Coastal Conservancy releases up to $6.5 million for Ballona Wetlands recovery

Molly Peterson/KPCC

The state Coastal Conservancy has approved nearly $6.5 million for reconstructing the Ballona Wetlands in west Los Angeles County.

Shelly Luce, executive director of the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission, says the money will pay for the project's planning and engineering over the next several years.

“We're going to be able to repair and enhance that entire 600 acres, put in the facilities that are needed like paths, parking areas, and information kiosks,” Luce says. “Connect it to a regional bike path that comes down Ballona Creek, and just make it open and accessible to the millions of people who live close to it and others who come from far away.”

The City of Los Angeles built Marina del Rey in the 1950s atop the former salt marsh, which stretched thousands of acres. Developing the marina meant dredging up sediment and dumping it around a Ballona Creek that the US Army Corps of Engineers had channelized. Degraded now, the area remains the last wetland in Los Angeles.

“Really there are a lot of people in southern California who have never experienced a healthy and thriving wetland because we've lost most of the wetlands in southern California,” Luce says.

Shelly Luce, executive director of the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission, says monitoring and engineering for the concrete waterway itself account for much of the restoration project cost over the next several years. Teams already track plants, birds, fish, and other wildlife, and they survey water flows.

“So some of the money's going to go for that and a lot of the money's going to go for the actual design process,” she says. That “includes a master plan for the public access which is something we are really excited about.”

Paths and parking lots are in that plan. So is public education, and projects to improve and connect existing bike paths. As hundreds of acres of wetlands recover, Luce imagines people on those paths may see more wildlife and a richer ecosystem around the Ballona Creek area, too.

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