Sustaining the Tidal Inlet is Critical to Wetland Health
By Shirley Dettloff
Ten years ago many Amigos stood on the bridge over Pacific Coast Highway as the ocean waters flowed directly into the Bolsa Chica giving life to the newly restored wetlands. We cheered because we knew that all of our work and dedication in saving the wetland now had become a reality. We are now at a critical time when keeping the inlet functioning as intended is in question. If the tidal inlet is to bring the maximum effect of the tides and the maximum amount of biodiversity to the wetlands, sand that accumulates in the opening must be dredged out on a yearly basis and this is a costly operation. However, without removing this sand from the entrance would mean that the ocean waters would not be able to flow into the wetlands as originally planned, thus much of the productivity of the wetlands would be compromised.
Monies that were designated to fund this operation are running very low and that is why the State Lands Commission, owners of the property, have requested one million dollars in the State Budget to ensure that the 2018 dredging cycle is completed. This is something that the Amigos board is supporting and taking the lead with the other two organizations, the Bolsa Chica Conservancy and the Bolsa Chica Land Trust. We are all working with the State Lands Commission to urge our local elected officials to support the million dollar request. We have met with our state assembly and senate members as well as Orange County supervisors. We have all written letters to the budget committees to urge their support of this item. However, we are not just depending on this one time request. We are also working with the Bolsa Chica Steering Committee which is made up of state and federal agencies who meet and make all decisions regarding the tidal inlet and other issues surrounding the sustainability of the wetland. We must all be committed to finding long-term solutions that ensure the health and functioning of the wetland ecosystem.
Every possible solution is being considered. State Lands is applying for grants, mitigation projects are being studied, different dredging techniques are looked at as a way to reduce costs, and funding for studies to look at the best way to achieve long term sustainability is being sought. These are all ways to ensure the wetland is functioning as the designers and engineers had intended. The Amigos de Bolsa Chica assures you that we will find a solution. We did not work for 40 years to see a compromised or failed project. This is considered one of the best restoration projects in the Nation, and we will use all of our experience and expertise to ensure long term success.