In 2019, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife provided VCPWA-WP with a $13.4 million grant to fully fund the Santa Ana Boulevard Bridge Replacement Project, the first essential implementation component of the Matilija Dam Ecosystem Restoration Project (and its first on-the-ground investment since 2009).
The new, longer and taller replacement bridge would replace an older bridge near Oak View that created a bottleneck in the Ventura River, narrowing the channel and constricting the floodplain so that sand and gravel would accumulate immediately upstream during large storm events. These deposits required frequent mechanical removal, causing environmental concerns and resulting in high maintenance costs.
On June 7, 2021 VCPWA Watershed Protection and Roads & Transportation celebrated the start of construction on the bridge replacement project with a groundbreaking ceremony that included opening remarks by 1st District Supervisor Matt LaVere. Work on the new bridge continued at a rapid pace through November 2021, paused for several months that winter, then picked up again in March 2022. By June the new bridge was open to traffic in both directions, even as fine tuning continued; and by the end of August removal of the old bridge was also complete.
On October 17, 2022 VCPWA hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the official opening of the new Santa Ana Boulevard Bridge. The event was attended by local, state and federal officials as well as Matilija Project supporters and partners. Site clean-up and channel rehabilitation are currently underway, with final project completion anticipated by the end of 2022.
The New Bridge
The new bridge is 50 percent longer than the old bridge, an increase that will partially restore the Ventura River’s natural channel capacity. Widening the river at this location will improve natural sediment transport and increase flood flow capacity, boosting migration and improving habitat for the federally-endangered southern California steelhead and other species. Increased capacity for high flows and sediment transport before, during and after Matilija Dam removal will also allow sand, gravel and cobbles to move more naturally into the lower Ventura River, helping to sustain downstream wetland, estuarine and near-shore habitats.