This project will develop an integrated voluntary strategy to complement the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) instream flow targets and address water and resource depletion in a landscape shaped by prolonged drought and unprecedented wildfire and erosional events. Situated in a National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) “Core One” designated watershed, this effort will coalesce and streamline piecemeal, disconnected streamflow enhancement and water resource planning initiatives throughout the Ventura River Watershed into a coordinated, voluntary framework while providing updates for the Ventura River Watershed Council’s (VRWC) 2015 Ventura River Watershed Management Plan (VRWMP).
This Framework project will utilize best available science, a high functioning Project Team with over 300 years combined experience, as well as stakeholder involvement, to maximize instream water resources in a holistic, watershed-wide manner. It will fill a known critical gap for the VRWMP update by including identified instream flow strategies, and related “on ground” toolkits and stakeholder proposed actions. Building on the recent momentum of collaborations between key water agencies and local jurisdictions, this framework will coalesce and synthesize opportunities, thus optimizing efficiencies by streamlining efforts and interactions between organizations to maximize watershed resources for instream flow enhancements (IFE) and water availability.
The Ventura Watershed Instream Flow Enhancement and Water Resiliency Regional Framework planning project will provide needed partnerships, tools and immediate action plans to remove barriers and address critical focus areas for Watershed managers and landowners including: instream flow and fisheries vulnerabilities, urgent water resource depletion, pace and scale of upper watershed restoration, and climate change impacts.
Through the WCB 2017 Integrated Water Strategies (IWS) Planning Project (currently underway), key planning elements have been identified which, when integrated by this proposed Framework project, will generate 100% design plans and permitting to deliver 24 regional implementation-ready projects that will contribute additional 3,800 Acre Feet Per Year (AFY) to instream flow and multi-beneficial uses.
VRIF Project Overview
The Ventura Watershed Instream Flow Enhancement and Water Resiliency Regional Framework will be scalable and immediately applicable at the statewide level. This project will serve as a template that models instream flow target guidance for other ephemeral watersheds through three tasks:
- Capitalizing on direct and early engagement with the SWRCB/California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Instream Flow teams will add strategy integration to ensure transparency and clear communication regarding upcoming regulatory actions and barriers
2. A Ventura Watershed Safe Harbor Guidance Framework will add due diligence, indemnification, and incentives for landowners and water managers to exercise tools relating to instream flow enhancements
3. Local outreach and education will be critical to the long term success and broadscale implementation of this collaborative framework.
A project dashboard visual/spatial web portal that is scalable for this project and other environmental projects around the state will be created. The Dashboard can be independently utilized by school age children for science projects or further watershed knowledge and serve as a portal available to water agencies to understand the balance of their coordinated actions on environmental flows within the watershed.
By empowering and defining a new water future, framed by local, innovative water managers and landowners, this project models the critical mutualistic vision for healthy anadromous fisheries, ecosystem benefits resilient to climate change, and sustainable, healthy communities for generations to come.