EDA’s Comments on Los Cerritos Wetlands Project

Post photo credit: ©Cindy Crawford

The Los Cerritos Wetlands Oil Consolidation and Restoration Project EIR went to Long Beach City Council on Jan. 16th, 2018 and was approved.  Important to note we do not support this project unconditionally.  Our chapter submitted public comments on the EIR as follows: 

Via e-mail

Mr. Craig Chalfant
Planning Bureau, Development Services Department
City of Long Beach
333 W. Ocean Blvd., 5th Floor
Long Beach, CA 90802
 
Re: Los Cerritos Wetlands Restoration and Oil Consolidation Project

Dear Mr. Chalfant,
 
On behalf of the El Dorado Audubon Society, the undersigned submits this letter in comment to the above project.

Our Mission and long-time involvement with Los Cerritos Wetlands:

“The mission of the El Dorado Audubon Society is the conservation of native birds and their habitats. The society provides leadership in conservation and educates its members and the community, so that they may appreciate birds and participate in the society’s conservation efforts.”

In keeping with our mission, El Dorado Audubon has been an active member of the Los Cerritos Wetlands Authority’s Stewardship Program since 2009 and has led educational bird walks for the public at the Los Cerritos Wetlands since 1979.  In addition, for years we have conducted regular bird counts and surveys at the wetlands.

Our current work at the wetlands also includes participation in the restoration planning public process. We have provided comments and suggestions throughout the conceptual planning process and any proposed restoration.  In general, per our mission, we are in support of good restoration efforts not only to conserve habitat for native birds and wildlife but also to restore habitat whenever possible.   We have prepared a list of concerns (set forth below), for which we regularly have meetings directly with the project proponents to discuss.  It is important to note many of our concerns have been addressed, and some are topics of ongoing communications.

El Dorado Audubon’s Wetlands Restoration/Oil Relocation Project On-going Concerns:

1.   Recreation

The goal of the Los Cerritos Restoration project is to create the best possible Southern California Wetland, i.e., a nature preserve NOT a recreational park.  As a nature preserve, its primary function is to protect rare biological resources and natural communities.  For this reason, only passive recreational activities (hiking, photography, bird watching and nature study) are appropriate.  Trails should be open to foot traffic only, of limited, non-intrusive width, and visitors must stay on them at all times.  Kayaks should not be permitted.

  • EIR describes 1 acre of parkland and picnic benches (originally 4 acres in DEIR but reduced in final EIR).  A better designation would be “outdoor educational center” as the actual intended usage was explained to EDA as more of an educational gathering spot by the parking lot, not a parkland or picnic area.  The FEIR describes about ½ dozen picnic benches, with gravel and native plant cover – is an acre really needed?  More details of how the acre would be used are needed in the EIR documents.
  • Public access trails, sidewalks, bike lanes along Studebaker Road:  The trail is described as 10’ wide decomposed granite.  More details of the sidewalk and bike path, and how access from the sidewalk and bike path to the wetlands will be controlled, should be defined in the EIR.  The 10’ wide trail should be reduced to 3’ to 5’ wide, as you would find on the Bolsa Chica Mesa Trail.  Like the Bolsa Chica Mesa public access trail area, the Studebaker “bluff” is also a relatively narrow strip of land.
  • Monitoring/limiting “recreational use” such as trail hours of operation, how the trails will be controlled and types of recreation is allowed, with the goal of minimizing human presence impacts to the habitat, birds and wildlife.

2. No project alternative

EDA believes that the current oil operations and infrastructure pose a greater risk to the remnant and functional wetlands, “Steamshovel Slough”, than the potential risks from the proposed reconfigured oil operations.   This plus the absence of the added, restored wetland acreage means that the “No Project” alternative is not a prudent approach.

3. Interpretive center

The proposed interpretive center offers a unique opportunity to educate the public about the importance of marshlands and wetlands, through illustrative displays of marsh habitats and the respective plant, animal, and bird life found in each zone and the larger web of life dependent on these essential habitats.  It offers further opportunity to illustrate the interaction of man with this particular marsh from Native Americans to the present, including how the greater marsh of which Los Cerritos is a remnant became degraded and, in a sense preserved ultimately by the oil industry maintaining open spaces and remnant marsh and wetland allowing plants and wildlife to survive.

4. Restoration

Wetland restoration is an evolving science.  Therefore, it is vitally important that the project undergo review and most importantly incorporation of any input from the various permitting agencies to ensure the best restoration possible.  We expect that the project proponent and permitting agencies will implement at a minimum, the following items:

  • Protect the existing marsh from sedimentation resulting from restoration activities.
  • Use native plant & marsh plant species only from our specific area, appropriate for the habitat types on the project area.
  • Ensure any upland habitat impacts are temporary and result in increased quality habitat for use by birds and wildlife.  All contamination cleanup uses best available methods.

5.  Synergy Office (on “Pumpkin Patch”)

We would expect that the construction of the office building incorporate:

  • Bird friendly building techniques (bird safe glass measures, shielded lighting, lights out at night to prevent bird strikes).
  • Native tree and plant landscaping.
  • Preservation and restoration of any wetlands resources on the property.

6. Marine life studies in the marsh

Baseline studies of fish and other aquatic creatures should be done pre-restoration to measure against post-restoration conditions.

7. Special Status of Marsh and Uplands

All of the area acquired by the Los Cerritos Wetland Authority including marine, tidal salt marsh, and upland components should be designated a “biological reserve” consistent with Section 4.4.8 of SEASP zoning.

In conclusion, we believe with careful planning and some modifications, the restoration of Los Cerritos Wetlands would be of great benefit to the birds, wildlife and the public.

Sincerely,

El Dorado Audubon
Mary Parsell, President

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