Monday, December 14, 2015

1969 Floods and Ventura wastewater

As we prepare for 2016's predicted floods, it is interesting to look back in history.   The photos below illustrate the impact to the City of Ventura's wastewater infrastructure from the big floods of 1969.  The Santa Clara River jumped its banks and flowed around the wastewater treatment plant into the Ventura marina.  Broken pipes spilled raw sewage into the ocean for weeks.  

In many ways the wastewater treatment plant located at the mouth of the Santa Clara River continues to become increasingly vulnerable over time.  Upstream development has led to new and bigger levees, effectively channelizing the river and increasing flows near the river mouth.  Moreover, as time goes by climate change will compound the problem through increased storm intensity which will add to the threat of flood from upstream, while rising sea levels present a growing risk from the ocean.

The Olivas Park golf course was historically a productive wetland, which also provided an effective buffer to flood waters along the banks of the Santa Clara River. As illustrated below, in 1969 the river flowed right through the recently constructed golf course and into the marina.   

Solutions:  Surfrider has commented on the Santa Clara Estuary Special Studies that Ventura Water should take advantage of ongoing plans to reduce discharges into the Santa Clara Estuary through wastewater recycling, and consider developing a decentralized strategy.  This would over time reduce the volume of wastewater reaching the estuary, and increase resilience in the face of these risks.

More info:

Santa Clara River Estuary Special Studies
Ventura River Watershed - Flooding photos