The Freeman Diversion facility is a critical component of UCWD’s mission to manage and enhance the region’s natural resources.
UCWD built the Freeman Diversion to redirect water from the Santa Clara River to spreading basins for groundwater recharge. The 25-foot-high Vern Freeman Diversion spans 1,200 feet across the Santa Clara River.
The facility includes a fish ladder, which allows unimpeded migration of steelhead trout upstream, and a screened fish bay, which keeps fish out of the canals and recharge basins.
Since its construction in 1991, the facility has diverted an average of 60,000 acre-feet a year for groundwater recharge, replenishing the aquifers beneath the Oxnard Plain and slowing seawater intrusion beneath 50,000 acres of productive prime agricultural lands.
The water that UWCD diverts to recharge groundwater also benefits municipal users in the cities of Oxnard, Port Hueneme and Ventura, which have wells that draw on those aquifers.
THE FREEMAN DIVERSION IS VITAL FOR THE REGION
Supports more than 377,000 PEOPLE who depend on the aquifers that UWCD recharges through the facility
Sustains $1.08 BILLION in annual crop production in Ventura County
Supports 16,800 JOBS and $994 MILLION in direct and indirect agriculture income
Provides water for an agriculture industry that contributes about $3.5 BILLION to Ventura County’s economy and employs nearly 43,000 PEOPLE
Freeman Diversion Expansion Project
JUNE 2020 – PRESENTATION
This presentation provides updates on the Freeman Diversion expansion project.
Fish Passage Challenges
NOVEMBER 2019 – PRESENTATION
An overview of how the controversy surrounding the Freeman Diversion fish passage is directly impacting water supplies and why federal regulations may require costly improvements.
The concrete diversion dam is a barrier to steelhead and other aquatic species attempting to migrate upstream, so the fish ladder was constructed to allow unimpeded migration through the facility.
The screened fishbay is located directly downstream of where flow enters the facility; its function is to keep fish out of the canals and spreading grounds and to direct fish to the downstream migrant trap or back to the river. Located at the end of the fishbay is a fish bypass pipe that can be used to direct fish back to the river when there is sufficient flow to allow for migration to the estuary.
Since 2008, the National Marine Fisheries Service has repeatedly changed criteria and objectives for establishing a new fish passage at the Freeman Diversion. The fish of concern is the Southern California steelhead (O. mykiss), which was listed as a federally endangered species in 1997.
For more than a decade, UWCD has proposed various design options for the fish passage in conjunction with development of a Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan (MSHCP).
Without a new fish passage, UWCD is unable to operate the Freeman Diversion at full capacity, forcing a reduction of groundwater recharge for current and future sustainable use.
The District’s goal is to modify its facilities and operations under an approved MSHCP, which will comply with the Endangered Species Act and ensure sufficient water remains available to sustain agriculture, businesses and residents of Ventura County.
FISH PASSAGE REVIEW PANEL:
An independent panel of seven nationally recognized experts was assembled to assess the fish passage facilities of the Freeman Diversion Dam. The group was asked to evaluate current fish passage facilities and develop alternative options for improvements. The work is an important step in the development of a Habitat Conservation Plan for United Water Conservation District. The panel’s final report can be found below.
FREEMAN DIVERSION INVASIVE SPECIES
The infestation of Lake Piru by invasive quagga mussels threatens UWCD’s entire system. The District has explored various control alternatives to prevent quagga mussels from passing through UWCD’s system and into downstream stakeholder infrastructure. An assessment and feasibility study of various alternatives can be found here.