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Dam Removal Moves Forward

September 07, 2006|Catherine Saillant | Times Staff Writer

An ambitious plan to tear down the 198-foot-high Matilija Dam in Ventura County moved past the design phase Wednesday with the announcement of a $5-million state grant to prepare the site for the removal.

The money will be used to tear out invasive weeds that are choking the Ventura River and to relocate two water wells, Ventura County Supervisor Steve Bennett said.

The 58-year-old dam is northwest of Ojai.

Moving the wells, which provide water to Ventura residents, will remove them from harm's way when the river is once again free flowing and will ensure water quality, Bennett said.

Ventura County's watershed managers had participated in a highly competitive process to secure the grant, Bennett said. The money comes from voter-approved Propositions 40 and 50, which support conservation efforts.

Parallel efforts are underway at the federal level to move the project forward, he said.

"It's demonstrates how much momentum at the state and federal level there is for this restoration," Bennett said.

The dam's removal has been studied for more than a decade and is estimated to cost $130 million, according to a 2004 federal study.

Officials say the Matilija Reservoir is nearly filled with sediment, making it obsolete. Removing the dam would restore the Ventura River's ecosystem, replenish fish stocks and bring much-needed sand to Ventura's beaches.

catherine.saillant@latimes.com

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