Bolsa Chica Land Trust, Metropolitan Water District transfer coastal wetlands to State Lands Commission

Nearly 25 acres of coastal wetlands in Orange County will be further preserved and protected as the Bolsa Chica Land Trust, in cooperation with the Metropolitan Water District, today formally transferred the environmentally sensitive habitat to the State Lands Commission.

May 21st, 2001

BOLSA CHICA, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--May 19, 2001--Nearly 25 acres of coastal wetlands in Orange County will be further preserved and protected as the Bolsa Chica Land Trust, in cooperation with the Metropolitan Water District, today formally transferred the environmentally sensitive habitat to the State Lands Commission.

U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Santa Ana) and state Assemblymember Thomas Harman (R-Huntington Beach) joined Land Trust and Metropolitan officials at the signing ceremony, authorizing the transfer of the Bolsa Chica wetlands habitat. The property is located on the lowlands near the city of Huntington Beach, and is commonly referred to as the ``Bolsa Chica Pocket.''

The transferred lands will be added to the state's 1,200-acre Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, considered one of the most significant remaining coastal wetlands in California.

``We are thrilled to have played an important role in getting more of the Bolsa Chica wetlands into public ownership and on the way to restoration,'' said Evan Henry, president of the Land Trust, a non-profit, educational organization that aims to purchase privately held lands, restore the property, and make it available to the public.

``This is one more step on the road to seeing the entire Bolsa Chica, both mesas and wetlands, preserved as an integrated ecosystem. We hope that this celebration is just one of many to come as our vision of a great Bolsa Chica educational, recreational and ecological park becomes a reality,'' Henry said.

``Metropolitan's role in this transfer shows the district's long-term commitment to preserve and restore one of the last and most unusual natural and historical treasures on the Southern California coast,'' said MWD board Chairman Phillip J. Pace.

``It also demonstrates Metropolitan's history of caring for environmental resources in Southern California as well as the entire state,'' Pace said. ``In addition to our Bolsa Chica efforts, we have contributed $30 million toward the restoration of the San Francisco Bay/Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta's ecosystem and have helped set aside more than 15,000 acres of land in Riverside County as part of our efforts to build Diamond Valley Lake, Southern California's largest drinking water reservoir.''

The complex process that led to today's action began five years ago when Metropolitan initially called on the Land Trust to hold the 24.5-acre site in trust until the appropriate public agency to take title of the land was determined.

Metropolitan purchased the wetlands property as part of a larger Bolsa Chica site in February 1974 with plans to build the nation's first nuclear-powered seawater desalination plant. Metropolitan declared the property as surplus lands after environmental and economic studies determined the plant was not feasible. In 1996, the district placed the lands in trust with the Land Trust.

``Today's land transfer is a momentous step in preserving the entire Bolsa Chica,'' said Sanchez at the ceremonies, which included Huntington Beach City Councilmember Connie Boardman. ``Preserving this pristine habitat will afford Orange County residents the opportunity to visit and learn from one of the last remaining wetlands in our state.''

Jim Trout, wetlands restoration project coordinator for the State Lands Commission, said the commission has played a significant role in the 30-year effort to restore the Bolsa Chica wetlands. ``The commission welcomes this move toward that goal,'' Trout said. ``It's another step forward for our children and their children. The waterfowl that visit as they come down the Pacific flyway are a sight to behold.''

Harman said, ``The transfer of this land is monumental. It demonstrates all the collective efforts to preserve the ecological wonder called the Bolsa Chica. The Bolsa Chica is important, not only to Huntington Beach, but to our entire coastal region as well. It is truly satisfying to have this land returned into the public domain.''

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is a cooperative of 26 cities and water agencies serving 17 million people in six counties. The District imports water from the Colorado River and Northern California to supplement local supplies, and helps its members to develop increased water conservation, recycling, storage, and other water-management programs.

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