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Coastal Commission approves 8 toad pools and habitat restoration at Crystal Cove State Park

(U.S. Geological Survey)
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When it came time Thursday to approve development of eight pools to provide seasonal homes for toads, the California Coastal Commission hopped to it.

The commission approved a coastal development permit application submitted by the state Department of Parks and Recreation for the artificial pools along the southeastern boundary of Crystal Cove State Park and additional habitat restoration on about 10½ adjacent acres to foster breeding, foraging and nesting opportunities for the western spadefoot toad and the cactus wren, a small bird.

Six of the pools would be lined with PVC. The others would be lined with natural clay. They would range in diameter from about 30 to 50 feet and reach depths of 2 to 3½ feet.

The state parks and fish and wildlife departments did not respond to requests for comment about when the work would begin.

But a commission staff report prepared for Thursday’s meeting indicates that all restoration and other work — such as pool construction and mowing — will take place outside of bird breeding seasons that begin Jan. 15 and end around Sept. 15.

The toads, which are endemic to western California and northwestern Baja California, were named a species of special concern by the Fish and Wildlife Department in 2016 and are under federal review for listing under the Endangered Species Act, according to Coastal Commission staff.

The species is threatened by loss of breeding habitats due to urban and agricultural development, more-frequent droughts and changing fire patterns, staff said.

A 2014 assessment by the International Union for Conservation of Nature stated that other threats are the development of transportation infrastructure and invasive species and diseases.

The coastal development permit will allow the state to install the pools along Moro Ridge to create new breeding sites and increase the amount and duration of water available to the toads already in the area. The pools will allow for longer periods of larval development that are expected to result in larger juvenile toads with higher expectations for survival as adults.

The pools will be monitored by UCLA and the U.S. Geological Survey, according to the staff report.

The restoration of the 10.48 acres of adjacent sage and scrub across the San Joaquin Hills is intended to support the coastal cactus wren, which is decreasing in population, according to the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species’ most recent assessment of the bird in 2016.

Crystal Cove State Park’s cactus wren population has still not fully recovered from the 1993 Laguna Beach fire that burned 14,337 acres and caused about $528 million in damage, Coastal Commission staff said.

As part of the coastal development permit approval, the state will be required to submit a monitoring report five years from the date of approval and the final restoration program and submit a monitoring plan to ensure that any archaeological or paleontological resources onsite receive proper protection.

Newport Beach swim dock gets OK

A public swim dock is returning to harbor waters near Balboa Island in Newport Beach.

The Coastal Commission on Thursday approved construction of the dock offshore of Ruby Avenue at its northern terminus.

The dock will be 160 square feet, consistent in size and location to a swim dock the city maintained from 1947 until it deteriorated and was removed in 1970.

Visitors can use the floating platform to jump into and climb out of the calm, relatively shallow water.

The project is combined in the city’s current budget with the rehabilitation of a similar swim dock at the pocket beach on the bay side of Balboa Peninsula near 10th Street. The combined cost of the two docks is $59,800.

The Ruby Avenue swim dock project will remove two small guide piles in the vicinity that were used to attach a boundary line for swimmers.

Swift Slip Dock & Pier Builders of Westminster will build the dock later this fiscal year.

Daily Pilot staff writer Hillary Davis contributed to this report.

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