DEL MAR — As the San Dieguito Wetland Restoration Project enters its final stages, project team members Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric have agreed to fund a new ranger service to be managed by the San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Authority. Uniformed rangers are being added to patrol the almost 500-acre site, providing education for the public, maintaining the new trail system and directing people to approved areas in order to protect sensitive habitats.
An unexpectedly large number of people are using the new trails and viewing the wildlife even though the project will not be complete until later this year.
“The response of the public to this oasis in an urban setting is very encouraging,” said Cecil House, senior vice president at SCE. “We’ve created the ranger program because we want residents and tourists to be able to enjoy the new wetlands preserve without adverse impacts on our primary goal — creating a new habitat for coastal fish and birds.”
Several endangered migrant birds already have been spotted at the site, and new species are colonizing the wetlands more rapidly than predicted. Minimizing interference with these new residents and their habitat will be an important part of the project’s success.
California Coastal Commission scientists have independently documented nature’s positive response to the new wetland habitats. After opening the 43-acre, deep lagoon west of Interstate 5 to ocean tides on Jan. 23, 2008, the fish population went from zero to 12 million fish in less than seven months. And wildlife biologists have documented more than double the number of bird species on site this year. Bird species have increased from 59 to 158.
The park’s master plan provides for public access through increased trail systems and wetlands education once the construction portion of the nature preserve is completed.
Wetlands rangers will patrol during daylight hours throughout the nature preserve, providing visitors with maps, directions and general information. As the park trail system becomes operational, rangers will conduct pre-scheduled hikes available to the general public, schools, local environmental groups and park supporters.
The goal of the San Dieguito Wetlands Restoration Project, along with two companion environmental projects, is to fully offset any adverse impact on ocean ecosystems caused by the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. The plant uses ocean water for one of three cooling systems. Although innovative technologies prevent more than 90 percent of marine life near the plant’s intake system from being affected, the system does impact some small fish and fish larvae. SCE and SDG&E also hope to preserve, improve and create a variety of habitats in order to increase and maintain fish and wildlife and to ensure protection of endangered species.
Additional information about the San Dieguito Wetland Restoration Project is available at www.sce.com/wetlands.
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