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Revitalizing Wetlands

Port support is helping revitalize, restore native wildlife habitats

July 31, 2007

The Port of Long Beach has played a significant role in helping restore and improve Southern California’s wetlands and native wildlife habitats.

The Port has contributed tens of millions of dollars to Southern California wetlands projects in recent years.

"Native wetlands are vital natural resources," said Port of Long Beach Executive Director Richard Steinke. "The Port is interested in what we can do to support these wildlife habitat projects."

Wetlands, also known as salt marshes, provide homes for a wide variety of birds and marine life and serve as a stopover for migratory birds. The Port’s most recent wetlands restoration contribution provided more than $50 million for the Bolsa Chica Wetlands in nearby Huntington Beach. Last year the project hit a key milestone when a new inlet restored natural seawater flow to the wetlands. 

Now the Port is studying whether it can help with projects to renew the natural order at Long Beach’s Colorado Lagoon and Los Cerritos Wetlands.

About 500 acres of the original Los Cerritos Wetlands in southeast Long Beach and western Orange County is still undeveloped and potentially available for restoration. The nearby Colorado Lagoon – enjoyed by swimmers, model boat enthusiasts and birds alike -- has also become the focus of restoration plans as supporters in the community work for its environmental renewal.

The Port participates in qualifying wetlands-restoration projects in exchange for the right to develop Port property. The Port can only fund projects or portions of projects that meet standards under the federal Clean Water Act. The qualifying habitat projects are developed in cooperation with resource agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the California Department of Fish and Game. 

Since most of the land in and around the Southland's wetlands habitats is privately owned, restoration projects also depend on the cooperation of these landowners. Finally, the projects need funding partners.

With the Colorado Lagoon and Los Cerritos Wetlands, Port officials hope to improve habitat restoration not just at important coastal wetlands in the region, but at sites within the city of Long Beach.

The Port has agreed to safely dispose of contaminated sediments (undersea soils) removed from the Colorado Lagoon and is contributing to an environmental study -- the first step in developing a proposal to improve tidal circulation. Separately, Port officials are reviewing whether the Port can play a role in a proposed project to restore and revitalize the Los Cerritos Wetlands.
 
"These projects provide important habitat for birds, fish and other species," Steinke said. "And there is a community benefit as well. Wildlife areas and open spaces are vital assets in the midst of a densely populated urban landscape."

For a wetlands photo gallery, click here.

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