In 2007, the California Ocean Protection Council initiated the California Seafloor Mapping Program (CSMP), designed to create a comprehensive seafloor map of high-resolution bathymetry, marine benthic habitats, and geology within the 3-nautical-mile limit of California’s State Waters. The CSMP approach is to create highly detailed seafloor maps through collection, integration, interpretation, and visualization of swath sonar data, acoustic backscatter, seafloor video, seafloor photography, high-resolution seismic-reflection profiles, and bottom-sediment sampling data. The map products display seafloor morphology and character, identify potential marine benthic habitats, and illustrate both the surficial seafloor geology and shallow (to about 100 m) subsurface geology.
The Offshore of Ventura map area lies within the Santa Barbara Channel region of the Southern California Bight. This geologically complex region forms a major biogeographic transition zone, separating the cold-temperate Oregonian province north of Point Conception from the warm-temperate California province to the south. The map area is in the Ventura Basin, in the southern part of the Western Transverse Ranges geologic province, which is north of the California Continental Borderland. Significant clockwise rotation—at least 90°—since the early Miocene has been proposed for the Western Transverse Ranges, and the region is presently undergoing north-south shortening.
The city of Ventura is the major cultural center in the map area. The Ventura River cuts through Ventura, draining the Santa Ynez Mountains and the coastal hills north of Ventura. Northwest of Ventura, the coastal zone is a narrow strip containing highway and railway transportation corridors and a few small residential clusters. Rincon Island, an island constructed for oil and gas production, lies offshore of Punta Gorda. Southeast of Ventura, the coastal zone consists of the mouth and broad, alluvial plains of the Santa Clara River, and the region is characterized by urban and agricultural development. Ventura Harbor sits just north of the mouth of the Santa Clara River, in an area formerly occupied by lagoons and marshes.
The Offshore of Ventura map area lies in the eastern part of the Santa Barbara littoral cell, whose littoral drift is to the east-southeast. Drift rates of about 700,000 to 1,150,000 tons/yr have been reported at Ventura Harbor. At the east end of the littoral cell, eastward-moving sediment is trapped by Hueneme and Mugu Canyons and then transported into the deep-water Santa Monica Basin. The largest sediment source to this littoral cell (and the largest in all of southern California) is the Santa Clara River, which has an estimated annual sediment flux of 3.1 million tons. In addition, the Ventura River yields about 270,000 tons of sediment annually. Despite the large local sediment supply, coastal erosion problems are ongoing in the map area. Riprap, revetments, and seawalls variably protect the coast within and north of Ventura.
The offshore part of the map area mainly consists of relatively flat, shallow continental shelf, which dips so gently (about 0.2° to 0.4°) that water depths at the 3-nautical-mile limit of California’s State Waters are just 20 to 40 m. This part of the Santa Barbara Channel is relatively well protected from large Pacific swells from the north and west by Point Conception and the Channel Islands; long-period swells affecting the area are mainly from the south-southwest. Fair-weather wave base is typically shallower than 20-m water depth, but winter storms are capable of resuspending fine-grained sediments in 30 m of water, and so shelf sediments in the map area probably are remobilized on an annual basis. The shelf is underlain by tens of meters of interbedded upper Quaternary shelf, estuarine, and fluvial sediments deposited as sea level fluctuated up and down in the last several hundred thousand years.
Seafloor habitats in the broad Santa Barbara Channel region consist of significant amounts of soft sediment and isolated areas of rocky habitat that support kelp-forest communities nearshore and rocky-reef communities in deep water. The potential marine benthic habitat types mapped in the Offshore of Ventura map area are directly related to its Quaternary geologic history, geomorphology, and active sedimentary processes. These potential habitats lie within the Shelf (continental shelf) megahabitat, dominated by a flat seafloor and substrates formed from deposition of fluvial and marine sediment during sea-level rise. This flat, fairly homogeneous seafloor, composed primarily of unconsolidated sand and mud and local deposits of gravel, cobbles, and pebbles, provides promising habitat for groundfish, crabs, shrimp, and other marine benthic organisms. The only significant interruptions to this homogeneous habitat type are exposures of hard, irregular sedimentary bedrock and coarse-grained sediment where potential habitats for rockfish and related species exist.