Challenge of Zero Trash Goal in the Ventura River Estuary
Ventura River Estuary Trash Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), effective since March 2008, has been a learning experience for all involved Responsible Parties including municipalities, State Departments, and Ag Dischargers.
Implementation of the Trash TMDL was commenced by designing Best Management Practices/ Minimum Frequency Assessment and Collection (BMP/MFAC) Program with a goal to address both point-source and non-point source trash reduction requirements. In 2009 when BMP/MFAC field activities were initiated, it became clear that the non-point source pollution from homeless encampments present within the estuary are the main trash source and no progress can be made until they are addressed.
The Countywide Homeless Task Force has been established to address homeless issues in Ventura River and other watersheds. In a meantime, the TMDL Responsible Parties started implementing BMPs including installation of the full trash capture devices to meet TMDL interim and final wasteload allocations for point sources. Regular limited clean-ups and major clean-ups and camp removal events were conducted at the selected properties combined with removal of non-native arundo to eliminate natural sheltering conditions. The homeless residents of the estuary moved to other adjacent properties and occasional re-establishments occurred. It was clear that coordinated and sustained effort is needed to make a significant and lasting difference.
In 2012, a non-profit organization Ventura Hillside Conservancy, purchased one of the private properties within estuary and in about a year, conducted a successful cleanup of the property by organizing regular volunteer cleanup events and frequent patrols. Impressed by the effort and relying on VHC staff experience, the Responsible Parties established a memorandum of agreement with VHC to oversee and organize volunteer cleanups within the whole estuary. Funding for this effort became available after Regional Water Quality Control Board-Los Angeles Region staff agreed to replace labor intensive quantitative monitoring requirements with weekly patrols, monthly volunteer cleanups and quarterly visual observations to document the progress or note where additional work is needed. In late 2014, the whole eastern side of the estuary was clean. The more challenging western part has been almost completed; however the process is more challenging and requiring strong enforcement support. The clean and restored areas within the estuary created a habitat with new sightings of birds and wildlife observed. The VHC staff has been able to organize safe tours for many interested visitors and residents of Ventura County.
By March 2016, all point source dischargers will complete 100% installation of full capture devices to meet TMDL requirements. The on-going patrols, volunteer clean-ups and assessments will continue to maintain the estuary free of homeless encampments and trash.
This presentation will include monitoring data, visual aids and photos of volunteer efforts and an amazing transformation of the estuary conditions.