Saturday, January 31, 2009

Church Says No to Silt

Project managers were scheduled to reveal their decision on the slurry disposal at the next Design Oversight Group meeting on February 5th - that meeting has been postponed until March 5th, 2009.

"Church Says No To Silt Lease - County left without site to put slurry for Matilija Dam demolition"
Ojai Valley News, Friday, January 23, 2009.

I submitted the following letter to the editor:

As one of the participants in the many studies and processes that have taken place over the past decade, I would like to clarify some of the issues with the slurry disposal component of the Matilija Dam project.

First, the Meiners Oaks Disposal Area (MODA) should be a surprise to those who attended the public meetings during the Feasibility Study and CEQA/NEPA environmental review in 2004. At that time the project description indicated the use of downstream slurry disposal sites near Baldwin Road (now known as BRDA.) During the feasibility phase, the technical study team agreed that the aim of the site selection was to provide temporary storage and allow future floods to flush the silt downstream. This would nourish the floodplain and naturally transport silt to the ocean. The use of the Meiners Oaks site represents a fundamental change in that approach, since the fine sediments would become a permanent feature of the landscape. This presents significant issues, not the least of which is that it will bury the primary trailhead for the Ventura River/El Nido Preserve, one of the only highly utilized public access points within the entire watershed.

Secondly, the subheading, “County left without site to put slurry for Matilija Dam demolition,” is misleading. The use of the original (BRDA) disposal area would simply require extending the slurry pipe a mile-and-a-half at most, not trucking as the article suggests. And if you believe the Corps of Engineers preliminary cost estimates, the $5 million price difference is only 4% of the $140 million project. (The difference may be much less if the true cost of revegetation and restoration at MODA is included.) Most importantly, the temporary sediment disposal alternative that stakeholders had supported in the Feasibility Report would provide far greater long-term benefits by providing for the natural restoration of the ecosystem.

The Matilija Coalition was formed in 2000, shortly before outgoing Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt visited Matilija Dam as part of a nationwide ‘dam-busting’ tour. We have consistently advocated for the ecosystem objectives of the project, which include restoration of native steelhead, riparian/floodplain habitat, and natural river processes. More information is online at and

Paul Jenkin
Matilija Coalition

Thursday, January 22, 2009

One Coast, One Future

Recommendations to Local and State Leaders from the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative

Last week the Joint Ocean Commission released a report highlighting actions that need to be taken to protect and restore our nation's coast and ocean. The report highlights Ventura as one of the west coast communities actively working to put integrated, ecosystem-based approaches into practice in the management of ocean and coastal resources they depend on for high quality of life and a vibrant coastal economy. This is the result of the Ventura Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation's work on Surfers' Point, Matilija Dam, and stormwater and watershed management.

The report presents the Joint Initiative’s recommendations for actions local and state elected leaders can take to improve the health of coastal ecosystems and economies. The recommendations focus on:
  • Actions local leaders can take to implement an integrated, ecosystem-based approach
  • Actions state legislatures can take to support local communities in this effort
  • Ways both local and state leaders can begin to address coastal climate change impacts
  • Strategies coastal communities and state legislatures can employ to ensure the resources needed to implement the recommendations are available
  • On-the-ground examples of how local and state governments on the West Coast are already making progress toward an integrated, ecosystem-based approach

The Ventura Ecosystem-based management project was highlighted in this month's Making Waves, the Surfrider Foundation's publication. The article is posted on the blog here

Local press: Report urges cooperation to protect coastal zones

Letter to the editor highlighting our progress:

Cooperation under way
January 16, 2009

Re: your Jan. 15 article, "Report urges cooperation to protect coastal

This article about the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative report, "One Coast, One Future," correctly highlights fragmented governance as one of the primary threats to our coasts and ocean.

This report also highlights Ventura as one of the West Coast communities actively working to put integrated, ecosystem-based approaches into practice in the management of ocean and coastal resources they depend on for high quality of life and a vibrant coastal economy.

In early 2008, the Ventura chapter of the Surfrider Foundation published, "Solving the Urban Runoff Problem - A Vision for the City of Ventura." In this document, we outlined a strategy for retrofit of the storm drain infrastructure in Ventura to improve coastal water quality and make better use of our limited rainfall. In July, the city of Ventura passed a "green streets" ordinance as a first step in implementing this plan. This is one part of the Surfrider Foundation's
integrated strategy for the restoration of the Ventura River watershed, which also includes beach restoration at Surfers' Point and removal of Matilija Dam.

Each of these projects requires coordinating the multiple jurisdictions of local, state and federal government agencies and engaging the affected communities -- no easy task in a society with so
many competing interests. However, despite state budget woes, there is now a great opportunity to construct these "green infrastructure" projects with the federal economic stimulus package.

Restoring the function of our coastal ecosystems by implementing "ecosystem-based management" in Ventura will serve as a real world demonstration of the principles outlined in the Joint Ocean Commission report. Support for these projects is one way our elected officials
can provide critical leadership for securing the health of coastal ecosystems and economies.

More information on the Ventura ecosystem project may be found at

-- Paul Jenkin, Ventura

Friday, January 16, 2009

Ventura featured in 'Making Waves'

this article was published in Surfrider Foundation's Making Waves December 2008:

A Watershed Approach to Restoring Coastal Resources

Since 1991, the Ventura County Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation has been working locally to protect and restore coastal resources. Initially spurred by beach erosion and degraded water quality at Surfers’ Point, the chapter quickly recognized that all coastal problems are a result of human activities on land. Coastal development, runoff from urban and agricultural areas, and unsustainable water management practices all add up to create problems within the nearshore environment. Centered on the Ventura River watershed, the Chapter’s projects are becoming examples of community-based restoration initiatives. When combined, these projects provide a framework for demonstrating the effectiveness of taking a watershed approach to Ecosystem-based Management.

COASTAL MANAGEMENT: Surfers’ Point Managed Shoreline Retreat

One of the formative issues in Ventura has been shoreline erosion at the county’s most popular surf break. Responding to the threat of a seawall, the chapter started a proactive campaign to relocate a poorly planned bike path and parking lot inland, an alternative approach now known as “managed shoreline retreat.” The intent is to reestablish the natural “erosion buffer zone” by restoring the beach and dune environment. The new parking lot to be reconstructed a short distance inland will improve water quality through the use of “Low Impact Development” features that will capture and filter stormwater runoff. The final design was completed with the cooperation of local and state government agencies and construction is scheduled for 2009-2010. Now almost 15 years in the making, the only remaining hurdle is finding additional funding to complete the $7M project.

DAM REMOVAL: Matilija Dam Ecosystem Restoration Project:

As the chapter ramped up its campaign to restore the beach, it also began promoting the removal of the obsolete Matilija Dam, located 16 miles up the Ventura River. Using the slogan “Give a Dam, Free the Sand, Grow the Beach” this campaign publicized the connection between beach erosion and the 6 million cubic yards of sediment trapped behind the dam. Meanwhile, the southern steelhead trout was added to the endangered species list, and local government quickly recognized the potential benefits of restoring a free-flowing river. Ten years and several studies later, this idea has become an internationally recognized example of ecosystem restoration. Final design is underway, the first components of the project have begun, and pending funding, Matilija Dam is slated for removal in 2014.

STORMWATER: Greening the Urban Watershed:

Building on the chapter’s early Blue Water Taskforce volunteer coastal water quality monitoring, this program aims to reduce urban runoff starting with a small coastal drainage in the City of Ventura. Research revealed how communities around the country are working to re-design urban watersheds that drain directly into rivers and beaches. Using computer Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software, chapter members produced a map of the urban watershed and illustrated a conceptual plan for urban storm water management. This plan focuses on a small coastal watershed, and identifies potential pilot project opportunities including parks, streetscapes, storm drain retrofits, and coastal wetlands restoration. The City of Ventura took notice, and this summer passed a “green streets initiative” that will earmark 20% of all future street repaving funds to stormwater retrofit. (SF Victory #99) The chapter hopes this local funding will draw additional grants to expand upon this concept and gradually construct on-the-ground projects to demonstrate the effectiveness of an integrated stormwater management plan. In the meantime, our “Ocean Friendly Gardens” campaign is showing local residents ways that they can conserve water while doing their part to reduce urban runoff in their own homes. Friendly Gardens.html

WATERSHED RESTORATION: Integrated Water Management

The Ventura River is the only major watershed in the entire Southern California region that does not rely on imported water. But population growth and climate change pose an increasing threat to the long term sustainability of this resource. As the State of California seeks to solve its growing water crisis, Surfrider is working with local government in Ventura to promote integration of water resources to enhance water supply, water quality, habitat and recreation. Possible future projects include stormwater capture and reuse, water recycling, natural floodplain management, and other means to modernize the wasteful water management practices that degrade coastal ecosystems.


The Ventura Ecosystem-based Management project is a model for developing an integrated approach to solving the ocean crisis. This relatively small watershed provides an opportunity for the implementation of community-based solutions to typical problems affecting coastlines around the world. In the end, demonstration projects like this will be the testing grounds to determine if we, as a society, are able to change our ways and develop sustainable approaches to land and water use that are now urgently needed to ensure that our coastal resources are restored and preserved for future generations.

To find out more:

Making Waves also included this:

Ventura Green Streets Initiative

On July 14, 2008, the Ventura City Council took a significant step toward cleaning up the urban stormwater that pollutes our beaches. Ventura’s ‘Green Street Elements and Demonstration Project’ earmarks 20% of the funding for all future repaving projects for stormwater improvements. Money was also allocated for a residential street demonstration project that will show how to reduce runoff with permeable concrete and other detention and infiltration features.

The new city policy follows recommendations made by the Ventura County Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation in a vision document produced earlier this year. 'Green streets' are the best way of dealing with the 'concrete jungle' that is impacting the health of our oceans. Retrofitting existing urban areas with “Low Impact Development (LID)” components is also part of Surfrider’s Ocean Friendly Gardens campaign.

Photo caption: Ventura’s ‘Green Streets’ team includes L-R Ventura City Councilman Ed Summers, Paul Jenkin (Surfrider), Councilman Bill Fulton, Chapter Chair John Wingate, and (front row) Councilman Brian Brennan, and Chapter GIS guru Cynthia Hartley

For more info see: