Public Works Agency earns Environmental Engineering Project of the Year award

VENTURA, Calif. – The Public Works Agency has won the Environmental Engineering Project of the Year award from the Los Angeles Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers. The project was the agency’s Happy Valley Bioswale Urban Low Impact Development Retrofit.

The stormwater treatment retrofit in Meiners Oaks is a project of the agency’s Watershed Protection District, and was led by Stormwater Program Manager Ewelina Mutkowska and the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy. The project was recognized for benefiting the community, enhancing watershed health, integration of land and water resources management, its application of engineering principals, overcoming challenges and effective collaboration between a public agency and a land conservancy.

The Watershed Protection District designed and constructed the Happy Valley Bioswale, which is an enhanced vegetated swale, to reduce urban runoff pollutant loading to the Happy Valley Drain, a tributary of the Ventura River. A swale is a shallow, trough-like depression that carries water, mainly during rainstorms.

Located in the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy’s Ojai Valley Meadows Preserve, the bioswale was installed to meet state water quality objectives, but also provides a safe habitat for wildlife among the native plants included in the design. The project blends elements of engineering and natural biological processes to remove a variety of pollutants from urban stormwater runoff while supporting natural habitats. The improvement will benefit aquatic life and recreational users by reducing high nitrogen levels which can cause excessive algae growth and deplete oxygen in the water. The stormwater catchment area covers about 40 percent of the urban area of Meiners Oaks.

“It is a great honor for our work in the Meiners Oaks community to be recognized,” said Mutkowska. “The project represents the future of urban stormwater management, and we look forward to applying these strategies and techniques to forthcoming county projects.”

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