Sweetwater Marsh Restoration and Preservation

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The Sweetwater Marsh National Wildlife Refuge is located in central San Diego Bay in San Diego County, California. The refuge protects the last remaining salt water marsh in San Diego Bay.

The goal of the Sweetwater Marsh Restoration and Preservation Project is to restore and rehabilitate an area of the Sweetwater Marsh National Wildlife Refuge, while developing a sustainable model to preserve the area in its original and natural state.

The target area is located in the Southeast corner of the preserve, but it is separated/isolated by two paved roads as illustrated in the photo, also this target area has a tidal creek that moves/pushes trash and debris deep into this sensitive habitat.

Over the past 150 years, dredging and filling operations have resulted in the loss of 42 percent of San Diego Bay’s historic shallow sub tidal habitat, 84 percent of its inter tidal mudflat habitat, and 70 percent of its salt marsh habitat.  Most of the native upland and wetland/upland transition habitat has also been lost to development. Once a naturally pristine area, this Southeast corner of the marsh has been neglected and become polluted with an array of debris and heavy objects. [http://www.fws.gov/sandiegorefuges/Western%20Salt%20Ponds%20Restoration%20Project3.html]

After nearly a decade of planning, the Port of San Diego and City of Chula Vista have given the go-ahead for the development of the Chula Vista bay front, one of the largest natural coastal environments and undeveloped waterfronts in southern California.

It is estimated that over 556 acres along the community’s waterfront will be redeveloped. That will include a 2,000-room resort and conference center, three smaller hotels, and 1,500 residential condominiums with mixed-use retail space. Scenic gathering spaces around the harbor, parks, public promenades and bike trails are envisioned throughout the entire bay front.  With such large urbanization plan on its way, it is now more urgent than ever to implement a plan for the restoration and preservation of the Sweetwater Marsh National Wildlife Refuge.

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On September 15th, 2012 and in order to conduct a preliminary assessment and environmental scan of the target area, Oceanforce Foundation conducted cleanup effort with the participation of more than 60 community members and numerous organizations, such as the US Fish and Wildlife Service, I Love a Clean San Diego, the Living Coast Discovery Center, Eastlake Church members, local Sea Scout and Boy Scouts groups and residents. This preliminary assessment helped us realize the magnitude and scope of the problem.

In recognition of the need to restore this bay’s historic coastal habitats Oceanforce Foundation is working to create a grassroots coalition of community residents and local organizations, in order to build their capacity to implement a restoration and preservation project for the above mentioned section of the Sweetwater Marsh National Wildlife Refugee in the South Bay. This coalition will work at promoting a partnership of local, state, federal, and non-governmental agencies to advance community-based sustainable solutions.

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The project will be done in collaboration with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service who will supervise and guide our work. Oceanforce Foundation is also partnering with the California Coastal Commission and Republic Services to allocate some of the needed resources, and build community capacity supporting this project.

Oceanforce Foundation will create and implement a strategic media advocacy plan throughout the life of the project to effectively showcase the project in the local media, helping create awareness, increase community involvement, and document this community experience.

This ongoing project is restoring the habitat that supports five federally or state listed threatened and endangered species. “Some of this species include the California Least Tern, Light-footed Clapper Rail, Western Snowy Plover, Belding’s Savannah Sparrow, and Eastern Pacific Green Sea Turtle; tens of thousands of migratory birds that stop over at San Diego Bay while traveling along the Pacific Flyway; and a diverse array of fish and other marine onsite organisms.”  Also, at the end of the project we will have a fully operational grassroots group to secure the preservation of that habitat by identifying and addressing the source of the pollution.