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Ecologist Discusses Project to Restore Prisoners Harbor Wetland

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Date: April 14, 2009
Contact: Yvonne Menard, 805-658-5725

Restoration ecologist with Channel Islands National Park, Paula Power, will be the featured speaker at the “From Shore to Sea” April lecture. Power will discuss the proposal to restore a portion of the historic coastal wetland and associated stream channel at Prisoners Harbor on Santa Cruz Island.  

Coastal wetlands in California are increasingly rare—over 90% have been eliminated.  Prisoners Harbor was once the largest coastal wetland on the Channel Islands. It provided habitat for wildlife and native plants, stored floodwater and filtered sediments and nutrients.

The natural function of the coastal wetland system was disrupted by channelization of the creek and direct filling of the wetland in the late 1800s in order to create dry land for sheep and cattle corrals. These changes damaged important archeological resources and accelerated the spread of non-native plants such as eucalyptus, fennel, and kikuyu grass. Moreover, these actions reduced the ecological value of the coastal wetland system, which resulted in diminished habitat quality for island species, such as the endangered Island fox, bald eagle, endemic island scrub-jay, and waterfowl.

Channel Islands National Park is preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that analyzes the impacts of alternative methods of restoring the natural function of the coastal wetland and riparian corridor. The intent of the project is to restore the hydrologic function of the site, protect archeological resources from further flood damage, and to enhance the visitor experience. Proposed plans include removing fill from the former coastal wetland, reconnecting the stream with its floodplain, removing non-native eucalyptus, protecting archeological sites, preserving portions of the historic landscape, and providing a rewarding visitor experience. 

The lead planner for the Prisoners Wetland Restoration Project, Power also manages the invasive species and weather programs at Channel Islands National Park. An Ojai native, she transferred to the park in 2004 after conducting aquatic plant research for six years for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Texas. Power has BS and Masters Degrees in science from University of California at Santa Barbara and Texas State University respectively.

The “From Shore to Sea” lecture series is jointly sponsored by Channel Islands National Park and Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary with generous support from Santa Barbara Maritime Museum. The purpose of the series is to further the understanding of current research on the Channel Islands and surrounding waters. The lectures occur at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, April 14, 2009, at Santa Barbara Maritime Museum, 113 Harbor Way in the Santa Barbara Harbor and Wednesday, April 15, 2009, at the Channel Islands National Park Robert J. Lagomarsino Visitor Center, 1901 Spinnaker Drive in the Ventura Harbor. The programs are free and open to the public.

The Draft EIS will soon be available for public comment at the following websites:

Channel Islands National Park website http://www.nps.gov/chis
NPS Park Planning website http://parkplanning.nps.gov

Did You Know?

Painted Cave, Santa Cruz Island

Painted Cave on Santa Cruz Island is one of the world’s largest known sea caves. The cave measures 1215 feet in length (the size of more than four football fields), has a 160 foot entrance, and is almost 100 feet wide.