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Environment

Start of Santa Ana Bridge replacement project brings Ventura County one step closer to removing Matilija Dam

Ventura County Public Works Agency

VENTURA COUNTY, Calif. - The Ventura County Public Works Agency commemorated the start of the Santa Ana Boulevard Bridge replacement project with a groundbreaking ceremony Monday afternoon.

The ceremony took place at 2 p.m. and was attended by the county supervisor, Matt LaVere, as well as representatives from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and California State Coastal Conservancy.

“The construction of the Santa Ana Bridge replacement is really the gateway to the removal of Matilija Dam,” said Glenn Shephard, Director of VCPWA-Watershed Protection. “This new, wider, longer and taller replacement bridge will enhance sediment transport, reduce the need for maintenance after major storm events, and improve migration up and down the Ventura River for the federally-endangered southern California steelhead.”  

The aim of the project is to replace the existing Santa Ana Boulevard Bridge with a 350‐foot‐long, three‐span bridge which will be built just upstream from the existing bridge.  

The new bridge is set to meet current seismic standards and provide a greater flow area for storm flows and sediment to pass through after the Matilija Dam is removed. The county said this will also allow endangered steelhead trout to pass through easier.   

“Removing Matilija Dam is essential to the long-term health of the Ventura River watershed,” said Sam Schuchat, Executive Officer of California State Coastal Conservancy. “Replacing the Santa Ana Boulevard Bridge will not only improve infrastructure in the Ojai Valley, it moves us significantly closer to taking down the dam.”  

In addition, the county said the new bridge will have a 4-foot-wide sidewalk across its north side and shoulders on both sides of the road as it approaches the bridge. 

“There is a lot of anticipation around the removal of the Matilija Dam and with replacement of the bridge, we can finally begin to see the plan coming to fruition,” said Supervisor LaVere. “We are excited to begin this phase of the project to not only ensure the safety of our residents in Ventura County, but our endangered wildlife as well.”  

Construction of the project is expected to cost about $11.5 million and will mostly be funded by grants from Proposition 1— Watershed Restoration and Proposition 68 –Southern California Steelhead Program.

Design for this project was funded by the California State Coastal Conservancy, right of way acquisition was funded by the Resources Legacy Fund, and construction is funded by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. 

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Jessica Brest

Jessica Brest is a digital journalist and assignment editor for NewsChannel 3-12. To learn more about Jessica, click here.

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