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South Bay Restoration project earns national environmental award

The South Bay Restoration project provided additional protected habitat for wildlife on San Diego Bay.

Thousands of migratory birds and other wildlife have a new home on the shores of South San Diego Bay, thanks to an award-winning restoration project led by the Port of San Diego.

The South Bay Restoration Project was made possible by grants, funds from the Port of San Diego, and monies from partner agencies, including the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the California Coastal Conservancy.

The Port of San Diego recently received a National Association of Environmental Professionals (NAEP) excellence in "Public Involvement and Partnership" award for the restoration of the salt marsh.

The project restored 280-acres of salt marsh in the Salt Works in South San Diego Bay, the Chula Vista Wildlife Reserve and Emory Cove.

“The port appreciates this honor and recognition of our efforts to protect priceless and irreplaceable natural assets,” said Chairman of the Board of Port Commissioners Lou Smith.

The work, which took about seven months, was made possible with the help of local and federal government agencies, Port of San Diego staff, and numerous nonprofit organizations in San Diego County.

San Diego Bay is home to more than 89 species of fish and an estimated 300 species of birds, including the California least terns and western snowy plover. Hundreds of volunteers helped remove invasive plants, and replaced them with native plants to promote clean water and preserve the habitat.

"Our bay is home to many species on the federal and state endangered species list," said Port Commissioner Ann Moore. "The Port of San Diego takes pride in protecting endangered species and improving the tidelands."

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded the port a $1 million West Coast Estuaries Initiative Grant to help fund the South Bay Restoration project. Other funding for the project came from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. This amounted to just under $3 million.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the California Coastal Conservancy each contributed $1 million to the overall project.

Environmental fund

In its role as an environmental steward of San Diego Bay, the Port of San Diego oversees wildlife preservation programs.

The port used about $1.3 million from its Environmental Fund to pay for the project. The port's Environmental Fund's goal is to restore or enhance the bay and surrounding tidelands by funding programs that include, but are not limited to, recovering habitats, environmental education, protecting endangered species, research, protecting water, and sediment quality and restoring natural resources.

Since the Environmental Fund was established in 2006, the board has approved 62 projects — 42 of which have been completed — and committed $7.3 million to projects aimed at improving the condition of San Diego Bay and surrounding port tidelands.

In addition to the South Bay Restoration project, other key environmental fund projects have included:

• A8 Anchorage: more than 300 tons of debris removed from San Diego Bay.

• Research Studies: ongoing studies of sea turtles, eelgrass and water quality.

• Education: providing environmental education to more than 55,000 students.

• Green Port: green construction at Port Pavilion on Broadway Pier, resulting in LEED Gold certification.

• Emory Cove Shoreline Enhancement: Removal of invasive plants, debris and planting native plants on more than 12 acres.

More than $3 million in matching funds have contributed to these projects, including $1.6 million in federal and state grants.

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1 UserComments
Lisa Cox 9:27am September 10, 2012

This restoration project includes the majority acreage located on the San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge, managed by the USFWS, which includes parts of Salt Works.