Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Presentations: KYH2O and Matilija Dam

Two recent presentations are now available for online viewing:

Why (Fresh) Water is Important to Surfers
November 21, 2013 - Channel Islands Maritime Museum.
This presentation describes the Ventura River watershed and Surfrider's "Know Your H2O" approach to solving the ongoing water management crisis.

Matilija Dam: Taking Another Look (A Brief History and Update)
March 22, 2014: Salmonid Restoration Federation Conference, Santa Barbara, CA
A summary of  the Matilija Dam Ecosystem Restoration project and update on the 2014 special studies.

Matilija Dam: Taking Another Look (A Brief History and Update) from Salmonid Restoration Federation on Vimeo.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

California Adaptation Forum

August 19, 2014:  Surfers' Point at the California Adaptation Forum in Sacramento.
This conference attracted over 800 participants from around the state including "elected officials, public- and private-sector leaders, nonprofits and researchers addressing public health, energy, water, emergency management, agriculture, biodiversity conservation and coastal management issues associated with climate change and adaptation."

Surfers' Point serves as a case study for "Managed Shoreline Retreat, a viable response to coastal erosion and sea level rise, and a strategy for climate adaptation.

This presentation was given in a session titled "From Watershed to Coast," which profiled “No regrets” adaptation projects which increase climate change resilience and enhance existing conditions. What makes these projects truly adaptive and not just a repackaging of existing programs? This session looks at four no-regrets projects to address this question: (1) Water L.A. uses “urban acupuncture” to capture rainfall and infiltrate it into the aquifer. The project promotes retrofitting residential properties through education and permit streamlining. (2) Surfer‘s Point Managed Retreat (Ventura) relocated roads and parking lots threatened with wave erosion. Moving from a highly engineered solution to managed retreat was transformative. (3) The Marin Carbon Project utilizes a simple rangeland management protocol to increase carbon sequestration and drought resilience. The protocol, now under review for inclusion in carbon markets, consists of a single addition of composted organic matter to rangeland, yielding benefits over decades. (4) The Coastal Streamflow Stewardship Project (Statewide) utilizes changes in water rights to promote a shift from year-round stream withdrawals to winter withdrawal and storage, reducing impacts to salmonids and increasing drought resilience.

It was clear in this forum that local actions are where positive change is happening.  Ironies abound with government and industry responses.  Case in point: a state sponsored energy conservation PR campaign is using the grizzly bear as mascot...

Monday, August 25, 2014

C-Street, Ventura - more cobble berms

October 18, 2013: C-Street panorama before cobble berm
May 16, 2014: C-Street panorama with cobble berm

In February 2014, the City of Ventura constructed a "cobble berm" to protect the public amenities along the promenade and bike path in Ventura.  The panorama above illustrates the exposed riprap and concrete debris that, while providing some level of erosion protection, also presents a hazard to beachgoers and surfers.  According to the City staff report:

C-St before cobble nourishment - debris marked for removal
Feb 19, 2014: C-St cobble nourishment in progress

Over the last several years, severe erosion has become visible along the state beach at Surfers' Point and the Promenade.  The loss of sand and beach is threatening the palm trees, the bike path and other City public improvements along an 800-foot stretch of beach.  To restore and protect this shoreline and to prevent further erosion from occurring, it is recommended that the successful shore protection that was installed with the Surfers' Point Managed Retreat Project (2010) be extended easterly.  The complete nourishment of this stretch of beach requires the placement of an estimated 4,800 cubic years of small stone/cobble and 1,000 cubic yards of sand topping.  In addition, existing concrete and other debris that is encountered by this work would be removed.  The improvements would effectively widen the beach along the bike path in this area by 10-feet and would protect the bike path and other infrastructure from costly damage. 

March 26, 2014: C-St cobble berm
The placement of cobble and sand is not a permanent fix to control erosion.  It is anticipated that this project will arrest erosion along this stretch of beach for 
approximately 10 years and perhaps longer.  Periodic cobble beach nourishment is an economically viable option that is necessary for ongoing stability of the beach as well as 
protection of existing public improvements.

At the regular City Council meeting on September 16, 2013, Council authorized the use of $450,000 of line of Credit Repayment Funds to be use to fund this beach nourishment work.  Approximately 1/2 to 1/3 of this 800 foot shoreline will be addressed with available funding …  The apparent low bidder… submitted a bid in the amount of $319,970…

These aerial photos help illustrate the evolution of the shoreline following the construction of the cobble berm.

October 18, 2013: C-Street before cobble berm

February 25, 2014: C-Street shortly after construction of cobble berm

The image above taken shortly following the construction clearly shows the downcoast extent of the constructed cobble berm and the concrete debris directly downcoast.

May 16, 2014: C-Street 3 months after construction of cobble berm

Although the site did not experience many large winter swells in 2014, the beach quickly adjusted to the new cobble berm.  The image above clearly illustrates that by May much of the cobble had migrated downcoast, filling in on top of the concrete debris.

May 16, 2014: C-Street view looking toward the cove further downcoast of project site 

 The image above shows how the cobble has migrated around the Figueroa St drain and into the cove.  The cobble is evident in the photo below looking back upcoast from the drain on March 26, 2014 - note the relatively homogenous rocks filling in between the larger riprap from the constructed berm in the far background of the image.

March 26, 2014: View from Figueroa storm drain looking upcoast toward cobble berm. Cobbles are migrating through the riprap toward the viewer.
Aug 29, 2014: View from Figueroa storm drain looking upcoast toward C-St cobble berm. Note riprap now completely buried by cobble migrating downcoast 

We shall continue to monitor Ventura's cobble shoreline management, as there is a lot to learn. This cobble berm placed within the active littoral zone is a contrast to the Managed Shoreline Retreat project just up the point.  Questions remain as to how long this cobble remains in place, how fast it moves along the shoreline, and how rising tides and future large swells will affect this stretch of coast.  Stay tuned…

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

DamNation film

Patagonia's film about our nation's dam problem has been on tour this spring and racking up the awards:
Winner – SXSW Audience Choice Award
Winner – Documentary Award for Environmental Advocacy, DC Environmental Film Festival
Winner – Mountainfilm Audience Choice Award
Winner – Best of Festival, 5Point Film Festival

On Thursday, June 5, Patagonia presented the award-winning, feature length documentary DamNation,  at Patagonia Retail Stores in 23 cities nationwide.

Our local Great Pacific Iron Works sponsored the evening event in Ventura.  The community came out in force, over 500 people packed into the outdoor "tin shed" courtyard behind the retail store.  After the film the Q&A featuring Yvon Chouinard and Paul Jenkin drew many informed questions from an audience that was fired up to help remove our local deadbeat dam, Matilija Dam.  Proceeds from the sales of donated Stone Brewery beer and a Patagonia product raffle went to support the Matilija Coalition!

The Matilia Coalition was also part of the May 21 showing at the Lobero Theater in Santa Barbara.  That event also sold out with over 600 attending!

Starting on June 6, DamNation is now available at Vimeo On Demand for digital viewing. DamNation will be available to rent ($5.99) or buy ($9.99) for viewing on almost any device.  Also check out the Patagonia Collection on Vimeo On Demand.

Surrounding the film’s appearances at festivals and other events around the country since March, Patagonia has asked people to get involved and ask President Obama to authorize studies on removing four problematic lower dams on the Snake River. To date, over 25,000 people have signed the petition asking the administration to “crack down on deadbeat dams” – signatures that will be delivered to the White House at a later date.

Since its world premiere at the SXSW Film Festival on March, DamNation has been hailed by The Los Angeles Times, The Village Voice, National Geographic and Time Magazine. Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard recently published an op-ed in The New York Times arguing for the removal of low value, high cost dams.

Aside from telling the story of our endanger salmon runs and the recent large dam removals, the film is a must-see for anyone with lingering curiosity about the scissors on Matilija Dam!

More:  damnationfilm.com


Matilija Dam meetings May 28, 2014

On May 28, 2014, the Matilija Dam Design Oversight Group (DOG) and Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) met.  The morning was spent summarizing the recent history of the project and updating the DOG on the consultant hiring process and recent work products, while the afternoon was dedicated to receiving technical input on the next steps.  The complete presentations from this meeting as well as the technical references are downloadable from the project website at MatilijaDam.org.

The details for the events on this recent timeline are summarized on this blog.  The short version is that the project got bogged down in 2007-2008 over the proposed management of the fine sediment that is trapped behind Matilija Dam.  The federal feasibility study included a dredge-and-slurry system to physically move this fine sediment downstream of the Robles Diversion Dam which diverts water into Lake Casitas.  Construct-ability and cost concerns led to the formation of the Fine Sediment Study Group which recommended further analysis of alternatives to the slurry system.  These studies are now underway under the guidance of the TAC. The work is being performed by a combined consultant team from two firms, URS and Stillwater Sciences, both of whom have considerable experience with other major dam removal and river restoration projects in the western United States.

The meeting included an overview of the study process from URS, as well as more technical presentations from Stillwater Sciences.

Seth Genzler, project manager for URS, explained the current scope of work for the studies that are expected to be completed in early 2015.
  • Task 1: Dam Removal Plans and Cost Estimates 
    • a) Task 1.1: Background Review & Concept Matrix
    • b) Task 1.2: Initial Options Screening
    • c) Task 1.3: Full Dam Removal Concepts Evaluation
  • Task 2: Sediment Analysis
    • a) Task 2.1: Hydrologic Assessment
    • b) Task 2.2: Sediment Characterization
    • c) Task 2.3: Initial Options Sediment Analysis
    • d) Task 2.4: Full Dam Removal Sediment Analysis
  • Task 3: Robles Diversion Mitigation 
    • a) Task 3.1: Background Material Review
    • b) Task 3.2: Hydrologic Assessment for Water Supply
    • c) Task 3.3: Robles Mitigation Concept Evaluation

Derek Booth (Stillwater) presented a summary of the recently completed Hydrology and Sediment Characterization Reports that provide an overview of the river hydrology and sediment transport with the goal of providing some insight to reservoir sediment management under various dam removal scenarios.  He proposed a set of hydrographs to be used in the sediment transport modeling to represent varied water years.  The analysis demonstrated that flows at Matilija Dam are approximately 1/3 of those downstream at Foster Park.  Note the very steep hydrographs typical of our "flashy" river system.  This illustrates both the very high peak flows (with high potential for sediment transport) as well as the very short window of opportunity for natural sediment transport.

One of the primary considerations in plan formulation for the removal of Matilija Dam is the operations of the Robles Diversion Dam, located about 2 miles downstream.  An analysis of actual diversion rates over the past two decades revealed that Robles accounts for approximately 28% of the water stored in the reservoir.  (Note that previous planning had been based upon the assumption of 45% contribution from Robles.)

Stillwater also conducted an analysis of the sediment currently impounded upstream of Matilija Dam.

Based on recent LIDAR surveys and pre dam topography Stillwater estimates there are now 6.8 million cubic yards of sediment contained in the "wedge" upstream of the dam.  (Analysis conducted a decade ago estimated 6 million cubic yards, indicating that additional sediment may have accumulated since then.) As illustrated below, approximately 65% of this is a mix of fine silt, clay, and sand, while the 35% further upstream is coarser grained cobble, gravel, and sand.

The question above was posed based on an analysis that predicts 99% of natural sediment transport in the river to be fine sediment. The answer is that the dam has actually trapped very little of the fine sediment from Matilija Canyon, the majority of which flushes over the dam during flood events as illustrated in this photo.

The afternoon Technical Advisory Committee meeting reviewed the Initial Screening Process and a Concept Matrix developed by URS to summarize all the previous dam removal concepts that have been considered as well as develop some new ideas based on discussions with the technical team.
Previous analyses covered many different approaches to dam removal, and have been described and analyzed in the following technical documents:
  1. Appraisal Report (USBR 2000)
  2. Feasibility Study (USACE 2004)
  3. Upstream Sediment Disposal Areas (USA; USACE 2010)
  4. Fine Sediment Study Group Final Report (FSSG 2011)
  5. Double Barrel Bypass (Stoecker 2011)

All of the previous concepts were combined along with several new concepts in a large table and then consolidated into a flowchart based on sediment management approach.  From these, several concepts (or groups of similar concepts) were carried forward into a potential initial options list.

Note that these are not the final options, as the Technical Advisory Committee had some input and suggestions during the afternoon meeting, and will be reviewing and commenting on these to further refine this list.  The options selected will be carried forward into the next level of analysis that will be directed toward determining the approximate cost and feasibility for a comparison of the concepts.

These graphics are excerpted from the presentations and technical memos available at MatilijaDam.org

Previous history of the project may be found on this blog: http://www.venturariver.org/search/label/Matilija%20Dam


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Surfers Point - cobble berm monitoring

One of the innovative components of the Surfers Point Managed Shoreline Retreat Project is the application of a buried cobble berm to provide shoreline protection for the bike path and parking lot that were moved inland.  The berm is 8 feet thick and approximately 80 feet wide and is buried beneath constructed and revegetated sand dunes.

As a reminder of why this project was constructed, here is a photo of the bike path in 1994:

Historically, the area of greatest erosion is immediately downcoast of the Ventura River levee, which acts as a groin in blocking littoral (along shore) sand transport.  This area continues to see dramatic seasonal changes as the beach comes and goes with changing wave climate.  The typical summer beach looks like this:

 While currently the winter beach looks like this:

So depending on when you visit the site, the "toe" of the cobble berm may or may not be evident.

The following is a collection of photos taken from the Ventura River Levee at the west end of the project site looking back towards the beach restoration area.  This series of photos shows the excavation of the parking lot and the importation of cobble and sand to create the buried cobble berm.    It also illustrates the seasonal changes and the evolution of the cobble berm in response to the changing wave climate and sand supply.  Note that the spur groin in the right foreground can be almost buried with sand in the summer months.

We will continue to photo document this aspect of the project to demonstrate the effectiveness of the cobble berm to adapt to future changes.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Matilija Coalition Update February 2014

Matilija Dam Ecosystem Restoration Campaign Update 2013-2014

Matilija Coalition:   One of the most common questions we are asked, whether at public events or just hanging out at the beach, is "when is that dam coming out?"   Although recent progress on actual dam removal has been painfully slow, there remains considerable interest and support within our community.

The Matilija Coalition continues to provide public outreach and education on Matilija Dam. We conducted 4 field tours in 2013, most notably the SERCAL conference (Society for Ecological Restoration California Chapter SERCAL conference 2013).   This month I was invited to give a short update to the Ojai Rotary Club.  We also work with classes from UCSB, Ojai Valley School, and Ventura College.  In 2014 we will also host a fieldtrip for Ventura High School AP science class and another AP Science group called "Get Inspired".

Dam Removal Update:
Unfortunately, little progress has been made since the 2004 federal feasibility plan was approved by Congress in 2007.  The original schedule had dam removal slated for 2012, but that date slipped by quickly with a lack of federal funding and fundamental problems with the plan.  As detailed design
progressed it was evident that actual costs for the $145M project were quickly surpassing $200M! We have been working with federal, state, and local agencies to resolve these issues since 2008.  Milestones in this effort are documented at VenturaRiver.org 

In 2012, the Matilija Dam "Technical Advisory Committee (TAC)" completed a work plan for the next steps in resolving the issues with removing Matilija Dam.  The studies will include:

Task 1: Dam Removal Plans and Costs - to complete a screening and evaluation process of feasible dam removal and interim notch concepts, and ultimately to complete a conceptual design of up to two (2) preferred concepts that could move forward into permitting and implementation.

Task 2: Sediment Analysis of interim and dam removal schemes - evaluate the in-channel and reservoir-area responses to the proposed full dam removal initial options and concepts that will be screened and evaluated in Task 1, with a primary reliance on the simulation of sediment transport processes to evaluate downstream sedimentation and associated flooding risk, as well as (included in Task 1) geomorphologic changes, short- and long-term habitat impacts, and water quality.

Task 3: Robles Diversion Mitigation - develop methods to mitigate the impact to water supply through supplying water of acceptable quality during the period of turbidity impact. The work of Task 3 would be done in close collaboration with Tasks 1 and 2.

The completed TAC reports may be downloaded at matilijadam.org

In 2013 a consultant team was selected to perform the additional studies recommended by the TAC.  A contract was recently approved by the Ventura County Board of Supervisors, with the work to be sponsored by the California Coastal Conservancy.  Work should begin in March 2014.  A meeting will be scheduled around the May time frame with the project "Design Oversight Group" in order to consolidate information and brainstorm dam removal alternatives.  The studies are anticipated to take about 18 months, at which point we should have a short list of potential project alternatives which will require still more engineering for implementation.

The Matilija Coalition will continue to advocate for the most cost-effective plan possible.  Recognizing that we are in an era of greatly reduced federal funding necessitates simplifying the project in order to reduce costs significantly.  For an example of the negative impacts of federal spending cuts, visit the beaches of Port Hueneme. Read more here: beach-erosion-and-federal-funding

Upcoming Events:

Salmonid Restoration Federation (SRF) Conference 2014
This year's conference returns to Santa Barbara, CA.   SRF promotes restoration, stewardship, and recovery of California native salmon, steelhead and trout populations through education, collaboration,
and advocacy. The annual conference provides a forum for restoration professionals to share progress and ideas from around the state.  We have regularly presented at this conference since 2004, and this year will host a field trip and present on Matilija Dam.

*  Ventura River Parkway Tour
    Thursday, March 20, 2014
* Dams: Learning to Live With and Without Them
   March 22 Saturday Morning Concurrent Sessions
   Matilija Dam: Taking Another Look - Paul Jenkin, Surfrider Foundation

See CalSalmon.org for the full agenda and to register for the conference.

DamNation - the film

The world premier of the new dam removal film will be at the South by Southwest Music and Film Festival, March 7 - 16, 2014 • Austin, TX.  We eagerly anticipate local screenings to reinvigorate the conversation on Matilija Dam.

"This powerful film odyssey across America explores the sea change in our national attitude from pride in big dams as engineering wonders to the growing awareness that our own future is bound to the life and health of our rivers. Dam removal has moved beyond the fictional Monkey Wrench Gang to go mainstream. Where obsolete dams come down, rivers bound back to life, giving salmon and other wild fish the right of return to primeval spawning grounds, after decades without access. DamNation’s majestic cinematography and unexpected discoveries move through rivers and landscapes altered by dams, but also through a metamorphosis in values, from conquest of the natural world to knowing ourselves as part of nature."

Watch the trailer here: http://www.damnationfilm.com

World Fish Migration Day, May 24th, 2014 -  World Fish Migration Day (WFMD) - we will be
working with NOAA and other partners to host an event to highlight the need for safe upstream and downstream passage for listed fish (i.e. steelhead).  Events will be taking place throughout the world, starting in New Zealand and working their way around the globe where they will finish here on the West Coast. More information can be found at:

The Surfrider Foundation is the lead organization and fiscal sponsor for the Matilija Coalition, formed in 2000 to consolidate the NGO efforts to remove Matilija Dam from the Ventura River.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Surfers Point Winter 2014

A boardwalk is the most recent addition to the Surfers' Point Managed Shoreline Retreat project.  Designed to provide access around the 'cobble garden,' the boardwalk is constructed with weatherproof plastic decking and adds a finished touch to the bike path.  We have received positive comments from the 'regulars' at the beach, and people seem to be enjoying the little detour off the paved path.

The project also appears to be functioning well during winter "king tides" and storm surf.  This aerial overview shows the wet sand from high tide early in the day as well as the exposed cobble berm on the west (left) side of the project.

 The managed retreat project was designed to mimic and enhance the natural function of the beach which changes throughout the year.  The erosion of the beach in winter months is expected with high tides and surf, and wave action naturally sorts the sand and cobble.

This cobble, which was buried beneath sand just a month ago, extends beneath the dunes all the way back to the bike path.  The 'cobble berm,' which is is up to eight feet thick, provides a significant mass of natural river rock to protect the bike path from extreme events and future sea level rise.

The aerial photos below were taken at extreme low (minus) tide, and clearly show the cobble in the intertidal zone - it is this cobble that provides the foundation for the marine delta that creates the "point" at the mouth of the Ventura River.

More about this project:  http://www.venturariver.org/search/label/Surfers%20Point