U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Seeks Community Input for Ballona Wetlands Restoration Project

A public scoping  meeting to receive input on the scope of the DEIS/EIR will be conducted  on August 16, 2012, from 4:00-7:00 p.m. at the Fiji Gateway entrance to  the Ballona Wetlands (13720 Fiji Way, Marina del Rey, CA 90292, across  from Fisherman's Village and Los Angeles County Department of Beaches  and Harbors).

SUMMARY: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and the California  Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) intend to jointly prepare a Draft  Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report (DEIS/EIR)  for the proposed Ballona Wetlands Restoration Project. The proposed  project is intended to return the daily ebb and flow of tidal waters,  maintain freshwater circulation, and augment the physical and  biological functions and services in the project area. Restoring the  wetland functions and services would allow native wetland vegetation to  be reestablished, providing important habitat for a variety of wildlife  species. As a restored site, the Ballona Wetlands would play an  important role to provide seasonal habitat for migratory birds. A  restored, optimally functioning wetland would also benefit the adjacent  marine environment and enhance the quality of tidal waters.

 

DATES: Submit comments on or before September 10, 2012.

 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dr. Daniel P. Swenson at (213) 452- 3414 (daniel.p.swenson@usace.army.mil), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,  Los Angeles District, P.O. Box 532711, Los Angeles, CA 90053-2325.

 

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Corps intends to prepare a joint EIS/EIR  to assess the environmental effects associated with the proposed  project. CDFG is the state lead agency for the EIR pursuant to the  California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).     1. Background. The 600-acre Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve is  located in the western portion of the City of Los Angeles (partially  within unincorporated Los Angeles County), south of Marina Del Rey and  north of Playa Del Rey. The project site is situated approximately 1.5  miles west of Interstate 405 and approximately \1/4\-mile east of Santa  Monica Bay. The project site is owned by the State of California, and  is bisected by and includes a channelized span of Ballona Creek, a  component feature of a federal flood risk management project.     

Project Purpose and Need. A substantial portion of California's  historic coastal wetlands have been lost. Restoration of coastal  wetlands is needed in order to increase available nursery and foraging  habitat for wildlife and to provide recreational and educational  opportunities to the public. The Ballona Wetlands ecosystem is one of  the last remaining major coastal wetlands in Los Angeles County. It is  estimated that historically the wetlands ecosystem spanned more than  2,000 acres in the vicinity of the site. Development occurring over the last  century greatly reduced the Ballona wetland area, now estimated at  approximately 600 acres. In addition, the wetland habitat and natural  hydrological functions in the area have been substantially degraded.  The project site provides habitat for a diversity of plant and wildlife  species, but most on-site habitat exhibits relatively low physical and  biological functions and services.     The proposed project is intended to return the daily ebb and flow  of tidal waters, maintain freshwater circulation, and augment the  physical and biological functions and services in the project area.  Restoring the wetland functions and services would allow native wetland  vegetation to be reestablished, providing important habitat for a  variety of wildlife species. As a restored site, the Ballona Wetlands  would play an important role to provide seasonal habitat for migratory  birds. A restored, optimally functioning wetland would also benefit the  adjacent marine environment and enhance the quality of tidal waters.  The proposed project would provide the community with a valuable  educational resource and access to a large wetland area.     The purpose of the project is to restore ecological functions of  the site, in part, by enhancing tidal flow.     3. Proposed Action. CDFG is proposing a large-scale restoration of  the Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve. The proposed project entails  restoring, enhancing, and establishing native coastal wetland and  upland habitats in the approximately 600-acre Ballona Wetlands  Ecological Reserve. The reserve currently supports large expanses of  previously filled and dredged coastal wetland and upland habitat that  would be restored by increasing tidal flow throughout the project area,  removing invasive species, and planting native vegetation.     The main components of the proposed project are:      Habitat restoration of estuarine wetland and upland  habitats connected to a realigned Ballona Creek.      Removal of existing Ballona Creek levees and realignment  of Ballona Creak to restore a more meandering channel.      Construction of levees along the perimeter of the project  area to allow restoration of tidally influenced wetlands in the project  area while providing flood risk management for Culver Boulevard and  surrounding developed areas.      Installation of water control structures, including  culverts with self-regulating tide gates or similar structures, to  provide a full range of tides up to an elevation acceptable for flood  risk management and storm drainage, while reducing the risk of damage  from storm events.      Maintenance of existing levels of flood risk management  for areas surrounding the Ballona Wetlands site.      Provision of erosion protection as an integral part of the  restoration design.      Modification of infrastructure and utilities as necessary  to implement the restoration project.      Improving public access by realigning existing trails,  creating new trails, repairing existing fences, constructing overlook  platforms, and providing other visitor-oriented facilities.      Long-term operations and management activities including  inspections, repairs, clean-up, vegetation maintenance, and related  activities.    

The proposed project requires a permit under section 404 of the  Clean Water Act (CWA) and section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act to  conduct dredge and fill activities in waters of the United States and  for work and (or) structures in or affecting navigable waters of the  United States associated with restoring wetlands and associated habitat  within the project site. Dredge and fill activities in waters of the  United States are proposed to construct new levees, form new tidal  channels, modify existing tidal channels, re-contour areas to enhance  tidal flow, and to create elevations conducive to establishing wetland  habitat. Preliminary conservative estimates indicate the project would  result in a balanced total of 1,782,000 cubic yards of excavation and  1,782,000 cubic yards of fill placement, not all of which would affect  jurisdictional areas. Based on these preliminary estimates, the volumes  and areas of fill are estimated as follows: Permanent discharge of fill  within 43.5 acres of non-wetland waters of the U.S. (435,000 cubic  yards) and within 65 acres of wetland waters of the U.S. (600,000 cubic  yards), as well as temporary discharge of fill within 3.5 acres of non- wetland waters of the U.S. (30,000 cubic yards) and within 0.3 acres of  wetland waters of the U.S. (structural fill).     The project will also require a permit from the Corps to the Los  Angeles County Department of Public Works, as the non-Federal sponsor  of the Los Angeles County Drainage Area (LACDA) project, pursuant to 33  U.S.C. section 408 (408 permit). A section 408 permit is required to  alter/modify a completed Corps project. The Ballona Creek levees were  constructed by the Corps in the 1930s as part of LACDA. This project  proposes to remove levees, construct a larger levee reach around the  perimeter of the proposed side, reconfigure the existing concrete-lined  Ballona Creek flood-control channel and realign the creek. A permit for  modification/alteration of this magnitude would require Corps  Headquarters approval.     4. Alternatives Considered. The feasibility of several alternatives  is being considered and will be addressed in the DEIS/EIR. The No  Federal Action/No Project Alternative, as required by NEPA and CEQA,  would maintain the status quo and would include no improvements or  discharges of fill material in waters of the United States or work or  structures in or affecting navigable waters of the United States. Other  alternatives that may be considered include restoring smaller portions  of the 600-acre site, alternative designs that would provide differing  amounts of various habitats types, and alternative designs for  enhancing tidal flow. Additional alternatives may be developed during  scoping and will also be considered in the DEIS/EIR.     5. Scoping Process.     a. Affected federal, state and local resource agencies, Native  American groups and concerned interest groups/individuals are  encouraged to participate in the scoping process. Public participation  is critical in defining the scope of analysis in the DEIS/EIR,  identifying significant environmental issues in the DEIS/EIR, providing  useful information such as published and unpublished data, and  knowledge of relevant issues and recommending mitigation measures to  offset potential impacts from proposed actions.     b. Potential impacts associated with the proposed project will be  fully evaluated. Potential significant issues to be addressed in the  DEIS/EIR include aesthetics, air quality and greenhouse gas emissions,  biological resources, cultural resources, geology and soils, hazards  and hazardous materials, hydrology and water quality, land use and  planning, noise, public services, recreation, sea-level rise, traffic,  flood control, and utilities. Additional issues may be identified  during the scoping process.

 

    c. Individuals and agencies may offer information or data relevant  to the environmental or socioeconomic impacts of the proposed project  by submitting comments, suggestions, and requests to be placed on the  mailing list for announcements to (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT)  or the following email address: Daniel.p.swenson@usace.army.mil.

 

    d. The Corps anticipates formally consulting with the U.S. Fish and  Wildlife Service under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act, the  National Marine Fisheries Service under Section 305(b)(2) of the  Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), and  with the State Historic Preservation Officer under Section 106 of the  National Historic Preservation Act. The CDFG, as the project proponent,  will need to obtain a CWA section 401 water quality certification or  waiver and a consistency certification from the California Coastal  Commission in accordance with the Coastal Zone Management Act.     6. Scoping Meeting Date, Time, and Location. A public scoping  meeting to receive input on the scope of the DEIS/EIR will be conducted  on August 16, 2012, from 4:00-7:00 p.m. at the Fiji Gateway entrance to  the Ballona Wetlands (13720 Fiji Way, Marina del Rey, CA 90292, across  from Fisherman's Village and Los Angeles County Department of Beaches  and Harbors).

 

 

 

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