LAGUNA BEACH : Conditions Perfect as Reseeding Starts

Sunshine gave a boost Tuesday to the kickoff of efforts to reseed fire-scorched hillsides in Laguna Beach.

"It is nice and dry and the sun is shining, which is good for the native plants," said Michael Harding, an erosion control specialist for Woodward-Clyde, a Santa Ana company hired as the city's consultant.

Light rain Monday night, he said, added just the right amount of moisture to help new seeds take hold.

Six contractors equipped with eight tank trucks started spraying the hillsides to help anchor loose soil that could otherwise threaten homes by turning into mud during the winter rains.

"We're everywhere," said Harding, noting that seeding began in scattered areas including lower Skyline Drive, Canyon Acres, Hidden Valley, Park Avenue and north Laguna Canyon Road.

The slow reseeding process is expected to take up to three weeks to complete, "depending on the weather," said Robert Collacott, the project manager. In all, he said, about 260 burned acres will be reseeded at a cost of $743,000.

City Manager Kenneth C. Frank said 75% of the cost will be paid by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, 18.5% by the state and 6.5% by the city.

Concerns of environmentalists that reseeding could discourage the regrowth of indigenous plants have been addressed, Collacott said. By seeding only the urban fringes, he said, homes and lots that will be rebuilt upon will be protected from mudslides, while larger open spaces will be allowed to re-vegetate naturally and more gradually.

Collacott said two kinds of native plant seed mixes are being applied to the denuded hills. One includes California poppy, lupine, purple needlegrass and foothill needlegrass and the other includes buckwheat, California poppy, lupine and California sage.

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