Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Local news - removing Matilija Dam

Our local weekly, VC Reporter, published a story on Matilija Dam and the Ventura River project.

Environmentalists finally see progress in removing Matilija Dam

Federal funds released through spending bills this year set to spur activity for projects around the county

$965,000 of the spending bill has been designated to restore the Ventura River, long the goal of environmentalists and
subject of bureaucratic infighting.

“Without dam removal, we’re going to see continued decline of the steelhead population,” said Jenkin, who said efforts to get the 60-year-old dam torn down began in the 1960s, but gained momentum in the 1990s when the Surfrider Foundation took up the cause.

Meanwhile, Jenkin is hoping some money from the federal economic stimulus package passed in January will be used to complete funding for a project to restore the beach at Surfer’s Point.

“That one’s shovel ready,” said Jenkin, explaining that the plan to move the popular bicycle path further back from shore is an alternative to building a sea wall.

“That will provide natural shoreline protection for the path and parking lot,” said Jenkin, “a natural buffer more able to respond to high tide.”

Monday, March 30, 2009

FLOW the film

I took the time on Sunday afternoon to attend the Ventura Film Fest showing of FLOW.

The film takes a worldwide look at impacts to local communities when rivers are dammed and water is privatized. When faced with the reality of losing their water supply, people are given no choice but to fight for survival. It's not a pretty picture. And although this seems like a 3rd world issue, the film includes issues right here in America.

Interestingly, the City of Ventura sponsored the film, hosting a Q&A with the city's water manager after the showing. Although the topic is complex, the audience asked some pertinent questions. And the answers were telling.

For instance:

Q1 - What is the city doing to adapt to climate change and ensure a sustainable water supply in the future?

A - Drilling new wells. Perhaps hooking up with Oxnard. And using some reclaimed water. (paraphrased)

Q2 - What is the city doing to address the urban runoff problem?

A - The new stormwater permit will require some new programs, but we've been able to make sure the requirements will not cost the ratepayer too much. (paraphrased)

Why are these answers significant? It is clear that future realities have not yet hit home.

What would we hope the answers be?

A1 - 'The city is planning to phase out all ocean and estuary discharge of wastewater, because we know 'wasted water' also impacts the coast and ocean that are so important to our local economy. We are also working toward incentives for greywater systems citywide, because we know that we can reduce our wastewater by up to 50% while effectively doubling our water supply.'

A2 - 'The city is working on a 'green infrastructure' plan to integrate our stormwater systems with parks, schools, bikeways, tree planting, rainwater harvesting, parking lots, medians, urban creeks, and green streets, to ensure that in the future the majority of our rainwater and day-to-day urban runoff is captured within the landscape. This will reduce our water demand while recharging aquifers and protecting and restoring our rivers and beaches.'

Wastewater modernization is still a long way off. Surfrider has commented formally on water/wastewater before.

Pieces of the stormwater solution are starting to happen in Ventura. Last summer the City of Ventura formalized a 'green streets' program. If planning was in place, these types of projects could become part of the "green revolution," an economic stimulus that would employ hundreds of local people, while creating a secure future.

State and Federal grants are becoming available for implementation of these strategies. But Ventura needs grants to do the planning, before these opportunities are lost.

Ironically, I walked around back after the film. It seems the renovation of the historic Elks Lodge is not quite complete - water was leaking from the building, flowing through the parking lot, on its way to the ocean.

We still have a long way to go.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Grow Food Party Crew

Why waste water on a lawn, when you can grow food in your own garden?

Don't know how? Here's a group that will come in and do it with you, and throw a party too!

"Grow Food Party Crew"

coming soon to a garden near you....

contact them here: growfoodpartycrew@gmail.com

Friday, March 20, 2009

Gypsy Moth controversy

Last fall, the County Agricultural Commissioner found evidence of Gypsy Moths in the Ojai Valley.

A quick google search turned up this:

The gypsy moth is a pest that was imported into the United States in 1869 in an experiment to produce an improved silk producer. Once it escaped, it established in the New England states and has since defoliated forests, killed trees, and created great nuisances in urban areas. The greatest feeding damage is done by older caterpillars during the last two weeks of June, sometimes making it appear as if trees are stripped of leaves practically over night. ...almost everyone has some level of concern when gypsy moth caterpillars cause noticeable defoliation of trees, drop their frass (feces) on everything under the trees, or when the hairy caterpillars begin to crawl over everything in sight. At this point, people are willing to spray almost anything that they think will eliminate these caterpillars from their daily routines.

So, how can people avoid coming into contact with synthetic pesticides, yet control the gypsy moth? One answer is to use products derived from a naturally occurring, soil dwelling bacterium, called Bacillus thuringiensis, or "BT" for short.

This week the Agricultural Commissioner had plans to spray BT (Bacillus thuringiensis) a naturally occurring bacterium that produces a crystal protein toxin that kills the cells lining the insect gut. However, local residents, alarmed by information from Pesticide Free Ojai, have been refusing access to their property. Without this timely control, before the moths hatch in the coming weeks, the Ojai Valley's precious native oaks could be devastated. And with climate change upon us, the native shade canopy in the hot arid Ojai valley could be irreplaceable.

The controversy: http://www.ojaipost.com/2009/03/do_we_really_need_more_pestici.shtml

Update: State gets court order to spray for gypsy moths: Escorted by law enforcement, five agriculture crews try to stop moth's spread with pesticide



More info:

BT in Organic Gardening
: http://www.dirtdoctor.com/view_question.php?id=184

CA Dept of Food and Ag: http://www.cdfa.ca.gov/phpps/gypsymoth/


Aligning Land Use and Water Quality

From 2006-2008, the Local Government Commission (LGC) worked with agencies and organizations to develop a watershed-based strategy for aligning local planning and stormwater management to minimize the water quality impacts of future development in Ventura County. This project, which is funded by California Water Boards, will help the county and cities therein comply with the new countywide NPDES stormwater permit, while meeting other environmental and community goals. Specifically, the project will help integrate land use pattern BMPs such as compact development with site-specific strategies referred to as Low Impact Development.

Few decisions have greater impact on the quality, reliability, use and overall sustainability of water resources than how and where we grow. The purpose of this plan is to better understand and bridge the disconnect between how we regulate land development and the standards we expect related to watershed health. This document is comprised of four main parts:
  • An assessment of existing conditions and policies to identify needs and opportunities.
  • A narrative explaining links between land use regulations in Ventura County and watershed health.
  • Specific policy recommendations for aligning land use planning, community design and stormwater/watershed management programs.
  • Technical review sheets to guide alignment of local codes and planning programs with stormwater and watershed management programs.
You can download a copy of the plan by clicking on the link below:

Water Resources and Land Use Planning: Watershed-based Strategies for Ventura County

Short Term
▼ Revise and update existing code requirements related to Stormwater Management.
▼ For the next General Plan cycle, develop broad themes of joint water/land development objectives.
▼ Elevate the role of sub-area planning as a watershed tool in General Plans and Codes.
▼ Explore use of existing planning tools to delineate sub-regional mitigation programs or RPAMPS and include in integrated water resources management plan.
▼ Improve design of pending capital improvements for permit compliance.
▼ Develop a first year plan for alignment, with notice of changes requiring State or Water Board action.
▼ Create a multi-disciplinary BMP team.
▼ Create a Water Mitigation Enterprise Fund.

Medium Term
▼ Create specialized “menu combinations” of BMPs based on the land development context and pollutants of concern.
▼ Scope out neighborhoods where pollutant/volume loading is high yet where developer driven BMP installment potential is low.
▼ Begin to develop hydromodification control strategies related to land development,
redevelopment and retrofit.

Long Term
▼ Implement a Watershed Wide EIR and premap a compact/redevelopment preferred
▼ Explore software to track smart growth, structural and non-structural BMPs.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Wild About Ojai

Ojai Valley Land Conservancy
Part III of it's Wild About Ojai 2009 Series


Last Friday & Saturday, March 13th & 14th, Ojai residents had the opportunity to learn about the river from local experts. I joined Stevie on the field trip to speak about the Matilija Dam project.

I. River Talk - No Work Stoppage for the Ventura River!
Presentation by Stevie Adams, OVLC Biologist and Project Manager
Friday evening, March 13th from 7-9pm
at the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy office- 370 Baldwin Road
While our government continues to cut vital programs, our river tirelessly toils to bring us numerous public services for free. Stevie Adams will present an exploration of the natural functions and processes of the Ventura river system that capture and filter water, dissipate flood flows, and put sand on our beaches. Please join her to learn how a river works, why floodplains are so important and what cost altering the river brings.

II. River Walk - The Plants of the Ventura River Habitat
A hike on the Ventura River with Lanny Kaufer, Ethnobotanist and naturalist

III. River Driving Tour - From Matilija Dam to Foster Park, a tour of our watershed with Stevie Adams - Meet at the Riverview Trailhead Saturday at 1pm for a 1 1/2 hour driving tour. Join Stevie for a carpool tour of the river Saturday afternoon to observe river processes in action and how alteration of our river has impacted its ability to function.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Coastal Development at Surfers' Point

March 12, 2009

City of Ventura
Planning Division
501 Poli St
Ventura, CA 93001

RE: Embassy Suites Hotel/T J Mian & Associates Mitigated Negative Declaration # 2278

The Surfrider Foundation has reviewed the MND for the proposed development. The project proposes a new four-story hotel to fill the vacant 2.74-acre parcel at the corner of Figueroa and Harbor Blvd. in Ventura.

We are concerned that the MND does not adequately address impacts on coastal resources due to climate change.

Although there is considerable uncertainty regarding the impacts of Climate Change, the State of California has passed AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 that recognizes the threat of climate change. On March 11, 2009, the Pacific Institute released a report commissioned by the State that addresses potential impacts to the coast of California due to sea level rise as a result of climate change. Using a very conservative 1.4m increase in sea level elevation over the coming century, the study estimates that the cost of building new or upgrading existing coastal structures is estimated to be at least $14 billion (in year 2000 dollars), with an additional $1.4 billion per year in maintenance costs. The UN has predicted even greater and faster sea level rise, so this impact could me much greater.

Permitting such a large development directly on the coast will increase the future need for taxpayer subsidies to protect this property. We suggest that, if this project is approved, a mitigation bank be established to provide funding for coastal maintenance. Tax revenues or a separate coastal mitigation fee should be established for all new commercial development within the future inundation zones of the California coast. Alternatively, the project should be bonded to provide funds for its removal, should that become necessary in the future.

While we recognize the need for re-vitalization of the local economy, we want to ensure that the true cost of coastal development is not passed on to future generations.

A public hearing on this project is scheduled for 6 PM on March 17, at the City Council Chambers at City Hall.


MND-2278 may be downloaded from the city's website here

City Council will be approving the land swap and MND on April 20

Related issue:


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Federal government must pay Casitas Muncipal Water District

In Casitas Municipal Water District v. United States, the Federal Circuit recently decided that the United States physically may have taken Plaintiff's water rights without just compensation by requiring the Water District to re-route water for an endangered species of trout. This decision may significantly affect the outcome of other Fifth Amendment takings cases as well as future implementation of the Endangered Species Act.

This Fifth Amendment private property rights claim in Federal Claims Court against the U.S. Government for allegedly physically taking water asserted to be the private property of Casitas Municipal Water District (Ventura River) will have broad water and private property policy implications, no matter which way it eventually is decided.

The suit was engendered as a result of the National Marine Fisheries Service (and CalTrout) interest in providing for fish passage across the Robles Diversion Structure (a dam, essentially) that blocked endangered southern steelhead migration upstream to spawning and rearing habitat. When the water district built a fish ladder to accommodate the anadromous steelhead, they also filed for compensation for the taking of water required to operate the fish ladder. Upon appeal to a 3-judge review panel from the original Claims Court decision, the panel majority ruled (2-1) that because water used to operate the fish ladder came from a canal labelled "Robles - Casitas Canal," the Federal Government has "taken" physical property belonging to the water district. A subsequent request to the Federal Claims Court for review en banc was rejected. The State of California holds that the water rights diversion permit issued to the water district does not confer title to the water, instead the permit gives the district simply the right to divert a specified volume of water annually.

VC Star article: http://www.venturacountystar.com/news/2009/feb/18/casistas-water-district-closer-to-being-for-fish/

The Federal Circuit's Decision in Casitas Municipal Water District:

Battle of Western water law vs. ESA may head to Supreme Court:




Report Assesses Impacts of Sea-Level Rise

The report, The Impacts of Sea-Level Rise on the California Coast, concludes that sea-level rise will inevitably change the character of the California coast, and that adaptation strategies must be evaluated, tested, and implemented if the risks identified in the report are to be reduced or avoided.

This image of the Ventura coast was taken from the interactive map on the Pacific Institute website. This shows the increased risk of coastal flooding with 1.4m sea level rise.

Statewide impacts include:

A 1.4 meter sea‐level rise will put 480,000 people at risk of a 100‐year flood event, given today’s population.

A wide range of critical infrastructure, such as roads, hospitals, schools, emergency facilities, wastewater treatment plants, power plants, and more will also be at increased risk of inundation in a 100‐year flood event. This infrastructure at risk includes:

  • Nearly 140 schools;
  • 34 police and fire stations;
  • more than 330 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA)‐regulated hazardous waste facilities or sites, with large numbers in Alameda, Santa Clara, San Mateo, and Los Angeles counties;
  • an estimated 3,500 miles of roads and highways and 280 miles of railways;
  • 30 coastal power plants, with a combined capacity of more than 10,000 megawatts;
  • 29 wastewater treatment plants, 22 on the San Francisco Bay and 7 on the Pacific coast, with a combined capacity of 530 million gallons per day; and
  • the San Francisco and Oakland airports.

Approximately 1,100 miles of new or modified coastal protection structures are needed on the Pacific Coast and San Francisco By to protect against coastal flooding. The total cost of building new or upgrading existing structures is estimated at about $14 billion (in year 2000 dollars).

The study also recommends a strategy for response to sea level rise, including restricting development in future innundation zones and phased abandonment of low‐ and medium‐density areas at high risk.

See also:

California panel urges ‘immediate action’ to protect from rising sea levels; Report recommends phased abandonment of coastal areas and moving state infrastructure inland


Monday, March 9, 2009

Kids iNspire

Last year a local kid was successful in enhancing awareness about climate change and sea level rise.

Alec also became the youngest person certified to present Al Gore's "Inconvenient Truth." He continues spreading his message and empowering folks all around the country.

local press: ventura-teen-delivers-global-warming-message