SETAC Globe - Environmental Quality Through Science
 
  14 February 2013
Volume 14 Issue 2
 

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Colorado Lagoon Restoration Project: Western Arm Salt Marsh Restoration and Eelgrass Carbon Sequestration Project

Friends of Colorado Lagoon

Practical and creative ways to offset the carbon footprint were explored for the 2012 SETAC North America annual meeting. The Friends of Colorado Lagoon (FOCL), a 501(c)(3) environmental advocacy nonprofit located in Long Beach, California, was awarded a grant to restore salt marsh habitat and develop an eelgrass carbon sequestration pilot project.

Colorado Lagoon is an engineered geomorphological feature located within the Los Cerritos Wetlands, which historically extended over 1,000 ha (2,400 ac) of coastal wetlands at the heart of the diverse California Floristic Province. This wetland has been reduced to less than 250 ha (500 ac) of open space, much of which is privately owned and operated for oil and gas extraction purposes. Colorado Lagoon has been managed by the City of Long Beach since the 1920s as a park and marine recreational area. In 1923, the naturally occurring tidal wetlands of Alamitos Bay were dredged to form the lagoon and Marine Stadium. The lagoon became the site for the 1932 Los Angeles Olympic U.S. Diving Trails and was separated from Marine Stadium (the site for rowing competitions) by tide gates designed to maintain an adequate water depth during diving events. In the late 1960s, the north end of Marine Stadium was filled in preparation for a never-executed cross-town freeway. Instead, this filled area became part of Marina Vista Park.

After years of poor urban planning, this lagoon is finally getting some much-needed restorative attention and is prospering as ecological functions improve. Presently, there is an 8 ha (18 ac) tidal water body connected to Alamitos Bay via a 300 m (1,000 ft) box culvert that runs under Marina Vista Park into Marine Stadium. A golf course, parking lots, recreational beaches, parks, and residential areas border the lagoon. Development entirely surrounds the lagoon’s edges and impacts the lagoon through 11 storm drains. Over time, this has led to the lagoon accumulating one of the worst water quality conditions in the state. Heal the Bay ranked Colorado Lagoon as one of its “Top 10 Biggest Beach Bummers” in its 2011 Annual Beach Report Card; since spring 2007, the lagoon’s beaches received ‘F’ grades each year regardless of the season. Poor water quality is of great concern, considering that this site is a major stop over for migratory birds and serves as rare nursery habitat for southern California fisheries.

The Colorado Lagoon Restoration Project is a large-scale restoration of over 8 ha (18 ac) of wetland habitat in the urban environment of East Long Beach. The entire restoration project comprises four main components: addressing the 11 storm-drains dumping into the water body, dredging of 60,000 m3 of contaminated marine sediment, re-vegetation of the salt marsh and accompanying habitat, and day-lighting the 300 m (1,000 ft) underground culvert connecting the lagoon with Alamitos Bay.

We are halfway through the large-scale project with the restoration of wetland habitat and day-lighting the channel left to finish. Currently, FOCL is restoring the Western Arm of the lagoon. SETAC North America funds will help with community-based revegetation and eelgrass pilot project. The Western Arm project calls for planting an estimated 2,000 salt marsh plants, 500 coastal dune plant and 3000 coastal sage scrub plants by local community members, students from the adjacent schools and universities, and the local SETAC chapter.

Authors’ contact information: friends@coloradolagoon.org

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