Environment

Matilija Dam one step closer to coming down

Matilija Dam and Restoration Project

OJAI, Calif. - The Matilija Dam in Ojai will soon become a thing of the past.  The main reason why officials plan on tearing the Matilija Dam down is because it is no longer useful.

Plans to tear down the Matilija Dam have been in the works since 1999, but the process has been long delayed because of questions on exactly how and then who's going to pay for it.  Elected officials and community stakeholders gathered at the dam Thursday located off Highway 33 in Ojai to work on strategies and specific plans for funding and actions needed to remove the dam and get rid of the built up sediment.

The dam was originally built in Matilija Canyon in 1947 to provide a local water supply and flood protection for the nearby communities. However, over the last 70 years it has lost its usefulness.

"It is mostly silted up.  It has out lived its usefulness.  It no longer serves for flood control or water supply for the region and at the same time it blocks fish from coming up so this fits with the statewide priority of trying to deal with these old situations," said Secretary of California Natural Resources Agency John Laird.

"The dam has no real benefit today.  The dam has 8-million cubic yards of sediment behind it and that sediment takes away both the water supply and from the flood protection that were originally envisioned, and so it really has no purpose," said Peter Sheydayi, Ventura County Watershed Protection District Interim Director.

The goal is that removing the dam will improve the natural habitat along Matilija Creek and the Ventura River.

"Ultimately if this is restored it will move sand back out to the beaches, Steelhead will come back out here to fawn.  It is a win-win all the way around," said Congresswoman Julia Brownley.

The plan on how to remove the dam has already been chosen, but its physical deconstruction start date depends on funding.

The plan calls for boring two tunnels at the base of the dam and blasting open those holes during a big storm, allowing a lot of the fine sediment to wash through.  Once the sediment washes through, the dam would start being physically removed.  To offset any impacts from a high flow event, after the dam is removed nearby levees and bridges would be improved.


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