Thursday, May 27, 2010

Watershed U - final session

The final evening of Watershed U provided an opportunity to wrap things up and provide some insight into the future. The agenda included presentations from Brock Dolman, who was also in Ojai on Wednesday evening, Sabrina Drill who coordinated the program, Doug Vu with the TPL river parkway plan, and myself. An interesting Q&A session provided an opportunity for participants to ask questions and make suggestions.

I spoke about the need for 'ecosystem-based management' to provide a holistic framework for addressing our coastal (and watershed) crisis. The 'Ventura ecosystem' project is part of current West Coast EBM efforts to generate case studies leading to real on-the-ground solutions.

Although the past 5 weeks of Watershed U provided lots of technical information about the physical parameters of our watershed, I wanted to make the case that the social issues are the real key to success (or failure) in reaching a sustainable management paradigm.

Plagiarizing from other great presentations, I used a few slides to illustrate the disjointed system of governance that we currently operate under, and the need for coordinated regional (watershed-based) governance.

I also described the challenge of conflicting world views and the concept of social process mapping.

Unfortunately, due to a series of technical difficulties, the 'crux' of my presentation was missing. I intended to use the following slides to describe the process of creating a shared vision within the full range of diverse stakeholders. I believe it is critical to first reach a common understanding of the problem(s), then develop a shared vision for the desired outcome.

Then, most importantly, solutions should be defined; actions that all watershed inhabitants can work on as a community to move toward a sustainable future.

These images are taken from the KYH2O video, which helps communicate the problems and solutions in an entertaining manner...

Watershed U was hopefully a first step in generating a shared understanding of the complex workings of our watershed, and the beginning of a broader community-based shift toward sustainable water management. But it will require an ongoing commitment from all of us...

Thanks to Sabrina Drill at UC Cooperative Extension, and the Ventura River Watershed Council for sponsoring Watershed U!

And extra thanks to Karen Bednorz and Patagonia for hosting us for 6 weeks - we couldn't have done it without you!

KYH2O and Basins of Relations

Around 100 people showed up at Chaparral Auditorium in Ojai to see 'Cycle of Insanity' and hear Brock Dolman's talk about water and watersheds. Many thanks to the Ojai Valley Green Coalition for sponsoring this event!

The 'Know Your H2O' video was well received by the audience. Comments included the recommendation to get this out to the schools, and provide more information on agricultural solutions. We love this kind of feedback, as it helps fine tune the message. Remember that the video is streaming online at

It was a real treat to have Brock Dolman visit the Ojai valley from the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center in Sonoma County. Brock delivers a unique message; as we enter the era of 'global weirding' on this planet 'water,' our watershed is our lifeboat. It is essential that we get our Basins of Relations in order...

Much more info here:

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Surfers Point project on track for Sept

May 17, 2010 - The Surfers Point Working Group met to go over the status of the construction schedule and logistics. The project is on track for groundbreaking after labor day, 2010. The construction window is September 7, 2010 - May 27, 2011 to avoid the summer holiday season and the County Fair. A public access plan has been completed to assure continuous beach access during construction, as required by the Coastal Commission permit. The City will also be working on an Information Kiosk to make beachgoers aware of the pending project. Surfrider will help to provide outreach materials, and we are also working on a short video to help support the project.

In the evening, Ventura City Council approved the contract for construction in a 'consent item' on the agenda. I spoke briefly to thank the Council for their commitment to the project, noting that I first appeared before their board sometime in 1995. I also thanked City engineer Rick Raives for his patience and success in securing the grant funding to make this project a reality.

  • Remove approximately 1/2 of existing damaged parking lot closest to the Ventura River Estuary
  • Widen 900-feet long stretch of beach by approximately 60-feet
  • Bury 26,000 tons of small cobblestones along the beach to provide erosion protection and import 18,000 tons of new sand to cover the cobble
  • Shorten Shoreline Drive and construct new cul-ds-ss6 1,000-feet east of existing cul-de-sac
  • Relocate 1,200 -feet of multi-use/bike path and install path lighting
  • Construct new rainwater-permeable parking areas
  • Install a new storm water system including a grass bioswale along the bikepath and a stormwater filtration system to treat runoff before discharge to Ventura River Estuary / Ocean

From 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 (see Attachment 1).

On April 20, 2010, eleven construction bids were received for this project. The apparent
low bidder, C.A. Rasmussen, Inc. of Valencia, submitted a bid in the amount of
$1,693,841, including the Additive Bid Alternate for Bike Path Lights. The Engineer's
estimated construction cost was $2,485,201.

This project is being constructed by utilizing
  • $1.5 million that was granted to the City through the Federal Transportation SAFETEA-LU Act
  • $1.5 million grant from the State Coastal Conservancy
  • $353,000 appropriated by the City Council as part of the Capital Project bond being financed by the RDA repayment to the General Fund.

Recent history:

  • August 3, 2009 - City Council authorizes City Manager to enter into a $1.5 million grant
  • February 22, 2010 - City Council approves the purchase of cobble rock and sand from the Rick Garcia Construction Company, Inc. (RGCC), needed for the Surfers Point Managed Shoreline Retreat Initial Phase project, at a total cost of $600,000
  • March 8, 2010 - City Council approves the contract plans and specifications for the Surfers Point project, in the office of the City Clerk.

In the News:

More here:

Stanley's and other lost surf breaks

'Stanley's' was a surf break along the northern Ventura County coast. Lost to Hwy 101 in 1970, Stanley's has become a local symbol of coastal destruction from freeways and harbors.

Around the world, surf breaks are threatened by development and pollution. The video below is one of many in Patagonia's new online surf catalog, which focuses on the theme "Protect Your Break." This 'e-catalog' is part of Patagonia's ongoing quest to minimize their footprint while producing functional products and delivering an inspiring message.

(Link to this video on YouTube )

The loss of Stanley's inspired local surfers to form the Stanley's Reef Foundation when the adjacent 'Oil Piers' surf spot was lost in the 1990's. Oil piers is slated as the site for an experimental 'artificial reef,' which seems to be back on track for construction sometime in the near future. Whether or not installation of plastic sand bags can re-create the natural wonder of Stanley's remains to be seen... (artificial reef case studies here)

But we should all learn from these losses, and be prepared to stand up and fight for the protection and restoration of the natural surf breaks around the world. Which is exactly why the Surfrider Foundation has worked for almost 20 years for 'managed retreat' at Surfers Point in Ventura, a project that will break ground right after labor day 2010.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Watershed U - steelhead presentation

Watershed U - Ventura River - May 13, 2010
Session 4: Conserving Species and Ecosystems

I presented an overview of the the scientific studies that have been underway since 2002 to assess the steelhead habitat objectives for the removal of Matilija Dam. The crux of the issue is the large dams that create impassible barriers preventing access to headwater habitat.

My presentation titled "Monitoring Annual Trends in Abundance and Distribution of Steelhead Above and Below Matilija Dam, Ventura, California" outlined the Thomas Paine & Associates (TRPA) studies to assess habitat and population within the Ventura/Matilija basins. This data was used in the Matilija Dam Feasibility Study to evaluate baseline conditions for steelhead habitat and predict the benefits from opening up over 20 miles of good-to-excellent perennial creeks to the anadromous, or ocean going, steelhead trout.

These studies are a critical part of the Ecosystem Restoration project, since a dam of this scale has not yet been removed, and the 'flood and drought' climate in our region creates extreme annual variability in steelhead populations.

The Matilija Coalition was successful in a grant application to continue these studies in 2010-2011, and work has already begun with the help of Patagonia and OneSurfFly.

Note that all of these studies are on the Matilija Coaltion website.

More on steelhead on this blog:

Cycle of Insanity at SCWRP

I presented Cycle of Insanity at this month's meeting of the Ventura County Wetlands Task Force, a subgroup of the Southern California Wetlands Recovery Project. The taskforce serves a coordination role for all the diverse watershed stakeholders in Ventura County.

One purpose of the film is to communicate Surfrider's proactive vision for the 'restored water cycle,' and how our use of freshwater resources impacts the coast and ocean.

This vision comes from the need to develop truly integrated water management strategies, especially in Southern California where the majority of the population relies on imported water.
Comments from task force members included;

  • This should be made available for all teachers in our region.
  • Why isn't agriculture included in the solutions?
So if you're a teacher, or know a teacher, please help spread the word. This video is streaming online at

And in response to agriculture: the project was directed more to urban solutions since this is where the IRWMP integrated water management programs are directed. There is undoubtedly a need to support and develop sustainable agriculture, but you can't cover everything in a 20 minute video (...we almost did!)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Potential Annexation of Cañada Larga

Last week the Ventura County Star reported that there was renewed interest in the potential annexation of Cañada Larga into the City of Ventura in order to facilitate development. Cañada Larga is a tributary to the Ventura River, with its confluence downstream of Foster Park.

Although it is not clear whether or not the City will reconsider this issue, the Ventura County Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation wrote a letter to City Council, below, outlining our support for the infill strategy provided for in the 2005 General Plan.

May 10, 2010

TO: Ventura City Council

SUBJECT: Potential Annexation of Cañada Larga

The Ventura County Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation opposes the potential annexation of Cañada Larga into the City of Ventura.

We strongly advocate that the City of Ventura adheres to the guidance provided by the 2005 General Plan. The intent of that plan was to concentrate development within the city boundaries, favoring ‘infill development’ over ‘urban sprawl.’ This is in keeping with the ‘New Urbanist’ approach to city planning that has demonstrated long term economic and watershed benefits.

We are concerned about the watershed impacts from sprawling development and the potential degradation of water quality. The Local Government Commission outlines these issues in the 2008 study Water Resources and Land Use Planning: Watershed-based Strategies for Ventura County. This study focuses on land use planning in Ventura County, and provides specific policy recommendations for aligning land use planning, community design and stormwater/watershed management programs. This document provides a technical rationale for concentrating development within the city limits, as supported by the 2005 General Plan.

We urge the City of Ventura to concentrate our limited resources on infill development, and resist the urge to sprawl beyond our city limits.

A. Paul Jenkin
Environmental Director, Surfrider Foundation - Ventura County Chapter

Reference: Water Resources and Land Use Planning: Watershed-based Strategies for Ventura County, Local Government Commission ,

View Ventura River in a larger map

Friday, May 7, 2010

Paradon paddle out

Photos from the May 1st Paddle Out

OneSurfFly fundraiser

Saturday May 1:

The OneSurfFly fishing contest was held on the beach at Santa Claus Lane in Carpinteria. Sponsored by The Artful Angler, the event drew over 50 fly fishers from around southern California. Contestants were given 3 hours to fly fish in the surf using one fly only.

The hardy leopard sharks, often foul-hooked, broke off many angler's fly early on, putting them out of the running. The common catch was surf perch, with the winners catch-and-releasing more than 15 in the time allotted.

The event raised $1650 for the Matilija Coalition, with the funds going directly to last week's spring steelhead surveys on the Ventura River.

Many thanks to Eric at the Artful Angler and long-time supporter Gary Bulla.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Spring steelhead surveys

April 28-May 1 2010

Spring steelhead surveys on the Ventura River were conducted last week by our biologist team. TRPA has been conducting steelhead studies in the Matilija/Ventura River basin since 2002 as part of the Matilija Dam project.

The work last week consisted of snorkel surveys of pools in the lower, middle, and upper reaches of the main stem Ventura River, as well as the main stem Matilija Creek. I snorkeled on Wednesday in the lower river.

This photo illustrates how a small fishing lure is used to estimate the maximum distance at which a diver would be able to distinguish a trout. Visibility was estimated at only about 4 ft in the lower pools, with water temperatures in the low 60 degrees F.

Although we did not see any steelhead on this day, lots of carp were documented, a relatively abundant non-native species found in the lower Ventura River.

The team worked their way up the river on Thursday and Friday, documenting juvenile trout in the middle and upper reaches of the river.

The Steelhead Population and Habitat Assessment in the Ventura River / Matilija Creek Basin studies are part of ongoing research effort to provide baseline data of the current population and advance the understanding of this species, which is endangered in Sou
thern California. This annual monitoring has documented continued productivity and the variability of fish presence within the watershed.

These spring surveys were sponsored by the 2009 Patagonia Salmon Run and the OneSurfFly fishing event last weekend.

The Matilija Coalition is proud to announce the success of our application to sponsor these studies through grant funding from the CA Dept of Fish and Game (DFG) Fisheries Restoration Grant Program through the NOAA Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund. This funding will provide the resources for comprehensive Steelhead Population and Habitat Assessment in the Ventura River / Matilija Creek Basin in 2010-2011.