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.

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

CDFW Urges Californians to Be Mindful of Property Rules on Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve

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

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is reminding those who visit state ecological reserves to be mindful of the site’s specific rules and regulations. CDFW also reminds Californians that trespassing on ecological reserves and wildlife areas that are closed, like the Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve (BWER), is not only a crime, but can be very dangerous.

CDFW limits public access to BWER due to health, safety and resource concerns. CDFW is working to address the onsite criminal activity, including drugs, as well as homeless encampments and their related issues. BWER also has sensitive cultural resources that should be respected.

Public access to BWER is available through Friends of Ballona Wetlands (www.ballonafriends.org/), The Mountains Recreation & Conservation Authority (www.mrca.ca.gov/), and the Audubon Society (http://losangelesaudubon.org/index.php/education-mainmenu-194/ballona-wetlands-program-mainmenu-203) which conduct organized tours and restoration activities in specified areas of BWER. CDFW also partners with local law enforcement agencies to assist with site security and addressing issues pertaining to the homeless encampments. If people want to participate in protecting, visiting and restoring BWER they can contact the organizations above to get involved. They can also report suspicious activity witnessed at BWER to the CalTIP Hotline by calling (888) 334-2258. Finally, they can spread the word to friends and family about this important natural resource in a highly urban area.

According to state law (Title 14 CCR, section 630), CDFW is obligated to protect and maintain designated ecological reserves which includes enforcing the rules.

Reserves that are open to the public have hours from sunrise to sunset. On all state properties, it is illegal to feed wildlife, operate motorized vehicles outside of designated areas, disturb bird nests, release any fish or animal, start any fire or light fireworks or other explosive or incendiary devices, disturb habitat, alter the landscape or remove vegetation.

Failure to comply with the law could result in a $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail.

For more information on CDFW’s ecological reserves, please visit http://www.dfg.ca.gov/lands/er/.

New Website Highlights Potential Restoration Alternatives at Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission, State Coastal Conservancy and the Annenberg Foundation today announced a joint website to provide an initial outline of potential restoration alternatives at Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve on the Los Angeles County coast. The website builds on a prior site, and also features scientific studies, history of meetings and information about the wetlands.

The website, ballonarestoration.org, provides an early overview of proposed alternatives that will be presented in a draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS) that is anticipated to be released before the end of 2014. Upon release, interested parties and members of the public will have an opportunity to review and comment on the EIR/EIS.

Because this website precedes the EIR/EIS, the proposed alternatives are subject to change. The state and private partners created the site to provide as much information as possible to interested parties.

In January 2013, the Annenberg Foundation entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the aforementioned state partners that proposes to enhance the state’s existing goal of establishing Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve as a thriving wildlife habitat and an outdoor education destination for local communities.

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