Representatives from the Port and its partner agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the California Coastal Conservancy, formally launched the restoration at a ceremony held Thursday, Sept. 23, 2010, at the Chula Vista Wildlife Reserve on the San Diego Bay waterfront.
Port Commissioner Stephen Padilla, who represents the City of Chula Vista on the Board, praised the collaboration among the various agencies, saying that it is their cooperation that enabled the Port to jumpstart the project with $1.3 million from the Port’s Environmental Fund. The Environmental Protection Agency contributed $1 million toward the restoration and grants also were provided by NOAA, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the California Coastal Conservancy and Ocean Discovery Institute.
“Varying elements and many agencies recognize the importance of protecting this amazing ecosystem,” Padilla told more than 75 people assembled for the occasion. “It’s a project that benefits the region and bay.”
More than 25 tons of debris will be removed, 15,000 native plants will be planted by more than 1,500 volunteers and more than 67,000 cubic yards of material will be pumped from the reserve to a site more than one mile across the bay toward Imperial Beach. The entire project will be completed in about one year.
“The reduction of the elevation in these areas will allow renewed tidal flow and better circulation, improve water quality and create new critical habitat,” Padilla said. “Part of this project, you may not know, is really going to come to pass because of the work of volunteers. They are going to dedicate over 1,500 hours particularly on the removal of invasive plants.”
Charles Wurster, Port President/CEO said, “It's a proud day for all of San Diego Bay.”
Added Andrew Yuen, project leader for the San Diego Wildlife Refuge Complex: “This major restoration is going to make San Diego Bay an even more productive place for species. It’s going to improve the fish and wildlife habitat for tens of thousands of migratory birds. So, on behalf of all of those wildlife creatures that live in the mud, fly, swim and will be the beneficiaries, thank you very much for your support. "
Dr. Cindy Lin, a liaison and environmental scientist with the Environmental Protection Agency, said the agency was provided with $7 million to $10 million for projects in California. The San Diego Bay restoration was one of the recipients.
“It is a massive undertaking for the Port of San Diego and the EPA is proud to be a part of this super monumental effort,” she said.
The material that will be dredged from the area near the Chula Vista Wildlife Reserve will be pumped more than a mile to a salt pond, called Pond 11. The pond is located near Imperial Beach. The excavation will lower the elevation in the wildlife area, which will create more tidal channels and new salt marsh habitat.
An area known as Pond 10 also will be dredged and the material will be pumped to Pond 11 where the elevation will be raised and a roosting area for shorebirds will be created.
The restoration will further protect threatened and endangered species including the California least tern, the light-footed clapper rail, western snowy plover, Beldings savannah sparrow, the eastern Pacific green sea turtle and thousands of migratory birds.
As part of the project, volunteers from a number of agencies, including the San Diego Oceans Foundation, the Coronado Rotary Club, San Diego Audubon Society and Ocean Discovery Institute will remove four acres of invasive plants, such as ice plant, from the Chula Vista Wildlife Reserve and Emory Cove.
Bob Hoffman, assistant regional administrator for Habitat Conservation, National Marine Fisheries Service, said that in California nine coastal restoration projects, including the San Diego Bay restoration, received a combined $30 million to restore 8,000 acres across a 700-mile area.
“By the number of volunteers and the number of state and federal agencies participating in this project, you can tell it is one that many people deeply care about,” Padilla said. “It means so much to the people in the South Bay and the entire region.”