After Seven Decades, Ocean Fish Will Return this Week to One of Nature’s Local Hatcheries

January 23, 2008

January 23, 2008

Major milestone reached in Southern California Edison wetlands restoration project

DEL MAR, Calif., Jan. 23, 2008 — Workers constructing Southern California Edison’s (SCE) 150-acre wetlands restoration project will once again connect a former marine and wildlife sanctuary with the Pacific Ocean today, a major milestone in SCE’s $86 million San Dieguito Wetlands Restoration Project.

In the early 1900s, the construction of the Del Mar airport and sewage treatment lagoons filled a former wetlands area near the current Del Mar Fairgrounds. As a result, ocean fish were blocked from using this once sheltered area as a spawning site. That will change today when workers remove a temporary earthen dam separating the restoration project’s new 40-acre lagoon from the tidal channel.  The dam was built to protect the channel from construction sediment.  Then, during the next high tide, the daily 80-million gallon tidal exchange that once nourished this former fish and bird habitat will reach the new wetlands area for the first time in 70 years.

The new nature preserve financed by SCE is one of two major environmental stewardship programs the utility has undertaken to fully offset any adverse impact on the marine environment caused by the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, 40 miles to the north. The second is an artificial giant kelp reef off San Clemente that currently is under construction.

“One of California’s largest environmental restoration projects reaches a major milestone with the opening of the new San Dieguito Lagoon basin to the ocean,” said Dick Rosenblum, SCE senior vice president and chief nuclear officer. “This is a significant step toward our ultimate goal — creating a new breeding habitat for ocean fish and attracting wildlife including endangered species back to the Southern California coast.” 

Once the new basin is connected to the tidal channel, twice daily tides are expected to bring a variety of ocean fish to the new shallow-water habitat, including top smelt, grunion, turbot, halibut, mullet, pipe fish, basses and gobies.

The public will be able to view the new lagoon, already visible from Interstate 5, from a new observation deck SCE is constructing at the old Grand Avenue Bridge in Del Mar across from Jimmy Durante Boulevard. The utility removed and is re-milling wooden rails that originally made up the bridge, recycling them into the new platform for a public observation point. A system of trails also will be built to increase access to parts of the nature preserve.

Construction work on the restoration project began in the fall of 2006 and is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2009. The preserve will anchor the San Diego County’s Coast to Crest Trail system — more than 60 miles of trails for recreational access from the Escondido mountains to the Del Mar beach.

Additional information about the wetlands and reef projects and other SCE environmental initiatives is available at www.sce.com/lagoon.

Related Facts

  • Almost 1 million cubic yards of material, enough dirt to fill three quarters of Qualcomm Stadium, were excavated to create the lagoon and build the surrounding wetlands. 
  • Clean dirt was transported to the east side of Interstate 5 to create upland habitat that will be graded and seeded with natural vegetation. Scrapers, excavators, front-end loaders and 40-ton articulated dump trucks have been working on the west side of Interstate 5 since the winter of 2006 to excavate and build the new lagoon and wetlands, which called for the removal of debris and infill from an abandoned airfield. 
  • Construction crews used state-of-the-art, satellite technology to achieve perfect elevations to construct sensitive ecosystems near the lagoon that vary based on changes in tide levels.
  • Biologists believe the restoration project may attract the Pacific Little Pocket Mouse, California Brown Pelican, Belding Savannah Sparrow, Light-Footed Clapper Rail, California Least Tern and Western Snowy Plover.

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Southern California Edison, an Edison International (NYSE:EIX) company, is the largest electric utility in California. SCE serves a population of more than 13 million via 4.8 million customer accounts in a 50,000-square-mile service area within Central, Coastal and Southern California.