By Dianne Sundstrom and Linda Pemberton
What you do today creates the future, many tell us. Here’s a good example: The complete restoration of our local wetlands will take many years, but the first steps begin here and you have the opportunity to help shape them. The Los Cerritos Wetlands Authority (LCWA) has proposed a restoration program for 503 acres of wetlands under its jurisdiction. Their draft Program Environmental Impact Report (PEIR) has been circulated for public comment.
For planning purposes, the PEIR breaks up the landscape into four distinct areas: North, South, Central, and the Isthmus. The Northern area restoration plan is already in place with the Los Cerritos Wetlands Oil Consolidation and Restoration Plan proposed by Beach Oil Minerals Partners (BOMP) and approved in 2018 by the California Coastal Commission. However, for the rest of the areas, the PEIR presents only broad restoration concepts instead of specific project plans.
The PEIR also breaks up the restoration plans in each area into three phases: near term, mid-term, and long term. Longer-term restoration plans are dependent on property acquisitions and removal of oil operations. Each phase will take multiple years, with the overall completion estimated at 20 years or longer.
Restoration Plan Goals and Objectives
The proposed plan would restore tidal wetland processes and functions to the maximum extent possible by:
Improving connection of wetlands to tidal flows to allow for habitat restoration.
Restoration of a more natural ecosystem through actions like grading, remediation of contaminated soil, altering tidal connections, and revegetation.
Construction of new public access opportunities (including trails, visitor centers, parking lots, and viewpoints).
Developing new flood risk management structures (e.g., earthen levees and berms, or flood walls), constructing new water-control structures that allow for increased tidal connections, and constructing new stormwater management features (e.g., bioswales).
Maximizing contiguous habitat areas and maximizing the buffer between habitat and humans.
Modifying existing infrastructure and utilities.
The Proposed Plan – Of Special Note
Tribal Cultural Landscape: The wetlands have been identified as a Tribal Cultural Landscape and, appropriately, the cultural and archeological impacts have extensive mitigation measures identified in the PEIR.
Flood Protection and Loss of Wetland Views: One of the most salient features of this restoration plan is the proposed use of earthen levees and berms for flood control. The perimeter levees or earthen berms are as high as 18 feet high in some areas and essentially visually enclose the wetlands. The levees would be constructed with a top width of 5 to 30 feet, depending on the type of levee and the functions they will serve.
The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires that an EIR identify alternatives with “No Project” being one of them. The LCWA presents two alternatives in this PEIR. Alternative 1, the required “No Project” and Alternative 2, which offers the use of culverts instead of a breach in the San Gabriel River levee to bring water into the Central area.
There were other alternatives that didn’t bring water in from the San Gabriel River and did not require 18’ earthen berms but these were not brought forward for further study.
Once certified, the Final PEIR will provide the basis for decision-making on restoration by the LCWA and other agencies.
You can find the restoration plan on the LCWA website. For an overview, the Executive Summary may be most helpful. To see other alternatives that were considered but not selected, see the Chapter “Alternatives”.
Public comments on this plan can be made to Sally Gee at firstname.lastname@example.org