Public Works Agency earns grant for the Matilija Dam Ecosystem Restoration Project

VENTURA, Calif. – The Public Works Agency Watershed Protection District has been awarded a $3.3 million grant on behalf of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife for the Matilija Dam Ecosystem Restoration Project.

The project was one of 44 projects selected to receive funding from its Water Quality, Supply and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014 (Prop 1) Restoration Grants Program. The Matilija Dam Ecosystem Restoration Project was the second-highest award in the state in the Watershed Restoration Grant Program category. The scope of the Matilija Dam Removal grant includes 65 percent of the design for the dam’s removal and all downstream project components, as well as environmental compliance and permitting.

In October, Congresswoman Julia Brownley, Supervisor Steve Bennett and Secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency John Laird, joined the Watershed Protection District and other stakeholders to discuss a plan for the removal of the Matilija Dam due to its adverse impact on the local ecosystem and sediment build-up that has rendered the structure obsolete.

Watershed Protection District Deputy Director Peter Sheydayi said the District has been actively involved in the removal of Matilija Dam since 1999. Today, 27 percent of the original steelhead spawning habitat in the Ventura River watershed lies behind the dam. A successfully completed project would remove the Matilija Dam and facilitate the natural flow of sand and sediment from the mountains to the beaches, also allowing the endangered steelhead trout to reach habitat upstream of the dam site.

“The Watershed Protection District is grateful to receive this funding from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife,” said Sheydayi. “Our progress on this project would not be possible without the support of several valued stakeholders. We look forward to continuing this work with our partners to reach our goal to improve the natural habitat along the Ventura River and Matilija Creek.”

Matilija Dam was built in 1947 on the Ventura River to provide a local water supply and flood protection for surrounding communities. However, over the past 70 years, sediment build-up behind the dam has significantly undermined the structure’s intended functions.

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