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Port Funds Major Wetlands Project

Opening to ocean culminates $147 million Bolsa Chica restoration

August 28, 2006

Earthmovers opened an inlet last week for sea water to re-enter the Bolsa Chica wetlands in Huntington Beach for the first time in more than 100 years – culminating a major coastal wetlands restoration project that received substantial funding from the Port of Long Beach.

The decades-long battle and the three-year, $147 million multi-agency construction project reclaims a portion of an 880-acre wetlands that had been degraded by oil drilling and hunters, who blocked access to the Pacific Ocean. The marshy area is a rich habitat for fish and birds.

The Port of Long Beach contributed about one-third of the restoration costs, more than $50 million. The project also received $50 million from the Port of Los Angeles as well as state bond money. The funding included $11.4 million in last-minute appropriations from each of the ports in 2005, when the project fell short of money need to complete construction and establish an operations and maintenance fund. The ports’ participation allows them to fill areas of harbor habitat for port development.

“We are proud of our contribution to the Bolsa Chica wetlands restoration,” said Port of Long Beach Executive Director Richard Steinke. “Our participation allows us to make vital improvements to port facilities that may displace marine habitat. In keeping with our Green Port Policy, funding this wetlands restoration project allows us to promote a healthy wildlife habitat for coastal fisheries, migratory waterfowl, seabirds, shorebirds and many endangered bird species.”

Fresh water had flowed into the Bolsa Chica wetlands from urban runoff, providing a home for many species of birds, but the opening to the Pacific Ocean will bring back marine life and more migratory birds contributing to a balanced ecosystem. The wetlands is part of the more than 1,000-acre Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve along Pacific Coast Highway, which is open to the public with guided tours.

With urban development in Southern California, much of the region’s wetlands have been destroyed or degraded. During the two decades, the Port of Long Beach has supported wetlands restoration with projects at Upper Newport Baby, Anaheim Bay in the Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge, in addition to the Bolsa Chica restoration.

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