Through agreements with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other resource agencies, the Port acquires and restores coastal wetlands in Southern California in exchange for the right to develop Port property. Known to be rich in wildlife, coastal wetlands are vanishing quickly. The Port’s wetlands restoration program helps protect the future of a wide variety of species for future generations. The Port has participated in two wetlands restoration projects, one at Upper Newport Bay Ecological Preserve in Newport Beach, Calif., and one at the National Wildlife Refuge in Seal Beach, Calif. In addition, the Port contributed $39 million toward the 1997 acquisition of 267 acres of degraded Bolsa Chica Wetlands of Huntington Beach, operated by a consortium of agencies led by the California Coast Conservancy and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The resource agencies are developing a comprehensive plan to restore the wetlands by channeling ocean water to the area and by taking other measures.
At the Upper Newport Bay Ecological Reserve, operated by the California Department of Fish and Game, the Port contributed in excess of $1 million toward restoration of 29 acres of wetlands. Money provided by the Port and other local and state agencies was used to return the tidal influence to areas that had been filled in by sediment deposits. Today, the reserve includes two barren islands in a shallow-water embayment that serve as a protected nesting area for the California least tern, a bird on the federal endangered species list. The project, launched in 1984, made the Port a leader in habitat restoration because it was the first time a public agency or private company in Southern California participated in such a project at an off-site location, away from its own property.
At the Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge, the Port developed, managed and funded an $8.8 wetlands restoration project under the direction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Crews excavated four upland degraded wetlands areas and dredged channels and constructed culverts to restore tidal influence and direct water flow into the newly excavated areas. Excavated soil was used to create islands that serve as a nesting site for the light-footed clapper rail, a federally endangered bird species. The wetlands restoration was completed in 1990, playing a significant role in the environmental success of the National Wildlife Refuge