Thursday, September 29, 2011

West Coast EBM Network meeting

This year's annual meeting of the West Coast Ecosystem-based Management Network drew experts from around the region.  First the founding member projects provided an overview and update of their projects:

Humboldt Bay Initiative
     Susan Schlosser, CA Sea Grant Becky Price-Hall, City of Trinidad
Port Orford Ocean Resource Team (POORT)
     Leesa Cobb, POORT Exec. Director
Elkhorn Slough Tidal Wetland Project
     Bryan Largay, TWP Director
San Luis Obispo Science and Ecosystem Alliance (SLOSEA) 
      Dean Wendt, Ph.D., Melissa Locke, SLOSEA Policy & Communications Mgr.
Ventura River Ecosystem Project
    Paul Jenkin, Surfrider Foundation – Ventura Chapter

The network then heard from several other projects that are applying 'ecosystem-based management' approaches to their local initiatives:

Hood Canal Coordinating Council
    Scott Brewer, HCCC Exec. Director Jacques White, Ph.D., Long Live the Kings
Washington State Outer Coast Marine Resource Committees
    Pete Stauffer, Surfrider Foundation
Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission
    Lia Protopapadakis, SMBRC Tom Ford, SMBRC
San Diego Fishermen’s Working Group
    Pete Halmay, Working Group President Kristen Goodrich, Tijuana River NERR
Point Reyes Bird Observatory (PRBO)
    Applied California Current Ecosystem Studies ACCESS Project
    Meredith Elliot, PRBO Dan Robinette, PRBO

Information about national-level and West Coast regional developments was presented. Topics  included the new National Ocean Council, planning for a West Coast Regional Planning Body and Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning, and the West Coast Governors’ Agreement on Ocean Health (WCGA), with a focus on linking these activities to local-level efforts. Detailed discussion  also centered on the activities of the new WCGA Sea Grant Fellows, and opportunities for overlap with Network and partner efforts.

The afternoon fieldtrip to the marshlands of Humboldt Bay provided an opportunity to learn about the City of Arcata's unique wetlands wastewater treatment system.   

This year's meeting drew a large number of participants with plenty of opportunity for information sharing and networking.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Elwha River dam removal

Last week, while attending the Elwha Science Symposium, I was able to visit the reservoir above Elwha Dam with the scientists who are studying the effects of dam removal on the sediment that has accumulated in the reservoir.  There are actually two dams being removed simultaneously from the river, Glines Canyon and Elwha Dam, the latter being the lower dam on the River.

The big question with all dam removal projects is sediment management.  The total sediment that has accumulated behind these two dams amounts to over 24 million cubic yards.  Since the upper reservoir, Lake Mills, has been trapping the majority of the coarse sand and gravel flowing down the river, the lower reservoir has trapped less material, the majority of it 'fine' clay and silt.

For the removal of the two dams on the Elwha River, the plan is for natural transport, with incremental notching of the dams to allow the river to rework the sediments.  This summer, both reservoirs were drawn down, or drained, about 20 feet.  This has provided an opportunity to document the initial changes to the delta sediment that has been deposited in the upper end of the reservoirs.

Reservoir sediments at the delta of Lake Aldwell, upstream of Elwha Dam.
Puget Sound is visible in the distance.

In order to document the current topography of the sediments, scientists from the USGS are using ground-based LiDAR, which is basically a terrestrial laser scanner. It takes 4400 points per second using a pulsed near-infrared laser. The scanner was set up at different locations around the delta, then all the scans were linked together and to real-world coordinates using a survey grade GPS.  The result is this otherworldly image, as well as a set of data that accurately models the surface of the ground and surrounding features.

LIDAR image of reservoir sediments provides accurate surface topography data

LIDAR image of Brian Cluer and Paul Jenkin on reservoir sediments

Wider view of Brian and Paul on the reservoir delta sediments

Of interest to those of us working on Matilija Dam is the impacts to water quality during and following erosion of the reservoir sediments.  The fear has been that erosion of fine silt and clay will result in chronic turbidity and downstream impacts.  The reality is that this impact is short-lived during periods of active erosion, but water quality improves rapidly thereafter.   This was evident while standing on the muddy delta in Lake Aldwell, watching crystal clear water flowing over and through the fine sediments.

Blair Greiman, USBR hydrology analyst, observes post-drawdown erosion
 of fine sediments in Lake Aldwell above Elwah dam, WA.

other blog posts on Elwha:

Ventura River Ecosystem: Elwah Science Symposium
Last Dam Summer

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Elwah Science Symposium

Barge begins demo of concrete to create the first 'slot'
in Glines Canyon Dam

Deconstruction of two dams on the Elwha River in Washington State has begun.

This past week, one of the largest ever gatherings of dam removal experts and advocates came together to celebrate the biggest dam removal project in history.  The agenda included a 2-day science symposium, educational tours, music, storytelling.  The invitation-only ceremony at the dam site included the coalition that made the project possible, as well as dignitaries such as Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.

The science symposium drew over 300 participants and included 32 presentations on sediment, salmon, sea otters, black bears, birds and estuary morphology.  

A common theme was the importance of good science, not only in planning and engineering, but also in tracking and ensuring the effectiveness of the project as it evolves.  This was emphasized in one the the first talks by James Karr, Professor Emeritus at the University of Washington.  He stressed the need for "adaptive management"  as a key component of Ecosystem-based Management in a "Plan - Do - Check - Adjust" loop.  Other presenters echoed the need for humility and objectivity to adjust to unforeseen outcomes, as preconceived notions often underestimate the remarkable resilience of nature.

An evening session was coordinated by Matt Stoecker, and included several Patagonia-sponsored videos and a talk by Yvon Chouinard.    

To read more and see an interactive graphic of the dam removal  this LATimes article and the Special report from the Seattle Times.

In the news: 

Largest U.S. Dam Removal to Restore Salmon Runs

Dam Removal Graphic

Elwha Science Symposium on the web:

The presentations and agenda may be downloaded here:

Monday, September 12, 2011

San Antonio Creek bike path bridge

According to the sign on the bike path, the Ojai Valley Trail will be closed for the winter at the confluence with San Antonio Creek.  A bridge will be constructed over the creek.

We commented on this bridge during the planning stages in 2009:

San Antonio Creek Flooding Study


From the executive summary:  San Antonio Creek drains approximately 50 square miles in the Ventura River Basin in western Ventura County, California. Recurring floods along San Antonio Creek and its tributaries, including Lion, Reeves, and Thacher Creeks, have resulted in millions of dollars in damages in Upper Ojai and Ojai Valleys, and in the canyon downstream. The Ventura County Watershed Protection District (VCWPD), in partnership with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Ventura County Resource Conservation District, developed an approximated floodplain map as part of ongoing efforts to reduce flood-related damages to agricultural and rural residential properties. 

This information will be used to identify alternatives for protecting agricultural and rural residential properties that have potential for flooding during a 100-year storm event. 

This project was presented at the August meeting of the Ventura River Watershed Council. The study used computer models to analyze the effects of sediment (debris) flows delivered from the mountains into the Ojai Valley.  The entire valley is geologically made up of 'alluvium' eroded from the steep mountains over tens of thousands of years.  Traditional flood control uses debris basins and concrete channels to trap sediment and flush water off the land, often having negative effects on downstream property.  The study stopped short of making any recommendations, but should be considered as we move forward with watershed planning.

An overview poster of the study can be dowloaded here:

Surfers Point from the air

Viewed from the air, the 'managed retreat' zone is quite visible.  Imagine this area filled with vegetated sand dunes... 

Compared to last year:

(photo Sep 23 12:49:49 2010 copyright

Saturday, September 10, 2011

'cut here'

Thursday, September 1, 2011

California Chapter Conference - Ventura 2011

August 26-28, 2011
Over 100 Surfrider activists from around the state converged in Ventura for the 2011 California Statewide Chapter Conference at the Crowne Plaza in Ventura, California.  The Ventura County Chapter was proud to host the conference, which provided  invaluable opportunity to network with other chapters from around the state and celebrate  the Ventura Chapter’s 20th Anniversary.

Surfrider chapter activists from around the state touring the Surfers' Point Managed Shoreline Retreat Project

The conference opened with a video of a TED Talk entitled "Seth Godin on the tribes we lead."  This talk gives a fantastic perspective on what we do, and why it's important.

We were also treated to a presentation and workshop by Randy Olsen on how to communicate complex ideas.  Randy is the author of the 'Shifting Baselines' series of videos, (watch 'Shifting Baselines in the Surf') as well as numerous other productions.  

In addition to this great outside perspective, the conference also provided Surfrider staff and local campaign leaders to speak about some of our core issues and campaigns.  These included 

Overall, the conference was a great reminder that everything is a local issue, and that dedicated locals can make a difference in their communities.  Kudos to everyone who helped make this happen!

Surfrider CEO Jim Moriarty talks strategic plan

Founder Glenn Hening pondering almost 30 years of Surfrider.  
(The original logo was designed based upon images such as this one by David Pu'u)

Gathering of the tribe - an opportunity to learn from each other

City Councilmember Brian Brennan, who was recently appointed to the California Coastal Commission, discusses the role of Surfrider in projects like Surfers' Point 

Neptune overlooks the pier from the top of the Crown Plaza