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Eelgrass gets a transplant in Newport Bay restoration project

Eelgrass gets a transplant in Newport Bay restoration project
Divers volunteering for Orange County Coastkeeper bring in eelgrass collected from a lagoon at Linda Isle in Newport Beach on Thursday. The plants, which provide habitat for marine life in shallow coastal waters, will be put in places in Newport Bay where eelgrass is diminished. (Don Leach, Daily Pilot)

Certified divers volunteering for Costa Mesa-based Orange County Coastkeeper are collecting eelgrass from natural beds in Newport Beach and transplanting them to parts of Newport Bay where eelgrass is diminished.

It's part of Coastkeeper's Eelgrass Restoration Project, which aims to plant more than 1,000 square meters (about a quarter-acre) of eelgrass. The nonprofit environmental group is conducting the project for the fourth year through June 20. Dozens of volunteers are helping to bundle the plants for transport.

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Eelgrass beds help improve water quality and provide habitat for crabs, scallops, fish and other marine life in shallow coastal waters but are declining due to pollution from urban runoff and development, Coastkeeper says.

The group says its restoration effort has planted 776 square meters of eelgrass in Upper Newport Bay since 2012.

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—Rob Vardon

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