Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Ventura River - Instream Flow program

The Ventura River has been identified as one of five priority streams in the California Water Action Plan (WAP.)  The State Water Board and CDFW are currently working to identify potential actions that may be taken to enhance and establish instream flow for anadromous fish in these five priority streams.


The streams identified for the WAP effort are primarily coastal streams where the survival of salmon and steelhead (together referred to as salmonids) are of particular concern. Of the 22 distinct groups of anadromous salmon and steelhead in California, 13 (59%) are in danger of extinction and are in need of enhanced protection.

The Ventura River provides an opportunity to advance state water management policy by integrating groundwater and surface water management for the first time.  On March 28, 2016, a team representing the State and Regional Water Resources Control Board and California Department of Fish and Wildlife toured the watershed.

Instream flow team at Robles Diversion fish passage

More info:  State Water Resources Control Board
                   California Department of Fish and Wildlife

On this blog: http://www.venturariver.org/search/label/groundwater

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Matilija Dam stakeholders select local project

On March 17, 2016, the Matilija Dam "Design Oversight Group" met to determine consensus around one of the three alternatives in the AECOM/Stillwater reports and how to move the project forward.

Following a long discussion, the issue was put to a vote.  Printouts depicting the three project alternatives were hung on the wall, and each stakeholder was given a green "stickie dot" to indicate their preference.  (A yellow dot was provided for a "backup" 2nd choice, if they chose to do so.)

The result was almost unanimously (95%) in favor of Dam Removal Concept 2:

0  votes  (3 backup)     -       DRC-1 Containment berm with high flow bypass = $40M
18 votes (1 backup)     -       DRC-2 Uncontrolled orifices with optional gates  = $18.5/$20.4M
1  vote    (1 backup)     -      DRC-3 Temporary upstream storage                      = $50M

This outcome was not unexpected, given the discussion during the previous meeting last September.
However, this is a very significant decision in that marks a departure from almost 15 years of discussion in which sediment was seen as damaging to both local interests and the river, and in which the Corps of Engineers was perceived as the only path to funding the project.  This vote included the local water districts, the City of Ventura, resource agencies including NOAA, Fish and Wildlife Service, State Dept of Fish and Wildlife, Army Corps of Engineers, as well as Matilija Coalition member organizations.  This method of releasing sediment through a low level outlet was demonstrated on Condit Dam in 2011.

Project Funding and Completion

The meeting agenda included discussion of the alternatives developed in the final reports and the potential funding pathways to complete the project.

This chart was presented as an outline of the processes required to complete the project.  It is assumed that Alternative 2 would be pursued as a local project, depicted by the green path, as this dam removal concept is significantly different from that which was previously authorized through the Corps of Engineers. 
Process overview for project completion presented at March 17 Matilija Dam meeting
Much talk was centered around the difficulty in funding a Corps of Engineers project given the current political climate.  Congress has restricted "new starts," and the Office of Management and Budget has kept with its determination that, when it comes to a locally owned facility such as Matilija Dam, the federal interest is limited.  In hindsight it is clear that delays in the project resulted in a missed opportunity following authorization through WRDA 2007 (the Water Resources and Development Act is the mechanism for Congress to approve Corps of Engineers projects nationwide.)
Matt Stoecker (DamNation), Hans Cole (Patagonia Inc) and Paul Jenkin (Matilija Coalition) at the White House Council on Environmental Quality offices in Washington DC, March 3, 2016
This sentiment was confirmed in discussions with congressional representatives and appropriation staff during a recent trip to Washington sponsored by Patagonia as part of their DamNation campaign to gain support for the removal of "Deadbeat Dams."

The project selected is by far the most cost effective means to remove Matilija Dam, and is free from congressional roadblocks.  However, despite less than $20M cost for dam removal, the total price tag will likely include tens of millions more in downstream projects previously determined necessary to accommodate restored sediment flows down the river.

Next Steps:

The next step is to identify and secure funding to complete the necessary engineering and environmental permitting to get the project "shovel ready."  This work will likely take another couple of years.  In the mean time, Patagonia has been appointed to lead a funding subcommittee to help secure funding for project implementation. 

More info:
matilijadam.org: the final Dam Removal Concepts and Water Supply Mitigation Options reports are posted to the website.  They contain final changes to the reports, mostly in response to comments submitted by members of the Design Oversight Group.

On this blog:   http://venturaecosystem.blogspot.com/search/label/Matilija%20Dam

On the web:  Matilija-Coalition.org

In the News: 

Monday, March 21, 2016

Surfers Point Spring Workdays

 Sunday March 20, 2016
Surfrider volunteers weeding non-native plants in restored dunes at Surfers' Point 3-20-2016

 A small group of Surfrider volunteers completed a successful volunteer work day at Surfers' Point.

Lots of non-native sea rocket was removed from the dunes as well as Mediterranean barley, iceplant, cheeseweed, and sweetclover.  Volunteers also pruned large plants in the bioswale to open up sight lines between the parking lot and beach.

The Ventura County Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation continues the long-term commitment to the project, which serves as a great example of a volunteer managed site with a high level of public use.

The Spring 2016 workday schedule is March 20,  April 9 and May 1.

non-native Sea Rocket can overpower native dune plants

Cobble berm after the biggest winter since construction 3-20-2016

Friday, March 11, 2016

Groundwater Management for the Upper Ventura River

Formation of the "Upper Ventura River Groundwater Management Agency" began in 2015 in response to State legislation passed in response to the statewide water crisis.
  • Assembly Bill 1739 by Assemblymember Roger Dickinson (D-Sacramento)
  • Senate Bill 1168 by Senator Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills)
  • Senate Bill 1319 by Senator Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills)
"California will no longer be the only Western state that does not manage its groundwater. The cost of doing nothing is the biggest economic gamble. Thousands of homes and small farms cannot keep pace with the race to drill deeper and deeper wells. The bills take a balanced approach - they protect property rights and incentivze local control." 
- Senator Fran Pavley
The legislation allows local agencies to tailor sustainable groundwater plans to their regional economic and environmental needs. This will be accomplished through the Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) being formed by the local water districts.

A Groundwater Sustainability Agency has the following powers and authorities:
  • Management of Groundwater Extractions
  • Water Well Management
  • Groundwater monitoring and reporting
  •  Replenishment activities
  •  Fees
  •  Enforcement
  • Ongoing data collection, analyses, and reporting

A primary goal will be to develop a Groundwater Sustainability Plan to achieve sustainability within 20 years.   This will include determination of Sustainable Yield ( maximum that can be extracted without causing undesirable result) and associated Groundwater Allocations and Alternative Supplies.

The boundaries of the groundwater basin were a major topic of discussion at the stakeholder meeting on Jan 28, 2016.  A presentation described a rationale for re-drawing the boundaries based on an updated geological interpretation as shown below.  The blue line marks the proposed change from the previously established red line boundary.

The committee that is working to form the Upper Ventura River Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) has launched a website, www.uvrgroundwater.org.

More information: 


DWR Basin Boundary Modification Request website includes the documents and comments 
If you have questions regarding the new agency, or would like to be on an e-mail distribution list for future updates, call or e-mail Bert Rapp, general manager, Ventura River Water District at 805/646-3403, Bert@VenturaRiverWD.com

Implementing California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act