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Statement of Purpose


Removing Matilija Dam:

Final Design:

Feasibility Study:

Early Progress:

Background Information:

About the Matilija Coalition:

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Dams kill rivers: by preventing the passage of ocean-going fish, dams cut off the only known mechanism for renourishing nutrient poor coastal watersheds from the oceans.

The decline of the Southern Steelhead within the Ventura River watershed indicate the decline of an ecosystem that reaches from the wilderness areas of the coast mountain range to the Pacific Ocean. Scientists have shown that salmon in the Pacific Northwest play a key role in watershed health, including the food chain of more than 137 separate species. Salmon declines, according to the research, trigger cascading declines of many of the ecosystems major food chains.

In a similar manner, the Ventura River ecosystem once supported 23 species of special concern, 9 of which are endangered, 2 are threatened, and 2 are under full protection. In addition to the steelhead, these species include the California condor, California red-legged frog, Brown pelican, and the ringtail. Removal of Matilija Dam will provide fish passage to historic breeding waters in the upper watershed, and greatly enhance the opportunities for restored habitat for the other species of concern.

California's steelhead restoration plan indicates that historically the Ventura River probably had one of the largest runs of steelhead in southern California-and that restoring the Ventura runs will be critical for steelhead recovery in the region. Scientists consider the southern steelhead a genetically distinct fish species, the parent of all steelhead on the Pacific Coast.

Steelhead Trout

Southern Steelhead Trout:

  • 1940 population estimated at over 5,000
  • 1997: southern steelhead were declared Endangered Species, August 1997
  • 2000 population less than 200
  • 50% of the Ventura River's historic anadromous steelhead habitat is obstructed by Matilija Dam
  • 85% of existing habitat lie behind Matilija Dam (due to degradation of the lower reaches of the Ventura River)

Historic Salmonid habitat on the Ventura River System:

Salmonid habitat on Ventura River

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Page last updated: May 2002