The project is part of a multi-agency, 280-acre effort to revitalize the ecosystem and restore habitat for birds and fish.
As speeches were made, an osprey flew overhead clutching a fish in its talons, and a snowy egret fed in a newly created tidal channel that meanders through the reserve.
“This project was a mammoth undertaking and couldn’t be accomplished without the assistance of our partner agencies,” said Scott Peters, Chairman of the Board of Port Commissioners.
Partners in the overall South Bay Restoration and Enhancement project are the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the California Coastal Conservancy and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Restoration work included creating channels in the tide zone of the wildlife reserve to increase fish habitat and promote the growth of marsh plants, which improve living conditions for birds.
The bay is home to more than 89 species of fish and about 300 types of birds, including some that are on the federal and state endangered species list.
Sam Schuchat, executive officer of the California Coastal Conservancy, recalled the days of habitat neglect that occurred in bays and coastal areas throughout the state and said he is proud of the current “era of restoration.”
The South San Diego Bay project is part of a national movement to return coastal habitat to more natural conditions. A similar effort is underway in south San Francisco Bay.
The cost of the entire South San Diego Bay Restoration and Enhancement Project is roughly $7 million.
The Port of San Diego has contributed $1.3 million from its Environmental Fund.
Project funding includes nearly $3 million from NOAA, and $1 million each from the EPA, the U.S Fish & Wildlife Service and the California Coastal Conservancy.
The enhancement project includes restoring three South Bay salt ponds to more natural, tidal marsh conditions. More than 67,000 cubic yards of dredged sediment from the wildlife reserve was hauled to a nearby salt pond for the creation of a tidal salt marsh.
Completion of the entire project is expected later this year.
The Port of San Diego’s 70-acre portion of the project includes 55 acres at the Chula Vista Wildlife Reserve and 15 acres at Emory Cove, just south of the Coronado Cays, off of the Silver Strand Highway in Coronado.