Matilija Reservoir Drained

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

Matilija Reservoir 3-17-2020

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.

Ventura River Adjudication – Remembering the Past

Ventura River Adjudication – Remembering the Past

February 20, 2020

By Paul Jenkin

The current controversy surrounding the adjudication of water rights to the Ventura River has focused on the most recent efforts by the City of Ventura to secure its water rights to the Ventura River.  Many may not know that this effort has deep roots in the past.

The City of Ventura was incorporated in 1886, but it claim to the waters of the Ventura River extend back to the establishment of Mission San Buenaventura in 1782.  In addition to the Missions, the Spanish and Mexican governments also established a series of Pueblos and Ranchos between 1769 and 1835 in what later became the state of California. Despite its not being a successor to one of the eight original Spanish or Mexican Pueblos, the City has periodically asserted its claim to the waters of the Ventura River based on a Pueblo water right.

In 1976 the City of Ventura attempted to assert a Pueblo water right against the Casitas Municipal Water District.  The appropriative water rights granted to Casitas in the 1950’s required them to bypass the first 20 cubic feet per second of flow at the Robles Diversion to protect downstream water rights.  The City claimed, however, that this provision did not fully protect its Pueblo water rights.

Conjunctive Use

To resolve this dispute, without formally asserting and establishing the City’s Pueblo water right, the City and Casitas proposed to enter into a Conjunctive Use Agreement. This agreement would have allowed Casitas to divert all of the low flow of the Ventura River at its Robles Diversion (up to 500 cubic feet per second) to Lake Casitas.  In exchange Casitas would guarantee the City up to 6,000 acre-feet of water annually from Lake Casitas.

In 1978, the Friends of the Ventura River filed a lawsuit challenging the Environmental Impact Report’s conclusion that the Conjunctive Use Agreement would not adversely affect the Ventura River.  In 1984, after losing in the lower courts, the California Supreme Court rejected the City’s appeal, effectively terminating the Conjunctive Use Agreement.

Endangered Species and Clean Water

In 1997, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) listed steelhead trout in southern California as an endangered species. Rather than comply with new regulatory requirements, the City decided to forego surface diversion and instead rely on its wells at Foster Park.

In 1998, the State of California formally recognized that the Ventura River was impaired by excessive pumping and diversions pursuant to the federal Clean Water Act.

In 2003 NMFS sent a letter notifying the City that the continued operation of the Foster Park wells posed a serious threat to steelhead. In 2007 NMFS issued a “draft jeopardy biological opinion” that specified a minimum flow to protect steelhead at Foster Park.  In response, the City chose to postpone repairs and enlargement of its well field, and recommenced the operation of its other existing wells in the Foster Park area.

A Dry River

In 2013, the City’s hydrology consultants concluded that their pumping was detrimental to critical habitat for endangered steelhead in the Ventura River. The City continued to pump unabated, and from 2014 to 2016 the Ventura River was pumped completely dry at Foster Park for a significant portion of the year.

In 2014, after many years of monitoring water quality in the Ventura River under a program certified by the State, Santa Barbara Channelkeeper filed a lawsuit asking the State to compel the City to reduce its pumping at Foster Park consistent with NMFS requirements. The City responded by petitioning to have the lawsuit dismissed and also simultaneously filed cross-complaints against all other water right holders in the watershed.  The Court rejected the City’s petition.

In 2018, the Appellate Court allowed the City’s cross-complaint against all water right holders to proceed. In 2019, the City signed an interim agreement with Santa Barbara Channelkeeper, based on the NMFS 2007 jeopardy biological opinion, and entered into a court-sponsored settlement agreement process with major water purveyors and several major agricultural landowners.


In January 2020, the City of Ventura commenced adjudication by serving legal summons to over 10,000 individual water rights holders in the Ventura River watershed.

(Note: Adjudication is just a fancy word for suing everybody in the basin, and to resolve groundwater rights, you have to bring in all the users.)

Ventura Assistant City Manager, Akbar Alikhan, responding to questions about the Ventura River adjudication, claimed, “…this is not a water grab. We are trying to find a solution that balances the needs of the local habitat while still providing the valuable water to our local residences.” 

Given the City’s long history of claiming unlimited, and unrestricted rights to the waters of the Ventura River, is it reasonable to ask what that balance will be?

Residents who use the watershed, whether as water supply or outdoor recreation, have a stake in the outcome of this latest chapter in the long history of exploitation of the Ventura River.

See posted references at the bottom of the article by following this link:


Appeal of the Planning Director Decision for Petrochem Transportation Services Yard and Contractors Service and Storage Yard PL16-0118

Submitted by the Petrochem Appeal Alliance


Members of the Petrochem Appeal Alliance:

Climate First: Replacing Oil and Gas (CFROG), Environmental Coalition of Ventura County, Food and Water Action (FWA), Ventura Citizens for Hillside Preservation (VCHP), Friends of the Ventura River, Ventura Land Trust, Wishtoyo Chumash Foundation, California Trout, Inc., Sierra Club (Los Padres Chapter), Westside Community Council (WCC), Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ-VC), Unitarian Universalist Church of Ventura (UUV), Central Coast Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE)

Sespe consulting submitted a project application and description on 9/1/16, and county staff completed an initial study and an MND based on that permit request. Subsequent to that study being completed, including the environmental review and the conditions of the permit, the applicant made substantive changes to their project application and project description. Just prior to the planning director hearing, all references to the Port of Hueneme were deleted from the permit leaving only the remaining words, “transportation storage yard for passenger vehicles” in this portion of the project description.

The importance of removing the Port from the project description is great.  Ventura County only has one Port through which new vehicles are imported.  The Port has made it clear that neither the Port or any of its customer dealerships will utilize this site or project.  The applicant has not submitted an alternative use.  In Applicant’s haste to get approval for the project permit, reference to Port Hueneme was removed.  In reality, this removal has also removed the potential for receiving new vehicles.  Therefore, the activities described in the application of removing shipping wraps from new vehicles, and preparing them for delivery to dealerships throughout Ventura County will not occur.

The failure to submit a full, true and correct form raises multiple reasons for denial of this permit, as detailed below.

1) The application submitted by Sespe Consulting on behalf of the applicant on September 1, 2016, and which served as the full and complete information required for the Initial Study and subsequent MND, was not submitted in a full, true, and correct form.  Therefore, applicant has violatedNCZO 8111-2.1 Sec. 8111-2.1.(“Submission of Applications, Application requests shall be filed with the Planning Division. No application request shall be accepted for filing and processing unless it conforms to the requirements of this Chapter; contains in a full, true and correct form the required materials and information prescribed by the forms supplied by the Ventura County Planning Division.)

In this circumstance, the application must be returned to the applicant for revisions such that it can be accepted as complete in full, true and correct form in order that a true, full and accurate EIR or MNDcan be conducted based upon accurate information and data. In addition, resubmittal is required to allow for the public right to comment. Instead, the project description was substantively amended prior to the Planning Director Hearing, and those changes were first revealed to the public at the hearing.

Full, true and correct information must be sufficiently detailed to provide limits for impact analysis. As written, the project description is aimed at preserving a wide range of development options, and lacks the technical characteristics such as building plans indicating areas of use, and elevations required in a project proposal.  Currently the description only presents concepts and impact generalities which create an obstacle to informed public participation, as well as an informed decision-making process. This lack of specificity is also a violation of CEQA.

2) The planning director’s decision to grant PL16-0118 is an abuse of discretion because the project description is not accurate, finite, or stable as required by CEQA.  The MND should be remanded to the planning department for an adequate CEQA review based upon a true, accurate, finite, and stable project description.

The transportation service yard will not be receiving cars from Port Hueneme for storage, prep work and transportation to Ventura County dealers as was stated in the application. Port officials have publicly stated that neither the Port or any of its customer dealerships are interested in the future use of this site or permit.  It is not clear what, if anything, this part of the project will now become.  Therefore, the air quality analysis, based upon 20 associated truck-loads of cars per day, each truck traveling 22 miles from the Port to the site as stated in the air quality analysis, is useless because the assumptions used to calculate the emissions are incorrect.

In fact, there is no way to determine what the use will become, and attempting to use the limits of permit conditions to control the project impacts is an obstacle to public participation and informed decision-making.

The impacts of the project need to be determined through the CEQA process in order for the permit conditions to be formulated, not the other way around.  For the same reasons, the biology assessment is inadequate. Finally, the transportation study done by DUDEK cannot include the details necessary for an accurate analysis because there is not a stable or finite project to analyze.

The project description is usually a brief description of a story that develops during the EIR process, explaining why the project actions or activities may or may not have an effect on the environment.  Without a complete and stable project description the planner preparing the impact analyses does not have the information necessary to determine what impacts the proposed project may have, or the intensity of those impacts. The Initial Study cannot be accurately done if the project is not finite or accurate. In this case, the project description changed overnight from being a transportation service yard for new cars imported through the Port of Hueneme to a transportation service yard for passenger vehicles.  We only have one Port, where will the vehicles come from?  Or will new vehicles come at all?  Might it become a junk yard where wrecked and damaged passenger vehicles are parted out for sale?  What are the environmental impacts of that major change in the project description?

3) The MND did not include a description of the facilities with plans and elevations that show the impacts of the new project.  The planning director discovered the MND lacked building plans after the planning director hearing, and included the plans as required by CEQA in an errata.  The late addition of these essential parts of a project’s character left the public out of this necessary part of CEQA review.

Essential characteristics of a project such as building plans and elevations cannot be added as an errata.  As added, the plans have not been altered or updated from their original 1950’s design as a chemical plant.  This is further evidence that the applicant has no more than a vague idea of what the project might be in its actual implementation phase. The permit for this project is now aimed at preserving a wide range of development options, and for this precise reason it must be sufficiently detailed to provide limits for impact analysis.

Failure in a project proposal to present technical characteristics, such as building plans indicating areas of use and elevations, and instead presenting concepts and impact generalities is an obstacle to public participation, to an informed decision-making process, and a violation of CEQA.

4) The contractor’s storage yard has a sub-component that has the potential to significantly harm the environment in the form of noise, vibration, air quality and increased traffic.  The project description contains one sentence: “Vehicle parking will be available on the project site for trucking companies and municipalities”. There is no further reference to this use beyond this one sentence in the entire CEQA review.  The DUDEK traffic study did not include the potential impacts of this use because it has not been quantified or explained.  There is no mention of this permitted use in the chart listing truck trip maximums.  Thus, there may be no maximum daily trips for this intended use.  Any vehicle that is parked at the site must be driven in and out, therefore, this use requires quantification.

Since the site will be open 24 hours a day, could the site be used as a short-term truck driver rest area? If not, why not?  If so, what is the impact of generator noise and vibration or refrigerator tractor trailers running in early morning hours?  What might the impact of trucks coming and going all day and night be to the surrounding neighborhood, sensitive habitats, and the bike path?  Since this impact was not explained or evaluated in any way, and was not included in the initial study, the MND cannot be approved.

There is no recognition or accounting of the emissions from cold-start of vehicles as they are removed from the auto transport trucks to temporary parking locations, from parking locations to detail and prep locations on property, again back to parking locations, then again back onto another transport vehicle for distribution to auto dealerships. Cold-start emissions are substantially higher than running emissions and need to be accounted as such.

In addition, with the Port now out of the picture, it begs for detail on who would be the client for auto storage. The next most logical candidate would be used vehicle dealerships. That would mean that instead of brand new low-emission vehicles, there would be a mix of older more polluting vehicles and new vehicles that would otherwise be stored at dealerships. The same pattern of at least four short cold-start trips (as described above) but including older cars in the mix would increase emissions.

Sespe also fails to include reference to any stationary or portable equipment. This omission lacks credibility with respect to the proposed uses. Where are the fork lifts? Where is the equipment used for auto prepping? These would be stationary or portable equipment with associated emissions. Similarly, it is not credible that all contractor/employee trips would be with light duty vehicles. In the contractor storage area there would be pieces of equipment that would be brought in by heavy-duty diesel trucks with much higher emissions. The equipment to be stored would then be cold-started to park, and again cold-started to be returned to a heavy-duty diesel to return to service.

The transportation study conducted by DUDEK is based upon inaccurate and unstable information supplied by the applicant and therefore is not a reliable source of impact analysis for the MND.  The application includes this inaccurate truck traffic data:

“Transportation Services (Vehicle Holding Lot): New vehicles will be delivered from Port Hueneme harbor to the site (approximately 20 miles one way) via large, auto transporter trucks (Heavy-Duty Trucks).New vehicles will also periodically be loaded onsite and delivered to dealerships throughout Ventura County. As such, each load is assumed to result in two trips (1 inbound and 1outbound). Additionally, two (2) employees will be stationed onsite to assist with the Transportation Services/Vehicle Holding Lot operations. Each worker is assumed to make one round trip (2 ADT) per day to the site in their own personal vehicles (Light-Duty Trucks).

For auto transporter trucks, it is anticipated that an average of 10 loads of new vehicles (20 ADT) will be delivered to and/or transferred from the site each day. During peak days, it is assumed that up to 20 loads (40 ADT) may occur. For employee vehicles, each employee is assumed to make one round trip (2 ADT) per day to the site. During peak days, it is assumed that up to four (4 ADT) employee trips per day may occur.”

This inaccurate description of the use has led to a baseless analysis of air, noise and traffic impacts.

5) The MND fails to include all relevant responsible agencies, and impacts of great environmental concern.  Both the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) have a direct interest in the impact this project might have on the Southern California Steelhead Trout, which would be negatively impacted from sediment entering the Ventura River.

The MND provides evidence that the property will flood and enter the river habitat. The applicant has included riverine protection from cars, trucks, boats, and building materials floating towards the river, and being stopped in their tracks by “bollards” being placed on the western edge of the property. The applicant is admitting that flooding will occur on this property, however, the bollards and the sediment ponds will not stop flood waters from entering the river habitat. These flood waters will be laden with sediments and other soluble material that can cover steelhead redds (gravel nests) and destroy the alevins (baby steelhead) by the hundreds in Critical Habitat designated by NMFS. Killing Steelhead, at any stage of its life cycle is called “a taking”, and is punishable by Federal law.

This is a significant adverse impact on the environment and a clear violation of the Endangered Species Act. The MND does not address this impact, nor provide mitigations.

In addition, the impact of this project on the lower reach of the Ventura river in terms of in-stream flow volume, and water quality over a range of precipitation conditions is unknown.  Various agencies already told the Ojai Sanitary district that they cannot allow re-use of effluent being discharged into the river because of its role in habitat preservation.  This project is a massive reduction in infiltration during high rain events which may affect year round stream flow by reducing lower river aquifer re-charge.

Also to be considered: The certified biologist reports cited in the 2017/2018 Petrochem PDP application occurred during a prolonged local drought period, meaning that site examinations for such species as the California Red Legged Frog (CRLF) may be inaccurate in that the prolonged drought conditions may have dried up surface wetland areas that normally provide habitat for different protected plant and animal species. The Ventura River and its Canada Larga Creek and Manuel Canyon Creek tributaries are known to offer habitat area for the CRLF and other protected species. Given that the project site is located such that the Ventura River is adjacent to the west, the Canada tributary to the north and the Manuel tributary to the south it is easy to see that under normal rainfall conditions the project site might host important sensitive habitat for various animal and plant species.

The Ventura County Wildlife Corridor runs adjacent to the property in question. How will the proposed use affect this sensitive habitat area? The failure of required specificity in the application makes it impossible to assess its impact on habitat connectivity and wildlife movement.

6) Although this appeal argues that there is insufficient information to do a credible environmental review, even a ‘best case’ assessment based on the broad outline provided in the application would violate the 25LB/day air emissions limitation set by the County.Further, appellants strenuously contest the claim that this property, bounded by the Ojai Valley Area Plan air emissions standard of 5LB/day, should be carved out. This ‘gerry-mandering’ of the air emissions boundaries is questionable as a legal matter, and contrary to science and changed circumstances in the airshed.

7) If the Planning Director’s decision is considered an entitlement, it must be nullified per NCZO 8111-2.7. This section requires that “zoning clearances and all licenses issued there and all other entitlements shall be null and void for any of the following causes: (a), the application request which was submitted was not in full, true and correct form.” The entitlement should be nullified because it was issued erroneously.

The grounds for nullification are that the application has not submitted a full, true and correct form. The application did not say that the applicant was hopingto contact the Port of Hueneme to enter a contract to provide storage and prep for new cars.  Rather the application said, “The Applicant is proposing to utilize an approximate 19 acre area of the site for a Transportation Services/Vehicle Holding Lot. Ventura County receives large shipments of vehicles for retail dealers at the Port Hueneme harbor. The proposed Transportation Services/Vehicle Holding Lot will allow for the short-term storage of passenger vehicles before they are delivered to various auto dealerships in Ventura County.   The cars are offloaded at the Port Hueneme harbor and would be delivered to the site via auto transporter trucks. They will be stored on the Holding Lot for approximately fourteen to ninety days depending on market conditions. Prior to leaving the site, most vehicles will be prepared to be delivered to the dealerships by removing transportation packaging, rinsing, adding floor mats and off the shelf parts.”

In fact, the Port had no knowledge of the Applicant’s scheme. Applicant’s misleading and false application is cause for nullification.

8) The Project does not have legally clear parcels for the project.

In the Attachment 1– Response to Public Comments PDF on Page 33 of 126 the City of Ventura’s Jan 13, 2017 letter re: the County of Ventura New Project Referral Form for the Petrochem Planned Development Permit illuminates several important points regarding the Petrochem Project’s lot parcels. Certain of these projected claimed parcels are city-owned with railroad right of way easements. This challenges the project’s legal lots claim as well as the claim to compliance with existing City/County General Plan designations and policies.

The city letter states that parcels APN 063-0-120-015 and 063-050-145 were historically designated “Agricultural” during the general re-designation of parcels located within the floodplain sometime in the 80’s prior to SOAR, and were carried over to the 1989 Comprehensive Plan as “Agricultural” parcels and are therefore subject to the 1995 City SOAR and now in the 2005 General Plan will require compliance with the City SOAR initiative as amended by voters Nov. 8, 2016.

Additionally, the city letter goes on to explain that parcels APN 063-0-120-020 and 063-0-050-320 are CITY-OWNED parcels that retain a Railroad Right of Way easement over them. Both parcels have a Parks and Open Space designation within the City of Ventura 2005 General Plan land use diagram because of the Ventura/Ojai Bike Trail. Both are located within the City’s current Sphere of Influence (SOI). Because of the historic use of the Petrochem site, the trail was shifted toward the eastern bank of the Ventura River. Much like the Agricultural properties, the city of Ventura will evaluate for realignment of the open space designation at the time of a major development proposal and annexation, where General Plan designation may be reevaluated for alignment during city review.

9) The project is not in compliance with the City of Ventura’s 2005 General Plan. The County and City have a joint North Ventura Avenue Plan included in both the City and County General Plans. The City Staff letter points out on page 36 of 126 that under the City’s Municipal Zoning that although the City M-2 General Industrial zoning would be appropriate for existing industrial designated parcels, the Open Space or Agricultural designated land would be inconsistent with the M-2 zoning. Any of the current zone designations consistent with both Open Space and Agricultural would not allow the proposed uses under this project.

City staff  urges that future uses should consider consistency with the following 2005 General Plan policies that pertain to the North Avenue Community and the North Ventura Avenue District especially:

Action 1.8  “Buffer barrancas and creeks that retain natural slopes from development according to State and Federal guidelines.”

Action 3.2 “Enhance the appearance of districts, corridors and gateways (including views from highways) through controls on building placement, design elements, and signage.”

The General Plan comment on page 36 of 126 states: Due to the adjacency of the Ventura/Ojai Bike Trail City staff would be concerned regarding the potential aesthetic impact to the public views from the bike trail as well as Crooked Palm Road and Highway 33.

10) The Project does not have a water service agreement with the City of Ventura.

On page 35 of 126 city staff states the city requires an Extraterritorial Water Service Agreement (WSA) for water service outside of city limits.  The staff could not find one for the subject property. Additionally, the rehabilitation of  buildings A, B, C, D, and E, and three storage sheds for storage, equipment maintenance, administration and tenant use are not specific in terms of occupancy. Further evaluation will be necessary to determine the demand and capacity amounts required for water utility service. This means the project does not have a current will-serve water agreement with the City, and that the City will need a more defined project before future water use could be evaluated.

11) The Project is not accurate, stable and finite.

The Ventura Water/city staff are in agreement with the issue raised earlier in this appeal, which is the failure of specificity required to determine water demand and capacity.

12) The Project is redundant, unnecessary and incompatible with adjacent sensitive river habitat areas.

On page 52 of 126 it is stated for the contractor storage/maintenance portion of the project that: “This trip distribution was based on operational data provided by the applicant and a market survey of 76 existing contractor storage yards along the Ventura Avenue Corridor.” While the data gathered in the survey may or may not be relevant for the Petrochem Project proposal, because depending on the size of the other contractor storage yards surveyed daily trips may vary widely – it certainly brings up this question: With 76 existing/functioning Avenue area contractor storage yards, why permit another such over-represented use, particularly on a site that is in such close proximity to the river and mostly located in its 100-year floodplain and where, importantly, the use would be so incompatible with the adjacent sensitive river habitat  and tributary confluence areas?

13) The Applicant’s claims with respect to the drainage channel require further inspection to ensure that there is not upstream connection to a natural stream.

On page 57 of 126 of the Petrochem Project Planned Development Permit Application it states:

“A drainage channel flows through the middle of the project site…  The drainage channel is mostly concrete and lacks riparian vegetation. The extent of the concrete channelized drainage is not considered state waters or non-wetland waters of the U.S. Because the drainage does not have an upstream connection to a natural stream. Therefore the drainage is not regulated under 1602 of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Code administered by the CDFW or Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (CWA) administered by the USACE.”

The “drainage channel” referred to here should be closely inspected to make sure that it does not have an upstream connection to a natural stream. All along the Ventura Avenue valley stream/creek tributaries from the hills to the east and west of the valley make their way to the Ventura River. The partially channelized Canada Larga Creek tributary that flows to the northern portion of the site and the Manuel Canyon Creek tributary that flows to the southern portion of the site are prime examples of such tributaries. This drainage described above as a “mostly concrete channel” should be carefully examined by the County, because if it is similar to the Canada and Manuel tributaries, then it will in fact have an upstream connection and it will therefore be regulated under 1602 of the CDFW Code or Section 404 of the CWA administered by the USACE as are the Canada Larga Creek and Manuel Canyon Creek tributaries.

It should be noted that both the County and City General Plans have policies that promote the restoration to their natural state of  river, stream, barranca waterways and wetland areas where ever it is feasible. Restoration to such waterways, floodplains and wetlands could be feasible on this site. This site could become part of the solution to rectify the past exploitation of the natural river habitat resources, rather than a site with a project that will continue to contaminate and pollute environmentally sensitive habitat areas.

14) The crushing and spreading of concrete throughout the site poses environmental hazards for human health and river ecosystems.

The proposed crushing of existing concrete pads, and of the existing previously removed concrete stockpiles could be environmentally harmful for river ecosystems and human health.

The crushing will put particulates in the air that could spread to the nearby river, river bike trail and residential areas. The concrete itself could be contaminated because it could have been used to cap, or bind contaminated soil, or it could have absorbed contaminants from being exposed to decades of petroleum/chemical refinery uses. Even if the concrete is miraculously free of all of the former refinery’s known human and environmental toxic contaminants that have been identified in/on the soil or leaching into the groundwater under the Petrochem site (such as but not limited to: benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHS), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE), lead, chromium lll and Vl, dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT), and asbestos), crushing and distributing concrete as a road base throughout the project site will potentially silt and contaminate the river with concrete particulate when the particulate dust settles on the river surface and/or crushed particulate is washed into the river during rain of flood events.

15) Construction, oil field equipment storage and maintenance will augment contamination. The project proposes potentially cumulatively compounding site contamination by allowing continuing polluting uses like oilfield equipment storage and maintenance on the site. Oilfield equipment storage/maintenance is associated with these types of potential contaminants: toxic metals, petroleum solvents, chlorinated solvents, semi-volatile hydrocarbons, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PBCs). The project proposes uses that continue to contribute to the cumulative pollution on the Petrochem site.

The highly contaminated Petrochem site has never been cleaned to the background levels like those the site had before the former oil and chemical refinery facilities polluted the site. Although the landowner has participated in a Voluntary Cleanup program where there has been some surface level cleaning, and some cleaning of some of the underground contamination discovered after tank and building removals, there are still portions of the site (according to the 2017 Dudek letter in the staff report ) that still contain known toxic contamination. It should be noted that multiple contaminants remain to date on/under the project site and not just on/under the 10.7 and 0.5 acres not-for-use portions of the site that still have the two spherical tanks.

The remaining contamination on the for-use and the not-for-use portions of the site is of major concern because of the site’s location adjacent to the river, and in the river’s known floodplain,  and in close proximity to the Canada Larga  and Manuel tributary confluences which makes contaminant-transfer to the river much more likely.

16) Environmental Justice for the nearby community has not been considered.

The partial contamination clean-up which has been accomplished to date has been supervised by the USEPA and the SWRCB.  The State Water Board’s involvement in the process points to the concern that groundwater and/or surface water could potentially become contaminated by substances found on this property. Groundwater and surface water contamination could potentially affect human and ecosystem health, raising concerns of environmental inequity and injustice.

The Avenue Area has a large population of minority and low-income persons. Environmental inequity is described by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as the distribution of environmental public health exposures and risks that disproportionally affect minority and low income populations (EPA 2009).

Environmental justice ensures that  people of all socioeconomic backgrounds live, work, and play in healthy environments (EPA 2009). Limited access to recreational open space and a high number of contaminated sites indicates a challenge to create greater environmental equity in the Avenue and North Avenue areas.

17) CEQA requires that alternative uses be examined by the Planning Department. This was not done, although a viable alternative use has been proposed.

The 2008 Lower Ventura River Parkway Plan is a vision plan for the lower Ventura River area. While it is not an officially adopted plan, both the Ventura County Board of Supervisors and the Ventura City Council did endorse the Plan’s river restoration concept.

The Plan’s Purpose reads: “The California River Parkways Act of 2004 and related legislation provides for the establishment of river parkways on lands along rivers or streams. The purpose of river parkways include the protection and improvement and restoration of riverine and riparian open space and wildlife habitat, the provision of opportunities to the public for recreation as well as awareness regarding the conservation of existing developed riverfront land uses into uses consistent with river parkways. This document envisions a plan for a river parkway along the lower Ventura River. The proposed Lower Ventura River Parkway is approximately six miles in length, beginning at the Pacific Ocean and ending upstream at Foster Park.”

It continues: “This document is intended as an analysis, planning, and design tool for government and non-government agencies and the surrounding community who are interested in creating a river parkway that is compatible with recreational use, stewardship, river function, and regional ecosystems.”

Under “Goal” the Plan states: “The project goal for this Vision Plan is to reconnect people to the Lower Ventura River by providing opportunities for recreation, education, and stewardship while protecting and enhancing hydrological and ecosystem resources.”

Under “Objectives” the Plan lists:

  • preserve and expand space for natural river function
  • mitigate the impact of hydrological structures on river function and ensure adequate instream flow
  • protect parkway structures and activities from flood damage
  • improve the quality of surface and groundwater
  • restore and enhance ecosystems
  • enhance biodiversity by reducing harmful impacts
  • increase habitat connectivity
  • manage invasive species
  • improve access to and recreation at the river
  • minimize incompatible land uses near the river and increase cultural awareness of the river through formal and informal education opportunities
  • encourage stewardship of the river

Later it states: “A successful river parkway project on the lower Ventura River can serve as the backbone of environmental infrastructure for the lower watershed for the next century, inspiring the community to value river restoration, protection of ecosystems, access, stewardship, and economic development.”

In conclusion, Appellants ask that the Planning Commission refuse to allow the continued degradation of the Petrochem project site by continued and expanded oilfield uses under the umbrella of a contractor equipment storage and maintenance yard. This use should be rejected. It is not honoring the words or the intent of the City and County General Plans.  It is not honoring the river restoration concept that the Board of Supervisors and the City Council endorsed after the 2008 Lower River Parkway Plan was completed, and before the Ventura River Parkway Trail became one of only about 1500 National Recreation Trails (NRT) in 2014.

Page 123 of the Lower Ventura River Parkway  Plan vision states: “With appropriate corrective action, including bioremediation and sustainable planning and development, underutilized and contaminated sites in close proximity to the Ventura River could provide a variety of uses. A vibrant urban environment connected to enriching recreational open space in natural settings can begin to stitch together an equitable distribution of healthy environments.”

We ask that you look forward toward river restoration –cleaning and correcting the past highly polluting uses on this site. We ask that you consider that this site is also bordered, in close proximity to the north and south, by the Canada Larga and Manual Canyon tributary confluences.

This river adjacent property, its surrounding natural environment, and its surrounding underserved community all deserve more than to allow this site to become a multi-acre parking lot, and contractor equipment/oil field equipment/boat storage and maintenance yard.

This is a unique site that has the River Parkway bike trail running through it. This site deserves to have its contamination remediated and thoroughly cleaned, and its sensitive river and tributary confluence adjacent location celebrated.

Finally, we request that this appeal be regarded as incorporating all prior submissions that are part of the record for this project, including oral and written comments made at public hearings.

For all of the above points of appeal and any others presented at the upcoming Planning Commission Hearing, or by other co-appellants as part of this appeal, the appeal should be granted, and the appellants’ request a full refund of their appeal fees.

Friends 2014 Year End Update

2014 Year End Update

from the Ventura River watershed

National Recreation Trail

In June 2014 the Ventura River Parkway Trail was designated a National Recreation Trail (NRT).  About 100 members of the public attended the dedication as well as many of our elected officials.   This achievement was months in the making with the application and selection process.

Congresswoman Julia Brownley gave our effort a boost by submitting a letter to the National Park Service selection committee in support of our application.  Our trail is now listed in the database of National Recreation Trails online, available to all who are looking for outdoor trail experiences:

Ventura River Parkway Trail

The 16.5-mile Ventura River Parkway Trail includes two major trails: the Ventura River Trail and the Ojai Valley Trail. From the Ventura River Estuary to the City of Ojai, the contiguous corridor of pedestrian and cycling trails, river crossings and public access points reconnects people in city neighborhoods and rural communities to the river. The trail links diverse neighborhoods to nature to give health and fitness benefits to both youth and adult populations.”

This designation is a significant recognition since slightly over 1,200 trails are so designated in the entire United States.  NRT status should assist us in securing future grant funding as we expand and improve the Parkway.

Trail Signage Task Force

A  Friends task force (including representatives from the City, County and conservation groups) will resume work in January to move the Ventura River Parkway Trail signage project forward.   The signage includes 9-1-1 mile markers, the National Recreation Trail logo and the Ventura River Parkway logo.  At this time it is contemplated that the signage will be affixed to the trail at quarter mile increments to aid users in gauging their progress and emergency responders in locating people in need of medical assistance.

The Ventura River Parkway Map

The English version is available at:  City of Ventura Parks & Rec Department, Patagonia Retail Store, Real Cheap Sports, REI, The Mob Shop in Ojai, Open Air Bike Shop, Ventura Visitor’s Center, Ojai Visitor’s Center and a few other outdoor venues.  Our local land conservancies (VHC and OVLC) also have a supply of maps. The Spanish language version is distributed on demand at community events.

Friends of the Ventura River

Friends again joined with the Ventura Hillsides Conservancy and other conservation organizations to host the Annual Picnic at the River in June.  Friends also participated in Ventura Unified’s Summerfest, the City of Ventura’s first annual “Parking Day” and Patagonia’s Salmon Run.  Friends continues to work with the West Ventura Community on access to the Parkway Trail to connect the Westside with the great recreational opportunities that it provides.  It was a busy year for outreach.

Ventura Audubon Society

The Ventura Audubon Society  will hold its Annual Christmas Bird Count on Saturday, January 3, 2015.  The counts take place at various locations in Ventura County.

To sign up to participate or learn more about count locations near you, contact Alexis Frangis at: or Frank DeMartino at

Ojai Valley Land Conservancy

The Ojai Valley Land Conservancy (OVLC) acquired 2 new properties in 2014. One will add 24 acres to the Ventura River Preserve, expanding conservancy lands along the Ventura River Parkway. The land is along the floodplain and has excellent examples of a riparian scrub plant community. This project was made possible by a grant from the California Coastal Conservancy. The property may allow for a future trail route.

A second property, consisting of 165 acres of wild lands in Senior Canyon, surrounded on three sides by The Los Padres National Forest, was purchased at a public auction. The property forms the watershed for Senior Canyon Creek, which is the water source for the Senior Canyon Mutual Water Company. The purchase was made possible by an anonymous donor to the OVLC and a consortium of water company members, and permanently protects this vital water source. It is being conserved as a natural area, so public trails are planned for this site.

In addition to new acquisitions, the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy launched the 1% for Ojai program in 2014. The program is a partnership with local businesses to gather donations to support the acquisition and maintenance of publicly accessible open space and trails. Fifteen businesses have already signed on to help manage open space and trails.

Throughout the Ojai Valley, the OVLC now owns and manages over 2,000 acres of publicly accessible open space. Responsible stewardship of these lands is critical to maintaining the quality of outdoor experiences enjoyed by preserve visitors.  In recognition of the elevated focus on preserve management, the OVLC recently promoted preserve manager Rick Bisaccia to the role of Stewardship Director. Rick will oversee preserve management and develop projects to improve OVLC’s preserves.

Find out about opportunities to volunteer with OVLC.

Ventura Hillsides Conservancy

The Ventura Hillsides Conservancy continues to work with State Parks and a crew of dedicated volunteers to clear illegal camps from State Parks land in the estuary.  The recent rainfall blocked access to the island in the estuary which was the site of many camps and from which tons of waste have been removed via boat to transport it back to the mainland and EJ Harrison dumpsters.  On December 20, VHC partnered with the Sea-Bees and Surfrider to focus on collecting the last few tons of trash from the estuary.

The Conservancy is planning its Wild & Scenic  Film Festival for March 13-14, 2015 and encourages attendees to purchase tickets early since both nights sold out for the 2014 event.

To get involved in restoration & trail building opportunities on Conservancy preserves, contact Dashiell Dunkell at 805-643-8044 or

Matilija Dam Ecosystem Restoration Project

Measured progress is being made to develop a plan for removal of Matilija Dam.  Studies are now underway to resolve the sediment management issues and reduce the cost of the project.  The work is being performed by a combined consultant team from two firms, URS and Stillwater Sciences, both of whom have considerable experience with other major dam removal and river restoration projects in the western United States, including the removal of the dams on the Elwah River and the Condit Dam on the White Salmon River (both in Washington state)..

A report on the study group’s recommendations will be published in early 2015, and interim reports are downloadable at  Stay tuned for more information in 2015.

To see status of the project as of May 2014:  more info

An update from the 2014 Salmonid Conference in Santa Barbara by Paul Jenkin (an approximately 20 minute video).

Ventura River Watershed Planning: Ventura River Watershed Council




The Ventura River Watershed Management Plan Parts 1 and 2 are Approved and available on the Watershed Council Website

The first half of the Ventura River Watershed Management Plan was provisionally approved by the Watershed Council at the November 20, 2014 meeting. Final approval will come when the entire plan is complete.

The Table of Contents, Executive Summary, Part 1 – About this Plan, and Part 2 – Watershed Plan, Projects, and Programs, are now available in pdf format on the Council’s website, capping off two years of intensive work by Lorraine Walter, and her excellent skills at marshaling the assistance of the Ventura River Watershed Council.

Read more about the SAVE MORE WATER campaign.

Read more about the Ventura River Watershed.

Surfrider, Ventura Chapter

Surfrider continues to promote its Ocean Friendly Gardens(OFG) initiative that was identified in a UCSB Bren School graduate thesis as one of the best strategies for water savings in the Ventura River Watershed.  This strategy is especially important during our drought and in preparing for a future with less rainfall.  The results are beautiful (we have incredible native plants), less water is used and more water is able to percolate during rainfall events.

Read more about the OFG campaign.

Santa Barbara Channelkeeper

Santa Barbara Channelkeeper and the Environmental Defense Center (EDC) have entered into an agreement with the owner of the Ojai Quarry to settle the lawsuit filed last year alleging that stormwater management practices at the Quarry were violating requirements of the federal Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act, resulting in polluted runoff that threatened water quality as well as the ability of steelhead to migrate upstream as a necessary part of their life cycle.

Under the agreement, the Quarry has committed to implement a host of best management practices to reduce erosion and runoff and prevent blockages to migration of steelhead from the facility, which will reduce pollution and benefit water quality and fish habitat in North Fork Matilija Creek and the Ventura River. In addition, the Quarry has agreed to donate $60,000 of rock product to South Coast Habitat Restoration for steelhead passage projects in three local creeks.

Check on SB Channelkeepers CALENDAR of events.

Also, along the River…

Ventura County Watershed Protection District (WPD) has continued Arundo removal in both the Ventura River and San Antonio Creek.  A 2014 Prop 84 grant for $896K was received by County WPD together with the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy which will complete Arundo removal in San Antonio Creek, making it the first  watershed in the county to be cleared of Arundo.

The MultiChem facility was shuttered and cleaned-up pursuant to a County enforcement action with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) oversight.  Through the combined enforcement efforts of the US EPA and Ventura County, the Multichem facility has had soil contamination and  most hazardous material clean-up completed, and the petroleum storage tanks and numerous small buildings and pieces of equipment have been removed.  The County and property owner are working on a schedule for removal of remaining equipment.

The San Antonio Creek Spreading Grounds project was completed by the Ventura County WPD which will allow additional stormwater capture and infiltration in a manner that does not compromise downstream habitat values.

Biofiltration Project – Ventura County received grant funding in the amount of $1 million for a large-scale storm water biofiltration project in the Meiners Oaks area to be completed in conjunction with the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy.  It also includes a community outreach-education program on Ocean Friendly Gardens (OFG)  in conjunction with the Ventura Chapter of Surfrider.

Southern Steelhead – The first Southern Steelhead Restoration conference was held in Ventura, with field trips led by knowledgable conservationists for participants and elected officials to locations of interest in the Ventura River Watershed.


Friends of the Ventura River is a coalition of community groups and individuals who recognize the need for the protection and enhancement of the Ventura River watershed to improve our quality of life and ensure our future sustainability.

We invite you to visit our website at – this is a place for friends to post their ideas, concerns, and activities and provide for a community forum about the river in our backyard.

Please contact Paul ( or Diane ( to find out how you or your organization can get involved!

The Ventura River Parkway Trail — now a National Recreation Trail!

Hi Friends!

National Trails Day was a great day for the Friends of the Ventura River and our efforts to restore the Ventura River and reconnect people to the river. The Ventura Hillsides Conservancy (VHC) did a fabulous job hosting the event.  (Lee Sherman and Derek Poultney were recognized for all of the amazing the work they do.)

The Ventura River Parkway Trail combines the Ventura River Trail with the Ojai Valley Trail giving bikers and hikers a great 16.5-mile trail connecting the estuary in Ventura to the Los Padres National Forest above Ojai.

Patrick Johnston from the National Parks Service (our hero from the recent Friends of the Ventura River NPS -Rivers and Trails Conservation Assistance grant and mastermind behind our fabulous foldout Ventura River Parkway Trail Guide –Thank you Patrick!) read a letter from his boss, US Interior Secretary Sally Jewell officially designating the trail as a National Recreation Trail.

“This is a really big deal” as Paul Jenkin states in the Anne Kallas article link below.  “We are now one of only about 1200 trails in the United States that are put on a list of designated travel spots. We’re really trying to shine a spotlight on the importance of this river and watershed. It is our water supply and our life blood.”

Over a hundred people attended the celebration event at VHC’s Big Rock Preserve including members of Girl Scout Troop 60718 who helped tidy up the area before the dedication event.  Their presence reminded all of the adults in attendance why we need to work so hard to preserve these natural areas and trails for future generations.

It was wonderful that US Congresswoman Julia Brownley, State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, State Assembly-member Das Williams, Brian Brennan (from Supervisor Steve Bennett’s office–Steve was out of state), City Council Member Carl Morehouse, Director of County Parks Ron Van Dyke all took the podium to celebrate this achievement and the ongoing grass roots efforts that will help restore the Ventura River for the generations to come. (Among other things Carl mentioned the Westside Council efforts to reconnect to the river while Ron mentioned recent County/Ojai Valley Land Conservancy accomplishments eliminating a fish passage barrier in the Ventura River.)

It was delightful that as we all gathered to celebrate the Ventura River Parkway Trail being recognized as a National Recreation Trail that bikers and hikers actually enjoying the trail continued to pass through sometimes at just the perfect moment in a speech making me want to shout out “Cue the bikers!” as if it had all been orchestrated and planned. And maybe it was.  As Das Williams, delayed at a previous engagement jogs down the path just a VHC President David Comden is calling him to the podium by saying something clever to the effect of, “And now, the only speaker today who actually had to break sweat to get here…”

At one point in her talk Hannah-Beth stated that “it takes a village” to move projects like these along. And I would like to note that without help from these elected officials and public servants at critical junctures along the way, it would be difficult for the Friends of Ventura River coalition to have accomplished so much in such a relatively short time.  I say relatively short, but that might not be correct. In talking with Mark Capelli, the original “Friend of the Ventura River” (We couldn’t afford the “s” he quipped.) and listening to he and Kathy Bremer (who had worked at Patagonia when “Friends” first began and is now a City Parks and Recreation commissioner) reminisce about events 30 years ago, it hammered home to me that it indeed has been a long haul.

The quote by Margaret Mead springs to mind: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”  And, yet again, now with such a large FoVR coalition pitching in together to get the job(s) done I also think of the old adage “Many hands makes light work.”

During the dedication event REI awarded a generous $8000 grant to VHC to continue their river restoration work and Patrick Johnston brought and VHC installed the first National Recreation Trail logo marker to a sign marking the Big Rock Preserve. (Patrick also brought plaques for the City of Ventura and the County of Ventura the co-applicants in getting the Parkway Trail officially recognized as a National Recreational Trail.)

Also recognized during the ceremony were VHC, Mark Capelli (our original “Friend”) and the Friends of the Ventura River.  I had the honor of accepting the certificate for FoVR for all of the Friends who were there and those of you who were with us in spirit.  The June 7, 2014 Certificate of Recognition from the State of California Senate reads:

“Presented to the Friends of the Ventura River in recognition of your dedication and commitment to our community, and protecting our valuable natural resources; and upon receiving A National Recreational Trail Designation for the Ventura River Parkway.” Signed by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson.

So congratulations FoVR, with a special shout out to our Ventura City Parks Department and Ventura County Parks Department and to our own Kathy Bremer for aiding the application through the process and to all of those elected officials and public servants and FoVR groups who wrote letters of support.  JOB WELL DONE!

So, it was, as Julia Brownley so aptly pointed out, “like every day in Ventura County, its a perfect day…” and everyone celebrated the NRT recognition and left with lifted spirits and incentive to expand and re-double our efforts to restore and enhance the Ventura River and its parkway trail.  The NRT recognition will help all of our FoVR groups in their efforts on behalf of the river, its ecosystems and the parkway.

Thanks everyone for staying involved!


To read Anne Kallas’ great article in Sunday’s VC Star “On the path to restoring river” covering the NRT event:—trail_day/



Ventura River Parkway Designated as a National Recreation Trail

Ventura Hillsides Conservancy to host NATIONAL TRAILS DAY® celebration along the Ventura River Parkway Trail Saturday, June 7 – 11am – 2pm

The Ventura Hillsides Conservancy and Friends of the Ventura River will be celebrating National Trails Day® on Saturday, June 7 from 11AM-2PM at the Conservancy’s Big Rock Preserve just south of Foster Park along the Ventura River Parkway Trail bike path.  American Hiking Society’s National Trails Day® is a nationally recognized trail awareness program that occurs annually on the first Saturday of June and inspires the public to discover, learn about, and celebrate trails while participating in outdoor activities, clinics, and trail stewardship projects. National Trails Day® is a registered trademark of American Hiking Society.

The Ventura River Parkway Trail (Ventura River Trail and Ojai Valley Trail) is being recognized as a National Recreation Trail by the National Park Service. The National Recreation Trails program works to preserve and celebrate our nation’s pathways.  Over 1,200 trails in all 50 states, available for public use, ranging from less than a mile to 485 miles in length, have been designated as NRTs on federal, state, municipal, and privately owned lands.

Volunteers will be working on trail clearing and sign installation from 11AM to 12PM.  A trail dedication ceremony and REI grant award presentation is planned for 12PM followed by guided tours of the property and a raffle.  The Conservancy’s preserve offers trail users access to the Ventura River and the Big Rock swimming hole.  The event is free and open to the public.


Ocean Friendly Gardens Event on February 1, 2014

Ocean Friendly Gardens (OFG) Event held Saturday, February 1, 10am-Noon.  Patagonia Firehouse.

Community Garden at Westpark

Ventura County Surfrider’s Ocean Friendly Gardens, The Westside Ventura Community Council, Restore Ventura, Friends of the Ventura River, and Patagonia joined forces for the Westside Garden Walk/Lawn Patrol!

Keynote speaker Paul Jenkin presented issues and solutions with respect to the Ventura River and Santa Clara watersheds.  Following the presentation the assembled group toured the Patagonia grounds and learned about some of the water harvesting solutions Patagonia has implemented.  Following this, the group walked up Olive St. and the bike path to see Ocean Friendly Gardens in action in the community.  Julian DeAnda at the City of Ventura supplied details of a swale project which will be implemented at Westpark.  The group saw a number of examples of positive change.
The tour ended at the home of the Gallegos family, where we shared an impromptu salad picked from local gardens.
Ocean Friendly Gardens prevent runoff by investing rainwater in “sponge gardens”, and using that water to grow native plants and food.  Find out more!

Stay tuned for more OFG events in the future!

January 14, 2014 Friends Meeting Agenda



Tuesday January 14, 2014


from 4:30-6:30



  1. Brian Segee of Evironmental Defense Center (EDC) to discuss EDC and watershed protection.
  2. Discussion on the current drought conditions in the Ventura River Watershed
  3. Discussion of FOVR near to mid-term goals as included in the Watershed Management Plan and next steps: Ventura River Parkway – Parkway Sign Design. Develop a framework for interpretive and way finding signage along the Parkway that reflects both local jurisdiction and the regional nature of the Parkway. Ventura River Parkway – Acquisition and Restoration.  Identify further opportunities for acquisition of Parkway lands. Continue to prioritize restoration efforts along the Parkway. Ventura River Parkway – Community Education. Refine and expand community outreach and education. Emphasize K-12 education and Spanish language programs. Identify appropriate education and outreach partnerships for the Parkway.
  4. Organize work group to work on Parkway signage, design, content, placement and permitting.
  5. Discuss Ocean Friendly Gardens (OFG) concepts & Westside OFG Tour for Feb. 1, 2014.
  6. Ventura River Trail Guide– has been updated to include map of downtown Ojai in next print run.
  7. Spanish language translation Ventura River Trail Guide –The Westside Heal Zone has granted $1000 toward printing of the Spanish language map with FOVR funds making up the print run difference.
  8. Update on Ventura Watershed Council re: public outreach to Spanish-speaking community. (One of Ventura Watershed Council’s grant deliverables is to hold an outreach meeting on our watershed management plan process with our Spanish-speaking residents.)
  9. Update on following grant applications:
  • National Recreational Trails application
  • SCC climate change grant application.
  • Least Bell’s Vireo restoration in Ventura River habitat for 2014.

Updates from other FoVR groups.

If any individual or group would like to make comments on the scope of the SB4 required EIR on hydraulic fracturing, acidization or other well stimulation methods they must be submitted by Jan 16, 2014 to the DOGGR commission at:

Other business or announcements

Adjournment no later than 6:30 Thank you everyone for staying involved!