landscaping and viewshed protections along Highway 33.

 With this final regulatory hurdle removed, the quarry is now up for sale:

In the news:

 County Planning Commission denies appeal of Ojai Quarry amended reclamation plan

Ojai officials oppose Ojai Quarry reclamation plan change

More:  Ojai Quarry


Ojai Quarry Reclamation Plan Amendment - vcrma

Planning Commission meeting recording

Monday, June 20, 2022

Matilija Dam Student video

This spring, Buena High School students created a video on the removal of Matilija Dam.  These students are participants in the ECCOA Program of the MERITO Foundation.  

EECCOA empowers students to address climate change and ocean acidification by providing them the tools to research, design and innovate Energy Efficiency or other sustainability models their schools can adopt, or develop Ocean Acidification (OA) awareness campaigns that inform their communities.

To bring awareness of the Matilija Dam and its removal, Breanna and Ixzel interviewed Paul Jenkin from the Surfrider Foundation at the Matilija Dam to get insight into why the dam should be removed and its history.  Their video production won first place in the annual ECCOA Award program.

Buena HS students and their teacher interviewing
Paul Jenkin at the Matilija Dam