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Coastal Conservancy OKs $10 Million for Bolsa Chica

The grant is the final funding source for $90-million restoration of the Huntington Beach wetlands.

March 27, 2004|David Haldane | Times Staff Writer

The state Coastal Conservancy has approved what environmentalists hope is the final block of financial support assuring the long-awaited restoration of Huntington Beach's Bolsa Chica wetlands.

"We certainly now have enough to get started and go full bore," said Dick Wayman, a conservancy spokesman. "Our aim is to restore [the wetlands] to what it was more than 100 years ago."

The agency voted Thursday at a meeting in Laguna Beach to allocate $10 million for the project. The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach already have donated the rest of the estimated $90-million cost, as mitigation for being allowed to undertake harbor projects, Wayman said. "This money assures us that every acre of Bolsa Chica will ultimately be restored," said Shirley Dettloff, a spokeswoman for Amigos de Bolsa Chica and longtime advocate of preserving the wetlands.

The remnants of a vast wetlands once stretching the length of coastal Orange County behind beaches and dunes, the 1,600-acre area just inland of Pacific Coast Highway includes wetlands, levees and oil well pads degraded from years of neglect.

The state bought most of the wetlands in 1997.

Arguments over its future, which once included a marina and housing development, have raged for decades. Last summer, state workers began capping and cleaning up the wells.

And this fall, Wayman said, they plan to start a three-year restoration project that will include the construction of a channel to reconnect the wetlands to the sea, several tidal basins, island habitats and a series of pedestrian bridges to enable people to observe the myriad species of fish and birds the area supports.

"The wetlands is good habitat," Dettloff said, "and this will increase its habitat value 10 times over. We'll be seeing species that we haven't seen before, and the ones already there will be increasing in number."

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