Public forum on desalination plants tonight in Ventura

Ventura County Supervisor Steve Bennett, District 1, will host a meeting tonight, Dec. 1, on the topic of ocean water desalination and the potential for such plants to assist in drought deterrence locally.

Several speakers have been invited to attend the meeting to discuss advantages, disadvantages and the economics of so-called “desal” projects, as well as the opportunities that come with them. Forum presenters include Scott Maloni of Poseidon Water, developer of the Carlsbad and Huntington Beach desal plants; Calleguas Municipal Water District’s Susan Mulligan who is leading the effort to bring a desal plant to Ventura County; the Santa Barbara County Water Resources Manager Joshua Haggmark; and Tom Luster from the California Coastal Commission.

“With Southern California heading into a forecast sixth year of drought and local lake and groundwater basins nearing historic low levels, interest in long-term planning concerning our water supply and demand has never been higher,” said Bennett. “Desal is one option that I hope we all can have more complete information about as we move forward.”

The Public Forum on Ocean Water Desalination will take place tonight, Dec. 1, at 6 p.m. at the County Government Center, Board of Supervisors Chambers, 800 S. Victoria Ave., Ventura.

Matilija Coalition receives grant for dam removal

The Matilija Dam in upper Ojai. Photo by Justin Clifton.

The Matilija Dam in upper Ojai. Photo by Justin Clifton.

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation has donated $50 million to the Resource Legacy Fund, which in turn established the Open Rivers Fund, a fund dedicated to the ongoing effort of removing obsolete dams and restoring rivers in the West. The fund launched with three “high hazard” projects, one of which being the removal of the Matilija Dam, on a tributary to the Ventura River in upper Ojai.

In March, the estimated cost to complete the dam-removal portion of the project ranged from $13 million to $30 million.

The Open Rivers Fund will allocate $175,000, which will provide funding for various efforts toward the dam’s removal.

“We’re really excited to have this piece of that funding,” said Paul Jenkin, coordinator of both the Surfrider Foundation and the Matilija Coalition. Jenkin says that a $3.3 million grant from the Water Quality, Supply, and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014, also known as Prop 1, and a coastal-resiliency grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for a little less than $1 million are still pending. “We’re ready to move forward and get the dam out.”

County library offers programming class

County Supervisors demonstrate coding to students at the Maricopa County Library District in Arizona, where Antonio Apodaca was once a librarian.

County Supervisors demonstrate coding to students at the Maricopa County Library District in Arizona, where Antonio Apodaca was once a librarian.

It’s time to get the kids out of the house and in front of a computer for an Hour of Code event hosted by the Ventura County Library in Ventura. The inaugural event at E.P. Foster Library seeks to bring fun and excitement to the world of computer science in hopes that, in the future, kids will take their knowledge and passion with them into college and beyond.

On Wednesday, Dec. 7, kids aged 8 to 13 will have an opportunity to create small programs and apps with user-friendly tools found on Code.org in an environment designed to encourage creativity and fun. Antonio Apodaca, MLIS, E.P. Foster’s makerspace librarian, says that the day will be a stepping stone toward more computer science-themed events at the library.

“This is sort of an experiment to see how we can get this off of the ground from a technology basis,” said Apodaca. “We just had some new Wi-Fi installed and we are just getting around to having the capability to host an Hour of Code.”

Hour of Code is an international endeavor, created by Code.org to ensure that “Students of today are ready to learn critical skills for 21st-century success.” For Apodaca, of particular interest is maintaining girls’ interest in coding through their teenage years and into college.

“What ends up happening is, excitement over computer science or enrolling into computer programming clubs will drop from two-thirds of girls in the tween ages to half that between 13 to 17,” said Apodaca. “Ultimately, when they start college, we see just 4 percent are majoring in computer science or enrolled in computer science clubs.”

Kids who attend the Hour of Code will have access to the library’s laptops, and parents are encouraged to bring their own smartphones or laptops to follow along. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, by 2020, there will be 1.4 million jobs available in computer science. Currently, only 3 percent of the total computer science workforce comprises women.

“We want to see girls representing half of the participants in our STEM- or STEAM-based programming, as it should be, seeing as how they represent half of our population,” said Apodaca.

The Hour of Code will take place from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 7, at the E.P. Foster Library, 651 E. Main St., Ventura. For more information, visit www.hourofcode.com.