Thursday, October 28, 2010

West Coast EBM 2010

This week the West Coast EBM Network held its annual meeting. This year the meeting was held in Monterrey, CA, selected for its proximity to the Elkhorn Slough, the site of one of the West Coast projects.

Part of the meeting was dedicated to getting updates from the various projects, and strategizing next steps for the network.

We also received presentations on the following:

  • EBM Tools and Training
  • NOAA National and Regional Developments Update
  • National Ocean Policy Update
  • WCGA Update
  • West Coast Integrated Ecosystem Assessments (IEAs)
  • Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary
  • Green Fire Productions Ocean Film
  • Surfrider Foundation
I took the opportunity to share the trailer for our 'Cycle of Insanity' film, which provides the 'big picture' of our misuse of fresh water resources and how we can fix the problem through 'Integrated Management' - or 'Ecosystem Based Management (EBM)' - which is basically the goal of Surfrider's Know Your H2O program.

We were also treated to a field tour of Elkhorn Slough by program managers Bryan Largay and Monique Fountain. Kayaks are the preferred vehicle for navigating the slough and observing wildlife - and we saw sea otters, sea lions, seals, pelicans, and plenty of shorebirds.

Bryan provided an overview of the problems facing the slough since the Army Corps constructed Moss Landing Harbor. The large entrance to the ocean greatly increased tidal currents in the slough. These currents subsequently caused erosion of the channels and banks, with loss of sediment out to the ocean. The changed hydrology resulted in changes in habitats, with the major loss of tidal salt marsh which makes up the foundation for this ecosystem.

The project is about to break ground on construction of a small 'sill,' or submerged weir in the back channels of the slough. The Parsons Slough Restoration Project is intended to begin a process to restore the historic tidal hydrology within the slough.

More info:

Elkhorn Slough Tidal Wetland Project

Know Your H2O

Friday, October 22, 2010

Cycle of Insanity in Santa Barbara

Joe Geever, Surfrider Foundation Policy Coordinator and I made the trip up to Santa Barbara yesterday to present Cycle of Insanity - the Real Story of Water

The film was well received by the Santa Barbara Chapter, who are currently gearing up for Ocean Friendly Gardens... plus, they always throw a good party!

Know Your H2O:

Cycle of Insanity:

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Surfers Point cleanup

In what is probably the biggest "beach cleanup" in Ventura County history, contractors last week made progress on demolition work at Surfers' Point. Piles of concrete, asphalt, and rocks accumulated rapidly with the work of heavy machinery.

The rock 'rip-rap' revetment near the rivermouth was moved to the Fairgrounds parking lot.

(The revetment was constructed without permits in 1992 and now, 18 years later, it has finally been removed from the beach.)

A portion of the asphalt bike path was removed.

Much of this concrete and asphalt will be recycled and re-used in the new parking lot.

The design plans and more information about the history of the project are at

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Capps in Santa Barbara

Congresswoman Lois Capps held a press conference in Santa Barbara yesterday. The event was focused on Prop 23, a measure on the ballot that would reverse Prop 32, the California Climate Bill.

I was invited to speak and stressed Surfrider Foundation's 'Not the Answer' campaign - the title says it all - more offshore drilling is not the answer to our energy future, and threatens the sustainable management of our coasts and oceans. And as someone who has driven both electric and biodiesel vehicles over the past decade, I recognize the potential for California to become a world leader in the new technologies that will enable a sustainable energy future...

In the news: Capps_to_lead_environmental_rally_at_shoreline_park
KEYT news

More info: No on Prop 23
Not the Answer
Who Killed the Electric Car?
Sustainable Options

Recent news: Star probe turns up more about channel oil firms

Monday, October 18, 2010

Field trips

I received a stack of 'thank you' notes this weekend from a group of first and second graders who I had taken on a walk along the Ventura River estuary and out to the beach. I think they got it...

Friday, October 15, 2010

Blog action day - Water

Blog Action Day is an annual event held every October 15 that unites the world’s bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day with the aim of sparking a global discussion and driving collective action. This year's topic is water.

Blog Action Day 2010: Water from Blog Action Day on Vimeo.

This Ventura River Ecosystem blog has been a means to communicate the complex issues that our community faces in stewardship of our watershed and coastal resources. It is increasingly clear that 'Ecosystem-based Management' is all about water. How we manage our fresh water directly impacts our coast and ocean. Water is the universal fluid that directly connects our actions on land with the sea that we all depend upon.

The Ventura River Watershed is a microcosm for water and watershed management. With an area of only 225 square miles, the Ventura River is small enough to provide an opportunity to develop a model of holistic management. Our watershed includes all the pieces of the puzzle: from highly urbanized areas to small rural communities; large dam removal to 'ocean friendly gardens;' a large surface reservoir to local aquifers. In this climate of flood and drought, we need to begin to coordinate our efforts in a sustainable manner. Because climate change adaptation is all about Water.

Although it seems we are currently stuck in the cycle of 'one step forward and two steps backward,' my hope is that this blog will help serve to raise the level of awareness in our community so that we may move forward with a common vision - one that will provide a sustainable future for our children and our children's children. Our lives depend on it.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Canada Larga moves forward

Regardless of the issues with annexing undeveloped Canada Larga canyon, it makes one wonder.

How did a developer con our decision-makers
into funding the EIR for his project,
while simultaneously providing a loophole
to our existing SOAR growth ordinance?

It makes for a good show - on Monday evening City Council was first serenaded by hundreds of their own employees protesting a request to 'chip in,' then over an hour of testimony on rezoning the failing auto mall to allow a poker club to move in. Then hours of testimony from concerned citizens destined to fall on deaf ears.

The mayor is concerned this may signal a return to the Bad Old Days "where developers engage in game-playing to try to get four votes, people on either side of an issue call each other names, and everything comes to a halt because it’s so contentious."

Too bad, because as a community, we aren't even asking the right questions yet. While our leaders use taxpayer funds to justify unlimited expansion, regional aquifers are failing and our 'wastewater' continues to be wasted.

Truly the Cycle of Insanity.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Surfers' Point project begins

On Friday, following a short delay, the heavy equipment began work clearing the project area at Surfers' Point. First to go were the trees along Shoreline Drive, followed by the concrete 'K-Rail' barriers that have delineated the bike path since it was damaged in 1992.

More about the Surfers Point Managed Shoreline Retreat project here:

Friday, October 8, 2010

Canada Larga annexation

On Monday October 11 the Ventura City Council will vote on whether to study the Canada Larga Valley with the intention of annexing the area for construction of executive homes. The 800-acre rural valley is located four miles north of the current City boundary. This issue has been wrapped into the Westside & North Avenue planning process. The annexation issue will be re-considered on Monday night following a legal determination that will allow Councilman Monahan to vote (to break the 3-3 tie)

The map below is from the City of Ventura 2005 General Plan EIR, available for download on the City's website. It shows the current city limits (red line) and the potential expansion areas considered at that time.

Note that the City of Ventura has not pre-designated land use zoning for Canada Larga, which is currently zoned as 'open space' under Ventura County jurisdiction - this provides a 'loophole' in the SOAR ordinance in which voters would need to approve a land-use change. If the property was annexed to the city of Ventura it would be exempt from a SOAR vote.

Although the issue of expanding the city boundaries was discussed throughout the Comprehensive Plan Update process in the early 2000's, City Council at that time voted to concentrate city resources on infill development/redevelopment. Infill is widely recognized as 'smart growth' from a variety of viewpoints. From a watershed perspective it is always wise to concentrate urban development within existing neighborhoods rather than encourage 'suburban sprawl.' Urban/suburban development always has a negative impact on watershed processes, including water quantity and quality. Expansion of the city may also conflict with the City of Ventura's past support of the Ventura River Parkway plan to preserve the lower Ventura River.

The map below is provided courtesy of the property owner, and provides an overview of the areas that will be considered by City Council on Monday night. Note that the canyon had not been considered in the prior planning documents, but a yes vote on Monday night would result in city funds spent to perform analysis on its potential annexation.

A coalition of community groups has expressed their opposition including The Sierra Club,
SOAR, Surfrider Foundation, Wishtoyo Foundation, VCCool, Ventura Audubon Society, Ventura Coastkeeper, Ventura Citizens for Hillside Preservation

More info:

Contact City Council:

First Flush

It rained this week for the first time in months. Despite the parched ground, the urban areas were flowing. According to the news, "Southbound lanes of Sanjon Road near Harbor Boulevard in Ventura were closed at one point because of flooding"
Here are 'first flush' photos from SanBuenaventura State Beach, Sanjon Drain:
Here's a collection of shopping carts gathered from the Ventura River Estuary during Coastal Cleanup Day:

Monday, October 4, 2010

Ventura River Groundwater Management Plan

A draft report for the first time develops a water budget for aquifers along the main stem of the Ventura River and outlines an approach for the development of a Groundwater Management Plan.

At the August meeting of the Ventura River Watershed Council, a presentation was given on a draft report titled "Groundwater Budget and Approach to a Groundwater Management Plan - Upper and Lower Ventura River Basin."

This graphic illustrates the important role that groundwater plays in the water cycle. The study compiles data from several sources to quantify the inputs and outputs in the upper and lower Ventura River Basin.

The (draft) report indicates that the overdraft of water from these two groundwater basins in the Ventura River amounts to over 5,000 acre-feet per year. (Note that this study does not include the Ojai Groundwater Basin, for which separate studies are underway.)

The report goes on to make recommendations as to how to develop a groundwater management plan:
  • Develop a groundwater model of the Subbasins to improve estimation of the groundwater budget
  • Obtain data from VRWHM that is more specific to the areas of the Subbasins
  • Obtain agricultural and industrial extraction rates from individual wells
  • Identify wells within the Lower Subbasin for groundwater level monitoring
  • Consider siting additional surface water gauges along the Ventura River and San Antonio Creek to better understand groundwater/surface water dynamics
Comments are being incorporated and the final report is due out next month.

More info:

Upper Lower Ventura River Basin Draft GW Bdgt_8-20-10

Upper and Lower VRB GW Budget and Management Presentation 05-25-2010

Related news:

Recent reports indicate that groundwater supplies in California and around the world are being unsustainably depleted. "...nearly 80 percent of the world’s population lives in areas where the fresh water supply isn’t secure. And while industrialized nations have made massive investments in infrastructure to keep the faucets flowing, those projects have taken a toll on the environment." "...governments should to invest in water management strategies that combine infrastructure with “natural” options such as safeguarding watersheds, wetlands and flood plains. [BBC News]"

Hwy 101 - CalTrans response

In response to our concerns that the access ramp would encroach onto the public beach, CalTrans simply redrew their right of way. Does this constitute a takings of public land, falsification of data, gross negligence, abuse of power, or all of the above?

September 27, 2010

Subject:US 101 High Occupancy Vehicle Project Ventura County Board of Supervisors Hearing Appeal of Conditional Use Permit (CUP) LU09-0085

This letter is in response to the comments received at the BOS Hearing from the Surfrider Foundation (Ventura Chapter) and our previous discussions with Mr. Larry Manson. The Surfrider Foundation's input was taken seriously, and modifications to the design were made in response. We have enclosed updated plans showing additional access points to be constructed within our right-of -way or within the prism of the rock revetment. These plans are consistent with the Ventura County Coastal Permit.

Caltrans believes that the proposed project provides safer beach access when compared to existing conditions. This is also true for the new bikeway, of course the project will change the classification of the highway to a freeway according to Caltrans Highway Design Standards and the California Highway Patrol (CHP). Therefore, parking will no longer be allowed along the freeway shoulder pursuant to CA vehicle code, Division 11, Chapter 9, section 22505 and will be enforced by CHP. The emergency parking shoulder will be reduced from 19ft to 8-ft. Also, the highway between the Tank Farm and Mussel Shoals is the most constrained by the railroad and the ocean and there is no additional land to move the bikeway off the highway to provide additional parking.

Should the Surfrider Foundation propose additional access location, Caltrans would be emendable to collaborate with you and seek a grant for a separate project.

In the news: