Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Surfers Point dunes

Friday December 14, 2012

Last Friday a small crew of volunteers from Patagonia worked hard to install cables and signs at Surfers Point.  The cables are intended to mark off the designated walkways in order to allow for revegetation of the dunes.  In these photos you can also see  the sterile 'rice straw' that was installed by City contractors.  

Thanks to the Surfrider crew, including Cynthia (signs etc), Morrie (finding the cables and hardware), Curt (pizza arrived on schedule), and Alec (hard labor)  - City of Ventura staff Joe McDermott and Rosie Ornelias.  Ventura rentals donated a bolt cutter and post pounder, and of course the Patagonia edit department who provided the 'miracle grant' that paid for the materials!

We look forward to watching the native plants sprout following the rainy winter weather!  Stay tuned for future work days!

Matilija Dam 2012 update

Matilija Design Oversight Group (DOG) Meeting - Dec 4 9am - noon

The Matilija Dam 'Design Oversight Group' met on December 4th.  Presentations updated the group on the Corps process and progress on elements of the final design.  this was followed by a discussion and approval of the Technical Advisory Committee work plan for 2013.

The main progress is the recent design study for the Santa Ana bridge. An assessment determined that an upstream alignment for a new bridge will be the best alternative for the Santa Ana Rd crossing in Oak View.

This presentation as well as a presentation on the giant reed removal may be downloaded from matilijadam.org

Next Steps:

Over the past year, the Matilija Dam Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) has completed a draft work plan for the next steps in resolving the issues with removing Matilija Dam.  This report will be presented for approval by the DOG.  The final document will be used in a Request For Proposals (RFP) to go out to consultants early 2013.  The California Coastal Conservancy plans to sponsor additional studies recommended by the TAC as follows:

Task 1: Dam Removal Plans
The goal of this study will be to formulate feasible methods for the removal of Matilija Dam, located on Matilija Creek in Ventura County, California. The study will develop the engineering details associated with several different alternatives for mechanical sediment management and flow control during dam removal. This study would not evaluate the downstream slurry options, but would focus on the mechanical placement of sediment upstream of the dam and evaluate options for the control of flow and sediment during dam removal.  The study will be performed in two phases, with the first study done at primarily a conceptual level and the second study done in more detail on a fewer number of options to develop more reliable costs and impacts for those options.

The analyses will examine approaches for Full Dam Removal as well as an Interim Notch.  The Interim Notch would have the main purpose of preventing further deposition in the reservoir area, but could also have the additional purposes of inducing a small amount of erosion so that the sediment removal process could begin and providing data on the sediment processes that would occur upon dam removal.

Task 2: Sediment Analysis of interim and dam removal schemes
The goal of this study will be to simulate the sediment transport processes for the proposed interim notching and full removal schemes that will be evaluated in dam removal plans (Task 1).

Task 3: Robles Diversion Mitigation
The removal of Matilija Dam Removal has the potential to increase the sediment concentration within Matilija Creek and the Ventura River downstream of the dam during and after the removal process. This scope of work would develop methods to mitigate the impact to water supply through supplying water of acceptable quality during the period of impact. This study would be done in close collaboration with Task 1 and 2 (1: Dam Removal Plans 2: Erosion and Sediment Transport Modeling Analysis and). Task 2 will determine the potential for lost diversion opportunity at Robles as well as the magnitude and duration of lost diversion opportunity by computing the duration and seasonal timing when diversions will be precluded by high turbidities. The magnitude and duration of lost diversion opportunity will guide the water loss mitigation analysis

The completed TAC reports may also be downloaded at matilijadam.org

More on the recent history of the project on this blog:  Matilija Dam

Monday, December 10, 2012

Surfers' Point workdays

Saturday December 8, 2012

Over 70 volunteers plus a dozen organizers spent the morning working on the dune area at Surfers' Point.  The large crew made quick work of cleaning, seeding, and planting the 4 acre area.  The workday was coordinated by the City of Ventura in partnership with the Ventura County Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, and attracted Surfrider members and families from the community.  

The City of Ventura has been preparing the area for several months.  In April, sand was delivered to the project area from Pierpont Beach where the large accumulation was inundating beachfront homes.  (see Surfers Point - sand dunes)
A dune restoration plan was prepared by a consultant team to coordinate the multiple stakeholder interests and ensure ecological goals are met.  Sand that was initially delivered in longitudinal rows was re-graded with machinery over the past few weeks to form more natural 'hummock' dunes, create a buffer zone along the bike path, and provide designated 'recreation areas.'  

Because some of the imported sand contained unnatural concrete and other debris, the first crew of volunteers went to work cleaning the dunes with rakes and special mechanical 'sifters.'  It's amazing how much area a large crew can cover in an hour or two!

 As volunteers completed the debris removal, they were given tools to weed areas where non-native plants were beginning to sprout from the recent rains.  Catching these sprouts early will make a big difference later in the spring when we return to remove weeds.

While the cleanup and weeding was happening, another work group was systematically distributing native plant seeds under the direction of restoration consultant Dave Hubbard.  The seed was custom mixed for different areas of the project, mixed with some dry sand and scattered evenly within a designated area.  The area was then raked to further distribute and bury the seeds.  These seeds will be futher stabilized this week through the application of straw which will be 'crimped' into the dunes by a contractor.

Surf Brewery's Bill Riegler applies seed 
to the Surfers' Point dune restoration area.

Finally, hundreds of plants arrived from our local Surfrider Ocean Friendly Gardens 'plant parents' who have been caring for them since seeds were collected from the site last year (Surfers' Point workday.)    Volunteers spent another couple of hours planting these along the bike path and filling in areas in the bioswale.

picks were needed to break up the hard soil for planting in the bioswale

On Friday Patagonia volunteers will install barrier fencing and signs to help direct traffic through the dunes to allow for plants to establish and stabilize the new sand dunes.

Thanks to VolunteerVentura, the Ventura County Fairgrounds, and our sponsors!  The Surfrider Foundation purchased seed and refreshments for this restoration project with support from the Surf Brewery, Amgen, and Patagonia.  Please help support the Surf Brewery by asking for their local brews at your favorite eatery or visiting the tasting room on Market St in Ventura:  http://surfbrewery.com/

In the news: 

Volunteers to restore Surfers Point dunes this weekend in Ventura - VCStar

Unique Project To Deal With Erosion At Popular South Coast Beach At Halfway Point - KCLU

Our Ventura TV program included interviews at the workday event

Handcrafted sand dunes require community efforts to reach their full potential
Outdoor Observer -  VC Star


Monday, October 8, 2012

Ventura Curb Cut

On Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012, the Ventura Ocean Friendly Gardens team returned to the recently completed garden to take it one step further: the first residential 'curb cut' in Ventura.

Ocean Friendly Gardens apply the concepts of Conservation, Permeability, and Retention to convert a residential landscape from one that sheds water and contributes to runoff and ocean pollution to a climate appropriate garden that captures and infiltrates rainwater on site.

What is a 'curb cut?'  and why?

In cases where a public 'parkway' exists between the sidewalk and the street, cutting a notch in the curb allows rainwater to enter the parkway where it can be absorbed and cleansed.  This captures urban runoff before it reaches the storm drain.

The curb cut design was created by the Green Gardens Group (G3), a watershed-friendly design group who have been working with Surfrider and the City of Ventura (as well as other municipalities in Southern California) to provide professional training and design/oversight for Ocean Friendly Gardens.

Volunteers worked to dig out the parkway and transform the hard-packed grass into a permeable bioswale.

A 'french drain' was laid in a bed of gravel to ensure drainage once the soil becomes saturated.

Once the curb was cut and drainage installed, the parkway was planted and mulched.  The end result is a beautiful native landscape that captures and absorbs runoff from the street.  If the 'upstream' neighbor is washing a car, it waters the plants rather than pollutes the ocean. In heavy rains, excess water will re-enter the street on the downstream end of each bioswale, which will have removed most of the pollutants (car oil, fertilizers, trash, etc)

A series of projects like these installed the length of the street would effectively capture the 'first flush' runoff, which contains the majority of pollutants, and reduce the total volume of water entering the storm drain system.  In order to make this possible, the City of Ventura will soon be offering a standard design, no-cost permit for all City residents, a first in the nation!

Many thanks to all those who made this demonstration project possible, including the City of Ventura, Green Gardens Group, Paul Herzog and all the Surfrider Foundation volunteers who donated their sweat to help lead the way in solving the urban runoff problem!

This residence is the site of the recent Ventura Ocean Friendly Gardens (OFG) retrofit, funded by a State grant (Whale Tail License Plate Program). Turf grass was removed and the site was sheet mulched (smothered with compost, paper and mulch). Rain gutter downspouts were redirected into the landscape, filtering and utilizing rainwater as a resource. Native and some non-native-but-climate-appropriate plants were installed, and the irrigation was converted to drip. (See this for more details: http://www.surfrider.org/coastal-blog/entry/ventura-chapter-teams-with-city-for-ocean-friendly-gardens-program-series).

In the news:  http://www.vcstar.com/news/2012/oct/01/volunteers-help-ventura-homeowners-rework/

More information:

surfrider.org coastal blog: taking-ofg-to-the-streets-parkway-curb-cut-bio-swale

Ventura OFG Campaign: http://ww2.surfrider.org/ventura/VenturaOFG.html

Surfrider's OFG page: http://www.surfrider.org/programs/entry/ocean-friendly-gardens

Solving the Urban Runoff Problem:  http://www.venturariver.org/2008/01/urban-watershed-planning-ventura-ca.html

Participant blog: http://www.lajohnny.com/404/green-streets-pilot-program-ventura-california/

Get involved:
Surfrider:             vcsrf.oceanfriendlygardens@gmail.com
City of Ventura:  Jill Sarick     jsarick@cityofventura.net     805-652-4501


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Surfrider West Coast Summit

Bringing together Surfrider's best of the best from Texas, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Canada, and Argentina the 2012 West Coast Chapter Summit was by far the most epic gathering of the West Coast Chapter activists.... EVER.   We kicked off early Saturday morning with Santa Barbara Chapter Chair, Sandy Lejeune who shared a video trailer of "The Twenty," highlighting the 20 years of dedicated work done by 20 men to preserve the last 20 miles of the Gaviota Coast.   Their Kickstarter campaign begins Oct 15th.   Keynote speaker Marcus Eriksen from 5 Gyres shared inspirational and shocking tales from his voyages through the plastic gyres, including displays of actual Tsunami debris recovered from the Pacific.   The State of the State presentation by CEO Jim Moriarty emphasized the message of SHARE, LEARN, APPLY to build a powerful activist network and broaden our reach.

Surfrider West Coast activists gathered for the 2012 Summit in Ventura 
Activists received the latest news from staff and activists on Surfrider's Top Advocacy issues including Coastal Preservation, Ocean Ecosystems, and Rise Above Plastics.   We heard about work being done to address the Tsunami Debris coming from Japan, and were given the latest updates on our Blue Water Task Force Program.  Some ventured outside for field trips to see the restoration efforts at Surfer's Point, and an Ocean Friendly Garden bioswale and curb cut demonstration.

Saturday night allowed activists time to eat, drink and connect with fellow activists while Ojai-based singer-songwriter Todd Hannigan played along, creating a memorable soundtrack for the evening.

The Sunday morning training sessions were very well attended and, most notably, most were run jointly between activists and Surfrider Foundation staff.    This was extremely helpful and we received a lot of positive feedback from Chapters who were thrilled to meet staff and have a better understanding of what staff does and how we provide support back out to Chapters.

A very sincere THANK YOU to everyone who attended, and to all those who contributed to making this year's West Coast Chapter Summit a complete success!   Presentations, hand-outs, and photos from the 2012 Summit will be uploaded to the Summit website and ChapterNet in the coming week.

(...above text from SoCal Chapter Coordinator Nancy Hastings, who organized the event.  Thanks Nancy!)


More River Cleanups

During the week of September 17, the County of Ventura did a major cleanup of the Ventura River starting at the upper end of the levee at Stanley Rd, working their way down to the Main Street bridge.  Officials estimated 100 tons of trash and debris were removed. This effort was planned and coordinated with the City of Ventura and other responsible parties in the Trash TMDL, as well the social services organizations working to help relocate those who called the riverbottom home.

The Ventura Hillsides Conservancy held two volunteer work days in September, with more being planned in October and November.  The video below was filmed for CAPS cable TV in Ventura:

The Ventura Hillsides Conservancy work days have filled three large dumpsters, with many more to go.  The photo below shows trash piled up along the bank of the river.  September sees the lowest flows of the year, and when the rains come all this debris will be flushed out of the rivermouth into the ocean and onto the beaches!  

The next work day is scheduled for October 27, and VHC hopes to remove these piles (this is just one) before the rains come.  See below for more info.

Graffiti under Main St bridge

As this image suggests, there is more to this issue than cleaning up the mess.  The riverbottom has been home for many people, with the population increasing dramatically over the past decade.  The Ventura River has become a destination, both for those seeking refuge, as well as other cities seeking a place to send their homeless.  EVICTION DAY is a film that focuses on the environmental issue surrounding the habitation by homeless in the mouth of the Ventura River.  The film will be showing at the Ojai Film Festival on Saturday Oct 27, as part of the afternoon Focus Earth -OCEANS and WATER.  Paul Jenkin of The Surfrider Foundation and Ben Pitterle of Santa Barbara Channelkeeper will head up the panel discussion related to ocean and watershed environmental issues. 

Volunteer Event:

River Clean -Up - VHC Willoughby Property - Saturday, October 27 9AM-Noon.  This event is part of the Points of Light Institute's "Make a Difference" Day of Service. We've cut the grass, now it's time to take out the trash. Yes, we have quite a schedule of chores ahead of us on the Willoughby Property.  If you have looked over the Main Street Bridge lately you know what we mean.  The CREW has cleared a great deal of Arundo exposing mounds of trash and debris.  E. J. Harrison will provide the roll-off bin, we'll have the buckets, gloves, grabbers and protective gear.  You bring hard-toed shoes, long pants and long-sleeve shirts and sun protection.  Park at the Main Street lot or along Peking or better yet ride your bike! Together we can make a big difference in the River.
More info: lsherman@venturahillsides.org or  643-8044.

In the news:
 Officials clean up Ventura River bottom for what they hope is last time - VC Star

The Ventura River bottom diaspora
...    “Free camping [in the river bottom] is not free because of the cost of police and fire and all those people living in unsanitary conditions ending up in county hospitals [or] prisons that taxpayers pay for,” said Paul Jenkin, a representative from Friends of the Ventura River coalition.

Restoration and recreation replacing dangerous illegal camping along the Ventura River - VCReporter

Trash piled up under the Main Street Bridge, Sept 23, 2012
One of the filled dumpsters with trash from the lower Ventura River

Thursday, September 13, 2012

VHC River Cleanup

You may have heard the news: nine acres of Ventura River land was donated to the Ventura Hillside Conservancy for public use, and the organization plans to restore the property and establish small parks and pathways as part of the Ventura River Parkway.

Work began last month with clearing of Arundo donax (giant reed) by the CREW, but that is just the beginning.  Following an ultimatum set by local government, and with repeated visits and interaction, the illegal camps in the riverbottom are being dismantled.  Mounds of trash and debris are being exposed, and the Conservancy plans to systematically clean up the area as the rainy season fast approaches.  A large flood would wash everything onto the beaches...

On Saturday September 8, a crew of about 20 volunteers got down and dirty, and within two hours had completely filled a 40 foot roll-off dumpster provided by EJ Harrison!

piles of trash before cleanup
after cleanup

view from Main St bridge before cleanup

view from Main St bridge after cleanup

There is lots more to do - this cleanup was just one single long-term camp, and there are many more throughout the Conservancy property.

The Ventura Hillsides Conservancy will be working every other weekend to clean up the mess in the riverbottom.  E. J. Harrison will provide the roll-off bin, we'll have the buckets, gloves, grabbers and protective gear.  You bring hard-toed shoes, long pants and long-sleeve shirts and sun protection.  Together we can make a big difference in the River.

Next cleanup will be Sunday September 23 - Meet at the Main St Bridge at 9 am on Sunday.  Our river needs you!

Please contact Lee at the Ventura Hillsides Conservancy for more information: lsherman@venturahillsides.org. 643-8044

In the News:

CREW clears way for river restoration

Fire concerns cancel Ventura River cleanup

Friday, August 31, 2012

Pumping and Diversion TMDL

One of the major issues currently facing the Ventura River is 'pumping and diversion'.  The river has been listed by the State Water Resources Control Board as 'impaired' in Reaches 3 and 4 due to excessive water diversion.  The water board is now considering developing a TMDL, or 'Total Maximum Daily Load', for this impairment.  The alternative is a MOA (Memorandum of Agreement) and plan of action for local water agencies to cooperate on a groundwater management plan.

Diversion of surface flows occurs at the Robles Diversion Dam (Reach 4) and at Foster Park (Reach 3) as well as smaller private diversions.  Pumping occurs at numerous wells that extract water from the shallow aquifers that are connected to surface flows.  In both cases, the amount of water flowing in the river is diminished, impairing ecological function.  For example, low flows become a problem when combined with excessive algae growth - this reduces dissolved oxygen levels that aquatic life depends upon.  (See Algae: problem or symptom?)

Pumping water from wells during dry summer months may cause pools to rapidly dry up, stranding and killing native steelhead trout and other aquatic species.  Although this often goes unseen (they become fodder for predators such as herons, racoons, etc.), fisheries managers in past years have responded by relocated fish from drying pools.

Pumping and Diversion has been discussed during several of the recent watershed council meetings, along with presentations about water rights and the effects of wells on surface flows.  As one would expect, there is controversy surrounding the cause and effect, and some even question if there is reason for the impairment listing.

In order to illustrate the problem, Santa Barbara ChannelKeeper produced this video:

The timelapse sequence in this video and the pressure logger illustrate the rapid filling and drying of a pool on the Ventura River Preserve.  Because this occurs independently of time of day it suggests that something other than natural evapotranspiration is occurring to impact surface flows in the river.

To illustrate the issue, local groundwater professional Jordan Kear has provided presentations to the Watershed Council. These graphics are from Surface & Groundwater Interaction Study, Kear 7-17-12

The main stem of the Ventura River is divided into two groundwater basins, with the division occurring at Foster Park.

To understand what happens to surface flow, one must understand how the stream interacts with groundwater.  A stream may be 'gaining' or 'losing' depending upon the level of the water table beneath and adjacent to the river channel.  And when the water table drops far enough the stream becomes 'disconnected.' 

One of the areas in question is Reach 4, the section of river downstream of the Robles Diversion  within the upper Ventura River groundwater basin.  As the figure below illustrates, this 'Robles Reach' is usually a 'losing stream,' which often becomes 'disconnected' in dry periods. 

Then, as river flows increase during winter months and the groundwater basin fills back up, and surface flows re-establish.  (In extremely wet periods it may also become a 'gaining stream')

Surface water (dotted line) and Groundwater (solid blue line) interaction
 in the Robles Reach of the Ventura River  (Kear Groundwater)

Although this Surface & Groundwater Interaction Study concluded that "pumping of wells has a relatively minor effect on river flow," this was based upon an experiment that revealed the Meiners Oaks Water District wells reduced river flows by up to 1.5 cfs (cubic feet per second.)  However, this conclusion does not take into account the cumulative effects of multiple wells pumping from the same groundwater basin when summer inflows from Matilija Creek may only be 5-10 cfs or less.

 Reach 4 - Wells within 1000 ft of Ventura River

What this study does demonstrate is that there is some direct interaction between groundwater pumping and surface flows.  What is less clear is the effect from wells farther from the river, but within the larger Upper Ventura River groundwater basin.

Wells within the Upper and Lower Ventura groundwater basins

Last year, a first cut at developing a water budget for the two groundwater basins was presented with the Upper and Lower Ventura River Basin Groundwater Budget.  (The first draft of this analysis suggested an overdraft of 3,240 acre-feet per year, before Lake Casitas storage/supply was added.)

Reach 3 is under similar stress, as the City of Ventura has recently constructed new wells at Foster Park.  Although these wells are regulated by NOAA Fisheries, who have established minimum flow criteria, this reach is influenced by other extractions which have cumulative effects on surface flows.

Although this is clearly a difficult issue, the TMDL listing has brought many of the major water suppliers and users together to potentially work cooperatively on a groundwater management plan.

It is important to understand that this is not only about endangered species and recreation, which are protected under the Clean Water Act, but most importantly the future sustainability of our communities, including over 100,000 residents in Ojai and Ventura:
  • Our communities depend almost entirely on the Ventura River for water supply
  • In recent years, expansion of agriculture as well as planned urban development are increasing pressure on this limited resource
  • New wells are being constructed, increasing groundwater pumping
  • Currently there is no coordinated oversight of groundwater resources on the main stem of the Ventura River
  • We are clearly at, or above, the maximum sustainable water extraction from the Ventura River

More info:

Pumping and Diversion Fact Sheet

A Really Short Course on Water Rights, Birosik 6-13-12

Surface & Groundwater Interaction Study, Kear 7-17-12 (2.8 Mb)

Upper and Lower VRB GW Budget and Management Presentation 05-25-2010 (3.4 Mb)

Upper and Lower Ventura River Basin Groundwater Budget and Management Plan (18 Mb)

See also:






Monday, August 20, 2012

Arundell Barranca - flood control or green infrastructure?

Ventura County Watershed Protection (formerly Flood Control) District is undergoing studies to address potential flooding impacts in the lower Arundell Barranca watershed.  According to hydraulic models, flood risk is higher than past FEMA models, with potential estimated 100-year flood damages of $62,170,700.  The District initially hoped to enlarge the concrete channel to accommodate the 100 year flows, and repair deterioration of Arundell Barranca Channel.

The diagram above shows the affected area - Arundell Barranca drains a large urban and agricultural area and discharges into the Ventura Harbor.

The diagram above illustrates the extent that the urban area has been channelized - compare this infrastructure with the historic condition in the 1945 aerial below.

The photo below shows the current state of the concrete in Arundell Barranca.  This channel conveys a constant flow of no less than 0.67 - 2 cfs in dry weather into the Ventura Harbor.  This amounts to up to 1400 acre feet per year of wasted water. If reused in some manner within the City of Ventura, this stormdrain discharge is sufficient volume to offset the proposed extraction at Saticoy Well #3.

During peak storm events, the channel conveys extremely high flows and tons of sediment into the harbor.  This sediment is periodically dredged and placed on nearby beaches.  Because of the direct hydrologic connection between urban, industrial, and agricultural runoff, these sediments and the water in the harbor contain high levels of toxins ranging from bacteria and metals to agricultural chemicals.

According to Watershed Protection District, the CEQA process has included:
  • Initial Study/Notice of Preparation Review : 1/20 – 2/18/2011
  • Scoping Meeting: 01/27/2011
  • Ventura Port District Board Meeting: 03/30/2011
  • Initial Study on line at: www.vcwatershed.org/projects/arundell
  • EIR On Hold due to Public Comments Received
  • District Contracted with NHC for a Study to Quantify Baseline Condition and Further Investigate Existing Conditions and Potential Alternatives ($310,000 Contract)

Comments received included:
  • Increased Capacity = Increased Sediment & Harbor Dredging Costs
  • Increased Capacity = Increased Pollutants (Trash, Debris, Bacteria, Nitrates, Pesticides, etc.)
  • Project Should Provide Multiple Benefits
  • Coordinate with City of Ventura on Potential Treatment Wetlands Upstream of the SCR Estuary – Increases Grant Funding Eligibility
  • Redirect Channel to the Santa Clara River
  • Modify Outlet to Avoid Eddy at Stub Channel Confluence
  • Redirect Outlet to Avoid Damage to Boats, Docks, and Revetment
  • Build a Detention Basin on Farmland Instead

Next Steps:
  • Public Meeting to Present NHC Alternatives Study Results: July 19, 2012
  • Consider Public Comments and Feasibility, Narrow Down the Alternatives to Carry Forward in the EIR
  • Resume Preparation of the Draft EIR, to Include Additional Opportunities for Public Review and Comment
  • Draft EIR Public Meeting
  • Final EIR Board of Supervisors Hearing


The Surfrider Foundation has provided comments to this process, expressing concern that re-constructing the existing flood control channels to accommodate the 100-year storm flows will perpetuate a water quality problem that is in dire need of mitigation. We strongly recommend that alternatives be seriously considered in order to realize the opportunity for an integrated project that will mitigate flooding and improve water quality in the lower Santa Clara River watershed and Ventura Harbor.

The 2011 Water Quality Report provides a good overview of the water quality issues of concern. It is
noted that industrial discharges from Harris Water have ceased, but there is no indication of the volume of other industrial discharges into the barranca. Such discharges often have a negative short-term effect that is not captured in grab samples. For instance the recent spill reported in the news delivered hydrocarbon effluent to the harbor directly affecting summertime recreational uses (Spill near Ventura Harbor traced to barranca drain outlet -VCStar, Aug 1, 2012)

Industrial and agricultural discharges and spills also have a long term effect, as toxins accumulate in
sediments that are routinely dredged and discharged onto recreational beaches, as well as bioaccumulate in shellfish and other aquatic life which can negatively affect the productivity of the food chain and ultimately impact human health.  And repeated fish die-offs may be related to accumulated nutrient levels in the stagnant backwater channels in the harbor (most recently, Officials believe a lack of oxygen killed thousands of small fish Monday in the Ventura Harbor.
- vcstar.com April 18, 2011)

Therefore, although the report indicates that “a large fraction of the constituents were mostly above method reporting limits, but below regulatory objective levels,” this should not trivialize the seriousness of the discharge from Arundell Barranca.

There is a significant volume of water constantly flowing from this storm drain system, and an analysis of upstream sources should be conducted to determine opportunities for flow reduction and/or stormwater capture upstream of the project site, before flows reach Harbor Blvd. Various ‘green infrastructure’ approaches may be applicable within the urban watershed to mitigate both low and high flow volumes currently present in the concrete channel. Even modifying portions of the channel to include a soft bottom low flow channel may help reduce flows through infiltration.  We have previously presented a vision for such an 'urban retrofit' for the Sanjon Barranca in Ventura.


This is not a new problem, and in 1999 the City of Ventura was leading the charge on a creative approach to redirect flows away from the harbor and treat the water with a green infrastructure approach.

One proposal that has been circulated recently illustrates a vision for an Arundell Estuary Park, that would combine engineered treatment wetlands with public access and trails to beatify the area and solve the water quality problem in the harbor.

One thing is certain: a single purpose flood control project will perpetuate this problem for many decades to come.  Now is the time to develop a multi-purpose multi-agency solution to one of the most serious water quality problems on our coast.

More info:

Arundell Barranca Channel Improvements, Ventura County Watershed Protection District website, www.vcwatershed.org/projects/arundell

Arundell Barranca Environmental Monitoring Final Report

City of San Buenaventura's May 1999 "Ventura Keys and Arundell Barranca Watershed Project Alternatives Report" (7.3MB, PDF)