Friday, September 18, 2020

Channelkeeper and Ventura Settlement Agreement


from the press release of August 24, 2020:

 Channelkeeper and the City of Ventura Amend Settlement Agreement 

The City of San Buenaventura and Santa Barbara Channelkeeper, a local environmental group, have announced an amendment to their settlement agreement in the lawsuit regarding the pumping and diversion of water from the Ventura River Watershed. Both Channelkeeper and the City remain committed to ensuring the protection of this local water source and the species that rely on it. The ongoing collaboration enables dialogue toward a locally developed solution to continue moving forward.

Under the modified terms, the City will continue the Pilot Program it implemented in 2019 to reduce its pumping and diversion of water from the Ventura River when flows drop during dry times, in order to help protect wildlife that depend on the river. The Pilot Program was originally set to expire in March of 2020, however, the City continues to honor the flow regime set in place. The most notable change with the amendment is that the City will shut down most of its pumping facilities at Foster Park when flows drop below 4 cubic feet per second (CFS), and stop all production when flows drop below 3 CFS instead of 2 CFS. The City will also use its two new gauges at Foster Park to monitor the impacts, if any, its pumping has on flow in the river at these levels.

Additionally, the City and Channelkeeper have agreed to keep a dialogue open to identify additional ways to work collaboratively on other Watershed and habitat-related public relations efforts.

“We are pleased to continue this important dialogue with Channelkeeper, and I believe this amendment strikes a balance of addressing our concerns for the species and habitat while also meeting the needs of serving our customers,” said Susan Rungren, Ventura Water’s General Manager.

This is a meaningful commitment to preserve river flows until a long-term solution is finalized, and we are glad to have been able to reach it through dialogue with the City,” said Ben Pitterle, Channelkeeper’s Science and Policy Director. The original agreement and this amendment provide added assurance to Channelkeeper for the better protection of steelhead during the dry season while the City works with other parties to propose a long-term framework that protects the Ventura River for steelhead and other instream uses and for the needs of water users, recreation, and the local economy.


In the news:

VENTURA, CHANNELKEEPER ANNOUNCE SETTLEMENT | CITY TO MONITOR FLOWS AND CONTROL PUMPING, VC Reporter, Sep 2, 2020

Ventura, Channelkeeper modify settlement agreement, Ojai Valley News, Aug 24, 2020



On this blog:

ChannelKeeper sues to save a drying river

ChannelKeeper settlement on City's pumping

Ventura Initiates Adjudication 

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Ventura sues for indigenous water rights

More than 6 months after the City of Ventura served notices on all water rights holders in the Ventura River watershed, notices were served to the local Chumash tribal elders.  

(courtesy Ojai Valley News)

A response was published in the Ojai Valley News:

 July 10, 2020, the City of Ventura served papers on the Chumash tribal leaders, as a California Native American tribe: the Barbareño/Ventureño Band of Mission Indians, telling them their rights are subordinate to the City. All Chumash, the indigenous people, are being diminished, dismissed and insulted by the City’s assertion of Pueblo-misson rights.

On July 23, in response to nationwide and local protests, the City of Ventura removed a statue of Junípero Serra, the founder of Mission San Buenaventura.  According to the LA Times:

Serra was the founder of nine of 21 missionaries in California during the 18th century.  While he spread Roman Catholicism throughout much of California, then a Spanish territory, many Native American tribes were decimated through the introduction of foreign diseases, the destruction of villages and native plants and animals.  Natives Americans also were forced into the construction of the missions, faced high death rates and were subjected to harsh corporal punishment.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Father_Serra_statue)



 The response to the City's lawsuit continues:

It is hypocritical of the City of Ventura in one act to vote to remove the Serra statue and on the other to assert that the city’s water rights somehow, outrageously, supersede the rights of our land’s first inhabitants. The lawsuit’s claims undermine their own values. Where is the truth and dignity of the Ventura City Council members?

 

On this blog:

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Economic Benefits of Dam Removal

An report published by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute outlines the economic benefits of the Matilija Dam Ecosystem Restoration Project.

from the website

... A valued forum for stakeholder engagement and a respected source of information and fact-based analysis, the Institute is a trusted partner and advisor to both business leaders and government officials. Through its economic and policy research and its many partnerships, the Institute addresses major factors impacting the competitiveness, economic development and quality of life of the region and the state, including infrastructure, globalization, science and technology, and health policy. 



An example of their analysis is summarized in the table below.  Note the multiple project components of the watershed-scale effort to remove Matilija Dam and restore the Ventura River ecosystem.


The full report may be downloaded here:  http://www.bayareaeconomy.org/report/job-stimulus-matilija-dam-removal/


Monday, August 24, 2020

Casitas Draft Comprehensive Water Resources Plan


Comments on DRAFT CASITAS MUNICIPAL WATER DISTRICT COMPREHENSIVE WATER RESOURCES PLAN (CWRP 2020), Submitted by Surfrider Foundation, 8/24/2020

Casitas Municipal Water District is developing a Comprehensive Water Resources Plan (CWRP) to provide information to guide future management of our water supply. The draft document currently recommends almost $160 million in capital projects, most of which is dedicated to the pursuit of imported water from the State Water Project. The fiscal impact to the ratepayer is left for future work. However, although it is not highlighted in the document, the CWRP clearly demonstrates the community’s ongoing response to changing conditions, and the very real capacity for sustaining our local water supply without the cost of imported water.


Updated Models:

The Draft CWRP document contains valuable information on water demand and supply for the largest water district in the Ojai Valley. The updated Lake Casitas Yield Model estimates that the safe yield from Lake Casitas has been reduced by 15% since the 2004 model. This is primarily a result of lake sedimentation, changes to the Robles Diversion, and the impacts of a changing climate. SAFE YIELD is defined as the largest amount of water that can be drawn from Lake Casitas every year in the period of record, without storage dropping below the minimum allowable storage level.

However, the good news is that the actual demand for water has declined to match the changing conditions. Reduced demand is to some degree a result of the policies developed in the Water Efficiency and Allocation Program (WEAP, 2019), which reduce customer allocations according to the lake storage. Incorporating this demand reduction into the Lake Casitas Yield Model results in the more realistic concept of “Safe Demand.”

Safe Demand is the largest amount of water that can be drawn from Lake Casitas every year in the period of record when demand is reduced based on Lake level according to the WEAP policy. - CWMP

The updated Lake Casitas Yield Model now accounts for the demonstrated reductions in water consumption during drought periods. When accounting for climate change, the projected “Safe Demand” of 10,700 AFY on Lake Casitas is approximately half of the assumed Safe Yield, yet this is well within the range of current water use. In fact, according to the CMWD website, current lake demand is 7,381 AFY, reflecting more than 30% conservation of Safe Demand as recommended by the WEAP during stage 3 drought. Therefore, according to the updated modeling presented in the draft CWMP, the community is well on the path to sustainable use of Lake Casitas.



Risk Assessment:

Rather than build upon this favorable conservation trend, the CWRP inflates the projected demand on Lake Casitas in a risk assessment designed to demonstrate the need for significant investment in “new” water supplies.

The report acknowledges that;

Casitas water demand in the past five years has been considerably lower than 17,500 AFY, reflecting the willingness of Casitas customers to modify water use practices in response to the drought.

But for the purpose of analyzing future scenarios;

Casitas staff felt it was reasonable to assume a permanent savings of 10% from the 2016 UWMP forecast. Thus, the effective Casitas UWMP demand estimate used in the CWRP analysis was 15,750 AFY.

It is important to note that current water use is estimated at 7,381 AFY (CMWD website, Aug 2020.) This is more than 3,000 AFY (30%) below the Safe Demand of 10,700 AFY, or a full 60% reduction from the 2016 UWMP projected demand.

The CWRP presents a Risk Analysis based upon a seemingly arbitrary demand of 13,000 AFY, with the assumption that no emergency measures would be taken. This is approximately 2,500 AF greater than Safe Demand. Not surprisingly, this analysis resulted in a long-term supply deficit, for which;

Modeling showed a supplemental supply of 2,500 AFY would adequately mitigate that risk if achieved within one to five years.

The report goes on to recommend a suite of projects totaling over $150M to secure the “missing” 2,500 AFY. The majority of this money is required for large infrastructure proposals to connect to the State Water Project. (Note that 2,500 AFY is less than half of annual evaporation losses from Lake Casitas.)

The table below provides a summary of the various Supply and Demand estimates:



Community Resilience:

Throughout the Ventura River watershed, the community has exceeded recommended reductions in water allocations. This includes customers of the other water districts who all share in the limited local supply. This dramatic reduction in water use is largely in response to the recent catastrophes, including the Thomas Fire and severe drought. The community has clearly demonstrated the ability for adaptation in a time of need. And as the CWRP recognizes, some of these changes have resulted in a permanent demand reduction through lawn replacement and other water saving measures.

CMWD recognizes the importance of working with the community it serves:

“The main mechanism to respond to water supply conditions is to rely on informed customers working in partnership with Casitas to limit water use to no more than the assigned water allocation and support the water use limitations with appropriate conservation penalties for water use in excess of the assigned, or adjusted, allocation.” - WEAP 2019

Yet at the same time, CMDW appears hesitant to fully develop this community partnership:

Customers have a limit to their tolerance for being asked to conserve. Casitas will need to gauge public perception on this topic when the WEAP is updated.” - CRWP 2020

In the meantime, the community has successfully accomplished the sustainable “Safe Demand” as determined by the updated Lake Casitas Yield Model by incorporating WEAP demand reductions in response to lake levels.



Demand Management:

Demand management is always more cost effective than infrastructure dependent new supply projects. And the Ventura River community is just getting started. Numerous local projects were identified in the Ventura River Watershed Plan, and several initiatives are currently underway to plan and implement decentralized solutions aimed at improving conditions in the watershed. Indeed, the watershed plan (which CMWD participated in) developed the consensus objective of maintaining independence from imported water based upon the numerous emerging initiatives identified in the report.

Sufficient local water supplies to allow continued independence from imported water and reliably support ecosystem and human (including urban and agricultural) needs in the watershed now and in the future, through wise water management. “ – Ventura River Watershed Management Plan 2015

However, the CWRP relegates Demand Management to the status of “conditional strategy,” only pursuing such local options if plans for the State Water Project connection do not come to fruition.

Additional Demand Management: Because the CWRP planning policies already include a 10% demand reduction compared to the most recent UWMP, the long-term supply gap was addressed through developing new water supply projects and additional demand management was recommended as a conditional strategy. It is recommended that Casitas develop a Water Conservation Plan to evaluate the potential savings and cost effectiveness of various conservation measures.



Cost Benefit Analysis:

As recommended in the CRWP, the potential savings and cost effectiveness of various conservation measures needs to be carefully examined and compared with the more expensive infrastructure projects. The community deserves a fair and unbiased accounting because it is they who will bear the cost of these decisions.

In 2011, a group from the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at UCSB developed a watershed model and investigated the cost effectiveness of a suite of infrastructure and consumer- based projects. Aside from the effectiveness of “consumer-based” programs such as re-landscaping and greywater, their report, Sustainable Water Use in the Ventura River Watershed, determined that:

Raising water rates to reflect the true value of water within the Ventura River Watershed will help to avert even higher rate hikes in the future, which will occur if water purveyors are forced to purchase costly State Water to meet consumer demand. – Bren Study 2011

The Bren report concludes with;

Our final recommendations to watershed planners in the Ventura River Watershed are: 

(1) implement programs encouraging the increased installation of ocean friendly gardens and greywater systems in single-family homes,

(2) construct decentralized infiltration basins throughout the watershed, and

(3) increase CMWD and Meiners Oaks water rates to the state average.

Implementation of these strategies, coupled with responsible groundwater pumping, has the potential to increase water availability for human needs, improve ecosystem health, and improve water quality even in the face of climate change, land use change, and population growth.


Bren school project: Sustainable Water for the Ventura River Watershed

Alternatives developed:

Infrastructure Based Water Management Strategies

page4image339296000

Infiltration Basins

Pervious Streets

Scalping Plant

San Antonio Spreading Grounds

Consumer Based Water Management Strategies

Ocean Friendly Gardens

Greywater

Rate Increases to State Average

CMWD 33% Rate Increase



Pitfalls of the State Water Project:

Contrary to the advertised benefits, connecting to State Water potentially threatens to undermine the sustainability of the community that relies upon the Ventura River watershed. Full disclosure of the pitfalls of this strategy is required before the community becomes committed to higher rates for “paper water” that we may never receive.


Research continues to indicate that rising temperatures will result in changes in precipitation patterns, a significant decline in the Sierra snowpack, and early snow melt such that For the vast majority of potential future climate conditions, the State Water Project will have substantially more system shortages than what we’ve seen historically,” according to Dr. Geeta Persad, a senior climate scientist with the Climate and Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The California Water Impact network (C-WIN), a Santa Barbara based organization, published a 2017 report that 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.

In a legal challenge against the City of Ventura’s State Water Interconnect Project, C-WIN states that:

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 is so oversubscribed that the courts have identified more than half of its allocation as unreliable “paper water”.

The cost of state water will cripple Ventura’s ability to explore and develop sustainable regional solutions. ...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.

These and other concerns voiced by the community regarding the long-term cost vs actual benefits indicate that State Water should be relegated to a “Conditional Strategy,” only coming into play if the local watershed-based strategy is not effective.


Conclusion and Recommendations:

The Draft CWRP provides an updated look at water supply and demand within the Casitas Municipal Water District service area. The new Safe Demand Policy provides a realistic assessment of the effectiveness of the WEAP action plan and community response to drought. This new perspective sheds light on the fact that the District is already achieving the newly prescribed Safe Demand which gives a 95% assurance that Lake Casitas will not drop below 20,000 AF of storage.

However, the report does not adequately acknowledge the need for greater coordination amongst the many agencies and individuals within the Ventura River Watershed. Groundwater provides a large proportion of the local water supply with Lake Casitas as backup, so integrated watershed management should be a priority. The community has shown a remarkable resiliency following the recent drought and fires, and the capacity for increased local water use efficiency should not be underestimated.

Based on the information provided in the Draft CWRP, CMWD has an opportunity to plan for local sustainability rather than develop the costly infrastructure for imported water. As recommended in the report, a full cost/benefit ($/AFY) analysis on a full range of alternatives should be conducted and management options should be prioritized by cost efficiency. The next step should be to develop a comprehensive water use efficiency and conservation policy and program to include:

  1. Integrated water budget for the entire Ventura River Watershed

  2. Coordination with partner agencies and the community

  3. Updated WEAP water allocations to comply with Sustainable Demand

  4. Increased water rates to a level that supports Sustainable Demand

  5. Support for watershed management programs to implement water efficiency and reuse, conservation, and groundwater infiltration and sustainable management


Casitas Water Reports: https://www.casitaswater.org/your-water/casitas-water-security


References:

Ventura River Watershed Management Plan, Walter, Ventura River Watershed Council, March 5, 2015. 

Sustainable Water Use in The Ventura River Watershed, Gardner et al, Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, University of California Santa Barbara, 2013

Climate change and the future of California’s water, Summary of presentation by Dr. Geeta Persad , Mavens Notebook, Nov 7, 2019

The Unaffordable and Destructive Twin Tunnels: Why the Santa Barbara Experience Matters, The California Water Impact Network, November 2017


On this Blog:

Casitas Water


Thursday, August 13, 2020

Retrospective on the Thomas Fire

The Ventura River has demonstrated amazing resiliency following the Thomas Fire.  The river appears healthier now than it has been in decades following the influx of sediment eroded from the mountains.  However, the initial flushes following the fire negatively impacted the river until the storms of 2019 "rolled" the bottom breaking up an impervious layer formed by ash and silt deposits.  The photos here are provided to illustrate what this looked like in the summer of 2018.

Ventura River, May 2020



Ventura River following the Thomas Fire, January 2018

 
Ventura River following the Thomas Fire, March 2018

The first storm immediately following the fire in January 2018 moved large amounts of black ash and very fine organic matter off the burnt hillsides. The second storm in March eroded additional fine sediments with a brown soil color.  These two events combined to form a hard crust on the stream bed.

The photos below from June 1, 2018 describe observations of this phenomenon. 


Ventura River 6-1-2018

The river bottom was embedded with ash and fine sediment that filled the voids and effectively "cemented" the cobble and gravel.  In the image above, a cobble was removed by hand to expose the layers below.  With no tools handy, it took considerable effort to loosen and remove this rock.

Ventura River 6-1-2018

Once a rock was removed, the hard crust could be broken up and pulled away by hand, further exposing the riverbed.  Here the substrate was agitated to allow the river flow to transport the fine sediments away.  The dark color of this plume indicates the organic ash eroded from the hillsides in the initial rain event.


Ventura River 6-1-2018


Removing a couple more rocks and agitating the surface eventually cleared this small area of river bottom.  The brown crust can be seen adhered to the rocks.  The image below provides an overview of the site.


Ventura River 6-1-2018



The upper Ventura River groundwater basin relies on flows infiltrating through the alluvium in the river reach downstream of the Robles Diversion.  The graphs below are from the monthly water update provided to customers of the Ventura River Water District.  This water district relies on wells in the Ventura River in the general vicinity of the photos above.  As noted at the time, groundwater levels did not  recover as normally expected in 2018.  However, the 2019 storms resulted in river flows that adequately cleaned out the river channel to allow recovered infiltration as illustrated by the 44 foot rise in groundwater in the bottom chart.  


Ventura River Water District, July 2018




Ventura River Water District, June 2019



On this blog:

March Rains - fires, flood, drought, and sand

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Matilija Reservoir Drained

Matilija reservoir was drained over the 4th of July weekend.    According to county staff, this was done in response to safety concerns, as identified by the state Division of Safety of Dams (DSOD) as well as the liability resulting from recreational use of the dam site. The 12" valve controlling the dam outlet was opened on the morning of Wednesday, July 1, releasing flows of approximately 30 cubic feet per second downstream.  The valve will remain open maintaining the reservoir in a drained state until the winter rains.   

Images of the drained reservoir reveal the degree of additional sedimentation since the Thomas Fire, which has reduced the storage capacity to less than 150 acre feet.  As illustrated in the photos below, the initial flush released relatively clear water, but downstream water quality degraded as flows began to cut a channel through the sediment.  The channel evolution is documented in the overview photos of the reservoir. 


Prior images on this blog:

In the news:
Matilija Reservoir Drained, Ojai Valley News, July 17, 2020 (see full article below)
How Oroville Is Changing Dam Safety in California, Public Policy Institute of California, March 28, 2018

Reference:




Matilija Reservoir, July 2, 2020

Matilija Reservoir, July 3, 2020

Matilija Reservoir, July 8, 2020


Matilija Reservoir, July 12, 2020


Matilija Reservoir, July 15, 2020


Matilija Reservoir, July 22, 2020

Matilija Reservoir, July 27, 2020

Matilija Reservoir, August 4, 2020

Matilija Reservoir, August 12, 2020


Matilija Reservoir, August 26, 2020

Matilija Reservoir, Sept 14, 2020





Matilija Dam and drained reservoir,
July 8, 2020

Matilija Dam and intake to the outlet pipe,
July 8, 2020

Matilija Dam intake to the outlet pipe,
July 8, 2020





Downstream of Matilija Dam,
July 17, 2020
(courtesy S. Zach Futujma)




Confluence of North Fork (foreground) and Matilija Creek 
July 8, 2020

Camino Cielo Bridge, July 2, 2020

Camino Cielo Bridge, July 6, 2020


Ventura River at Camino Cielo Bridge
7-2-2020


Ventura River at Camino Cielo Bridge
7-4-2020




Ventura River at Camino Cielo Bridge
7-6-2020



Ventura River at Camino Cielo Bridge
7-8-2020


Ventura River at Camino Cielo Bridge
7-12-2020



Ventura River at Camino Cielo Bridge
7-17-2020

Ventura River at Camino Cielo Bridge
7-22-2020

Ventura River at Camino Cielo Bridge
7-27-2020

Ventura River at Camino Cielo Bridge
8-4-2020

Ventura River at Camino Cielo Bridge
8-12-2020
Ventura River at Camino Cielo Bridge
8-26-2020






Ventura River looking downstream at Camino Cielo Bridge
7-8-2020

Ventura River looking downstream at Camino Cielo Bridge
9-14-2020




Ventura River at Oso trailhead crossing,
July 8, 2020



The long term effects of drawing down Matilija Reservoir are evident in the series of photos taken at Camino Cielo.  The slow downcutting and meandering of the stream channel through the sediment in the remnant reservoir mobilizes fine sediments and transports them downstream.  During the summer months flows are low and decreasing until the next rains come in November or December.    These "suspended sediments" are deposited on the streambed, with significant implications for the ecosystem.  Fish spawning and rearing habitat and the benthic organisms that form the foundation of the food chain are impacted by fine sediment.  This is why the dam removal planning analysis has been focused on timing sediment release with a large storm event so that the fine sediments will be transported to the ocean during high flows. 

The video below illustrates how the gravels deposited during winter rains became completely smothered in fine silt and clay in the reach immediately downstream of Camino Cielo bridge.  This was September 5, 2020, a full two months after drawdown; 









In the news:
Matilija Reservoir Drained, Ojai Valley News, July 17, 2020