Monday, April 12, 2021

Matilija Dam Project Update - Spring 2021

The biannual update meetings for the Matilija Dam Ecosystem Restoration Project were held on April 1, 2021.   Meetings continue to be held remotely on Zoom. 

Ventura County Public Works Agency - Watershed Protection and its technical consultants provided a series of detailed updates on the Project’s technical and design planning efforts at 1:30 pm.  Then at 6:00 pm, representatives of the Watershed Protection, Matilija Coalition and other Matilija Project partners updated community members and stakeholders on the Project’s technical studies, design and implementation plans, funding efforts, CEQA analyses and other recent developments. 

The evening meeting was hosted by the Ventura River Watershed Council.  Meeting agendas, minutes, and presentations may be downloaded here: General Assembly April 2021 Meeting

The big news is the Santa Ana Blvd Bridge Replacement Project scheduled to begin this month (April 2021) with construction to be completed during this calendar year. The existing bridge will remain in place until its removal next year once the new bridge is ready to accept traffic after the wet season.  This is the first of the major downstream infrastructure upgrades necessary before the dam can be removed.

Several grants have recently been submitted to advance the final design of the project components.  There is a total of approximately $6.7m pending/in progress as of 3/30/21, with a recent positive outcome from the California Coastal Conservancy ($740k) for Camino Cielo Bridge Design, and FEMA ($61k) for dam removal engineering.  A $6.2m proposal to the NRCS for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP)  requests assistance for improvements to the Robles Diversion Dam and levees.  A list of the current and pending grant requests are here.

As of March 30, 2021, a total of over $24M has been raised in grant awards since 2017.  

The question is always "when does the dam come out?"  

An aggressive schedule targets the dam being ready for the sediment flush by 2028, plus another 1-2 years for dam removal.  However, a period of up to 3 years is possible waiting for a wet winter with a storm event adequate to transport the fine sediment downstream to the ocean.  But of course there's a lot of uncertainty with the work to be done downstream first...

The new website provides information on all aspects of the project.  Details on each of the project components, progress on funding, etc will be updated as more information becomes available.


In the news:

Progress continues toward Matilija Dam removal, Ojai Valley News,  Friday, 09 April 2021


General Assembly April 2021 Meeting, Ventura River Watershed Council

Progress continues toward Matilija Dam removal, Ojai Valley News

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

The Story of Our River

Our partners at Once Upon a Watershed have created an informative video telling the story of the Ventura River.  

Once Upon a Watershed provides hands-on local watershed education, restoration and stewardship experience for Kindergarten, 4th, 5th and 6th grade students in the Ventura River Watershed. 

The video shown here was created for their program for 6th grade students which focuses on the critically endangered indicator species, Southern Steelhead Trout, and the effects of the Matilija dam on beach erosion and spawning access.

...the presentation on beaches, sediment, and Matilija dam removal starts around 12:20

More info:

Once Upon a Watershed: Telling the Story of Our Watershed Through Exploration, Education, and Stewardship

Watching the Dams Come Down: Nooksack

Another dam has been removed in the Pacific Northwest.  We have been watching and learning as our partners on the Matilija Dam project demonstrate success on other rivers.

The Middle Fork Nooksack River Fish Passage project is one of several case studies that has been examined as a strategy for modifying the Robles Diversion Dam downstream of Matilija Dam.  Diversion dams can be particularly tricky as there is a need to not only pass the increased sediment expected with Matilija Dam removal, but also maintain water diversion and fish passage.  In the Nooksack case, this is accomplished by moving water diversion intakes upstream and completely removing the existing diversion dam. 

According to the City of Bellingham, the Nooksack River Fish Passage project will restore access to approximately 16 miles of pristine spawning and rearing habitat in the upper Middle Fork for three Endangered Species Act (ESA) listed Puget Sound fish species: spring Chinook salmon, Steelhead and Bull Trout. Project elements and related benefits include​ moving the point of diversion just upstream of the existing location to eliminate the need for the dam; dam removal and channel restoration to restore habitat connectivity; and installation of fully compliant fish screens for fish protection.

In the news:

Bang! Watch a Nooksack River dam finally coming down, freeing miles for fish habitat, Seattle Times, July 20, 2020

More information:

American Rivers: reimagining-a-river-the-middle-fork-nooksack

NOAA Fisheries: dam-removal-brings-hope-salmon-washingtons-middle-fork-nooksack-river

City of Bellingham:

On this blog: 

Watching the Dams Come Down- Elwha

Watching the dams come down - Elwha beaches

Watching the Dams Come Down - Condit

Savage Rapids Dam removed

Klamath Dam removal study supports sediment releases

San Clemente Dam removal

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Rincon Island decommissioning

Rincon Island, an oil facility off the coast of Ventura County, is being decommissioned by the state.


State of California officials say they’ve reached a milestone in the state’s transition away from fossil fuels and toward a clean energy future.

On Feb. 4, the State Lands Commission and the Department of Conservation’s California Geological Energy Management Division announced they’ve plugged and abandoned all 50 oil wells on Rincon Island, a small 2.3-acre artificial island off Mussel Shoals in Ventura County.

Rincon Island is one of a handful of remaining offshore oil structures in state waters, stated the agencies, which also announced the plugging and abandonment of all 24 state onshore production wells, and two additional onshore wells that were not part of state lease operations but had been deserted.

The state took responsibility for decommissioning Rincon in 2017, after the operator declared bankruptcy. It plugged and abandoned the 74 wells ahead of schedule, under budget and without incident or spillage, the Commission stated in a news release.

Plugging and abandoning the wells is the main component of phase one of a three-phase process that includes developing and executing a decommissioning plan. Work on the plan will include extensive public outreach and engagement, according to the Commission.

The remaining phase one work, underway now, consists of site clearance activities to remove decrepit oil production infrastructure and should be completed by June 2021, officials said.

For more information on the Rincon Island decommissioning status and the next steps in the process, visit

(article from Ojai Valley News: rincon-island-oil-wells-unplugged

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Surfers' Point erosion damage Jan 2021


During the first week of February, 2021, the barriers along the eroding coastal path at the Ventura County Fairgrounds were moved back for public safety.  Several more parking spaces have been eliminated as the ocean continues to take back the beach.  

Erosion undermines the bke path,  Jan 13, 2021

This year's damage was more than anticipated, as relatively calm conditions were predicted with "La Nina" conditions dominating the Pacific Ocean.  However, an anomalous storm track developed producing a series of large swell events during the entire month of January, some coinciding with the year's highest tides.  Good for surfers, bad for beachfront property managers.

9 am January 14, 2021
(high tide 6.36 ft @ 9:30 am)

Large swell at Surfers Point, Jan 18, 2021

The final design for "Managed Shoreline Retreat" has been completed, but the process appears to be on hold.   Un-managed retreat continues... Fencing, concrete curb, and asphalt litter the shoreline along the most popular beach in Ventura County.

Overview looking east from the restored beach toward the eroding parking lot
slated for relocation in Phase 2 of the Managed Retreat project

Overview of Surfers' Point looking west - the parking lot in the foreground 
would be relocated out of harms way in Phase 2 of the Managed Shoreline Retreat project 

Artist rendition of the proposed Surfers Point Managed Shoreline Retreat project

Surfers' Point Managed Retreat Phase 1 - Jan 13, 2021
Phase 1 of the project continues to demonstrate resiliency to high surf
(note high tide line and exposed cobble berm)

Update from the City of Ventura:  
The City helped the Fairgrounds remove part of the wood fence, dig out the landscape area, pave the planting or parking area level with the path, and move the temporary fence over for some extra clearance from the eroded area. A few parking spaces had to be taken out to make it safe for pedestrians to pass. The hope is that this is enough to last through the summer, however that is weather dependent.
The City also reapplied for State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways – Public Beach Restoration Grant in the amount of $5.5M last month. This includes the beach side of the $10.1M estimate but not the new paved parking lot, lighting, and other amenities.

On this blog: 

Winter 2021 swells: