Bolsa Chica mesa restoration plan progresses

A long-in-the-works restoration plan for the lower Bolsa Chica mesa, which aims to protect the environmentally sensitive area and increase its plant and animal diversity, may head to the state for approval in the coming months.

The California Department of Fish and Game and Bolsa Chica Land Trust, which partnered on the project with the consulting firm Recon Environmental, recently posted a final version of the plan online. The land trust and Fish and Game revised the proposal after the California Coastal Commission's staff, as well as members of the public and other environmental groups, voiced concerns about an earlier version last year.

Land trust President Connie Boardman said the groups are preparing to submit a coastal development application to the commission in the next week and hope to place it on the agenda by the year's end. She called the new restoration plan mostly identical to the old one with some changes and clarifications.

"The main goals of the plan have not changed," Boardman said. "Some of the methodology changed a bit, and we are certainly looking forward to Coastal Commission input into the plan. If they have suggestions on how it can be improved, I'm sure [Fish and Game] would be happy to take those into consideration."

One of the major changes is that the new plan involves mowing the mesa grounds; the previous plan called for disking, a plowing process that some thought would disturb the soil too much. Other tweaks are more cosmetic; the authors opted against planting oaks along a section of Warner Avenue to avoid impeding homeowners' view.

The 118-acre project site resides east of Pacific Coast Highway and is bordered by Bolsa Bay to the west, Warner to the north, a housing development to the east and restored lowlands to the south. Fish and Game bought the property from developer Signal Landmark in 2005 and 2006.

The documents for the restoration project include a mitigated negative declaration, which declares that the project will not have significant environmental impacts. All the documents can be viewed on Fish and Game's website and at several physical locations, including the Huntington Beach Central Library.

Representatives from the Bolsa Chica Conservancy and Amigos de Bolsa Chica, a pair of other environmental nonprofits, meet bimonthly with the land trust and Fish and Game and said they hope to support the new restoration plan.

"We're anxious to see the plan," said Amigos secretary Jennifer Robins, whose group was among those submitting comments about the first version. "We hope we can get behind it. That's something we really want to be able to do. We're not looking at this in a negative fashion coming in."

Austin Parker, a restoration ecologist for the conservancy, said he had just received the plan and would hold off on judgment until he had read through it.

"I don't want to make any kind of statement as of yet," he said. "But we're all for the restoration of the mesa, and it looks like, so far, they're doing the right things."

Twitter: @MichaelMillerHB

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World