Ormond Beach Restoration

 
 

Purpose:


This project will collect and analyze pre-restoration data and develop a long-term ecological monitoring program for an approximate 1000-acre (400 ha) coastal wetlands complex to be restored and enhanced in southern California’s Ventura County.  We will characterize wetland function and ecological health with an array of metrics specifically designed to track long-term changes.  This project will collaborate with researchers at the nearby State University and others with Southern California Wetlands Recovery Project, a partnership founded by EPA and other agencies.


Project Objectives:


The Ormond Beach Restoration Monitoring Project will:


•Document the current level of degradation of the Ormond Beach Wetlands Complex.

•Develop and assess a variety of metrics of ecological function.

•Establish a network of reference sites that will serve to characterize high and low levels of performance for each proposed metric.

•Provide quantitative guidance to the final restoration plan for Ormond Beach Wetlands (construction currently slated for 2010-2013).

•Characterize pre-restoration conditions at Ormond Beach such that subsequent restoration and management efficacy can be rigorously evaluated.


Background:


Our modern California landscape is quite different from the landscape of 200, 100, or even 50 years ago.  Our society’s increasingly rapid growth has had numerous deleterious consequences for ecosystems statewide.  While pollution, the introduction of exotic species, and over harvesting of most fish and game have all radically altered the California of our forebears, simple habitat destruction has been and remains the greatest single threat to ecological communities overall.  California’s south coast region is an excellent example of both the type of change experienced throughout our state and the hope for preserving what remains of our natural heritage.

The United States has lost about half of its wetlands over the past 200 years.  This loss has not been homogeneous.  Rather, certain areas have been hit harder than others have.  We here in California have the unfortunate distinction of leading the nation in proportional wetland loss, having lost more than 91% of our historic wetlands.  Wetlands in the coastal region of Ventura County as a whole have fared a bit better than those statewide, having lost “only” approximately 57% of their historic extent.

Seasonal and estuarine wetlands were relatively common throughout Ventura County in the early Ranchero period but wetland quantity and quality both began to decline rapidly by the mid to late 19th century.  Intensive ranching, agriculture, and upstream urbanization fostered erosion and the sedimenting in of many water bodies in coastal southern California.  The booming human population appropriated much of the surface and subsurface water via diversions and wells and simply filled or drained the majority of extant wetland areas. 

The Ormond Beach project area supported a large lagoon and emergent salt marsh complex up through the 1940s, when surrounding areas were ditched and drained severely to expand agricultural production.  The Mugu Lagoon salt marsh complex immediately south or Ormond Beach is the only large regional wetland to persist to present day. Restoring the Ormond Beach complex in a more or less integrated system with Mugu Lagoon is an historic opportunity for the State of California.

Land preservation, development of a wetland restoration and enhancement plan with a monitoring program, and eventual implementation of these plans at Ormond Beach have been recognized as high priority actions by the California State Coastal Conservancy’s Southern California Wetlands Recovery Project since 1997, when the (federal) Environmental Protection Agency and 11 other agencies founded this partnership.  Community efforts to preserve and restore Ormond Beach wetlands have an even longer history, with grass roots organizing beginning in earnest in the mid 1980s.  With a final 340-acre property (Southland Sod Farms or Unit 2) anticipated to be added late in 2007 to the land acquisition and preservation efforts, the cumulative Ormond Beach project area totals nearly 1000 acres in size.  This wetland restoration area would allow a sufficiently large and viable tidal wetland restoration opportunity because of the sufficiently large tidal prism, or volume of water moving in and out with the tides.

While the need for expanded coastal wetlands is obvious, exactly what a healthy marsh consists of is still somewhat of an abstract concept.  We seek to rigorously document the existing level of ecological functioning at Ormond Beach, provide detailed functional goals for a restored wetlands complex, and in so doing provide rigorous and objective yardsticks with which to gauge the efficacy of our management efforts.


Funding: Environmental Protection Agency, California Coastal Conservancy

 

Pre-Restoration Monitoring and Design of the Ormond Beach Wetlands Complex