The Irvine Co. received city approval this week to build dikes, berms and add a new water source to the San Joaquin Marsh, with the hope of creating an expanded wetlands on the dry area near Michelson Drive.
Under a 1988 agreement with federal and state environmental agencies, the company is required to create 55 acres of wetlands on land the developer owns in the marsh in exchange for building rights on wetlands near Irvine Center and Lake Forest drives. The company is planning an industrial and commercial complex in the Irvine Spectrum.
Current plans to create the wetlands include building a ground-water well or other water supply on the northeast high ground near Michelson Drive.
The 580-acre San Joaquin Marsh, the largest wetlands in the county and home to the endangered Belding savannah sparrow and other threatened species, is bounded by Michelson Drive, MacArthur Boulevard, Carlson Avenue and San Diego Creek. The 55-acre enhancement area is north of Campus Drive.
South of Campus Drive is the 202 acres that the University of California manages as a wildlife preserve. If the Irvine Co.'s wetlands enhancement effort succeeds, the land would be given to the university system to manage.