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Santa Monica Council Asks for Extension of Ballona Wetlands Environmental Review

 

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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

October 27, 2017 -- The Santa Monica City Council on Tuesday joined other local officials in asking for more time for public review of an 8,000-page report on the environmental impact of a major restoration of the Westside’s Ballona Wetlands.

A draft of the environmental impact report was released in September. But the extensive number of activists and officials who were awaiting the findings only have until next month to read, analyze and give input, said Council Member Kevin McKeown.

Ballona Wetlands habitat
Ballona Wetlands habitat (Photo by Lisa Fimiani. Courtesy Friends of Ballona Wetlands)

The council approved a motion by McKeown -- who represents Santa Monica and the Westside Cities Council of Governments on the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission -- to ask the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to extend the public comment period until March 1.

The target date has already been changed, though, to March 24, he said.

The extension is needed to provide “sufficient time for meaningful input,” the motion said.

Four plans are being considered for the ecological reserve, which is located about 5 miles south of Santa Monica, with the EIR’s findings crucial in making a choice.

One plan involves no federal action.

Another option is full tidal restoration within an approximately 483-acre area and removal of existing levees to create a sinuous Ballona Creek channel with two primary meander-shaped bends.

The proposal would also restore contiguous tidal wetlands and “other aquatic resources north of Culver Boulevard, and enhance managed wetlands south of Culver Boulevard,” the report said.

Illustration of Tongva in Ballona Wetlands
Artist Mary Leighton Thomson's depiction of early Tongva settlement in the Ballona Wetlands.

A third alternative, termed “Restored Partial Sinuous Creek,” would involve about 426 acres.

It would realign the channel in a similar manner but only restore full tidal wetlands in a portion of the area.

The fourth alternative, termed “Levee Culverts and Oxbow,” would involve an approximately 163-acre area, but would not remove existing levees (leaving the channel as is).

It would focus restoration efforts north of the channel and west of Lincoln Boulevard.

Once so vast it stretched from Venice and Playa del Rey to Baldwin Hills, the wetlands area was channelized in concrete (for flood control) in the 1930s, and then partially covered when Marina del Rey was built decades later.

Federal, state and county officials want to restore the 566-acre ecological reserve to a more natural state.

It is one of the last significant wetlands in the Los Angeles basin.

“The proposal is intended to return the daily ebb and flow of tidal waters where practically feasible,” according to the draft Environmental Impact Report/Statement prepared for Report U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Overall, the goal is to “achieve predominantly estuarine conditions, maintain freshwater conditions, and enhance physical and biological functions within the Ballona Reserve,” the report said.

The Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve is bisected by, and includes a channelized reach, of Ballona Creek. It is traversed by Culver, Jefferson, and Lincoln boulevards.

It was once more than 2,100-acres of marshes, mud flats, salt pans and sand dunes.

 


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