Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Adjudication: the Physical Solution

A group consisting of some of the larger water users in the Ventura River watershed have proposed a "Physical Solution" to the water rights adjudication lawsuit currently underway.     

According to California water law, a Physical Solution in theory "affords a means to introduce creativity and flexibility to improve basin management while maintaining consistency with water right priorities".  "Regardless of how a physical solution is pled, the goal and elements of the doctrine remain unchanged: to provide coordinated management of the water supply and thereby maximize the beneficial use of the resource."  (McGlothlin, 2016)

California water law is notoriously confusing, but to this layperson it appears that the proposal does not provide for "coordinated management of water supply," but rather a suite of other measures that don't involve water.  The document makes the case that habitat, rather than flows, are the cause for decline of the endangered steelhead, and that maintaining "historical flows" as determined from flow gage data starting in 1929 is adequate. (It is important to note that by 1890 there was over 4,000 acres of irrigated agriculture in the Ojai Valley). 

Summary of Proposed Ventura River Physical Solution

The following is a summary of the proposal quoted directly from the document:

This proposed physical solution and settlement agreement was developed in partnership with: Ventura River Water District, Meiners Oaks Water District, Wood-Claeyssens Foundation (Taylor Ranch), Rancho Matilija Mutual Water Company and other large water users.

This Physical Solution does not determine water rights or directly limit water Production. Instead, it creates a specific plan to manage the Watershed to protect existing reasonable and beneficial uses of the water within the Watershed.

 The Physical Solution establishes a long-term Management Plan or Plan that accounts for: the specific needs of the Fishery, variable hydrology of the region, periods of low and very low precipitation, and the condition and quality of the habitat during the lifecycle of the Fishery, including the specific reach habitat requirements pertinent to that lifecycle, and thereby ensures the viability of the Fishery through a series of coordinated management actions under the Plan. Collectively, these management actions undertaken by the Parties will concurrently preserve public trust resources and provide a continued water supply for the thousands of people, farms, and businesses that rely on the Ventura River Watershed for water.

At their discretion, GSAs in the Ventura River Watershed may rely on implementation of the Physical Solution for a finding that no additional implementation measures are required to address potential significant and unreasonable effects of groundwater pumping on the beneficial use of interconnected surface water by the Fishery, in the event that any such potential significant and unreasonable effects of groundwater pumping are identified during initial GSP development or subsequent 5-year GSP updates.



Management Plan/Mandatory Plan Elements

The core of this Physical Solution is the development, implementation, and adaptive management and updating of a Management Plan (or the “Plan”) that will move the condition of the Southern California Steelhead in the Watershed from Baseline Conditions to Good Condition


Actions to protect Historical Flow Conditions, which are largely replicated by existing flow conditions, in combination with habitat enhancement elements identified in the Plan, will be sufficient, barring extraordinary conditions, to move the Fishery from Baseline Conditions to Good Condition.


The fish population was higher in the pre-development period as compared with the post-development period, even though flows were the same or lower than post-1958 conditions


(Therefore) habitat conditions, rather than flow conditions alone, have affected the Fishery. 

-       Accordingly, improving habitat conditions with non-flow measures and preserving Historical Flow Conditions will improve the Fishery to ultimately achieve Good Condition.


Flow metrics were the same or lower during the pre-development period as compared with the post-development period

-       rainfall and flow in the Watershed has largely remained consistent over the historical period (generally 1929 through 2019)

-       Historical flow records are available prior to 1958 (pre-development conditions) and post-1958 in three critical reaches in the Watershed: Ventura River near Foster Park, lower San Antonio Creek, and North Fork Matilija Creek.



habitat conditions in the Watershed downstream of Matilija Dam have been degraded over the past 150 years through agricultural and urban development, construction of dams, water storage infrastructure, flood control infrastructure, and other factors



Required Habitat Improvement Elements


1.     Fish Passage Improvements 1 – Sub-Surface Interceptor Wall and Improvements Around Concrete Pipe at Foster Park

2.     Fish Passage Improvements 2 – Improvement of the Fraser Street Road Crossing

3.     Gravel Enhancement in Matilija Creek and North Fork Matilija Creek

4.     Boulder and Large Woody Material Augmentation in San Antonio Creek 

5.     Large Woody Material Augmentation in the Mainstem Ventura River near the Confluence with San Antonio Creek 

6.     Arundo Removal 

  1. Predator and Non-Native Fish Management 
  2. Matilija Dam - consideration of the adoption of resolutions of support for Dam removal or submission of written letters of support
  3. Additional Projects for Further Consideration 
    1. Wheeler Gorge Campground passage barrier, 
    2. replacement of the current Grand Avenue fair weather crossing with a free span bridge, 
    3. addressing various pipeline crossings that could present barriers or impediment such as the Casitas pipeline that crosses San Antonio Creek and the Ojai Valley Sanitary District pipeline that crosses San Antonio Creek
    4.  brownfield remediation projects
    5. conservation easements or livestock exclusion projects 
    6. land protection projects 


Required Historical Flow Protection Elements

Because the decline in the Fishery is linked most directly to loss of habitat and access thereto, the main actions required by the Plan will focus on improvements to Fishery habitat and Fishery access to habitat. At the same time, however, the Plan must also include specific steps to maintain and, if feasible, enhance Historical Flow Conditions critical to the Fishery.

 Foster Park Flow Protocols

a.      The Plan will recognize and include the City’s existing water management protocols at Foster Park that meet or exceed requirements to protect Historical Flow Conditions in this reach. The City’s implementation of these Foster Park Flow Protocols does not determine or limit its water rights in any way, consistent with this Physical Solution.

2.     San Antonio Creek

a.     identify Historical Flow Conditions 

b.     measures to prevent degradation of flows in San Antonio Creek

c.      implement monitoring measures

  1. North Fork Matilija Creek 

a.     identify Historical Flow Conditions 

b.     measures to prevent degradation of flows in North Fork Matilija Creek 

c.      implement monitoring measures

  1. Voluntary Water Management Measures 
    1. Production Forbearance Program
    2. Examples of these efforts include the projects identified as part of the Ventura River Watershed Instream Flow Enhancement and Water Resiliency Framework 

5.     GSP Processes 

a.     this Physical Solution will help to achieve the Groundwater sustainability goals of SGMA within the Watershed. Specifically, this Physical Solution will improve the Fishery, which may be relevant to the undesirable result of depletions of interconnected surface water

6.     Monitoring and Reporting 

    1. hydrology monitoring program
    2. fish monitoring program
    3. performance assessment monitoring for restoration/enhancement features
    4. habitat monitoring program
    5. annual reporting on each monitoring program. 

7.     Plan Evaluation – Adaptive Assessment and Management 


Uncontrollable Conditions 

the Bound Parties will not be considered to be in violation of this Physical Solution… for any circumstance beyond the Bound Parties’ control, including without limitation, 

-       any act of God, war, fire, earthquake, flood, windstorm, drought or natural catastrophe, including climate change; 

-       the need to provide an amount of reasonable and beneficial consumptive use of water from the Watershed

-       criminal acts; civil disturbance, pandemic, vandalism, sabotage, or terrorism; 

-       restraint by court order or public authority or agency

-       action or non-action by, or inability to obtain the necessary authorizations or approvals from any governmental agency.



Russell M. McGlothlin and Jena Shoaf Acos, The Golden Rule* of Water Management, 9 Golden Gate U. Envtl. L.J. 109 (2016).

City of Ventura Adjudication:  

Why Support the Physical Solution? By: Ventura River Water District,

In the news:

Letter: Solve the adjudication, Bert J. Rapp, Ventura River Water District, Ventura County Star




Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Photopoint monitoring

Last week a "Photopoint monitoring" station was installed at Surfers' point, a collaboration between Surfrider and the Ventura Land Trust.  Photopoint utilizes a fixed camera mount to allow beachgoers to photograph the shoreline from fixed points in order to systematically capture changes in the vegetation, dune morphology, sea level rise, and beach evolution over time.

Surfrider Ventura Chapter coordinator Cassie demonstrates the new Photopoint at Surfers' Point

Photopoint Monitoring is an effective way to document environmental change over time, thereby providing historical information to aid decision-making by resource managers. Our objective is to document the natural/anthropogenic changes to the shoreline caused by dredging, seasonal changes, and king tides for ongoing research into sea level rise. 

Installation team, L to R: Katie, Cassie, and Dan

Monday, June 21, 2021

Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems and SGMA


Is this a Groundwater Dependent Ecosystem?

People enjoy the last of a drying river on Memorial Day,
Ventura River Preserve 5-31-2021 

Flows rapidly dropped through the Ventura River Preserve this year, leaving the riverbed dry by June.  While this can be a common occurrence in dry years, surface flows are directly related to the groundwater below.  Under the State Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), the local Upper Ventura River Groundwater Sustainability Agency (UVRGSA) has been formed to develop a plan to sustainably manage groundwater into the future.  Draft documents have been released in preparation for a Draft Sustainability Plan later this year.

The question of how to determine whether a reach of the river is "connected" to groundwater, and therefore a "Groundwater Dependent Ecosystem" (GDE) under SGMA, is critical to the future sustainability of our water supply.  When a Groundwater Dependent Ecosystem suffers due to groundwater overdraft, the capacity of the landscape to store water can be compromised.    

The following comments were submitted to the UVRGSA regarding this concern.  The technical documents and other references are linked below. 

DATE: 6-18-2021 RE: Early Comments on Draft Supporting Documents for Upper Ventura River Groundwater Sustainability Plan

This memo is a follow up from our conversation regarding development of the Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP). The primary concern we discussed is the elimination of large portions of the basin from SGMA oversight through the assumption that surface water is somehow “disconnected” from groundwater. Apart from the fact that there are fundamental flaws in the methodology used to make this determination, the resulting conclusions and management criteria are not consistent with avoiding undesirable results.

The primary Sustainable Management Criteria (SMC) for the UVRGB is the Depletion of Interconnected Surface Water. The analyses presented to date do not adequately assess the groundwater/surface water interactions within and between the different reaches of the basin, or even acknowledge the impact of groundwater pumping on surface flows.

Screening Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems (GDEs)

The Upper Ventura River Groundwater Basin is a shallow alluvial aquifer integral to the riparian floodplain ecosystem of the main stem Ventura River. Throughout these reaches of the river, groundwater and surface water are connected, and to suggest they are not is to undermine the intent of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.

Figure 2. Confirming whether an ecosystem is connected to groundwater, TNC

The Riparian Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems Assessment Report characterizes the Robles reach as a “Losing reach with generally disconnected groundwater- surface water.” This categorization eliminates the majority of this Groundwater Dependent Ecosystem from consideration under SGMA by assuming that it is “disconnected” and thus has too great a depth to groundwater to support riparian habitat. Other reaches are similarly dismissed.

Figure 2 from Riparian Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems Assessment

The analysis presented relies heavily on the Nature Conservancy “Natural Communities (NC) Dataset,” using vegetation communities to eliminate GDE polygons from the Upper Ventura River Groundwater Basin. The NC dataset is a statewide geographic computer database that maps vegetation types in all potential GDEs throughout the State of California. The large geographic scope of this map does not accurately represent current on-the- ground conditions, and more robust ground truthing should be undertaken. Even the aerial photos presented tell a different story than is acknowledged in the narrative (i.e. Figure 6 North Robles Habitat Area Photographs, Aquatic GDE Characterization report)

Figure 6 North Robles Habitat Area Photographs

Unfortunately, the UVRGSA analysis does not fully implement the Best Practices for using the NC Dataset guidance provided by the Nature Conservancy, which presents six best practices for using local groundwater data to confirm whether mapped features in the NC dataset are supported by groundwater. (Best Practices for using the NC Dataset, TNC July 2019)

According to this guidance:  

While depth-to-groundwater levels within 30 feet of the land surface are generally accepted as being a proxy for confirming that polygons in the NC dataset are supported by groundwater, it is highly advised that fluctuations in the groundwater regime be characterized to understand the seasonal and interannual groundwater variability in GDEs. (see Best Practice #2.)

one of the key factors to consider when mapping GDEs is to contour depth-to- groundwater in the aquifer that is supporting the ecosystem (see Best Practice #5).

The GIS Spatial Analysis of Maximum Rooting Depth and Groundwater Level presented in the Riparian GDE document does not present such contour depth-to-groundwater mapping or account for temporal variability.

Figures from Best Practices for using the NC Dataset, TNC

Furthermore, TNC guidance acknowledges that;

In many situations, the hydrologic connection of NC dataset polygons will not initially be clearly understood if site-specific groundwater monitoring data are not available. If sufficient data are not available in time for the 2020/2022 plan, The Nature Conservancy strongly advises that questionable polygons from the NC dataset be included in the GSP until data gaps are reconciled in the monitoring network. Erring on the side of caution will help minimize inadvertent impacts to GDEs as a result of groundwater use and management actions during SGMA implementation.

Many of California’s GDEs have adapted to dealing with intermittent periods of water stress, however if these groundwater conditions are prolonged, adverse impacts to GDEs can result.

Therefore, it is likely that the NC vegetation mapping is representative of conditions in which groundwater levels have been frequently and repeatedly pumped beyond the reach of riparian tree roots. Meanwhile, field observations over the past few wetter years show that the riparian vegetation has rebounded, illustrating how the ecosystem responds with the variation in water years. Receding groundwater levels and corresponding loss of surface flows in the current drought will likely reverse this recent trend, with the potential loss of the many young sycamores.

Determining Groundwater/Surface water interactions

TNC guidance for determining GDEs recognizes the importance of surface flows;

In addition, SGMA requires that significant and undesirable adverse impacts to beneficial users of surface water be avoided. Beneficial users of surface water include environmental users such as plants or animals, which therefore must be considered when developing minimum thresholds for depletions of interconnected surface water.

The Model Results and SMC Implications Presentation (March 25, 2021) reaches the conclusion that:

  • Basin water budget is dominated by streamflow percolation into the Basin and groundwater discharge to Ventura River
  • GW pumping averages only ~10% of the GW Budget As low as 4% in wet years 
Up to 31% in dry years
  • Basin GW levels will be lower in dry seasons, but Basin will still re-fill in normal to wet years

The conclusion that there is no impact from pumping based on the fact that the basin rapidly refills in the wet season points to the likelihood that the surface water is in fact “connected” to groundwater during these periods. Moreover, the fact that pumping represents up to 31% of the budget in the critical dry years raises many questions.

figure from Model Results and SMC Implications Presentation (March 25, 2021)

The Model Results identify four areas of concentrated pumping, three of which directly impact groundwater levels in the “Robles Reach.” This reach is the area with the most storage in the basin, and should be considered as the “primary sub-basin” for water supply. Pumping in this reach directly affects conditions throughout the basin.

The analyses and graphs presented in the Model Results do not provide information on the spacial and temporal surface flow conditions as they relate to groundwater levels. Because the downstream reaches are largely dependent on surface and groundwater flows out of this sub-basin, further analysis is needed to more clearly define the relationship between groundwater levels and surface flows. The analyses should, at a minimum, determine threshold groundwater levels at which surface flows are diminished or eliminated, both in the reach being monitored and downstream.

Groundwater/Surface water interactions
Conjunctive Use Study 1978 

This relationship was established decades ago in the Ventura River Conjunctive Use Report (1978) which states that;

Flows in the live stretch are affected by both the rate of recharge of the upper part of the Ventura River groundwater basin and by the rate of groundwater extraction from wells in the river.

Investigations published in the Conjunctive Use Report identified groundwater elevation thresholds in the upper basin at which flows in the live reach will cease;

when the water level in well 4N23Wl6C4 falls below Elevation 495, surface flow in much of the live stretch stops although some pools remain. A flow of 1 cfs or more in the live stretch corresponds with a water level in this well of greater than about Elevation 507.

Groundwater levels also affect surface flows in the Robles Reach, which frequently dries up despite constant inflows. Unfortunately, the Aquatic GDE Impact Analysis is quick to dismiss the effect of groundwater elevation on surface flows;

No monitoring is recommended at either of the critical riffle aquatic GDEs or the Robles Habitat Area, as impacts from pumping in these areas were determined to be minimal or non-existent.

This conclusion is inconsistent with the guidance provided in Monitoring Networks and Identification of Data Gaps BMP (DWR 2016) which states:

23 CCR §354.34(c))(6): Depletions of Interconnected Surface Water.

Monitor surface water and groundwater, where interconnected surface water conditions exist, to characterize the spatial and temporal exchanges between surface water and groundwater, and to calibrate and apply the tools and methods necessary to calculate depletions of surface water caused by groundwater extractions. The monitoring network shall be able to characterize the following:

(A) Flow conditions including surface water discharge, surface water head, and baseflow contribution.

(B) Identifying the approximate date and location where ephemeral or intermittent flowing streams and rivers cease to flow, if applicable.

(C) Temporal change in conditions due to variations in stream discharge and regional groundwater extraction.

(D) Other factors that may be necessary to identify adverse impacts on beneficial uses of the surface water.

DWR guidance provides detailed information on developing a monitoring network to accurately assess these concerns.

Establishing Minimum Flow Thresholds

As described above, the current GSP analysis incorrectly concludes that groundwater pumping has little to no effect on surface flows throughout the majority of the basin. But even for the identified groundwater dependent “Habitat Areas,” the development of minimum flow thresholds is inadequate. For example;

For the Foster Park Habitat Area, while the City’s low-flow thresholds are based on only one HSI score evaluated in the Padre study (average thalweg depth), we understand this currently provides the best available information to establish minimum thresholds for the depletion of interconnected surface water sustainability criteria.

This statement ignores best available science, including the recently published CDFW Draft Instream Flow Recommendations (2021) as well as the NMFS Draft Biological Opinion for Foster Park Wellfield (2005).

Implications for the UVR Groundwater Sustainability Plan

According to the Brownstein Water Group, the Cuyama Valley Basin and the Paso Robles Area Subbasin GSPs were recently deemed incomplete for deficiencies in their definitions of sustainable management criteria (SMC), including minimum thresholds and undesirable results. Some of the concerns cited by DWR are that the GSP;

  • provides insufficient detail for how it determined that the selected minimum thresholds . . . are consistent with avoiding undesirable results
  • does not relate different minimum thresholds for different portions of the basin to conditions that could cause undesirable results
  • does not sufficiently discuss expected impacts and therefore “precludes meaningful disclosure to, and participation by, interested parties and residents in the Basin.

It is clear from these recent DWR determinations that much more work is needed to develop and present a clear understanding of the workings of the Upper Ventura River Groundwater Basin, the potential impacts from groundwater pumping, and a plan to better manage the limited resource to ensure future sustainability and a healthy ecosystem.


These initial comments are provided as requested, in good faith, prior to the release of the Draft GSP in the interest of stakeholder engagement and with the hopes that the UVRGSA is able to augment the current analysis and develop a meaningful assessment of the impact of groundwater pumping on surface flows in the Ventura River. It is clear that this will be necessary to successfully develop the Groundwater Sustainability Plan to a level that satisfies the objectives of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) in order to gain the support of local stakeholders and approval by the California Department of Water Resources.


Upper Ventura River Groundwater Sustainability Agency (UVRGSA) 

Mapping Indicators of GDEs, Groundwater Resource Hub, The Nature Conservancy

IDENTIFYING GDEs UNDER SGMA; Best Practices for using the NC Dataset, The Nature Conservancy, July 2019

Monitoring Networks and Identification of Data Gaps BMP , CA Dept of Water Resources,

DRAFT ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT REPORT, VENTURA RIVER CONJUNCTIVE USE AGREEMENT,  Report on the Environmental Impacts of the Proposed Agreement Between Casitas Municipal Water District and the City of-San Buenaventura for Conjunctive Use of the VENTURA RIVER - CASITAS RESERVOIR SYSTEM, Prepared for CMWD and the City,  June 1978

GSAs Shooting 50% on GSPs—DWR Releases First GSP Assessment Results for High Priority Basins, Brownstein Water Group, June 4, 2021

More info:

Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA)California Department of Water Resources

Groundwater Resource Hub, The Nature Conservancy

Natural Communities Commonly Associated with Groundwater, California Department of Water Resources

Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems - How can we manage groundwater to benefit both people and nature? The Nature Conservancy,

On this blog:

Understanding CDFW Instream Flow Recommendations

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Watershed mural website

The "Enlivening The Matilija Watershed" Mural now has an interactive website that contains information on all the plants and animals featured in the artwork installed on the side of a Ojai Unified School District building in Ojai. 

The 30’x14’ mural depicts the Matilija Creek in it’s regenerated state after the Matilija Dam has been removed. The waters flow clear, the wildlife abundant, the flora and fauna vibrant and renewed. The beaver is featured prominently as it is a keystone species whose presence affects the entire whole of the ecosystem. The mural emphasizes the restored watershed which feeds a beaver pond where deer, bear, mountain lion, heron and others come to eat and drink. Oaks, sycamores and willow provide shade and a steady perch for the flyers to come and rest. The steelhead move unimpeded upstream to spawn where once they numbered into the thousands. This pristine and rejuvenated landscape will be framed by the cobbled remains of the Matilija Dam which once held back the waters and marred the mouth of the canyon. It’s removal signifying the steady return of the natural cycles of life.

Visit the website here:


Enlivening The Matilija Watershed" Mural

Santa Ana Bridge replacement groundbreaking

Aerial overview of the existing Santa Ana Bridge
 looking upstream on the Ventura River

A ceremonial groundbreaking event was held on Monday June 7 to kick off the Santa Ana Bridge Replacement Project.  Project sponsors Sam Jenniches (California Coastal Conservancy) and Mary Larson (Ca Dept of Fish and Wildlife) were present along with Supervisor Matt LeVere and representatives from the Ventura County Watershed Protection District and Transportation Department and their contractors.  This is the first major project component of the Matilija Dam Ecosystem Restoration Project.

Design work was sponsored by the California Coastal Conservancy and construction is funded through a $13.4M grant from Ca Dept of Fish and Wildlife.  The project will replace 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. 

L to R: Chris Hooke, Ventura County Transportation Dept; Mary Larson, CDFW; County Supervisor Matt LeVere; Glenn Shephard, VCPWA-WP; Sam Jenniches, Coastal Conservancy; Paul Jenkin, Matilija Coalition  

more info:

Santa Ana Bridge replacement awarded $13.4M grant

in the news:

New Ventura River bridge could help endangered trout, agencies-move-step-closer-tearing-down-matilija-dam-near-ojai, VCStar, June 5, 2021

Start of Santa Ana Bridge replacement project brings Ventura County one step closer to removing Matilija Dam, KEYT, June 6, 2021 

Bridge means end is nearer for dam, Ojai Valley News, June 11, 2021

CI Harbor jetty and breakwater repairs

Over the past few weeks the US Army Corps of Engineers has been working on the jetties and offshore breakwater at Channel Islands Harbor.  Concerned beachgoers contacted Surfrider with concerns that the South Jetty was being extended and could impact the surf conditions at the popular Silver Strand Beach.  Although initially it was hard to find any detailed information on the project, the Corps and Port District ultimately provided drawings that illustrate the work being done.

South Jetty at Channel Islands Harbor, 2013

Over time coastal structures like these degrade as wave action displaces the large boulders and the structure "slumps" into the sea floor.  Periodic maintenance is performed by importing boulders which are placed on the existing structure to bring it back to its design profile.  The illustrations below show this:

More info:

Much Needed Repair Work Starts at Channel Islands Harbor Entrance,  Channel Islands Harbor website

SPL-2021-0512-NLH Channel Islands Harbor Breakwater, US Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Coastal Commission approves Surfers' Point Phase 2

At their April, 2021 meeting, the California Coastal Commission approved (with conditions) modifications to the Surfers Point Managed Shoreline Retreat project in Ventura, CA.   Application No. 4-05-148-A1 (City of Ventura and 31st Agricultural District, Ventura) aims to modify portions of the Managed Retreat project to support the recently completed plans for Phase 2 of the project.

The project was originally approved in 2006, but due to limited funding only about half of it was constructed in 2010-11. These amendments to the original permit No. 4-05-148  reflect a revised layout of the parking lots which will increase the total available spaces for day use, overflow, and temporary surf check parking. (See the prior analysis of parking on this blog here)

"The proposed reconfiguration would result in the addition of approximately 151 total parking spaces, approximately 64 of which would be located in the high frequency parking lot, and approximately 87 in the reduced frequency parking lot. [...] The proposed project reconfiguration would also add approximately three (3) twenty minute parking spaces that allow for drop-off or for the public to check water or surf conditions (these spots are called “surf check” parking spaces), for a total number of approximately 27 “surf check” parking spaces. Shoreline Drive is proposed to be relocated to improve circulation, with its terminus at the parking lot to be further east. The previously approved gatehouse/ticket booth located at the entrance of the parking lot would be relocated approximately 160 feet to the east, and a vehicle turn around would be added. 

"The surface material of the parking lot is also proposed to be changed from a permeable surface to asphalt. This change in surface material would also apply to the portion of the parking lot that was constructed in Phase 1 along with the new portions of parking lot to be constructed in Phase 2. [...] It was determined that the original turf grass parking lot is not feasible in current drought conditions and other permeable surfaces are infeasible as water is unable to adequately infiltrate due to the high ground water table.


Modifications to Parking Layout
Surfers Point phase 2

A separate permit (A-4-SBV-06-037) covers the "tidelands" portion of the project.   Phase 2 includes modifications to the originally approved managed retreat project to extend the cobble berm and vegetated sand dunes to merge with the promenade and recently constructed emergency revetment.  The changes would extend the cobble berm and vegetated sand dunes approximately 150 ft east (14,800 cu.yds. of cobble and 17,825 cu.yds. of sand), reconfigure public access amenities, and revise landscaping plan, at Surfer’s Point, City of Ventura, Ventura County. 

Modifications to Cobble Berm and Dunes
Surfers Point phase 2

The permit will require electric vehicle charging stations to be installed in the new parking lots:

The special condition to require electric vehicle charging stations is consistent with Coastal Act Section 30253 because it will reduce energy use and provide an opportunity for users of electric vehicles to access the coast. 

During discussion of the project, Coastal Commissioners Shelley Luce, Matt O'Malley, Mike Wilson, Mark Gold and Donne Brownsey raised concerns about the change of surface material of the parking lot, citing concerns over potential water quality impacts from runoff and uncertainty around mitigation of those impacts. Based on these concerns, Coastal Commission staff added a required Storm Water Management Plan (SWMP) and water quality monitoring condition into the permit amendment. The permit was approved unanimously.


The Coastal Commission staff report includes an interesting summary of the history of the project dating back to the first bike path, located approximately two to 20 feet seaward of its current location, that had been partially destroyed by storms in the winter of 1982/3.  (Hints of this original bike path are visible along the eroding bluff today)

In 1984, the Commission certified the City of San Buenaventura’s Local Coastal Program (LCP) which created a 250-foot wide oceanfront corridor for recreational use, extending west from Surfer’s Point Park to the Ventura River.  The LCP was amended in 1986 such that "temporary bicycle and hiking trails...and temporary parking which do not require construction of a shoreline protective device, may be permitted within the setback area established by the geotechnical study.” 

In 1988 and 1989, the Commission approved two permits for improvements within the Commission’s original jurisdiction, CDP Nos. 4-88-123 and 4-88-130, that were associated with construction of Shoreline Drive, the 352-space parking lot, and other development in the oceanfront corridor at Surfer’s Point.

The oceanfront corridor improvements were constructed in 1989. In the summer of 1991, shoreline erosion began undermining portions of the bicycle path. 

In November 1991, Commission staff received a request from the City of Ventura/31st Agricultural District for an emergency permit to place five to six ton rocks along an approximately 260 foot length of the backshore in order to protect the bicycle path from erosion (CDP No. 4-91-060-G). The emergency request was denied in favor of relocating the undermined section of the bicycle path slightly inland. In explaining the Executive Director’s denial of CDP No. 4- 91-060-G, Commission staff noted that the improvements in the oceanfront corridor had been constructed on the understanding that they were temporary in nature and therefore could not be protected with shoreline protective devices. 

On December 11, 1992, following continued undermining of the bicycle path and parking lot, the City of Ventura issued itself an emergency coastal development permit for construction of a rip-rap revetment, and the revetment was constructed the following week, from December 14 – 16, 1992. Commission enforcement staff issued a stop work order on December 15, 1992, and further pursued removal of the revetment through enforcement and legal measures.

This emergency revetment remained in place until 2010 when it was removed along with the collapsing parking lot during construction of Phase 1 of the Managed Retreat project.


Although the Surfers Point Managed Shoreline Retreat Project has been widely recognized as an innovative and effective approach to coastal management, it is just as much an example of failed coastal management.  Conflicting mandates and the inability to coordinate amongst the multitude of federal, state, and local government agencies has directly impacted this important public trust resource.  It is hard to quantify the benefits lost to decades of crumbling infrastructure and mismanagement at what should be the "crown jewel" of the City of Ventura.  This mismanagement stems from a lack of understanding and respect for the underlying dynamic landform of the Ventura River delta, combined with the bureaucratic failings of fragmented governance.   The fact that this issue has already lingered for four decades is stark foreshadowing to the future impact of sea level rise on the California coast.  In the meantime, we can only watch as the ocean slowly erases the mistakes of the past...


Coastal Commission Staff Report: Application No. 4-05-148-A1 (City of Ventura and 31st Agricultural District, Ventura)

On this Blog

Surfers Point (all posts)

Surfers’ Point Managed Retreat Phase 2 update, Oct 2020 - final plans and costs

Surfers' Point Phase 2 update, Dec 2019 - parking analysis

The Managed Retreat Process at Surfers Point, Nov 2010 - Phase 1 construction

Surfers' Point erosion damage Jan 2021 - current conditions

Natural Shoreline Case Study

Surfers' Point case study (another case study)

US Climate Resilience Toolkit