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The definition of wetland would seem to be self-evident: wet land. If only it were that easy in California.
From vernal pools that slowly diminish in the Central Valley heat to brackish estuaries separating ocean from land, California’s topography includes some of the most varied types of wetlands imaginable. Their numbers and varieties baffle that which governmental regulations such as the federal Clean Water Act describe.
How much can one park do? That is the implicit question that environmental advocacy group Santa Monica Baykeeper posed regarding a combination passive recreation area and storm water retention facility planned in the City of Malibu. Sited near the iconic Surfrider Beach, the 15-acre Legacy Park would include a detention basin designed to capture three days’ worth of storm water before diverting it to a treatment plant.
After nearly a decade of conflict, Adam Bros. Farming, Inc.’s quest to receive compensation from the County of Santa Barbara has finally come to an end with a Ninth Circuit ruling in favor of the county.
In 1999 the county had ordered Adams Bros. to cease farming on 95 of its 286 acres near Orcutt because those 95 acres had been designated as wetlands. Adam Bros. originally brought suit in California Superior Court claiming that the wetlands designation was faulty, that it decreased the value and usefulness of their farmland, and that it violated the federal Equal Protection, Due Process and Takings clauses. Adam sought damages and declaratory and injunctive relief.
Can 12 million fish be wrong? Virtually no finned critters were to be found in the San Dieguito Lagoon as recently as 2007, when bulldozers began to push tons of earth to create berms along the banks of the coastal waterway. Seven months later, in January 2008, marine biologists were astonished to find millions of baby fish – far in excess of their expectations – squiggling in the newly irrigated lagoon in San Diego County.
A Riverside County property owner needed to get a county grading permit to repair a seasonal stream’s spillway, even though the state Department of Fish and Game had apparently approved the project and the Federal Emergency Management Agency had funded it. So ruled the Fourth District Court of Appeal, Division Two, in 2 1/2-year-old litigation over a $500 fine.
Wetlands used to cover a huge swath of Southern California’s coast, serving as a sanctuary for wildlife and plants. But today one is hard pressed to find many wetlands left in this urbanized section of the state, where homes, marinas and ports long ago replaced native habitat. While wide, sandy beaches and rocky tide pools are part of the Southern California landscape, quieter wetlands with estuaries, marshes and sand dunes are harder to find.
The Salton Sea sits likes a time bomb in the desert, serving up a brew of bad smells, turgid waters and the potential to increase air pollution in an area where thousands of homes are planned. But under a proposal making its way through the Legislature, some of the sea’s lurking hazards may be stopped. Instead, the Salton Sea may be shrunk to a third of its current 240,000 acres and revived as a recreational lake for sport fish and migrating birds. All it will take is billions of dollars and at least 75 years of maintenance.
A new joint powers authority has acquired 66 acres of coastal wetlands at the mouth of the San Gabriel River in Long Beach and Seal Beach, and may acquire at least 100 more acres in the near future. The Los Cerritos wetlands may provide the scene for the last major coastal wetlands restoration project in Southern California.
To get some idea of how much San Francisco Bay has changed during the past two centuries, unfold a map and trace the estuary’s amoeboid outline as it squeezes through Carquinez Strait into the Delta’s confusion of sloughs and marshes. There, 33 miles inland from the Golden Gate but still bathed in tidewater, lie a pair of features named Grizzly Bay and Grizzly Island.