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Wetlands celebrates 10 years

Darrel Airhart looks out over the Bolsa Chica wetlands during the Aug. 24 commemoration of the 10th anniversary of opening a tidal inlet that allowed ocean water to flow into the wetlands for the first time since 1899.
Darrel Airhart looks out over the Bolsa Chica wetlands during the Aug. 24 commemoration of the 10th anniversary of opening a tidal inlet that allowed ocean water to flow into the wetlands for the first time since 1899.
(Scott Smeltzer | Independent)

The Amigos de Bolsa Chica recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of a tidal inlet project for the Bolsa Chica wetlands that allowed ocean waters to flow into the area for the first time in more than 100 years.

The inlet, near Pacific Coast Highway and Seapoint Street, opened in the early hours of Aug. 24, 2006, with a Champagne toast. The moment marked an historic occasion for the Amigos, which had been working for more than 30 years to restore the area.

At the 10th anniversary event, held Aug. 24near the restored habitat, organizers remarked that since the project was completed, fish populations have increased and birds are thriving and reproducing more throughout the ecological reserve.

Restoring the ocean water “meant that now we would be able to see full restoration of the Bolsa Chica wetlands,” Shirley Dettloff, secretary of Amigos de Bolsa Chica, said.

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Shirley Dettloff, secretary for Amigos de Bolsa Chica, speaks to the crowd during the Aug. 24 commemoration of the Bolsa Chica tidal inlet project that debuted in 2006 near Pacific Coast Highway and Seapoint Street. The project allowed ocean water to flow into the wetlands for the first time since 1899.
Shirley Dettloff, secretary for Amigos de Bolsa Chica, speaks to the crowd during the Aug. 24 commemoration of the Bolsa Chica tidal inlet project that debuted in 2006 near Pacific Coast Highway and Seapoint Street. The project allowed ocean water to flow into the wetlands for the first time since 1899.
(Scott SmeltzerHB Independent)

The spot was first cut off from the ocean in 1899 by members of a duck hunting club, who wanted to create ponds to make it easier to catch their prey, according to the Los Angeles Times. Decades later, the land was used for oil drilling and then became a battleground between developers and environmentalists, the latter of whom contested plans to build, first, a marina and, later, housing tracts there.

“It was truly a miracle to know that the oilfield — at one time the second largest in California — would become a productive wetlands,” Dettloff said.

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The inlet project took three years and cost $147 million, with funding coming from state bonds and the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. It involved scooping out 2 million cubic yards of sediment and constructing jetties, bridges and public viewing areas.

A National Marine Fisheries Service biologist told The Times in 2006 that restoring Bolsa Chica was regarded as “the largest and most complicated in terms of cleanup in the state.”


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