Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Ojai Quarry in the news

Owner Fails to Get Violations Overturned, Appeals to Supervisors

Quarry owner Larry Mosler lost his bid to get the county Planning Commission to overturn 14 violations assessed against his mine north of Ojai. Voting 4-0 with one commissioner absent, the panel sympathized with Mosler’s struggle to meet layers of federal, state and local rules. But commissioners concurred he was responsible for the violations cited by the county planning staff.

Read more: http://www.vcstar.com/news/2010/nov/18/quarry-owner-fails-to-get-violations-overturned/

County planners have cited the Mosler Rock/Ojai Quarry for 14 violations, all of which were upheld Nov. 18 by the Ventura County Planning Commission. Planning Director Kim Prillhart has said she would like to settle as well but that Mosler needs to amend his permit if he wants to operate outside the conditions. A date has not yet been set for the hearing.

Read more: http://www.vcstar.com/news/2010/nov/24/owner-of-ojai-quarry-appeals-decision-on-alleged/

Meanwhile, a new 'desilting basin' is being constructed in response to regulatory agencies concerns. A few large boulders were also removed this summer to help alleviate fish passage problems, although barriers exist throughout this reach of the creek. We will have to wait and see if these actions make a difference in water quality and fish passage.

More on this issue: http://www.venturariver.org/search/label/Ojai%20Quarry

Matilija Dam Fine Sediment Workgroup

Last week the Corps of Engineers sent a letter to the Matilija Dam stakeholders that provides an update on the process and next steps. According to the letter, the designated Project Partners will convene a Fine Sediment Workgroup and will host a series of meetings starting this week.

The Matilija Coalition will be represented by Paul Jenkin, who has been engaged in this project since its inception in the mid-1990's. The Coalition's most recent suggestions for solving the impasse and moving forward with dam removal are on the web at matilija-coalition.org

December 1, 2010

To members of the Matilija Dam Design Oversight Group:

We are writing in follow up to our August 9, 2010 letter to you regarding the design and cost of managing and disposing of approximately two million cubic yards of highly-concentrated fine sediments that have accumulated behind Matilija Dam.

The Project Partners have retained the services of a facilitator with the Center for Collaborative Policy (CCP) (
www.csus.edu/ccp) to assist in determining recommended next steps for resolution of fine sediment issues. As a first step, the CCP facilitator Mary Selkirk conducted a number of interviews with stakeholders representing different organizations and interests to assess their concerns about the various conceptual plans to manage the sediments, and to elicit views on how to proceed toward a sustainable solution. Ms. Selkirk completed these interviews in mid‐September and presented her recommendations to the Project Partners in late October.

The Project Partners have elected to proceed with convening a Study Group to consider the outstanding technical, design, and cost issues, and to collaboratively develop a work plan to resolve the major fine sediment management issues. Study Group members consist of representatives from each of the Project Partners, as well as representatives from the stakeholder community. Study Group Members are expected to share ideas and recommendations based on their technical expertise and/or knowledge of the project.

The Study Group will hold its first of several meetings on Friday, December 10, 2010, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Ventura County Public Works Saticoy Operations Yard, 11251 Riverbank Drive, Ventura.
Members of the Design Oversight Group and others may also attend to listen to the Study Group discussions and provide comments at specific times during the meeting.

Please check the Matilija Dam Ecosystem Project website for further details at:


Jeff Pratt, Ventura Watershed Protection District

Brian M. Moore, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Bob Thiel, State Coastal Conservancy

Monday, November 29, 2010

Surfers' Point Cobble Berm

The last post described the 'Managed Retreat' process at Surfers' Point. This is a description of the 'cobble berm' that is currently under construction.

During the design process, the cobble berm was seen as a means of providing assurance that future erosion would not damage the relocated bike path nor result in future impacts to the Fairgrounds. The final design was based upon the concept sketch below. The 'retreat zone' is the area of the parking lot, approximately 20 meters (64.5 ft) wide. (The current work (Phase 1) removes about half of the 1800 feet of parking lot.)

The plan is to remove approximately 3 feet of imported fill dirt that was placed beneath the parking lot in 1989, then further excavate down to the low tide level. The cobble berm is constructed by filling this area with an estimated 30,000 tons of river cobble between 6" and 18" in diameter. This 8 ft thick cobble berm will then be buried beneath constructed sand dunes. The idea is that when the beach erodes in future swells, this sand and cobble will provide natural shore protection for the bike path and fairgrounds parking lot.

The following photos show the sequence of events (so far), looking toward the rivermouth from the east end of the project area:

The cobble is being transported by truck from the Corps of Engineers project on Santa Paula Creek. ($4 million to clean out lower Santa Paula Creek to increase safe capacity prior to major storms) The Surfers' Point project calls for 30,000 cubic yards (about 3,000 truck loads) of cobble, and approximately 15,000 cubic yard of sand.

Once approximately 3 feet of cobble has been delivered and graded flat, sand is then placed on top and flushed with water hoses so it fills the spaces between the cobble. Additional layers of cobble and sand will gradually build up the berm to meet engineering specifications.

The scale of the berm is evident in this photo of the retreat zone - here the first 3 foot layer of cobble has been placed, and sand is being worked into the spaces.

This drawing shows an engineering 'plan view' of the buried cobble berm, illustrating its alignment along the backshore in relation to the new parking lot and bike path:

More: http://www.venturariver.org/search/label/Surfers%27%20Point

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Managed Retreat Process at Surfers Point

"Managed Retreat" is well underway at Surfers' Point, and things are happening fast. As the project title suggests, the goal is to remove all the man-made infrastructure seaward of the road, and reconstruct a protective beach in its place.

First the concrete barriers and landscaping trees and curbs were removed.

The next step was removal of the asphalt and concrete bike path, along with the riprap rock revetment on the beach. The parking lot started to look like this:

Next the underground utilities were removed, including a 3 ft concrete storm drain as well as electrical lines that ran the length of the parking lot.

At this point the stage is set for the restoration of a natural beach. This is what the erosion-damaged bike path looked like a decade ago:

The same area during the initial demolition:

This is the view from the levee looking back toward the project area. The hole in the beach is almost all that remains of the rip-rap revetment:

A couple of high tides, along with medium swells, quickly erased almost all traces of the rocks.

Next the graders went to work removing the dirt fill that had been placed underneath the parking lot.

Non-beach compatible soil was moved back into the fairgrounds parking lot, and the area beneath the parking lot was excavated down to around the elevation of low tide. Any excavated sand was set aside for future use.

This deep trench will be filled with a mix of cobble and sand, and then buried under reconstructed sand dunes. This 'cobble berm' was designed to provide protection from future erosion.

The next post will describe this more...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Santa Barbara Channel

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Educational presentations

November 5, 2010

Environmental Studies 119, Ecology and Management of California Wildlands, UC Santa Barbara (UCSB)

Watershed field trip: We visited a couple of sites in the lower river, and then went upstream of Matilija Dam. After looking at the extent of dam-accumulated sediment, we visited the dam site and discussed removal plans.

November 8, 2010

Class lecture for the Intro to Restoration Ecology class at CSU Channel Islands (CSUCI)

Topic: Ecosystem-based management and the Matilija Dam Ecosystem Restoration project.

November 18, 2010

Class lecture for the Coastal Processes and Management class at UC Santa Barbara (UCSB)

Topic: Ecosystem-based management and the Matilija Dam Ecosystem Restoration project.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

San Antonio Creek Bridges

Two bridges are under construction on San Antonio Creek, a major tributary to the Ventura River. Both have received fisheries restoration grants for the potential benefits of barrier removal.

1) Old Creek Rd Bridge

This is the construction that is visible at the 'Arnaz Grade' on highway 33. Ventura County received $1M for steelhead enhancement to replace the low water crossing over San Antonio Creek on Old Creek Rd. The new $2.5M bridge on a dead-end road will serve approximately 35 residents, and moved forward despite numerous comments that cheaper alternatives existed. (A short emergency right-of-way could have provided access to nearby Sulphur Mountain Rd) "According to county specifications, the bridge will be a 210-foot-long, two-span, cast-in-place concrete box girder bridge designed to clear the 100-year floodplain."

According to Ventura County documents the total cost of this project is over $3.5M. From Board of Supervisors meeting this week, a change order for an additional $40k was approved for biological consulting after the endangered red-legged frog was found at the construction site.

In the news: Old Creek Road getting safety makeover with $2.5M bridge

more: http://ovnblog.com/?p=3011

2) Lion Creek Bridge

Lion Creek is a tributary to San Antonio Creek, and is ephemeral in the lower reach in some years, with perennial water in the upper reaches of the canyon.

According to CDFG documents, "this project improves fish access for adult and juvenile steelhead to 9.5 miles of upstream habitat in Lion Creek, which is a tributary to San Antonio Creek in Ventura County. The project is collaboration between private, non-profit, local, state, and federal agencies. It includes demolition of an existing low water crossing, which was replaced with an 85 ft long X 13.75 ft wide Railspan steel flatcar bridge. Steelhead are now able to access medium to high quality habitat in the upper reaches of Lion Creek, thereby facilitating migration for spawning adults and over-summering juveniles.

More information and photos are here: http://lioncreek.blogspot.com/

Project managed by South Coast Habitat Restoration

View Ventura River in a larger map

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Coastal Erosion studies

Two studies on coastal erosion will have implications for Ventura County beaches:

(1) California Beach Erosion Assessment Survey

This week the Coastal Sediment Management Workgroup (CSMW) released the California Beach Erosion Assessment Survey 2010 (CBEAS), which reports on the erosion of California coastal beaches and provides a list of sites, called “Beach Erosion Concern Areas (BECAs),” where beach erosion has been identified as a concern to state, federal, and/or local/regional agencies. The report can be downloaded from the Department of Boating and Waterways website.

A news article highlights the Ventura County sections of the report, including mention of Matilija Dam and Surfers' Point. Brian Brennan is quoted as saying “We can’t keep shoring up the beach and armoring the coast. There is a point in time when you have to fix these things naturally.”

Paul Jenkin, environmental director of the Ventura chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, said people are used to seeing crumbing sidewalks and massive rock walls along the beach — they have forgotten what a natural shoreline looks like.

He said that the report is good if it leads to more natural restoration projects like the one at Surfers Point. But he worries that ultimately the fix for the erosion issue will only be more seawalls and attempts to keep the ocean at bay — and that will just further the problem.

(2) BEACON’S Coastal Regional Sediment Management Plan (CRSMP)

EACON website.

The project comprises onshore and offshore developme
nts and consists of sand management, dredging, sand deposition and grading, and the placement of offshore sand retention structures. The individual projects are identified below. A more detailed description of the project components is provided in the Draft PEIR.
1) Oxnard Shores Sand Management.
2) Regional Sediment Management Stockpile and Processing Center.

3) Sand Retention Pilot Projects at: Arroyo Burro County Beach, Butterfly Beach,
Summerland Beach, Santa Claus Beach, La Conchita Beach, North Rincon Parkway, and South Rincon Parkway.
4) West Hueneme Beach Re-nourishment Longevity Improvement.

5) North and South Rincon Parkway Shoreline Restoration.

6) Sand Capture at Mugu Submarine Canyon

Surfrider has concerns that this plan is primarily a coastal engineering plan, rather than a strategic 'Coastal
Regional Sediment Management Plan.' The basic premise that we need 'wider beaches' is flawed – many of the beaches in the region are naturally narrow, bluff-backed, beaches. “Beach erosion” is a result of poor land use planning, and in areas where coastal development has encroached into the coastal zone, damage to property and infrastructure are a predictable inevitability.

The proposed CRSMP capital projects mainly consist of expensive structural engineering and beach nourishment projects. To date, BEACON has not been able to attract the huge federal appropriations that it would take to implement the large-scale beach replenishment and sand retention projects described. 'Recycling' sand before it goes into Mugu Canyon, while in theory may make sense, is cost prohibitive and likely has environmental consequences to ocean ecosystems that may not be immediately evident.The EIR includes a description of the proposed artificial reef pilot project at Oil Piers, although it is not one of the projects in this plan. Surfrider feels that until this project is implemented and monitored, it is impossible to adequately assess the potential impacts of large-scale deployment of similar structures. Recent experience on both the West Coast (i.e. Pratts Reef) and elsewhere around the world has demonstrated the difficulty associated with placing artificial reefs in the surf zone, and expenses associated with removal if they fail to perform or otherwise become a problem.

Our letter is here: http://matilija-coalition.org/docs/BEACON EIR SurfriderComments 11-1-10.pdf

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: http://knowyourh2o.blogspot.com/

Cycle of Insanity: http://www.knowyourh2o.org/

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 surferspoint.org

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...