Thursday, January 31, 2008

Urban Watershed Planning - Ventura CA

This is an excerpt from our document, "Solving the Urban Runoff Problem: A Vision for the Urban Watershed - Ventura, California"

Over the past year, the Surfrider Foundation has been working on developing a vision for solving the urban runoff problem in the city of Ventura. We have used GIS to map the existing storm drain infrastructure and analyze aerial photos to identify potential opportunities within the watershed. Following site visits, we identified several areas in this subwatershed with potential for stormwater projects.

This image shows opportunities for "low impact development" (LID) retrofit within the Sanjon drainage. First, there are several large parking areas (purple) that connect directly to the storm drain system. LID retrofit of these impervious areas could be achieved, effectively reducing a significant percentage of the urban runoff entering the system.

Secondly, there are two large irrigated recreational areas (green); Cemetery Park and Cabrillo Middle School. In researching projects elsewhere, we found examples that demonstrate the feasibility of using storage cisterns to capture stormwater for later use on landscape irrigation. These open spaces also provide opportunity for constructed bioswales or infiltration trenches, landscaped with either native trees and shrubs, or grassy swales. These may be engineered to provide storage, retention and filtration for a specified design storm capacity, typically a one inch rainfall event.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we have outlined an opportunity for Coastal Wetlands and Urban Creek Restoration within the lower Sanjon drainage. Coastal wetlands serve a well-documented function in the coastal zone. Ecosystem benefits include wildlife and fisheries habitat, as well as water quality enhancement in the final stages before discharge to receiving waters. In the case of Sanjon barranca, this function has been entirely eliminated through concrete infrastructure.

Restoring the historic creeks and wetlands at this site would provide significant benefits. The process of “daylighting” creeks has been achieved elsewhere, and wetland creation and restoration has become a proven means of achieving water quality objectives.

This vision is intended to provide a conceptual starting point for an urban watershed plan. The purpose is to illustrate the many opportunities that exist, and provoke a community dialog on how to achieve the city vision, which states:

Our goal is to be a model for other communities of environmental responsibility, living in balance with our natural setting of coastline, rivers, and hillside ecosystems.
- City of Ventura General Plan 2005

Friday, January 25, 2008

Matilija Dam in the News

News story from March 2007

Ventura River Stream Team

Every month since January 2001, volunteers have taken the time to visit designated monitoring sites within the Ventura River watershed to collect important water quality information. This successful program is the joint effort of Santa Barbara Channelkeeper and the Ventura County Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation. The data is used by State and local government agencies as part of an ongoing effort to identify and solve water quality problems in the watershed.

Why Stream Team? Watch this video to learn more.

Below is a summary of what we've found. All seven years of data is available on the web at Our events are the first Saturday of each month - get involved!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Restoring Urban Watersheds

It seems one of the toughest hurdles in organizing watershed restoration efforts is identifying the goals and types of projects that need to be done. Many initiatives seem to get bogged down by the sheer volume of issues and differing perspectives, making it hard to organize and prioritize goals and objectives.

The Center for Watershed Protection recently announced that it is making its first two manuals of the Urban Subwatershed Restoration Manual Series available permanently for free

Here are a couple of excepts from Manual 1, An Integrated Framework to Restore Small Urban Watersheds, which examines the basic concepts and techniques of urban watershed restoration, and sets forth the overall framework used to evaluate subwatershed restoration potential.

This is a good starting point for anyone interested in working to protect and restore the ecological integrity of their watershed.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

LID news from around the country

LID References:

Low Impact Development Center
Stormwater Manager's Resource Center

US EPA's LID page

Here is a selection of recent news from Low Impact Development (LID) programs around the country:

Low Impact Development for Roads - Military Road S. at S. 272nd ...
LID approaches such as the porous cement concrete sidewalks and the bioretention ... Low Impact Development Stormwater Grant Agreement Between the State of ...

SCDHEC: OCRM: Low Impact Development
Low Impact Development (LID) is an innovative stormwater management approach with a basic principle that is modeled after nature. LID's goal is to mimic a ...

Environmental Business Council of New England: LID Conference ...
Low Impact Development (LID) Internet Based Resources ... LID Site Design. Low-Impact Development Design Strategies: An Integrated Design Approach (PDF, ...

Low Impact Development
Low Impact Development (LID) for Puget Sound. This web page is dedicated to the ... Low impact development, or LID, is a more environmentally friendly ...

Reduce Costs by Using Low Impact Development Practices
U.S. (press release) - Washington,DC,USA
(1/8/08) The US Environmental Protection Agency has released a new report "Reducing Stormwater Costs through Low Impact Development (LID) Strategies and ...

Navy launches policy to stem tide of stormwater
The Chesapeake Bay Journal - Seven Valleys,PA,USA
The policy requires the use of low impact development techniques to control runoff from all new construction and large renovations on Navy property ...

DC program seeks 'green' solutions to curb polluted runoff
The Chesapeake Bay Journal - Seven Valleys,PA,USA
"We are going to aggressively promote and enforce low impact development for the District of Columbia," Mayor Adrian Fenty said at the Executive Council ...

Low Impact Development in Hawaii

How to get from fat roads to skinny roads and similar Low Impact Development (LID) transformations.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Ojai Quarry After January storms

According to news reports, "With 9.51 inches of rain, the Matilija Dam area north of Ojai was the soggiest place in the county." A visit to the Ojai Quarry showed the power of water to move sediment downstream. We have been documenting impacts to the river since a landslide blocked the creek in 2006.

Flows on North Fork Matilija Creek peaked at around 800 cfs (cubic feet per second) on Jan 4th. Although much of the smaller debris from the slide moved downstream, obstacles still remain for migratory steelhead, and future storms will continue to cause further erosion into the stream.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

History of the Ventura Urban Watershed

In order to begin to understand the causes of coastal degradation, we have to look at the past. It is only when you speak with the "old timers" that you begin to wonder... what have we lost?

This is described well by the term Shifting Baselines; "... the chronic, slow, hard-to-notice changes in things, from the disappearance of birds and frogs in the countryside to the increased drive time from L.A. to San Diego."

As part of our Ocean Friendly Gardens initiative, we have been collecting historical images of the city. Here is a short animation showing the changes to the Sanjon barranca and coastal wetlands, from the original 1872 survey to the present.

Watch this a few times and notice how the barranca (dry creek) was incrementally paved over and then the freeway finished the job. The result of all this pavement is the lost ability of the land to absorb and filter stormwater, instead flushing all land-based pollutants directly into the surf zone.

The image below shows the other side-effect: increased flood risk when urban runoff overwhelms the aging storm drain system.

Future posts will begin to outline some of the solutions to this problem.