CDFW Approves Restoration Project for Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has certified the final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for a project to restore the largest coastal wetlands complex in Los Angeles County and increase public access to outdoor recreation and natural spaces in one of the most densely populated areas in the world.

The Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve (BWER) project will enhance and establish native coastal wetlands and upland habitat on 566 of the reserve’s 577 acres south of Marina del Rey and east of Playa del Rey. It will restore ecological function to currently degraded wetlands, preserving sensitive habitat for future generations and build climate resilience on a coast vulnerable to sea level rise.

The project also advances the Newsom Administration’s Executive Order of October 7, 2020, focused on harnessing California’s vast network of natural and working lands to fight climate change and protect biodiversity. See a summary of the approved project. A more detailed project description is found in the final EIR.

CDFW is advancing the most restorative alternative in the final EIR – with a significant commitment to phasing the restoration work. This alternative offers the most restoration, which is important because of the huge degradation at BWER from a history of human impacts. The most restorative alternative also provides more climate resiliency buffer, because without this restoration sea level rise will overcome the remaining portions of BWER that have functioning wetlands and flood local roads more frequently, more severely and much sooner.

CDFW, in partnership with the State Coastal Conservancy and The Bay Foundation, has spent years working with the public and envisioning a plan for the revitalization of BWER, which once encompassed an approximately 2,000-acre expanse of marshes, mud flats, salt pans and sand dunes that stretched from Playa del Rey to Venice and inland to the Baldwin Hills. Today, the reserve’s 577 acres are all that remains of the former wetlands. The state acquired the reserve in 2003 with the use of $149 million in Proposition 50 funds.

The ecosystem at BWER is considered one of the last remaining opportunities for major coastal habitat restoration in Los Angeles County. Ecological components of the project include enhancing and restoring 200 acres of coastal wetlands, relocating existing levees to reconnect Ballona Creek to its historic floodplain, improving tidal circulation into the reserve, and restoring estuarine aquatic and upland habitats.

In addition to combating climate change and protecting biodiversity, the project will help achieve equity and access to natural spaces for all Angelenos, consistent with another Newsom Administration priority. It is estimated that well over 90 percent of wetlands in the region have been lost to development and human alteration. Once restored, BWER will be one of the largest natural open spaces available to the public in the City of Los Angeles, second only to Griffith Park. The project will now proceed toward final design. CDFW will work with the Los Angeles County Flood Control District in securing a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and completing a federal environmental review document, a process expected to take approximately two and a half years. In addition, approvals from the Coastal Commission, Regional Water Quality Control Board and possibly other agencies are required, and the timing of those approvals depends on the permitting agency’s process. As CDFW continues through the next steps of these processes, CDFW’s vision for BWER will remain the same – a restored, healthy wetlands that provides greater sea level rise buffer and climate resiliency, with equity and access to natural open spaces for all Angelenos.

###

Media Contacts:
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937

Chinook Salmon

CDFW Awards $10.7 Million for Fisheries Habitat Restoration Program Projects

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) today announced the selection of 27 projects that will receive funding for the restoration, enhancement and protection of anadromous salmonid habitat in California watersheds.

The grants, which total $10.7 million, were awarded through CDFW’s Fisheries Restoration Grant Program (FRGP). Established in 1981, FRGP has included funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund since 2000. The federal fund was established by Congress in 2000 to reverse the declines of Pacific salmon and steelhead throughout California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Alaska.

“The ongoing momentum to restore California’s habitat for these historic species hasn’t stopped as we face a global pandemic and devastating wildfires,” CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham said. “Awarding these projects highlights the resilience, passion and vision for salmon recovery by our state’s restoration community, for which we are grateful.”

In response to the 2020 Fisheries Habitat Restoration Grant Solicitation, CDFW received 80 proposals requesting more than $40.6 million in funding. As part of the competitive grant program, proposals underwent a rigorous technical review by CDFW and NOAA scientists.

The 27 approved projects will further the objectives of state and federal fisheries recovery plans, including removing barriers to fish migration, restoring riparian habitat, monitoring of listed populations, and creating a more resilient and sustainably managed water resources system (e.g., water supply, water quality and habitat) that can better withstand drought conditions. These projects further the goals of California’s Water Action Plan and CDFW’s State Wildlife Action Plan, as well as addressing limiting factors specified in state and federal recovery plans.

The list of approved projects is available on the FRGP website.

###

Media Contacts:
Matt Wells, Watershed Restoration Grants Branch, (916) 216-7848
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 804-1714

Pismo clams

CDFW Reminds the Public Not to Disturb Pismo Clams on Central Coast Beaches

With the re-opening of several State Parks beaches in San Luis Obispo County, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) reminds visitors to avoid disturbing small Pismo clams and rebury any small clams they encounter.

“We have not seen a population boom of this magnitude in decades,” said CDFW Marine Environmental Scientist Derek Stein. “We are hopeful that these young clams could increase the chances of a recreational fishery returning to the central coast.”

Pismo clams were once prolific along central coast beaches, supporting a vibrant recreational fishery. Due to overharvest, illegal removals and other environmental conditions, the fishery has not rebounded to historical levels. Although it is currently legal to harvest clams recreationally, almost no legal-sized clams have been found in recent years.

Pismo clams are frequently encountered by people walking along the beaches or digging in the sand. CDFW encourages the public to leave the clams in the sand to help the population expand. Any disturbed clams should be immediately reburied to increase the chance of survival. Beachgoers may also notice interesting round formations in clam beds. These formations are created by the clams as they expel sand from their siphons and are not caused by other human disturbances. However, the tidal flat environment is sensitive and beachgoers should do their best to avoid disturbing clam beds.

Pismo clams can be harvested with a valid fishing license. Anglers may retain 10 Pismo clams per day if the clams meet the minimum size of 5 inches in greatest diameter north of the San Luis Obispo/Monterey county line, and 4½ inches south of the county line. All undersized clams must be immediately reburied in the area they were found. In Monterey and Santa Cruz counties, the season for Pismo clams starts Sept. 1 and ends after April 30. In all other counties, the season is open year-round. No commercial harvest is permitted.

With the help of the public we can all protect this once abundant and iconic central coast species. If you witness a poaching, wildlife trafficking or pollution incident, immediately dial the toll free CalTIP number, (888) 334-2258, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Tips may also be submitted by texting to tip411 (847411). Anyone with a cell phone may send an anonymous tip to tip411 by texting “CALTIP” followed by a space and the message.

Tips can also be reported through the free CalTIP smartphone app, which operates similarly to tip411 by creating an anonymous two-way conversation with wildlife officers. The CalTIP app can be downloaded via the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.

###

Media Contacts:
Derek Stein, CDFW Marine Region, (805) 242-6726
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937

Images of a western snowy plover, a California tiger salamander, a Coho salmon, and a San Joaquin kit fox

New Video Series and Website Help Tell the Story of California’s Vulnerable Species

According to a 2019 United Nations report on species extinction, an estimated one million animal and plant species worldwide are now threatened with extinction, many within decades, more than ever before in human history. Still, there is plenty we can do to address the challenges facing listed species. Several state and federal natural resource agencies recently partnered to produce a video series and educational website highlighting successful conservation efforts to preserve some of California’s threatened and endangered species.

Saving Species Together, a joint project between the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)  Fisheries, illustrates how resource agencies, private landowners, non-profits and citizens have come together to help some of California’s vulnerable species. A half-hour program compiled from the videos will be airing on PBS starting in November as well.

The four listed species to be highlighted by Saving Species Together include:

  • Western snowy plover: Resource managers and volunteers help protect and restore habitat for the western snowy plover at Point Reyes National Seashore and the Mike Thompson Wildlife Area, South Spit Humboldt Bay.
  • Coho salmon: Coho specialists from a timber company, a non-profit and NOAA Fisheries help juvenile Coho salmon in the Eel River Watershed.
  • San Joaquin kit fox: Resource managers, non-profits and a solar company find ways to protect the endangered San Joaquin kit fox in urban environments and on a 26,500-acre preserve in the Central Valley.
  • California tiger salamander: Resource managers, private developers and biological consultants work together to protect the California tiger salamander in native habitat in northern California grasslands.

The SavingSpeciesTogether.org website is hosted by CDFW. It includes the videos, information about the featured species, information on what private landowners and the public can do to help listed species, campaign outreach materials and many other resources.

The videos were produced by Full Frame Productions. The program was funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation with community service funds paid by the defendant in a securities fraud case captioned as United States of America v. Wildlife Management, LLC (N.D. California).

###

Media Contact:
Bridget Kennedy, CDFW Education and Outreach, (916) 502-7472

Wildlife Conservation Board Funds Environmental Improvement and Acquisition Projects

At its May 20, 2020 quarterly meeting, the Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) approved approximately $36.2 million in grants to help restore and protect fish and wildlife habitat throughout California. Some of the 31 approved projects will benefit fish and wildlife — including some endangered species — while others will provide public access to important natural resources. Several projects will also demonstrate the importance of protecting working landscapes that integrate economic, social and environmental stewardship practices beneficial to the environment, landowners and the local community.

Funding for these projects comes from a combination of sources including the Habitat Conservation Fund and bond measures approved by voters to help preserve and protect California’s natural resources.

Funded projects include:

  • A $343,000 grant to The Nature Conservancy for a cooperative project with the National Park Service and the California Institute of Environmental Studies to restore approximately three acres of migratory bird breeding habitat on Anacapa Island in the Channel Islands National Park off the coast of Port Hueneme in Ventura County.
  • A $635,000 grant to the Trust for Public Land for a cooperative project with the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority and the San Fernando Valley Audubon Society to acquire approximately 22 acres of land for the protection of threatened and endangered species and riparian and floodplain habitat along the Santa Clara River and to provide the potential for wildlife-oriented, public-use opportunities near Acton in Los Angeles County.
  • A $1.3 million grant to Truckee Donner Land Trust to acquire in fee approximately 201 acres to preserve montane meadow, wildlife corridors and habitat linkages, and to provide wildlife-oriented, public-use opportunities near Truckee in Nevada County.
  • A $4.7 million grant to Tuolumne County for a cooperative project with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), CAL FIRE, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Forest Service to enhance forest health and reduce hazardous fuels through selective thinning and replanting activities on approximately 6,434 acres of mixed conifer forest in the Tuolumne River watershed located in Stanislaus National Forest 20 miles east of Sonora in Tuolumne County.
  • A $1.25 million grant to Port San Luis Obispo Harbor District for a cooperative project with California State Parks to rehabilitate a pier and boat landing at Avila Pier located approximately eight miles northwest of Pismo Beach in San Luis Obispo County.
  • A $689,000 grant to Bolsa Chica Conservancy for a cooperative project with Signal Landmark, Pacific Life Foundation and CDFW to install new portable buildings for an interpretive center and construct educational features, an Americans with Disabilities Act accessible observation desk and restrooms in the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve approximately four miles northeast of Huntington Beach in Orange County.
  • A $10 million grant to Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority for a cooperative project with the Peninsula Open Space Trust and State Coastal Conservancy to acquire in fee approximately 235 acres of land to protect a critical linkage both for movement of wildlife and for species adaptation to climate change, and the protection of a natural floodplain located in Coyote Valley in Santa Clara County.
  • A $5 million grant to the Ventura County Watershed Protection District for a planning project that will complete final design plans for Matilija Dam removal and for three downstream levee construction/rehabilitation projects as essential components of the Matilija Dam Ecosystem Restoration Project, a watershed-scale dam removal initiative and one of California’s largest dam removal efforts located five miles northwest of Ojai in Ventura County.

For more information about the WCB please visit wcb.ca.gov.

###

Media Contacts:
John Donnelly, WCB, (916) 445-0137
Amanda McDermott, CDFW Communications, (916) 817-0434