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The Ventura River Project

The Ventura River Project, in southern California is on the coast about 60 miles northwest of Los Angeles. The 90,000-acre project area is fan-shaped--the main Ventura River Valley runs north-south from the Topatopa Mountains down to the Pacific and several side valleys drained by tributaries of the Ventura River funnel into the main basin from the east and west. An additional strip of project land (Rincon) lies parallel with and outside of the basin along the Pacific coast northwest of the city of Ventura.

Authorized in 1956, the Ventura River Project was the third and last of three large-scale Federal water projects in the region. These "seacoast projects"capture the seasonal floodwaters that would otherwise "waste to the sea." Further south and east down the coast from the prior-constructed Cachuma and Santa Maria Projects.

Only 30 percent of the rugged and mountainous project area is considered developable. The district is highly urbanized along the coast. The project furnishes an irrigation water supply to about 15,200 irrigable acres of land, and municipal and industrial water to approximately 40,000 users in urban and suburban areas within the Casitas Municipal Water District (formerly the Ventura River Municipal Water District).

The Ventura River and its tributaries are the main water sources for the project. The Ventura River bisects the lower, southern portion of this area, flowing for about sixteen miles from its formation at the confluence of Matilija Creek and the North Fork of Matilija Creek to the Pacific Ocean. The river's coastal inlet lies at the western edge of the city of Ventura, the largest town in the project area. Its two principal tributaries are San Antonio Creek from the east and Coyote Creek from the west. The annual average flow of the Ventura River is 13,600 acre-feet. It is a highly fluctuating, intermittent stream, running usually only in the winter month's "wet season." The area averages 14 inches of precipitation per year, with ranges varying from 5 to 40 inches.

The Ventura River Project comprises a storage reservoir on Coyote Creek, a diversion dam on the Ventura River, a canal to carry water from the diversion dam to the reservoir, and a high-pressure pipeline distribution system. The distribution system has pumping plants and balancing reservoirs to distribute the water from Lake Casitas to the various areas within the project for irrigation, municipal, and industrial uses. The project also uses water from Matilija Dam, built by Ventura County and placed in operation in 1948.