December 9, 2010

A Very Good Day!

The 20 or so people in attendance at today's Los Cerritos Wetlands Authority (LCWA) meeting heard some very good news!

The meeting started off with a bang when the LCWA staff announced that all documents have been signed for the Hellman acquisition and escrow will likely close no later than this month.

Additionally, the LCWA unanimously voted to accept a $225,000 grant from the Rivers and Mountains Conservancy for the Phase 2/Hellman restoration.

In a subsequent item, the LCWA unanimously voted to authorize the hiring of a consultant or consultant team to develop a Site Restoration and Recreational Improvements Conceptual Plan for 200 acres of the Los Cerritos Wetlands Complex. The subject lands are the 67 acre Phase 1/Bryant property, the 100 acre Phase 2/Hellman property and the 33 acre City of Long Beach Marketplace Marsh (i.e. land swap) property.

The LCWA will be issuing a Request for Proposals to conduct this work, and the selected team will be responsible for collecting the needed data, producing the Plan and engaging agencies and members of the public throughout the planning process. The total budget for this activity is $450,000—comprised of a previously awarded $225,000 grant for Phase 1 restoration, and the $225,000 grant for Phase 2 restoration as identified above.

In one of the final items in a packed agenda, the LCWA unanimously voted to award AECOM the contract to conduct the wetlands delineation of the Marketplace Marsh property, and Buss-Shelger Associates will conduct the property appraisal. The delineation and appraisal have a $30,000 budget (not to exceed).

The conservation effort is moving in the exact right direction, and I hope that the positive momentum continues! Commissioning the production of this Conceptual Plan is monumental, and its significance cannot be overstated.

I have found that one of the biggest obstacles in this conservation process, from a public perspective, is that people look at the Los Cerritos area and have a difficult time seeing its potential. For many, I recognize that it is hard to look at the area in its degraded state and see anything but a weedy, active oil field. Additionally, it doesn't help that the area has been publicly inaccessible for a very long time and the bits of thriving ecosystem that currently exist are largely out of eyesight.

But with more acreage moving from private ownership into the public domain, with the area opening to the public via guided tours, and with production of a conceptual plan, restoration of the Los Cerritos Wetlands is becoming increasingly more likely. Yes, there are still dominoes to fall, but today marked major progress.

It is still a long and difficult road, and I'm absolutely certain that there will be bumps along the way, but today was an extremely positive stride forward. I am entirely supportive of the actions taken by the LCWA and I encourage the public to participate throughout this restoration process.