Monday, November 28, 2011

Ojai Quarry to be shut down

Santa Barbara ChannelKeeper has been documenting the impacts of the Ojai Quarry for many years.  Despite the intervention of numerous public agencies, the quarry continues to impact the endangered steelhead trout and  downstream water quality.

Now, according to the VCStar, "Ventura County officials are moving to shut down an Ojai quarry over what they say is the owner's refusal to follow an approved cleanup plan and provide a financial assurance payment that he says would cost close to $3 million."

A public hearing on the Ventura County Planning Department's "Notice of Revocation" of the Mosler Rock Ojai Quarry's Conditional Use Permit (C.U.P.) has been postponed to December 15th.

According to the Ojai "Stop the Trucks" coalition, even as the State of California issues a "30 Day Notice to Delist" the Ojai Quarry as an acceptable supplier to government agencies and the Ventura County Planning Department files a "Notice of Revocation" of the quarry's Conditional Use Permit (C.U.P.), another County agency, the Ventura County Watershed Protection District continues to not only receive deliveries of rock from the mine for a project in Camarillo, it has allegedly been accepting loads that far, far surpass the C.U.P.'s allowable daily loads. 

The Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Ojai Quarry was approved by Ventura County in 1995  under a 'statement of overriding considerations.' The document states that although the quarry will have significant environmental impacts, the Ventura County Flood Control District (now the 'Watershed Protection District') needs the rock for 'rip rap' levee construction.  Today the environmental impacts have been realized:

Impact to Scenic Highway - Highway 33 in the Los Padres National Forest is designated as a scenic highway.  The quarry impacts the viewshed along Highway 33, and the bare hillside is now visible for miles down the Ventura River valley.

Impact to Steelhead Trout - the Southern Steelhead was listed in 1997, two years after the EIR was certified.  The quarry sits above North Fork Matilija Creek, which is now critical habitat and the last remnant of headwater habitat for this endangered species.

  • Fish Passage: Large boulders block fish passage, and will be an ongoing problem.  The existing creek needs to be restored for fish passage and to stabilize the slope to minimize future impacts.  Because Matilija Dam, Casitas Dam, and agriculture and urbanization block fish passage to the headwaters, N Fork is the only accessible tributary potentially available to the endangered steelhead.  With passage blocked at the quarry, and downstream habitat impacted by the quarry (see water quality below), steelhead viability is limited in the Ventura River.
  • Water Quality:  Santa Barbara ChannelKeeper has documented impacts from fine sediment both to water quality during storm events, and to downstream habitat.  Fine sediment smothers spawning gravels, and can prevent fish eggs from hatching and kill fry, smolt, and juvenile steelhead.  
Impact to Water Supply:  Erosion of fine sediment also impacts water supply, as this sediment is diverted at Robles into Casitas Reservoir impacting storage capacity and water quality for municipal supplies.  In a recent news article, The New York Times listed the Mosler Rock Ojai Quarry as one of the top “toxic waters / polluters” in the Ojai Valley as part of a national review of compliance with the Clean Water Act.

Legacy Impact:  These impacts will continue without remediation and restoration of the site.  Without the bond for remediation, who will pay?  Does the taxpayer bear the burden for decades of impact?  

Stop the Trucks:

The hearing before the Ventura County Planning Commission  in support of Ventura County Planning Department’s “Notice of Revocation” of the Mosler Rock Ojai Quarry’s Conditional Use Permit (C.U.P.), is now scheduled for 8:30 am on December 15th, at the Government Center on Victoria Avenue in the Chamber of the Board of Supervisor’s on the ground floor.

The hearing is expect to last most of the morning, if not most of the day.  Please attend for at least part of the day to show your support of the move to revoke the quarry’s Conditional Use Permit.  


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Why is the ocean brown?

Every time it rains, runoff from the land impacts the river and coast.  And although we have accepted the 'chocolate milk' surf as normal after it rains, it has not always been this way.  This is what is known as a 'Shifting Baseline.'  (See Shifting Baselines in the Surf)

Rainfall this weekend was equivalent to what is known as the 'design storm' - we received approximately one inch over a 12 hour period.  For regulatory and engineering purposes, this quantity of rainfall can and should be retained on site.  This requirement is in the Ventura Countywide 'MS4'  (Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System) Permit, as a standard that all new development will be held to.

The problem, however, is that over the past 100 years our development patterns have directed rainfall off the land, into storm drains, and directly into the river and ocean.


Here's what Ventura Avenue looked like during the rain: the parking shoulder was flowing like a creek.  This is an example of Urban Runoff, and the water here is carrying everything from 'dog poop' and trash, to brake fluid and pesticides, into the storm drains and out to sea.


A little further up the Avenue are the oil fields.  Here the runoff changes to a muddy brown.  Here erosion of soil from miles of oilfield roads in the hills and large impervious work yards flushes into the street...

...into the storm drains, and out to the ocean.  Any chemicals that have spilled or absorbed into the ground are flushed off the land along with this soil.

Santa Barbara ChannelKeeper Stream Team volunteers have been sampling this site for a couple of years, and although oil and gas is generally exempt from clean water rules, Santa Barbara ChannelKeeper has been successful in forcing Aera Energy to enroll in the industrial stormwater permit program.  

This video, starting around 3:20, describes ChannelKeeper's work and illustrates the runoff from this area, and also shows how security guards harass watchdogs, even though this is a public street.  


As the video illustrates, another major source of pollution agriculture.  Both livestock and irrigated crops contribute to water quality problems.  

One area we have been watching is the recent expansion of orchards and row crops at Taylor Ranch on the west side of the Ventura River.  This strawberry field was sprayed with chemicals on Friday, despite the storm bearing down on the region.  Because conventional strawberry growers use plastic to cover the ground, these fields generate significant runoff when it rains. 

Here a Santa Barbara ChannelKeeper volunteer is collecting a water sample from under the Main St bridge, just downstream of these fields.    Note the color of the river water. This sample will be analyzed for pesticides...  although a full-suite analysis would likely turn up a variety of pollutants.

Under the bridge is one of dozens of campsites in the floodplain - another issue of concern documented here: Salmon Run focuses on trash issue

We also went to look at the runoff onto Emma Wood State Beach from the strawberry fields up on the hill at Taylor Ranch.  This is a problem we first documented in 2007  when the fields were first developed.  We continue to received numerous reports from beach users, and this photo confirms that runoff still directly enters the ocean from these fields every time it rains.

The combination of all these sources, known as 'Non-Point Source Pollution' has a significant impact on our coastal water quality and health of the ecosystem.  The fine sediments that enter the river and ocean linger for months, and this is why the water at Surfers' Point often appears muddy, long after the rains have stopped.

This diagram summarizes the issues outlined here.  This is just a small part of the big picture...


Monday, November 14, 2011

Surfers' Point workday

Sunday November 13 - A group from the Surfrider Ventura's Ocean Friendly Gardens team gathered at Surfers' Point.  The group was led by David Hubbard, of Coastal Restoration Consultants. Dave has offered his restoration and native plant experience to guide our efforts to restore the bioswale and dunes at Surfers' Point. 

Native plants sprouting from seeds applied to the bioswale during the construction of the Surfers' Point Managed Shoreline Retreat project

After a lesson in identifying the native plants, the group spent an hour removing weeds from the bioswale.   Future work on this area will include developing signage and pathways to help direct foot traffic and allow the native plants to become established.

The group then learned about propagation and seed collection.  They collected a variety of seeds from the remnant dunes, and will be trying to grow seedlings at home for planting later this season.

You can see from the photo below that the recent winds moved a lot of sand around.  This spring we will be working to help build and vegetate dunes - once established the dunes will trap blowing sand and further enhance the area. 

If you're interested in helping out with our ongoing efforts, please contact Cynthia at and she'll add you to the list for future workday announcements.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Ojai FLOW hosts water forum

Nov 9, 2011 - Ojai FLOW, along with the Ojai Valley Green Coalition and Friends of the Ventura River, held a public meeting to provide information about the campaign to secure local control of water supply in the City of Ojai.  According to the press, around 200 people turned out.

Ojai FLOW has successfully brought the community together to demonstrate that the Ojai Valley is aware of the threat to our ecosystem when outside corporate interests control a water supply.  There are many examples from around the world and in the United States in which corporations have drastically impacted local communities through profit-motivated actions that overdraft local water supplies.

Recent actions by Golden State and the PUC demonstrate that they do not answer to the community. In contrast, Casitas Municipal Water District, as well as the other water districts in the valley, are controlled by a locally elected board which gives the community some control over water management practices.

We all depend on the responsible management of our water supply.  With ever increasing pressure on this limited supply, it is crucial that the community is able to work together in a cooperative manner to ensure future sustainability.

More info:

In the News:

On this blog: Ojai citizens want local control of water


Friday, November 11, 2011

Ventura Water Town Hall meeting

Last night the City of Ventura held a Town Hall Meeting to discuss the settlement agreement between Ventura Water, Heal the Bay, and Wishtoyo Foundation’s Ventura Coastkeeper Program to resolve legal actions associated with the City’s wastewater facility discharges of tertiary treated water into the Santa Clara River Estuary.

According to the City's press release, the legal action taken by the environmental groups is "...a great example of how government can work with public interest groups to bring about change that makes sense."

According to the city's website:

The Ventura City Council is expected to vote on a final settlement on December 12. The settlement outlines the common goals and an innovative process using the best available science to decide how best to use the reclaimed water produced by the wastewater facility in the future.   The major points of the long-term settlement include:

  • Creating opportunities for using between 50-100% of the treated water for landscaping or other non-drinking uses to stretch water supplies and reduce the amount released into the Estuary
  • If any treated water is still released into the Estuary, a treatment wetlands will be constructed to further improve water quality
  • Working together with Ventura Water’s customers to arrive at the most responsible and sustainable solution for the health of the Estuary and Ventura’s water supply by 2025.

The total costs of these projects are estimated at $55 million, which could possibly result in an additional cost of  $3.52 per month per average household until 2055.  The different options to fund this program will be evaluated during Ventura Water’s Cost of Service and Rate Design Study now underway.

The City produced this video to help deliver the message to the community:

In the News:

More on this issue: wastewater


Monday, November 7, 2011

Salmon Run focuses on trash issue

This year's Salmon Run, the 18th annual event organized by Patagonia, sold out at 400 registered runners.  This is the one time every year when the lower Ventura River is open to the public for this fundraiser event.  (One reason why you should sign our petition for the Ventura River Parkway)
Santa Barbara ChannelKeeper placed signs along the course to tell the story of trash and human waste in the lower Ventura River.  "It is estimated that 150-200 people live in the riverbottom throughout the year without garbage or sanitary services" 

Santa Barbara ChannelKeeper has been working to address this problem,  currently one of the most serious threats to water quality in the Ventura River watershed.  Last year Stream Team volunteers mapped the extent of camping in the estuary area:

Watch this video as ChannelKeeper's Ben Pitterle documents the extent of the problem:

More photos from the Salmon Run:

Watching the Dams Come Down- Elwha

The Elwha dam removal project is moving ahead rapidly.

Here a timelapse video shows the process of removing Glines Canyon Dam by 'notching':

Elwha Dam, the lower of the two dams on the Elwha River, is being removed by diverting the river and deconstructing one side at a time:

This video shows the spillway being blasted

Elwha Dam from the air:

The sediment built up in the upper reservoir is being exposed and eroded by the river as the water level in the reservoir is drawn down:

(aerial photos courtesy Brian Cluer)