April 1, 2009

Del Mar, Calif., April 1, 2009 – The San Dieguito Wetland Restoration Project is attracting a larger number of migratory and local birds than expected just months after being opened to ocean tides for the first time. Those monitoring the Southern California Edison (SCE) environmental project, including California Coastal Commission scientists and local birdwatchers, are encouraged at the quantity and rarity of bird species repopulating the new ecosystem. 

“The response to the new site is very promising,” said Cecil House, SCE senior vice president. “It demonstrates the viability and promising future of the unprecedented coastal restoration plan Southern California Edison is pursuing.”

Scientists from the University of California, Santa Barbara’s (UCSB’s) Marine Science Institute, under contract to the California Coastal Commission to monitor the wetland’s development, report a rapid increase of shore birds foraging in a new 63-acre lagoon that is part of the 150-acre project.

“We expected to find small numbers of local and migratory birds inhabiting the wetlands since the new mudflats have been open to daily tides for just a few months. But the numbers and varieties of birds have impressed us,” said UCSB scientist, Dr. Steve Schroeter. “Nature is responding positively.”

“With millions of baby fish now circulating in the wetlands and the positive response by birds to the new nature preserve, we are pleased to see the wetlands habitat thriving”, said Pamela J. Fair, vice president of environmental safety and facilities for San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E). “Build it and they are coming – in flocks and schools.” 

The environmental goal of the San Dieguito Wetlands Restoration project is to create a variety of habitats that would increase and maintain fish and wildlife and ensure protection of endangered species. Future plans call for nature trails and observation decks to ring the new preserve. Some trails already are open to the public along the San Dieguito River, south of the Del Mar Fairgrounds and at the base of San Andres Road, south of Via De La Valle.

Scientists hope to use the restoration project as a model of how best to help species colonize man-made habitats. SCE plans to continue monitoring and testing the area for several years, giving scientists and marine estuary planners data on best practices for restoring other coastal lagoons.

SCE and other San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station owners – SDG&E and the city of Riverside – are constructing the San Dieguito Wetland Restoration Project as part of a program overseen by the California Coastal Commission to offset any impact on marine life caused by San Onofre’s use of ocean water for one of its cooling systems. The Wetland Restoration Project and the new Wheeler North Reef off San Clemente are the largest and most successful coastal power plant mitigation projects of their type.

Bird Species Populating the San Dieguito Wetland Restoration Project Site

Bird species found in the new lagoon include sparrows, gulls, sandpipers, terns, pelicans, hawks, coots, stilts, ospreys and hummingbirds.  Rare birds that nest annually at the site include more than 40 pairs of Belding's Savannah Sparrow and a number of pairs of Least Bell’s Vireo. On the edge of the project several pairs of California gnatcatchers have been observed.  Birdwatchers showed up at the site in large numbers after local bird expert Paul Lehman spotted an extremely rare and tiny sandpiper (Semipalmated Sandpiper) a few months ago. The number of bird species seen at the site has doubled during the past five years to more than 150 now documented with several endangered, rare, migratory and year-round species colonizing the wetlands. A killdeer (Charadrius vociferous) chose to build her nest in a location inside a gravel stockpile area centrally located in one of the most heavily traveled project areas.  Her nesting site was cordoned off and she and her mate raised their babies until they flew the nest.

Additional information about the San Dieguito Wetland Restoration Project is available at www.sce.com/wetlands.

About Southern California Edison
An Edison International (NYSE:EIX) company, Southern California Edison is one of the nation’s largest electric utilities, serving 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.

SCE Media Contact: Gil Alexander, (626) 302-2255
SDG&E Media Contact: April Bolduc, (858) 654-1850

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