Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Matilija Dam removal might be postponed

Expand Messages
  • Paul Jenkin
    Matilija Dam removal might be postponed Letter says project is not high on Bush administration s funding list By Tony Biasotti,
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 27, 2007

      Matilija Dam removal might be postponed

      Letter says project is not high on Bush administration's funding list

      By Tony Biasotti, tbiasotti@...
      January 27, 2007

      The expected demise of Matilija Dam has been pushed a little further into the future, as doubts persist about the federal government's enthusiasm for paying its share of the $130 million project.

      During Tuesday's Ventura County Board of Supervisors meeting, Supervisor John Flynn read from a letter sent in November from the White House Office of Management and Budget to the Pentagon, which, under the Army Corps of Engineers, would head the dam-removal project.

      In the letter, a deputy associate director told the assistant secretary of the Army for civil works that the project "does not rank high" on the Bush administration's criteria for funding.

      "It doesn't put the project in a good light right now, when they write a letter like that," Flynn said Thursday. "The project right now, with this administration, is in trouble."

      Others close to the project say the letter doesn't reveal anything new, and doesn't change the dam removal's chances for federal funding.

      In fact, the letter is actually "a step in the right direction," said Darrell Buxton, the Army Corps of Engineers project manager for Matilija Dam.

      That's because the letter also says the Office of Management and Budget "will not object to submitting this report (on the Matilija Dam project) to Congress." That allows the Army Corps of Engineers to submit a feasibility study to Congress and ask for money to continue the project.

      "It's a huge success to get that from OMB, that permission to go ahead," said county Supervisor Steve Bennett. The dam, on Matilija Creek northwest of Ojai, is in Bennett's district.

      The best-case scenario would result in dam removal in late 2011 or 2012, Bennett said. That's about a year later than project advocates were hoping for back in 2005.

      "I think the chances of the project being funded are very good, but it will take longer than we had hoped," he said.

      Advocates say tearing down the obsolete dam would bring the Ventura River closer to its natural state, restore dwindling habitat for steelhead trout, and prevent beach erosion by allowing sand to wash downstream to Ventura.

      Since the dam was built in 1947, 6 million cubic yards of sediment have built up behind it, and the reservoir now holds less than 10 percent of the water it once did.

      County and federal agencies began talking about removing the dam in the late 1990s. They've already spent $4 million studying the feasibility of removal, and they've begun the $4 million task of planning the project.

      The entire project will cost about $130 million, Bennett said, with the federal government paying 65 percent of the bill and the state paying most of the rest.

      Congress has allocated money for the Army Corps of Engineers' work so far, through annual energy and water legislation. For its final authorization, the project must be included in a major waterways bill, which has died twice in Congress in recent years.

      Even that authorization wouldn't pay for the project; Congress would still have to fund it through its annual appropriations bills.

      Bennett said Hurricane Katrina might have shifted the federal government's priorities toward flood-control projects instead of habitat restoration, making it harder for the Matilija Dam removal to get funded.

      "If faced with a real public safety issue, it's understandable that you're going to find Congress voting for those issues," Bennett said. "What most likely would happen is they would postpone our project."

      Paul Jenkin
      Environmental Director
      Surfrider Foundation Ventura County Chapter
      Coordinator, Matilija Coalition
      (805) 648-4005   pjenkin@...

    Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.