The Santa Ana Boulevard Bridge Replacement Project is a great example of this important stakeholder collaboration and a critical step towards the complete removal of Matilija Dam.
Ventura County Public Works hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony on October 17, 2022 to celebrate the Santa Ana Boulevard Bridge replacement. This new bridge brings us one step closer to a restored Ventura River watershed.
CalTrout, as a part of the Matilija Coalition, along with Surfrider, Patagonia, Resources Legacy Fund, and Ojai Valley Land Conservancy worked together to help Ventura County Public Works secure $13 million to replace the Santa Ana Boulevard bridge. The new bridge provides community benefits including wider traffic lanes, earthquake safety updating, and an expanded sidewalk. The updated bridge also addresses a known section of the river where sediment collects hindering passage for endangered Southern California steelhead.
“Dam removal is not a one step process.” said Russell Marlow, CalTrout Ventura Senior Project Manager. “Before we can start taking Matilija dam down, there is a collection of other downstream infrastructure projects we need to first complete . This bridge replacement is one of those projects. Its completion sets the stage for dam removal, and it builds our momentum towards a restored and free flowing Ventura River.” Representing CalTrout, Marlow is a part of the Matilija Coalition which brings many stakeholders together to advocate for the Matilija Dam Ecosystem Restoration Project (MDERP).
Constructed 75 years ago, Matilija Dam has since completely filled in with sediment rendering it useless for its designed purposes of water storage and flood control. Since construction, the dam has completely disrupted the movement of much needed sediment to the lower watershed, estuary, and beaches. Matilija dam is also a complete barrier to the migration of endangered Southern steelhead, disconnecting these fish from over 20 miles of perennial headwater stream habitat needed for spawning, rearing, and forging.
Restoration of the ecosystem will culminate in dam removal, but before the dam can come down a variety of downstream facilities and infrastructure must be updated to accommodate the anticipated changes in sediment transport, natural river flow and community safety. Planning for the replacement of Camino Cielo bridge and updating several levees are next up.
The bridges are being built, and with it our project momentum: Matilija Dam is coming down.
Cover Photo: Santa Ana Boulevard Bridge. Credit: Russell Marlow.