Thursday, July 31, 2008

Watershed Revolution video trailer

Rich Reid has been hard at work on a 25 min film that will outline some of the groups and projects happening in the Ventura watershed, presented as a positive community-based effort to protect and restore the watershed and coast

This is a work in progress, and the latest Hi-resolution version is streaming here:

We are really fortunate to have some talented people putting in lots of time to do this film... and still need to find more more money to support the project

Master Gardener workshop

July 29th - Master Gardener workshop

In collaboration with the University of California Cooperative Extension, I was invited to present to the Ventura County Master Gardeners on Water Conservation gardening. Monique Myers and I presented an overview of the stormwater problem, and showed examples of Water Conservation and "Ocean Friendly" gardening techniques.

The group seemed excited about it, and will be working on projects relating to this topic. Among the goals for the Master Gardeners is to have them develop a training program to teach other garden clubs and gardeners in the county, as well as construct one or more demonstration gardens.

How better to reach the gardeners than through Master Gardeners?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Ventura Adopts "Green Streets" Policy

July 14, 2008 - Ventura City Council Meeting

Late last night Ventura City Council took a significant step in the RIGHT direction. Recognizing that stormwater is an issue for which the time has come, council approved policy for Green Street Elements and Demonstration Project.

This policy would effectively follow two of the recommendations made by the Surfrider Foundation in Solving the Urban Runoff Problem, A Vision for the Urban Watershed, Ventura, California:
3. Develop a green streets program and implement pilot projects

5. Promote and develop incentives
for community-based action (i.e. Ocean Friendly Gardens)
In my public testimony, I reminded listeners that a 'green streets' strategy is the best way of dealing with the 'concrete jungle' that is impacting the health of our oceans. I also presented City Council with a hard copy of our document published earlier this year and the Ocean Friendly Gardens brochure.

With this new policy, the city will earmark 20% of the street paving fund to begin incorporating 'Green Street elements' into repaving projects on a citywide basis. The city will also design and construct a pilot project on South Catalina Street to include:

...widening the west parkway from 3-feet to 7-feet, installing permeable concrete in the parking lane on the west side, planting 36-inch box trees on both sides, constructing "bulb-outs" along the east side along with stormwater detention and percolation curb inlets.

The Staff Report also provides an excellent review of types of stormwater improvements, and a matrix of their cost and effectiveness. The report may be downloaded from the city's website here:

In a later agenda item, council became the first city in the state to endorse the California Ocean Protection Council's "Low Impact Development Resolution."

After our watershed tour earlier this year, and the city's proactive approach to stormwater, we are hopeful that more funding will come available to implement a watershed-based study and pilot projects based upon Surfrider recommendations.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

County found liable for flood damage

July 7, 2008 According to the Ventura County Star,
"the county could end up paying millions of dollars to residents after a judge ruled Monday that four projects built by the county diverted high water flows from the Ventura River that
slammed onto the bottom of the Monte Vista bluff, causing erosion and damaging houses...The lawsuit, triggered after a January 2005 storm, was filed by 28 plaintiffs who reside in 13 houses on the bluff in Oak View."

Studies done for the Matilija Dam Ecosystem Restoration Project identified this reach of the river as a problem area. See Hydrology, Hydraulics, and Sediment Studies for the Meiners Oaks and Live Oak Levees - DRAFT Report (July 2007). The Matilija Dam project will widen the Santa Ana bridge and reconstruct the levee, which was also damaged in 2005 storms.

These flood maps clearly show the constriction in the river's floodplain formed by the Live Oak Levee and the 'pinch point' at the Santa Ana Rd bridge. The lawsuit alleges that the combination of four projects caused erosion of the toe of the bluff across from the levee. From 1974 to 2000 the county has constructed the Santa Ana Boulevard bridge, the riprap/levee that protected Live Oaks Acres, a riverside dike and the 2000 Live Oak Creek diversion project. In 2005, Watershed Protection District constructed rock 'vanes' to deflect flows away from the bluff. And surely more engineering is in the future.

This case clearly illustrates the 'no-win' situation when trying to control a river within its floodplain. The resulting cascade of public works projects are an ever increased burden on the taxpayer, both in construction/maintenance and damage claims. Costs escalate even further as government agencies squabble over degraded water quality and loss of habitat as dictated by the federal Endangered Species and Clean Water laws.

Opinion Page:


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Matilija Dam - Arundo project Public Meeting #2

Tuesday July 1, 2008 - 7pm

Around 20 people showed up at the Chaparral Auditorium in Ojai to hear the latest on the Arundo eradication efforts in the Ventura River watershed. This first on-the-ground action in preparation for the removal of Matilija Dam has caused some concern among local residents, who had numerous questions about the safety of herbicide application. County staff said that they have used approximately 1200 lbs of glyphosate per month since last September. (Glyphosate is the active ingredient in the common weed killer 'Roundup.') According to the County, none of the water sampling during the spraying has detected any of the chemical. Some commented that the chemical may be toxic at levels below the laboratory threshold, and others said that they had felt ill from exposure to overspray.

The presentation included aerial photos that showed the historic spread of invasive Arundo in Matilija Canyon. Illustrations posted inside the auditorium displayed the areas that have been treated. The 'best management practices' for herbicide application were described, which include maintaining a buffer zone away from from water, residences, and orchards. The complete project plan is here:

As this photo illustrates, the giant reed often resprouts from the roots after initial treatment. The project managers also outlined a schedule for 're-treatment' of the 1100 acre project area. Followup crews will scour the canyon and treat resprouts quarterly for the next 5 years, after which, hopefully, there will be very little Arundo donax remaining. Without diligent followup, all that herbicide would be for nought.

The photos below illustrate the progress - wow, there's a creek up there!

Sea Level Awareness Project - Ventura

Last week a group of middle school kids led by Alec Loorz installed several signs along the promenade in Ventura. Part of a project called Sea Level Awareness Project (SLAP), the signs mark a sea level 23 feet above the current height, with "You will be UNDERWATER here." The signs also list local infrastructure that will be underwater: Mandalay Power Station, 101 Freeway, Wastewater Treatment Plant, Pierpont Community, and the Pier.

Their intent is to "wake up Ventura to the danger of sea level rise." What will the state of our coast be when 12 million gallons of sewage are discharged untreated into the ocean every day, and the seawalls that protect the freeway are submerged? Who is really thinking about this and planning ahead?

Kudo's to Alec and his friends who are doing their part to raise the alarm!

Surfrider's projects are one step in the right direction: we need to develop integrated coastal and watershed management to formulate sustainable solutions for the future in the context of climate change.

Sept 5, 2008:

Dear City Council,

I wanted to thank you for supporting the SLAP Sea Level Awareness Project in Ventura. This is a great effort by concerned citizens to help raise awareness about the potential impacts to our way of life when sea level rises in the future.

I understand you have received some complaints from people who ' just don't want to be reminded of "negative" things when they're strolling down the promenade'

I say great! This is a sign that the project is working!

Now let's see if we can generate some solutions to these problems.