Friday, April 10, 2009

Southern Calif Edison Restores San Diego Wetlands Area

The San Dieguito Wetland Restoration Project is attracting a larger number of migratory and local birds than expected just months after being opened to ocean tides for the first time. Those monitoring the Southern California Edison (SCE) environmental project, including California Coastal Commission scientists and local birdwatchers, are encouraged at the quantity and rarity of bird species repopulating the new ecosystem. Scientists from the University of California, Santa Barbara’s (UCSB’s) Marine Science Institute, under contract to the California Coastal Commission to monitor the wetland’s development, report a rapid increase of shore birds foraging in a new 63-acre lagoon that is part of the 150-acre project.

Small numbers of local and migratory birds were expected to inhabit the wetlands since the new mudflats were opened to daily tides for just a few months. But the numbers and varieties of birds have started using the wetland. With millions of baby fish now circulating in the wetlands and the positive response by birds to the new nature preserve, the wetlands habitat is thriving.
The environmental goal of the San Dieguito Wetlands Restoration project is to create a variety of habitats that would increase and maintain fish and wildlife and ensure protection of endangered species. Scientists hope to use the restoration project as a model of how best to help species colonize man-made habitats. SCE plans to continue monitoring and testing the area for several years, giving scientists and marine estuary planners data on best practices for restoring other coastal lagoons.

SCE and other San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station owners – SDG&E and the city of Riverside – are constructing the San Dieguito Wetland Restoration Project as part of a program overseen by the California Coastal Commission to offset any impact on marine life caused by San Onofre’s use of ocean water for one of its cooling systems. The Wetland Restoration Project and the new Wheeler North Reef off San Clemente are the largest and most successful coastal power plant mitigation projects of their type.

Bird species found in the new lagoon include sparrows, gulls, sandpipers, terns, pelicans, hawks, coots, stilts, ospreys and hummingbirds. Rare birds that nest annually at the site include more than 40 pairs of Belding's Savannah Sparrow and a number of pairs of Least Bell’s Vireo. On the edge of the project several pairs of California gnatcatchers have been observed. Birdwatchers showed up at the site in large numbers after local bird expert Paul Lehman spotted an extremely rare and tiny sandpiper (Semipalmated Sandpiper) a few months ago. The number of bird species seen at the site has doubled during the past five years to more than 150 now documented with several endangered, rare, migratory and year-round species colonizing the wetlands. A killdeer (Charadrius vociferous) chose to build her nest in a location inside a gravel stockpile area centrally located in one of the most heavily traveled project areas. Her nesting site was cordoned off and she and her mate raised their babies until they flew the nest.

Additional information about the San Dieguito Wetland Restoration Project

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