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National Park Service Releases Final Plans to Restore Coastal Wetland

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Date: April 16, 2010
Contact: Yvonne Menard, 805-658-5725

Channel Islands National Park Superintendent Russell E. Galipeau Jr. announced today the release of the Prisoners Harbor Coastal Wetland Restoration Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The National Park Service (NPS) is proposing to restore a portion of the coastal wetland and associated stream channel at Prisoners Harbor on Santa Cruz Island.  

Prisoners Harbor, once the largest coastal wetland on the Channel Islands, was important for water retention and habitat for wildlife and native plants. Coastal wetlands in California are increasingly rare—over 90% have been eliminated.

Methods to restore ecosystem function to this coastal floodplain, wetland, and the steam corridor are analyzed in the Final EIS. The project, which extends over nearly 60 acres of land owned by the NPS and The Nature Conservancy, will involve collaboration between these entities. Restoration action is needed because prior modifications to the site degraded the ecology of this wetland.

Prisoners Harbor has an extensive legacy of human occupation including Chumash habitation, fishing, and ranching. In the late 1800s island owners rerouted and channelized the creek, filled the adjacent wetland, and introduced non-native plants such as eucalyptus and stone pine. These actions reduced the ecological value of the coastal wetland system and resulted in diminished habitat quality for island species, such as the Santa Cruz island fox, island scrub-jay, and migratory waterfowl. 

The project alternatives analyzed by the NPS include three options to restore hydrologic function of the wetland, protect historic and archeological resources, and enhance the visitor experience.

A Notice of Intent to prepare an EIS was published in the Federal Register on June 12, 2008. A Notice of Availability of the Draft EIS was published in the Federal Register on May 15, 2009.  The announcement was followed by a 60-day public comment period and an open house at the Channel Islands National Park Robert J. Lagomarsino Visitor Center on June 23, 2009.These outreach activities elicited comments from interested individuals, agencies, and organizations that aided in the development of the Final EIS. 

  
The NPS believes Alternative B offers the best combination of project benefits. This alternative includes: 1) removal of about 17,000 cubic yards of fill and eight historic cattle corrals, 2) relocation of a historic scale house to its former location, 3) removal of eucalyptus from 20 acres in the lower Cañada del Puerto, 4) control of invasive fennel and kikuyu grass, 5) removal of 250 feet of berm to reconnect the creek with its floodplain, 6) construction of a protective barrier around a portion of an archeological site, and 7) improvements to the visitor experience.

In addition to the agency-preferred Alternative B, the Final EIS evaluates a No Action alternative and a proposal (Alternative C) to restore a smaller portion of the wetland. Alternative C considered removal of 11,000 cubic yards of fill and retention of two cattle corrals and the scale house in their current location.

A 30-day No Action Period will follow publication of the Final EIS and will end on May 17, 2010. A Record of Decision will be prepared this summer. The Final EIS is available at local libraries and online at: http://www.nps.gov/chis/parkmgmt/planning.htm or www.parkplanning.nps.gov.

Did You Know?

Santa Barbara Island live-forever                 timhaufphotography.com

The Channel Islands are often called the "North American Galapagos" because they are home to over 150 endemic or unique species.