Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Stormwater permit on hold

The Regional Water Quality Control Board recently remanded the Ventura MS4 'municipal stormwater' permit in response to legal pressure from the building industry. At a recent conference, building industry representatives described some of their issues with the permit, but predicted that the permit will ultimately be re-instated. Presentations from the conference are here.

Last summer, the Regional Water Quality Control Board completed a multi-year process and passed a new 'Stormwater Permit' for Ventura County. After an 11 hour hearing, the regulators adopted a permit the reflected a 'deal' forged between the 'permitees' and the 'environmental interests'. In this case, the permitees are the County and City governments. The environmental interests were dominated by NRDC and Heal the Bay.

The deal? The permit would require strict runoff reductions on new and infill development (LID) in exchange for limited municipal responsibility (MAL). The building industry took exception and followed up on their threat to file legal action - this was based on 'due process' as well as substantive claims regarding the feasibility of the new requirements.

LID - 'low impact development' - something that should be required with new development, LID aims to capture and infiltrate rain water on site.

MAL - 'Municipal Action Level' - 'municipal action' would be required where monitoring shows runoff exceeds an established threshold deemed harmful to receiving waters.

The arguments for and against LID and MAL were discussed in depth over a three year period, with regulators hoping to develop a permit that would actually improve water quality at our creeks and beaches. At odds were the building industry, who would be responsible for LID, and the cities, who would be on the hook for MALs. Both claimed fiscal and technical issues with both of these regulations.

So now the 'deal' has backfired, and the permit will go back for review. New County guidelines are on hold, and question marks resurface for both sides...

Our position remains the same - municipalities need to begin planning for a modernized water management system, to include stormwater. "Green Infrastructure" can solve multiple problems with an integrated approach to urban planning. And redevelopment should be used to help implement the plan.

Our "Solving the Urban Runoff Problem" document outlines a vision for how this would be achieved in an already developed urban area.

Hopefully this recent action will provide an opportunity for these concepts to be incorporated into the permit to the acceptance of everyone involved. A common vision is needed to move beyond the current roadblocks.

Our new video provides a fresh perspective on the issues: Know Your H2O

More: Storm water rules go back for revision

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Steelhead documented in fish ladder

Saturday March 21, 2010: Casitas Municipal Water District reported the first documented adult steelhead of the season.

Two adult steelhead were photographed passing through the Robles Diversion fish passage facilities; the fish were preliminarily estimated to be a 62 and 58 cm (24 and 23 inches) in length, and appear to be relatively fresh from the ocean. Here are two photos taken from the video clips, and one of the videos.

This does not mean these are the first or only fish to have made their way upstream, but these are the first pictures. At a board meeting earlier this year, CMWD biologists described the limitations of the camera detection system installed in the fish ladder. They have done experiments that show that the cameras cannot detect fish when the river is turbid (murky) - which happens to be any time the flows are high, and very often when fish are on the move.

More information on the Casitas fisheries program is on their website:

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Cycle of Insanity video

Know Your H2O website is up with the Cycle of Insanity video

The Cycle of Insanity: The Real Story of Water from Surfrider Foundation on Vimeo.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Cycle of Insanity debut

Monday was World Water Day

In celebration, the San Diego Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation hosted a premiere of 'The Cycle of Insanity' at UC San Diego.

The Cycle of Insanity: The Real Story of Water was created by a team of Surfrider Foundation activists, and sponsored by the California Chapters.

'Team Insanity' pictured here includes actor Zuleikha Robinson of the television show Lost.

The event at UCSD included a panel discussion following the film. Water experts gave thier impression of the film and an overview of the work they do, followed by questions from the audience.

In the film, the different water agencies are represented by animated 'drips' of water. Those who attended were greeted by 3 'drips' outside the building.

The San Diego Chapter throws a great event!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

First LID Parking Lot in Ventura

I had heard rumors. The word about town was the parking lot for the new "Fresh and Easy" store in Ventura.

Once you see how this works, it's so obvious. A simple shift from 'convex' medians to a 'concave' swale makes all the difference. Curbless planters allow water to enter landscaped areas. Pervious 'grass-crete' paving under the parked cars catches oil drips.

It's a shift from a landscape designed to shed water, to one that captures and infiltrates the runoff from paved surfaces.

Go take a look for yourself. Then visit our Ocean Friendly Gardens website and apply it to your own property!

Slow it, spread it, sink it!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Corps Reform Network meeting in DC

The Corps Reform Network held their annual meeting in Washington DC March 14-17, 2010. Over 70 participants from around the country convened to learn how to influence Corps projects and share their experiences.

The Surfrider Foundation is a member of the Network, as our chapters are affected by the numerous Corps projects around the country. It was good to see that we are not alone in trying to instill sanity into Corps activities that threaten our nation's waterways.

The conference also gave me an opportunity to meet with our legislative representatives as well as key federal staff to discuss the Matilija Dam project.

The Corps Reform Network is a coalition of hundreds of organizations from around the country, supports member groups advocating to ensure that Army Corps of Engineers projects are economically and environmentally sound. As our nation's largest water management agency, the impacts Corps projects have on our environment rival that of any other federal agency or private company.

With the passage of WRDA '07, the Network was successful in passing several measures to 'reform' the way the corps does business. The new law requires the corps to modernize its project planning, strengthen its wetlands mitigation, and independently review certain projects. Unfortunately, the Corps has yet to recognize or implement these changes.

As part of the conference, American Rivers presented the recently released A Citizen's Guide to the Corps of Engineers, downloadable off their website.

The Network was successful in bringing high-level federal agency staff to the meeting to provide an opportunity to hear and discuss the issues. The full agenda may be downloaded, and a summary of the topics is listed below:

Panel Discussion: Improving the White House Council on Environmental Quality’s new proposed ‘Principles and Guidelines’ (P&G) for federal water projects. How you can help influence the new guidelines to better address your water resource needs and challenges.

Panel Discussion: Ensuring Better Management of America’s Floodplains. How do federal policies and programs need to change to better protect people and wildlife?

Keynote Lunch Speaker: Jo-Ellen Darcy – Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works to discuss the direction of the Corps’ civil works and regulatory programs.

Panel Discussion: Community and Environmental Protection in an Era of Global Climate Change. How do we work with nature to adapt to rising seas, changing water cycles and more frequent and intense storms?

A View From the Hill: Congressional Staff from the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Appropriations Committee discuss project and policy priorities, and process insights.

White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) Listening Session on America’s New Water Policy (P&G Revisions). Corps Reform Network Members will provide their comments on the proposed Principles and Guidelines (P&G) to the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

original post here:

Patagonia's 'Cleanest Line'

Patagonia's blog, 'Cleanest Line' recently had a follow up on Matilija Dam.

The post includes some background and an update on the issue. It also includes a longer interview with Yvon Chouinard, posted below, on the historic efforts to protect and restore the Ventura River:

Youtube link here:

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wild and Scenic - Ventura

Our film Watershed Revolution is screening this Saturday night as part of the Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival hosted by Ventura Hillsides Conservancy.

Wild and Scenic Environmental Films "On Tour" will visit over 100 cities this year. The Ventura Hilsides Conservancy will host the traveling Film Festival at the Poinsettia Pavilion in Ventura on Friday, March 12 and Saturday, March 13 starting at 7pm.

A different lineup will screen each night. Friday night's theme is land and has some great family short films. Saturday night's theme will be water, headlining our local film Watershed Revolution.

Individual tickets are $10 and can be purchased online or at the door (if not sold out.)

Watershed Revolution will also will be the feature film at two upcoming festivals:

March 19, 2010 Napa Environmental Film Festival, Napa, CA

April 25, 2010 Newport Beach Film Festival, Newport Beach, CA

other showings around the country here:

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Regulatory hurdles

Seems like no good deed goes unpunished... Ojai's manure solutions should take heed.

This popped up on the blog...

The LA Times reports A stink in Central California over converting cow manure to electricity - Air-quality rules in the region leave dairy farmers facing costly changes to generators used to burn methane to produce power. Some have put their renewable-energy plans on hold.

Surfers' Point project ready to go

Last night Ventura City Council approved the contract plans and specifications for the Surfers Point Managed Shoreline Retreat Initial Phase project and authorized the advertisement for bids to be received by Tuesday, April 13, 2010.

According to the staff report:

The Surfers Point project has now reached a major milestone with construction ready to
commence on nearly half of the ultimate project. The major components of this phase will include removing nearly half of the existing damaged Fairgrounds parking lot closest to the Ventura River, replacing this parking with an adjacent temporary surfaced lot, relocating the class I bike path, placing a significant amount of the buried cobble needed to provide erosion protection for the relocated improvements and covering it with enough sand for easier access, shortening and abandoning a portion of Shoreline Drive, and installing storm water quality improvements.

On February 22, 2010 the City Council approved the purchase of cobble rock and sand needed for the ... project, at a total cost of $600,000. Purchasing the needed cobble and sand up front for the initial phase of the Project would remove a large unknown factor to contractors who would be bidding on this Project and should provide the City much more competitive bids on the overall Project.

The full project cost for the Surfers Point Managed Shoreline Retreat project is currently estimated at $9.6 million. Appropriations for the project are approximately $4.88 million resulting from prior grants received from the State Coastal Conservancy, State Coastal Resources, and Federal TEA-21 transportation/bikeway grants. The initial phase project that will be constructed this fall is estimated to cost $2.7 million.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Patagonia promotes Matilija Dam

This American Express commercial ran nationwide during last night's Oscar awards as part of their Take Part campaign.


 Thanks to Patagonia and Yvon Chouinard for putting Matilija Dam in the national spotlight! Patagonia is a founding member of the Matilija Coalition and has tirelessly supported the long battle to remove this defunct dam from the Ventura River. 

Monday, March 1, 2010

Surfrider Europe

On Friday I was pleased to have the opportunity to host two staff members from Surfrider Europe, Nathalie VanDenBroek and Cendrine Templier, on a tour of the Ventura area. We visited Surfers Point, Sanjon drain, and Matilija Dam.

The Ventura River Ecosystem project is an example of many of the issues that Surfrider Foundation activists are dealing with around the world. Beach erosion and coastal management, water quality, and watershed issues are at the core of our work.

Surfrider Europe is working on similar campaigns. Their focus is on water quality, 'artificial coasts' (seawalls), and 'macro debris' (plastic in the ocean.)

Tsunami effects in Ventura

Tsunami is a Japanese word represented by two characters: "tsu" and "nami". The character "tsu" means harbor, while the character "nami" means wave. In the past, tsunamis were often referred to as "tidal waves" by many English speaking people. Although the term "tidal wave" is a misnomer, the onshore effect is similar to the tide rapidly rising and falling.

On Saturday February 27, a massive 8.8 magnitude earthquake hit the coast of Chile. This is the same fault that produced a 9.5 quake which killed 1,655 people and left 2 million homeless in 1920. ( Saturday’s quake matched a 1906 temblor off the Ecuadorean coast as the seventh-strongest ever recorded in the world.)

A Tsunami alert was issued for the entire Pacific Ocean. Although not as catastrophic as it could have been, the effect was seen throughout the Pacific rim.

I went down to the harbor to see if the effect was visible, and when I arrived I could see a strong current that was rapidly filling the harbor. By the time I got out to the end of the south jetty, the harbor was already draining back out. I filmed the out and in flow for about an hour, and it seemed like the amplitude had dropped. Later in the day I went back down to Marina Park, and the surge was still very strong.

Reports indicated that the initial waves were the greatest, having an amplitude of plus and minus 3 feet (6 feet total!) inside the harbor. The cycle seemed to have a period of around 20 minutes, which cooincided with many of the reports around the world, including Santa Barbara and San Diego. The tide gauges show that the tsunami continued for over 48 hours.

PAGO PAGO AS 0.70M / 2.3FT 12MIN
VANUATU 0.15M / 0.5FT 22MIN
SAN DIEGO CA 0.13M / 0.4FT 20MIN

The Ventura Harbor seemed to have a physical response to this frequency. Harbors and bays are known to have a 'natural frequency,' which is a function of the length and volume of the body of water. It is possible that the Ventura Harbor was seiching, or experiencing a 'standing wave' phenomenon in response to the tsunami.

According to the Ventura County Star,

A tidal surge estimated at 3 feet rolled into Ventura Harbor about 1 p.m. and unmoored 14 residential docks in the Ventura Keys neighborhood... the Ventura Harbor Master’s Office said there was some erosion and navigational buoys came loose in the inner harbor area, but there were no major incidents. Officials said they focused on getting offshore boats into the harbor. A sailing regatta sponsored by the Pierpont Bay Yacht Club was returning to the harbor and needed assistance from the Harbor Patrol and U.S. Coast Guard to navigate the main channel.

This is video of the harbor entrance taken between 1pm and 2pm, and again after 5 pm.

Another video was posted on YouTube, and showed the effect inside the harbor at around the same time:

More information from NOAA: