Thursday, December 29, 2016

Matilija Dam State Prop 1 grant

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife announced that it will award $3.3 million to the Matilija Dam project.

The grant was part of $40 million in Proposition 1 funds awarded for "water quality, river and watershed protection, and restoration projects for vital waterways throughout California."  Proposition 1 was passed by California voters in 2014.

This grant will be administered by the Ventura County Watershed Protection District to complete engineering design and environmental permitting for the dam removal project.  A three-year timeframe will result in a "shovel ready" project by 2020.

The successful Prop 1 grant proposal was compiled by county staff with support from the Matilija Coalition, California Trout, and the Ventura River Watershed coordinator, along with other agency support.

These efforts are coordinated by the Matilija Dam Funding Committee, which was formed earlier this year following the consensus agreement on the dam removal project.

In the news:

CDFW Awards $40 Million for Ecosystem and Watershed Restoration and Protection Projects, CDFW news

County gets $3 million for Matiljia Dam removal, VCStar 12-26-2016

Grant approved in effort to remove Matilija Dam, VC Reporter 12-28-2016

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Hewlett Foundation support for Matilija Dam Removal

This week the Hewlett Foundation announced a $50 million fund for river restoration in the west.
Hewlett Foundation’s initial pledge of $175,000 for Matilija Dam will support local groups working toward the dam's removal. This includes grants to the Surfrider Foundation, California Trout, and other organizations to provide technical support and community outreach on the project.

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation marked the organization’s 50th anniversary by donating $50 million to establish the Open Rivers Fund, the largest fund dedicated to supporting local community efforts to remove obsolete dams and restore rivers across the western United States. Resources Legacy Fund, a nonprofit that has significant experience in developing and implementing complex conservation programs and projects, will identify potential dam removal projects -- based on the local need, widespread community support and collaboration, and opportunity for multiple community and environmental benefits – and, over the next ten years, support the work of local groups and agencies in removing the dams.  The Open Rivers Fund launches with three initial projects, including the largest dam removal project in California, the Matilija Dam.

According to the Ventura County Star:
As organizers continue to work on the plan, including defining recreational opportunities along the Ventura River Parkway, the recognition by Open Rivers will help convince government agencies and donors that the Matilija Dam demolition project is viable and important to the community, said Peter Sheydayi, interim direct of the Ventura County Watershed Protection District, which owns the dam.
“They (Open Rivers Fund) bring a lot of credibility to our efforts,” he said Monday. “There’s a general feeling of momentum moving now that we haven’t seen before.”

More info:

In the news:

A new $50 million fund will help communities remove “deadbeat dams,” starting in California, Oregon, and Washington.

Editorial: Matilija Dam removal dream is alive and well, VCStar

"It would be easy to play the pessimist on this never-ending project, especially considering its $80 million price tag and a president-elect who isn’t exactly putting environmental restoration at the top of his to-do list. But you’ve got to give some serious credit to the Matilija Coalition, founder Paul Jenkin and all the others involved for their persistence and fortitude. At this point, Ventura County is 20 years deep into this project, and we’re glad its champions are sticking with it."

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Drought and water supply

As the unprecedented drought continues, local water agencies are examining potential "new" water sources in the event that our "backup," Lake Casitas,  runs dry.  An April article in the Ventura County Star warned that without rain Lake Casitas could be empty in four (4) years.  The lake level is
continuing to decline, now at 35.5%, a drop of 2.1% since September.  The Ventura River Watershed has remained independent of imported water, but the threat of megadrought has re-opened the discussion.

On Thursday, September 22, 2016 the Casitas Water District sponsored a Regional Drought Summit, (the Presentations are available here, or on YouTube here)  The well attended event was held at the Oak View Resource Center and included a panel of speakers with representatives from City of Ventura, Golden State, Ventura River, Meiners Oaks, and Senior Canyon Municipal Water District.   Ventura River Watershed coordinator Zoe Carlson  provided a short overview on the drought's effect on the watershed.

On November 9th, the Casitas water board received a presentation on a Water Security Project Analysis.  The report and the associated PowerPoint presentation are now available here.

Casitas has been looking at ways to mitigate the effects of the drought on our water supply. The report analyses the technical and financial feasibility of ‘new’ water supply projects. The reports are preliminary, but are a great way to give the public a glimpse of the research Casitas is involved in to secure your water.

This report concludes that the best bet may be a horizontal bore into water-bearing bedrock in the mountains above the lake.  The so-called  "Matilija HoBos" would tap into the Matilija sandstone geologic formation potentially accessing over 29,000 acre feet of water.

In the meantime, the City of Ventura is also investigating their options.  A hookup to the State Water Project  would be possible in cooperation with other water agencies, including Casitas.  And at the recent Santa Clara Estuary meeting they announced that the City will be initiating CEQA environmental review for recycling wastewater through Direct Potable Reuse based upon their successful demonstration project.

And now to complete the discussion, Supervisor Steve Bennett has called for a December 1, 2016
forum on ocean desalination.  

If all this sounds familiar, it is.  The debate on state water vs ocean desalination ended when the last drought came to an end in 1994. 

Study's Good News Clouds Water Debate: Ventura, Told that its sources are adequate for 16 years, city may delay plans for either a desalinaton plant or pipeline

In the news:

Desalination in Ventura County called solution for future

More information:

On the Brink: Southern California faces dire, drier future

Casitas Lake Level

Regional Drought Summit 2016 Presentations

Regional Drought Summit 2016 Presentations on YouTube

Santa Clara River Estuary Special Studies

 Ventura Water Pure (wastewater recycling)

More on this blog:

Water Supply



Monday, November 14, 2016

Aloha Beach Festival

Many thanks to Chip and Kelly Bell for their generous donation of $10,000 raised by the annual Aloha Beach Festival!

This year, in light of recent progress with the dam removal project, the Bell's designated the Matilija Coalition as their beneficiary of this annual event.

Thanks Chipper Bro!

more info:

Aloha Beach Festival

Dam scissors stickers

Matilija Dam made headline news in 2011 when a giant pair of scissors appeared overnight.  The image is now becoming a symbol of dam removal.

The Matilija Coalition just designed and printed a sticker building on this theme.  More of these will be available soon, so stop by the Patagonia retail stores to get yours!

All good grass-roots campaigns begin with a bumper sticker.  Surfrider printed these in 1995 to spread the word on the sand trap 16 miles up the Ventura River:

On this blog:

Matilija Dam in the news



Salmon Run 2016

Salmon Run 5K
23 Years in the Making
Sunday, November 6, 2016
Patagonia HQ, Ventura, California

The 23rd Annual Salmon Run, a 5K run/race was held at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday, November 6, 2016. The Salmon Run is a benefit event for environmental nonprofits. Over the years, it has raised more than $150,000 to support groups working on important issues right in our own backyard. We hope you can join us this year for a morning of fun and community!
This year's beneficiary is Once Upon a Watershed, an environmental nonprofit that provides watershed education, restoration and stewardship experiences to grade school students in the Ventura River Watershed.

 As always, Surfrider/Matilija Coalition, Friends of the Ventura River, and all of our partner organizations had a table to spread the word on all the good work happening in the community!

Surfrider/Matilija Coalition at 2016 Salmon Run
Matilija Coalition outreach materials
Our new "scissors stickers" were a big hit, and we handed out over 300 of them before we ran out!

Patagonia Salmon Run

Ojai Film Festival 2016

Ojai Valley Green Coalition - FOCUS EARTH

On Sunday Nov 6th, the Ojai Valley Green Coalition sponsored a water-themed afternoon of films and discussion.  The Surfrider Foundation "Cycle of Insanity" short film and a new film titled "Beyond the Mirage: The Future of Water in the West," set the stage for a panel discussion.  The sold-out audience was primarily Ojai residents, eager to learn more about water management during this ongoing drought.

"Beyond the Mirage" explains the tenuous nature of the Colorado River and California State Water projects under the uncertainty of climate change.  It explained how this huge plumbing system has been overallocated, and why decreased snowpack could lead to the failure of a system which has provided for the growth of megacities in the desert southwest, including those in California.

A timely discussion, given the push right now to hook the Ventura River up to state water...

Ojai Valley Green Coalition: The Future of Water Panel Discussion 11.6.16 720 from Ojai Valley Green Coalition on Vimeo.

More info:

Ojai Valley Green Coalition - FOCUS EARTH

Cycle of Insanity


Tuesday, October 25, 2016


Santa Barbara ChannelKeeper recently initiated a campaign to #ResurrectTheRiver

The campaign aims to shine some light on their effort to restore flows in the Ventura River, which is often a complex issue to understand.

This video takes a creative look at the issues:

Visit the website to understand why;

 "Channelkeeper has filed a lawsuit to compel the State Water Board to scientifically analyze the “reasonableness” of the City’s use of the river and to find a workable balance between the competing demands for water and the need and legal responsibility to keep the river alive and flowing."

Sign the petition to show your support for #ResurrectTheRiver

On this blog:

ChannelKeeper sues to save a drying river




Monday, October 10, 2016

Matilija Dam in the News

"It is mostly silted up. It has out lived its usefulness. It no longer serves for flood control or water supply for the region and at the same time it blocks fish from coming up so this fits with the statewide priority of trying to deal with these old situations," said Secretary of California Natural Resources Agency John Laird.

Friday Oct 7, 2016 - VC Star

Local, state and federal officials toured the dam Thursday as Peter Sheydayi, interim director of the Ventura County Watershed Protection District, talked about recent steps forward and the work that still needs to happen.  For years, there has been widespread support to tear down the dam above Ojai. The problem is what to do with the about 8 million cubic yards of sediment that has built up behind it over the past six or so decades.

The project to tear down the dam started in 1999, Sheydayi told the small crowd that included John Laird, secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency, county Supervisor Steve Bennett, U.S. Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Westlake Village, and Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Carpinteria.

"From 2007 until very recently, we were still trying to get Congress to fund this project. We just sort of met with obstacle after obstacle," Schuchat said. The Coastal Conservancy has funded much of the state's share up to now in the process.  Instead, local officials want to look at whether they could fund the project without the Corps of Engineers. For now, that's just something to explore.

After the tour, officials returned to the Watershed Protection District's Saticoy office to talk about funding possibilities.

In the meantime, the next step is to take the concept that the groups agreed to and turn it into engineering drawings. Officials have applied for a grant from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to pay for that next phase of work.

October 6, 2016: Roundtable Discussion on Matilija Dam convened by Congresswoman Julia Brownley. Paul Jenkin presents the history of the project to federal, state, and local representatives.

KEYT: Matilija Dam one step closer to coming down


Friday, September 16, 2016

Watershed signs

Sign "Entering Ventura River Watershed" when leaving Sespe Creek on Highway 33 
Ventura County Watershed Protection District (WPD) recently installed signs at the watershed boundaries throughout the county.  Funding came from the WPD Stormwater Permittee Project.  Similar signs have been placed at visible sites on Watershed Protection District facilities throughout the county.

This was an idea that surfaced during initial community discussions with the Ojai Valley Green Coalition in 2008.   At that time very few local residents were aware of the significance of our watershed, or even what the term means!  Signs like this become part of a growing culture of watershed awareness.

Thanks to Ventura County WPD for implementing this public education opportunity!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Matilija Sand Trap

Sept 8, 2016: Ventura County Reporter article on Matilija Dam:

With a possible end in sight, all parties involved are optimistic for the future.

“It’s a good feeling knowing that there actually is a solution to this. We’re working every day to try and make that happen,” said Jenkin.

On Thursday, Oct. 6, the Ventura River Watershed Council will meet to discuss the Matilija Dam Ecosystem Restoration Project at Oak View Community Center, 18 Valley Road in Oak View from 6 to 8 p.m. For more information, visit

Read the article here: sand-trap-plan-for-matilija-dam-removal-will-rely-on-historic-rainfall

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

River Parkway progress

A recent news article in the Ventura County Star highlights the progress on the Ventura River Parkway.  Most notably, our two land conservancies have made major headway in acquiring floodplain properties and addressing the non-native giant reed (Arundo donax) while enhancing and maintaining recreational access.   Also mentioned is the interpretive kiosk at the Main Street Bridge,  National Recreation Trail status, pending mile marker installation, and recent progress on Matilija Dam.

The Friends of the Ventura River coalition has collectively made significant headway in recent years, and a key piece of our outreach has been the distribution of over 7,500 Ventura River Parkway Guide maps.  We just printed another run of these maps, which are once again available at the Patagonia retail store, Ventura Visitors Center, Real Cheap Sports, Open Air Bikes, The Ventura Bike Depot, the City of Ventura Parks & Recreation department, the Ojai Visitors Center and the Mob Shop!
This printing was made possible through sponsorships from Patagonia, The Ventura Visitors Bureau and BioResource Consultants in Ojai.

In the news: 

Plans for Ventura River Parkway, a route of trails from Ventura to Ojai, move along

On the web:


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Elwha site visit 2016

This summer I had the opportunity to visit the Elwha River, my first time back since the Elwha Science Symposium and the Celebrate Elwha festival back in 2011.
The former Elwha dam site, June 2016
Standing above the former  Elwha dam site, faint clues of the structure are still visible across the river on the left abutment.  Unfortunately some exposed steel remains in the river channel, resulting in the closure of all boating trips through the former dam site.  A sign upstream warns of the danger and indicates a mandatory portage over the ridge.  My hopes of floating the restored river will have to wait...
Upstream of the former Elwha dam site, June 2016
This is just a quarter of a mile above the dam site.  Vegetation has grown in areas previously inundated by the reservoir, clearly delineated by the light green line below the older evergreen trees.  Most notable is the vast amount of sediment that remains on either side of the meandering river channel.  This confirms predictions that not all of the sediment trapped in the reservoirs will be moved downstream.  These new river channels will continue to adapt to future floods and slowly transport sediment out to the coast.

Elwha river delta, after dam removal June 2016

Revisiting the beaches at the mouth of the Elwha was eye opening.  Where piecemeal seawalls once protected property threatened by a receding shoreline, a 300 yard sandy delta now extends out into Puget Sound.  Numerous sea birds gathered along the river and shoreline benefiting from the renewed ecosystem, and small, clean waves hinted of the renewed surf potential.

Port Angeles
One unexpected benefit that was evident to me was the change to the little town of Port Angeles.  In 2011, this seemed like a small town with little to offer other than the port and ferry.  Since then small tourist shops and a variety of  trendy coffee shops, restaurants, and other businesses have popped up.  It seems that dam removal has been good for the local economy too!

 On this blog:

Elwah Science Symposium

Watching the dams come down - Elwha beaches


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Matilija Dam poster update

The Matilija Coalition has updated the poster describing the Matilija Dam Ecosystem Restoration project.  The primary change is in the sediment management required for dam removal, which has been greatly simplified through using "natural transport" rather than expensive mechanical means to re-establish the stream bed upstream. 

Thanks to Cynthia Hartley for design, and photographers Raymond Powers, Jim Martin, and Matt Stoecker!

The previous version is here: 

Matilija Dam poster



Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Surfers Point Phase 2

Local news story outlines effort to move forward with Phase 2 of the Surfers Point Managed Shoreline Retreat project:

"Though recognized nationally for what it accomplished, returning the beach to its natural state rather than installing artificial and ultimately ineffective barriers, the project didn't face its first real test until Dec. 11.
It "reacted perfectly the way it was supposed to," said Paul Jenkin of the nonprofit Surfrider Foundation, which was heavily involved in the first phase. "It means that the beach adapted to the large waves."  The dunes and vegetation absorbed the energy of the waves while trapping the sand.
"It's a dynamic beach that comes and goes with the seasons. The ocean is able to give and take," Jenkin said.

Last week, the fairgrounds board agreed to be part of a working group that includes the city, BEACON, Surfrider and others to discuss the second phase.  Fairgrounds Chief Executive Director Barbara Quaid said getting everyone at the table was a good idea and allowed for discussions including "what goes into it, where's the money coming from, how does that affect the city, how does it affect the fairgrounds."

It's too early to say what could happen, but Quaid said the area in the first phase did what it was supposed to do and more.  "That was a tough decision to change the usage of our property," said Quaid, referring to the fairgrounds' lost parking lot. "But we knew at the time the board made the right decision. It was the right thing to do for the community."

Surfers Point plan: phase 1 included relocation of bike path and the west end of fairgrounds parking  - phase 2 includes relocation of remaining bike path and parking area 

Surfers Point plan: phase 2 includes relocation of bike path and remaining fairgrounds parking

In the news:  VC Star
On this blog: Surfers Point

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Surfer Magazine cover
Surfer magazine cover shot of Ventura point...  a winter to remember!

Surfers' Point Jan 11, 2016photo: APJenkin

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Watching the dams come down - Elwha beaches

Elwha River delta following dam removal, 2015
Elwha River delta at the start of dam removal in 2012

Elwha River in Washington state has received a lot of attention as the river restores itself following removal of two dams in 2011-2012.  The most dramatic changes are visible at the rivermouth, where previously eroding beaches have been replaced by a rapidly growing delta.

Check out this 360 view of rivermouth

Ventura Rivermouth following the floods of 1969
Studies estimate that the removal of Matilija Dam will increase sand and cobble
 delivery to the coast by 30% over 50 years

In the news:

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:

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: 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:

On the web:

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,

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,

Implementing California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act