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Port of San Diego to Celebrate Completion of Chula Vista Wildlife Reserve Restoration

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Thousands of migratory birds and other wildlife have a new home on the shores of San Diego Bay, and the Port of San Diego is celebrating. (Courtesy: Eileen Maher)Thousands of migratory birds and other wildlife have a new home on the shores of San Diego Bay.

The Port of San Diego, along with partner agencies and hundreds of volunteers, are responsible for the new shore-side home. The project is part of the restoration of more than 280 acres of coastal wetlands in the Chula Vista Wildlife Refuge and the National Wildlife Refuge.

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To celebrate the completion, the Port will host a special event at the restoration site scheduled for Tuesday, March 29, 2011, at 10 a.m.

The agencies that teamed with the Port include the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the California Coastal Conservancy, the Environmental Protection Agency and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

A major part of the restoration - 55 acres - was recently completed in Chula Vista, behind the South Bay Power Plant.

“It is an incredible place that the Port of San Diego and a host of other partners have joined together to restore for wildlife and fish,” said Andrew Yuen, project leader for the San Diego Wildlife Refuge Complex.“This area provides habitat for the California least tern, western snowy plover, green sea turtle, belding Savannah sparrow and a host of migratory birds.”

To create the new home for the flying wildlife and creatures living in the water, some 60,000 cubic yards of sand and other debris was excavated  - enough to fill 5,000 trucks.

New tidal creeks and tidal channels were created to replicate the natural environment.

The sand, used to create a new beach for many shore birds, was excavated from the area behind the power plant and then transported by an underwater pipeline nearly a mile and a half away to a salt pond, known as Pond 11, in Imperial Beach.

Hundreds of volunteers spent many days removing debris and invasive plants while replacing them with 20 new 
varieties in the restored areas.Hundreds of volunteers spent many days removing debris and invasive plants, such as ice plant, from a third location - Emory Cove, south of the Coronado Cays. The volunteer groups included the San Diego Oceans Foundation, the Coronado Rotary Club, the San Diego Audubon Society and the Ocean Discovery Institute.

Recently, the volunteers planted thousands of plants – some 20 varieties in the restored areas. The plants include sand verbena, coastal sage and salt grass, the California Sun Flower, the San Diego barrel cactus and the lemonade berry. Volunteers recently finished planting cord grass and pickle weed behind the South Bay Power Plant.

In all, volunteers have worked more than 1,500 hours to help replicate the natural environment.

This project is just one element in a much larger environmental effort at the Port of San Diego. Overall, the Port has undertaken 62 environmental projects at a cost of more than $7.3 million. The projects include restoring habitat, protecting endangered species and ensuring a clean San Diego Bay.

The Port, through its Environmental Fund, invested $1.3 million in the Chula Vista restoration. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, contributed $3 million and the EPA West Coast Estuaries Initiative, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the California Coastal Conservancy each contributed $1 million.

Ann Moore, who represents the City of Chula Vista on the Board of Port Commissioners, said the restoration project underscores the port’s environmental leadership in the San Diego region.

“This is the Port’s largest restoration project and represents over $7 million worth of investment, Moore said. “It’s a demonstration of the port’s role as an environmental steward for the tidelands and all of its resources.”

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