Monday, November 18, 2019

Dams in the news

H2O Radio visited Matilija Dam for series they are doing on dam sedimentation.  The story makes the connection between the obsolete dam and the beach at Surfers' Point in Ventura.

And the Associated Press published an investigation that concludes At least 1,680 dams across the US pose potential risk.

In California, six high-hazard dams were rated as poor or unsatisfactory, including Oroville, which failed in 2017 and prompted mass evacuations downstream. Crews have since been repairing the dam and it is now listed in “fair” condition, according to California inspectors. The other dams were Kelley Hot Spring in Modoc County; North Fork in Santa Clara County; Misselbeck in Shasta County; Moccasin Lower in Tuolumne County; and Matilija, a dam in Ventura County slated for removal.

In the news:

H2O Radio: The Dam Nobody Wants Just Won’t Go Away

AP: At least 1,680 dams across the US pose potential risk

LA Times: California has six of the nation’s 1,680 high-hazard dams deemed in risky condition

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

ChannelKeeper settlement on City's pumping

Ventura River at Foster Park; City wells can pump the river dry

Santa Barbara ChannelKeeper and the City of Ventura announced an interim settlement in a lawsuit over pumping and diversion from the Ventura River.  Text below adapted from the press release:

Ventura, California – The City of San Buenaventura and Santa Barbara Channelkeeper are pleased to announce an interim settlement in the lawsuit regarding the pumping and diversion of water from the Ventura River Watershed. Both Channelkeeper and the City are dedicated to ensuring the protection of this finite water source and the habitat and species that rely on it while providing water now and for the future. This collaborative agreement brings us another step closer towards this goal. 

As part of the interim settlement, the City agreed to:

  • begin a Pilot Program to reduce its pumping and diversion of water from the river when flows drop during dry times to help protect species that depend on the river
  • The City will also address two low-flow fish passage barriers at its Foster Park facilities and install two monitoring gauges to help better evaluate water levels in the river. 

These interim measures will provide temporary assurance that some water remains in the river until scientific studies are completed to establish appropriate permanent safeguards for steelhead while also meeting the community’s water needs.

The agreement reached between the city and the Santa Barbara Channelkeeper, which lasts 164 days and covers essentially Foster Park to the estuary, includes the following key elements: 
  • Flow monitoring. When the instream flow measures 4 cubic feet per second, the equivalent of just under 30 gallons, the city will shut off one of its three wells. Once it hits 3 cubic feet per second, the city will shut a second well and at 2 cubic feet per second, it will shut down all Foster Park facilities. If it's after business hours, the change will take effect by 8 a.m. Pumping will be restored after 72 consecutive hours of flow above those thresholds.
  • Fish barriers. The city will "take action" on two areas along the river at Foster Park that serve as potential barriers to fish passage during dry times. One is a 36-inch water line that comes up over the water surface during certain times of the year; the other is the top of a subsurface dam that again comes up over the water under certain conditions.
  • An equipment check. The city will work to repair or install a new gauge at the Casitas Vista Road Bridge if the U.S. Geological Survey finds it working improperly. 
  • Attorney costs and fees. The city will pay Channelkeeper's attorney $850,000 toward legal costs. That covers most, but not all, of the nonprofit's bill.

More info:  

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Community Resilience through Dam Removal

Business and community members in Ojai have started a monthly "Green Drinks" meeting at the new Topa Topa Brewery.  The video below is the August 19 presentation on Matilija Dam

Public Advocacy Group Sues over State Water

The California Water Impact network (C-WIN), a Santa Barbara based organization, has filed a lawsuit against the City of Ventura's EIR for the proposed State Water Interconnection Project.  The suit formalizes complaints often brought up by local residents that the City has not put a good faith effort into developing local water solutions to maintain our current independence from imported water.

For 30 years, C-WIN has advocated for the sustainable use of California's fresh water resources, and intervened in issues associated with the State Water Project.  Their 2017 report demonstrates the cost impacts and consequences for State Water Project (SWP) participation to date, utilizing the experience of Santa Barbara County Coastal Aqueduct Project as an example of the statewide problem that will be encountered if the Twin Tunnels comes to fruition.  The 'Santa Barbara Report' exposes the underlying problem of "paper water;"  C-WIN spent three years gathering ... information through Public Records Act requests and Freedom of Information Act requests and found that consumptive water rights claims are at least 5 1⁄2 times more than available supply.  

Santa Barbara County has paid and will continue to pay extremely high costs for minimal amounts of the SWP water, largely due to the low reliability of the SWP. Actual delivery of SWP water between 1998 and 2015 for the four South Coast water agencies (Montecito, the City of Santa Barbara, Goleta and Carpinteria) was only 28% of full contract amounts, despite the fact that Santa Barbara County voters were told in 1991 ballot information that the State Water Project was expected to deliver 97% of contract amounts to urban water users.

C-WIN's action should serve as a wake-up to residents that rely on the Ventura River for their water supply.  Their experience in Santa Barbara highlights the expense and unreliability of imported water, and they warn that the resources wasted on "paper water" would be better spent on protecting and enhancing our local supplies.

C-Win Press Release:

Public Advocacy Group Sues the City of Ventura over State Water Interconnection Pipeline

Project EIR fails to demonstrate water reliability, fails to evaluate the impacts of state water on the community and fails to evaluate alternatives. 

September 9, 2019 (Ventura, CA) — On September 4, 2019 the California Water Impact Network (C-WIN) filed a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Challenge against the City of Ventura’s approval of the State Water Interconnection Pipeline project based on a faulty Environmental Impact Report. The city is acting as the lead agency for the project, which proposes a seven-mile pipeline connecting the water systems of Calleguas (via the Metropolitan Water District) and Ventura, seeking to facilitate local dependence on state water from the water-scarce California Delta flowing to the Casitas, United and Ventura water districts.

C-WIN challenges the project’s inability to meet its own water reliability objectives and the City’s refusal to study local alternatives and major project impacts—including the major costs and risks of state water—as required by CEQA.

The Interconnection Project is a major step backward from the growing recognition that local dependence on state water is a problem, not a solution, for water reliability and the environment. State water must be exported from the California Delta, from which the state has allocated 5.5 times more than is available. State water is so oversubscribed that the courts have identified more than half of its allocation as unreliable “paper water”. The Delta Reform Act of 2009 requires that regions south of the Delta reduce their dependence on the Delta watershed. The City knows that state water is unreliable and that deliveries of state water will be negligible in times of drought. In March 2019, Ventura published a draft EIR for its Ventura Water Supply Project, confirming that state water from the Interconnection Project would be unreliable. The findings were wrongly excluded from the Interconnection Project EIR.

The cost of state water will cripple Ventura’s ability to explore and develop sustainable regional solutions. Districts under contract with the State Water Project (SWP) pay based on their full allocation whether or not they receive any water. The Department of Water Resources (DWR) often sets and increases rates for state water without local input. As an example, when Santa Barbara County agreed to connect to the SWP in 1991, voters were told the cost would be $270 million with 97% reliability. The actual cost, including bond interest, has been $1.7 billion for, on average, 28% of their allocation. Once a district is dependent upon the state water system, they’re responsible for the costs of the maintenance and new infrastructure of the entire SWP conveyance system. Ratepayers have no direct input and no ability to opt out of these maintenance and infrastructural decisions. The stated Ventura pipeline project estimate of $50 million does not include the exorbitant additional costs and risks of state water.

The EIR for the Interconnection Project evaded assessing the major impacts of growth encouraged by the false perception of state water availability. When the SWP predictably fails to ensure reliable deliveries, demands on other depleted sources such as groundwater, the Ventura River and Lake Casitas will only increase when it is too late to plan for integrated improvements in local water resilience.

When it approved the State Water Interconnection Project, the Ventura City Council ignored an important event in the City’s earlier water history. In 1992, Ventura’s voters rejected connecting to the SWP and indicated they would prefer desalination to reliance on state water. There has not been a vote since. Moreover, the potential for conservation and other local water resilience options has only grown in the years since that vote, as have the compelling reasons for rejecting state water.

The California Water Impact Network is a state-wide organization that advocates for the equitable and sustainable use of California’s fresh water resources for all Californians. 

More information:
       Santa Barbara Report

In the news:

Ventura's awash in water litigation. This time, the target is state water, VC Star, Sept 13, 2019

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Matilija reservoir sedimentation - Summer 2019

As documented on this blog, the storms of 2019 transported large quantities of sediment down the Ventura River following the Thomas Fire of December 2017.  In February, a new sediment delta was observed in the Matilija reservoir.  Recent observations of vegetation sprouting in the reservoir suggest deposition this year has significantly reduced the depth of the reservoir.  Ventura County plans to survey and update the bathymetry in the near future.

Delta deposits in Matilija Reservoir, February 24, 2019

Delta deposits and vegetation in Matilija Reservoir, August 2, 2019

Matilija reservoir, Aug 2, 2019

Matilija reservoir, looking downstream, Aug 2, 2019

On this blog:

Thomas Fire
Ventura River post-fire sedimentation 2019

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Surfers Journal Endless High Tide

The Surfer's Journal, long time literary compendium of surfing lore, recently featured an article on the potential impacts of Sea Level Rise on surfing, including a nice mention of the Surfers' Point Managed Shoreline Retreat project in Ventura.

"For coastal dwellers, possible responses to sea level rise fall under two main categories: coastal armament or managed retreat. Unfortunately, we’ve most often chosen the former as our fix, a choice that’s done more harm than good. 

I grew up at Surfers’ Point in Ventura, and it provided a clear example of the dramatic contrast between the two approaches. In 1986, the dirt parking lot was paved over, and a bike path was built. Just five years later, the concrete was already crumbling into the ocean and the city was considering armament—rocks or a seawall—as an emergency fix.

Coastal Engineer and activist Paul Jenkin, the Surfrider Foundation, and other groups instead fought for managed retreat. ...

After a decade, Jenkin and company won. The pavement was moved 80-feet inland, the beach was replenished with local sand and river rock, and native vegetation was restored. Erosion has all but stopped, even during the El Niño winter of 2015/2016, when, according to a study by the USGS, California experienced beach erosion 76 percent higher than normal.

The lower part of the point, in contrast, shows how poorly coastal armament works. That area has a large paved promenade and seawall, topped with a high-rise hotel and three-story concrete parking garage. During the El Niño winter mentioned above, it suffered major damage, and the city placed jetty rocks along its base, doubling down on coastal armament. The rocks, however, reflect wave energy—creating backwash, increasing erosion, compounding currents on neighboring beaches where erosion is intensified, and disrupting the cyclical sand replenishment that comes each summer."

Read the entire article online here:    The Endless High Tide

More on this blog: Surfers Point

Thanks to writer Ted Reckas for researching and telling this story!

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Surfers' Point Update Spring 2019

Final Design moves forward:

On May 6, 2019, the City of Ventura approved a cooperative agreement with BEACON to contract with the consultant for final design and engineering of Phase 2 of the Surfers’ Point Managed Shoreline Retreat project.   BEACON approved the final agreement at their May 17 board meeting. This clears the way for work to begin under the $335,000 grant announced by the Ocean Protection Council last summer.

Phase 2 of the project will relocate the damaged bike path and parking lot back to Shoreline Drive as shown in this illustration:


Surfers' Point Phase 2 concepts
Grant approved for Surfers' Point
Surfers' Point project moves forward

Stewardship events:

Volunteers continue to help maintain the dunes at Surfers' Point.  The primary focus has been removing non-native "Sea Rocket" plants in the springtime before a new crop of seeds has set.  This strategy has been effective, as each year the quantity of this invasive plant is reduced.

In 2019,  Surfrider organized two Spring Dune Stewardship Workdays, held on March 10 and May 5.  Surfrider volunteers have been maintaining the restoration area by removing non-native weeds since 2011. Our work is paying off, and the dunes are looking great!

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Santa Ana Bridge replacement awarded $13.4M grant

On May 13, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife announced a $13,426,938 funding award to Ventura County Watershed Protection District for the Santa Ana Bridge Replacement - a component of the Matilija Dam Ecosystem Restoration Project.  This is one of 38 projects statewide totaling $48.5 million to receive funding for multi-benefit ecosystem restoration and protection projects under its Proposition 1 and Proposition 68 grant programs.

The Santa Ana Bridge Project is the first major component of the Matilija Dam Ecosystem Restoration Project, which will remove the obsolete dam to restore habitat for the endangered Southern steelhead while allowing for natural transport of sand and cobble to Ventura County’s eroding beaches.   Dam removal will take advantage of high river flows to naturally remove the accumulated sediment that has rendered Matilija Dam obsolete. These renewed flows necessitate a number of downstream infrastructure components that must be completed prior to dam removal, including upgrades to flood control and water supply facilities, as well as the replacement of two bridges.  

The grant will fund replacement of the existing 210-foot long Santa Ana Bridge with a 350-foot bridge to open up a constricted section of the river in Oak View.   Widening the channel by 80 feet will improve water and sediment flows, facilitate natural ecosystem processes through restoration of natural sediment transport and deposition, and reduce the need for channel maintenance in the vicinity of the bridge following large storm events.  A new 6’ sidewalk and two 4’ shoulders on each side of the new bridge’s vehicle travel lanes will also facilitate safe passage for bicycles and pedestrians near the Santa Ana Boulevard crossing of the Ojai-Ventura River Trail.

The Ventura County Watershed Protection District has been planning this large scale ecosystem restoration project since 1999, and began restoration activities in 2008 with removal of giant reed (Arundo donax) and construction of a new trailhead at Baldwin Road.  Studies currently underway under another $3.3 million California Department of Fish and Wildlife Proposition 1 grant received by the county in May, 2017 will lead to design and construction of the other downstream improvements before dam removal.   

Components of Matilija Dam project are illustrated here 

All Matilija Dam technical documents are at

Google image of Ventura River, Santa Ana Bridge in foreground

Floodplain analysis illustrates "choke point" in the Ventura River

the new bridge’s vehicle travel lanes will facilitate safe passage for bicycles and pedestrians
 near the Santa Ana Boulevard crossing of the Ojai-Ventura River Trail
Bridge replacement will reduce the need for channel maintenance -
accumulated sediment currently requires regular removal to provide adequate free board during floods
Santa Ana Bridge during high flows - "vanes" intended to
improve flows will be removed with bridge replacement

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Ventura River post-fire sedimentation 2019

Recent delta deposits in Matilija Reservoir, February 24, 2019

The Ventura River watershed is responding to the December 2017 Thomas Fire which burned the majority of the steep mountains in the headwaters.  In 2019, winter storms produced three significant flow events in the Ventura River.  These flows eroded additional sediment from the recently burned mountains and into the creeks and rivers.  Highway 33 above Ojai was closed following each event due to sediment overwhelming culverts and blocking the highway.  These photos of recent sedimentation in the Ventura River watershed were submitted with comments on a recent draft Matilija Dam Removal Sediment Transport Analyses report that is part of the ongoing Matilija Dam Technical Studies.

Matilija Reservoir, recent delta deposits March 11, 2019

Matilija Reservoir, recent delta deposits March 11, 2019
(note bubbles from submerged vegetation)

Matilija Reservoir delta, March 11, 2019
vegetation effects on sediment accretion and erosion
Matilija Reservoir delta, March 11, 2019
vegetation effects on sediment accretion and erosion
Matilija Canyon, Feb 19, 2019
Matilija Canyon, Feb 19, 2019

Sedimentation in North Fork Matilija Creek,
Wheeler Gorge Campground. Jan 29, 2019
Sedimentation at Ventura River Preserve, Nov 24, 2018
 Before: “swimming hole”  15+ ft deep
Sedimentation at Ventura River Preserve,  Feb 19, 2019
After: “swimming hole” previously 15+ ft deep

Sedimentation at Robles Diversion Dam, Feb 24, 2019
The facility was cleaned out at least twice to renew diversion capacity
from the Ventura River into Lake Casitas 

Ventura Rivermouth, March 18, 2019

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Winter swells and high tides

California saw two large swell events in January 2019, both coinciding with high tide events.

Swells generated in the north Pacific Ocean during winter months seasonally create large waves and surf in Southern California.  The CDIP model (Coastal Data Information Program) illustrates how west swells travel through the Santa Barbara channel with the energy focused on Ventura.

The January 9 swell had 14 ft waves at 15 seconds from a 280 degree westerly direction.  High tide was 5.1 ft at 10:26 am.

The January 18 swell had more energy with 16 ft at 17 seconds from 285 degrees, and 6.1 ft high tide at 6:36 am.

Although the swell dropped during the 6.8 ft "King Tide" on January 20, similar overtopping was observed along the promenade in Ventura.

The following is a collection of photos from these high surf, high tide events.

Ventura's Pierpont community suffered minor flooding with both these events, with wave runup into the streets in areas without dune protection.

Pierpont beach 1-09-2019 (photo: CSUCI)

Pierpont beach 1-09-2019 Pierpont beach 1-09-2019 (photo: CSUCI)

Pierpont beach 1-18-2019 (photo: Shawn Kelly)

The Ventura promenade was overtopped along its length.

Ventura Promenade Aerial 1-18-2019  (photo KGaston)
Ventura Promenade 1-18-2019

Ventura Promenade 1-18-2019
Ventura Promenade aerial view  1-18-2019  (photo KGaston)

Ventura Promenade emergency revetment 1-18-2019
Surfers Point bike path 1-20-2019
6.8' King Tide on this day had similar effect as the larger swell two days before

Surfers Point bike path 1-09-2019
Surfers Point bike path damage after swell 1-09-2019
Surfers Point bike path 1-18-2019  (photo KGaston)
Surfers Point bike path 1-18-2019

Surfers Point aerial -Fairgrounds parking lot 1-19-2019  (photo KGaston)

Surfers Point  1-19-2019 (photo KGaston)

 The Managed Retreat project functioned as designed, with eroded sand exposing the buried cobble berm, and minor overtopping into the foredune area.

Surfers Point Managed Retreat 1-1-09-2019
Surfers Point Managed Retreat 1-1-09-2019
Surfers Point Managed Retreat 1-09-2019

Although the swell and tide were higher on the 18th, driftwood and debris from the Ventura river  reduced wave runup in the managed retreat zone.
Surfers Point Managed Retreat 1-18-2019

Surfers Point Managed Retreat 1-18-2019