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State to Give $1.2 Million to Buy Huntington Wetlands

The bond funds will help a local conservancy restore 45 acres of wildlife habitat next to the Talbert Marsh.

May 03, 2003|Stanley Allison | Times Staff Writer

The Huntington Beach Wetlands Conservancy will be awarded a $1.2-million state grant to buy 45 acres of wetlands, restoring a long-lost habitat for birds and aquatic animals, Gov. Gray Davis announced Friday.

The purchase of the privately owned property will fill a gap between a 20-acre parcel acquired in 2000 by the conservancy, 17 acres of wetlands owned by the University of California and the Talbert Marsh, which the wetlands group restored in 1989.

Although a flood control channel has prevented tides from reaching the area for years and the property appears neglected, plans to reintroduce tidal waters by breaching the levee should bring rapid improvement, a state official said.

"It's like magic. In a relatively short period of time -- as little as two seasons -- the tidal salt marsh just starts to reestablish itself," said Stanley Young of a state resources agency.

The 45-acre property is a nesting and foraging habitat for the endangered Belding's savannah sparrow. Restoration of the tidal circulation will improve the sparrow's habitat and those for many other species, officials said.

The wetlands will be bought primarily with funds from Proposition 40, a state parks bond measure approved last year that is administered by the Coastal Conservancy. There will be no effect on the state's general fund, Davis said in a conference call with reporters while he was in Monterey.

Although the property is not linked to the 2,600-acre Bolsa Chica wetlands to the north, it benefits from its proximity.

"The more wetlands you can get, the healthier both will become," said Shirley Dettloff, a former Huntington Beach councilwoman and advocate for restoring the wetlands.

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