A 25-acre portion of the Bolsa Chica lowlands will be donated to the state under a plan approved Tuesday by the Metropolitan Water District board of directors.
The piece of ecologically sensitive wetlands will be given to the state Lands Commission as part of a complex transaction disposing of district-owned land once earmarked for a pioneering desalination plant, district officials said.
It remained unclear Tuesday night how the transaction might affect ongoing efforts by environmentalists and public agencies to preserve the entire Bolsa Chica wetlands, adjacent to Huntington Beach and considered the largest unprotected coastal wetlands south of San Francisco.
The regional water agency bought the land in 1974 as part of plans to build the nation's first nuclear-powered ocean water desalination plant.
But changes in technology overtook those plans, leaving the district with surplus land, spokesman Robert Gomperz said Tuesday night.
Under the plan, the district is dividing the 83 acres into three parts, with the lowlands portion to go to the state.
The district will sell a 45-acre piece of non-wetlands property to Shea Homes Inc. for $11.5 million. That land is zoned for medium-low density residential development, officials said.
Meanwhile, a subsidiary of Koll Real Estate Group will exchange and purchase from the district another 13 acres of non-wetlands property for $250,000, district officials said.
Koll owns most of the Bolsa Chica wetlands and plans to build 3,300 homes in the area, including 900 on the wetlands--a proposal that has stirred fierce opposition from some environmental groups.
In long-running talks, both the state and federal governments have discussed purchasing the wetlands area.