A $220,000 federal grant announced Wednesday will help bankroll the
cost of replanting kelp forests along the Southern California coast,
including off Newport Beach.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration awarded the
grant to the California Coastkeeper Alliance. The alliance
coordinates the activities of several groups that address issues of
water quality. Kelp reforestation off Newport Beach started in 2001.
Last year, the Orange County Coastkeeper, a water-quality
organization, planted kelp in waters near Crystal Cove and Laguna
Beach. However, the group pulled out of the Coastkeeper Alliance in
March, and Executive Director Garry Brown said while Orange County
Coastkeeper would monitor already-planted kelp forests, the group
would now concentrate on other issues such as urban runoff.
That opened the door for the Coastkeeper Alliance, which has
assumed control of kelp efforts in Orange County. On May 1 the group
hired marine biologist Nancy Caruso, who headed Orange County
Coastkeeper's kelp efforts until she and two of her co-workers were
laid off in March.
"I couldn't get out to check on them [the kelp] for a couple
months and I was worried, but they did fine," Caruso said.
On Monday, Caruso transplanted kelp from near Little Corona Beach
to waters off Laguna Beach, she said. She expects more kelp will be
moved south through the end of summer.
In December, the Coastkeeper Alliance received a $200,000 grant
from the California Coastal Conservancy to help put kelp back into
the ocean. Coastkeeper Alliance executive director Linda Sheehan said
the annual cost of the kelp project, which also includes educational
activities in schools, is about $475,000.
The kelp project was launched to help the brownish-green algae
return to prominence off beaches from San Diego to Santa Barbara.
Environmentalists believe pollution, El Nino weather patterns and sea
urchins have contributed to a decline in the local kelp population.
During reforestation, divers take kelp spores below the water's
surface and attach the spores to rocky reefs. Any nearby urchins are
taken away to prevent the invertebrates from munching on the algae
before it has a chance to grow.
Brown said he went by Little Corona beach Tuesday and could see
kelp planted in 2001 from the bluff above the shore.
"I was amazed," he said. "It's expanding under its own power."