Restore Upper Newport Bay

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1 Restore Upper Newport Bay Southern alifornia s Most ritical Wetlands in Danger April 2002

2 Upper Newport Bay: ritical Wetlands in Danger Southern alifornia s most important coastal wetlands is in trouble. Home to nearly 500 species of animals, fish and plants, our only remaining intact wetlands is struggling with a long list of serious, unaddressed problems that threaten public health and the longterm survival of thousands of animals and plants, including seven endangered species. With some populations already at dangerously low levels, endangered birds are particularly at risk. LOS ANGLS OUNTY RIVRSID OUNTY Problems plaguing the entire Bay include: Pa c i f i c Ocean Area Mapped ORANG OUNTY SAN DIGO OUNTY B 1) A Water ontamination: Urban runoff, nutrients, pesticides, heavy metals, toxins and urban wastes flow into Bay. 2) B Public Health Threats: Regular high bacteria counts are a serious concern. Quarantine on shellfish consumption since 1978 Swimming prohibited since 1974 B 3) Trespassing and Poor Public Access: Trespassing destroys critical endangered species habitat. No access program exists to direct recreation to the right spots. D Sedimentation: rosion from surrounding lands fills in critical wetlands and impedes navigation channels. 7) Invasive non-native plants: onsume sensitive wetlands and crowd out important native plants. Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve Upper Newport Bay cological Reserve Upper Newport Bay Needs Help - NOW Without immediate attention and permanent solutions, these serious problems threaten the viability of Upper Newport Bay s sensitive habitats and pose on-going threats to public health that will only worsen with time. While the major source of sedimentation in the Bay (San Diego reek) has been extensively studied, these other issues have been overlooked and remain largely unaddressed. Jurisdictional gaps, management problems, lack of funding and a failure to understand the severity of the threats to Upper Newport Bay have all contributed to this oversight. 1

3 Problems: Unaddressed Threats to Upper Newport Bay A host of serious water contamination, trespassing and habitat degradation problems continue to threaten the health of Upper Newport Bay. Unaddressed for many years, these problems pose numerous threats not only to the Bay and to the sensitive wildlife that live there, but also to Orange ounty s heavily-used public beaches and to millions of residents and visitors. THRAT Upper Newport Bay s waters are listed as impaired by both Federal and State standards. WATR QUALITY Unfiltered storm drains dump urban wastes directly into the Bay, containing pesticides, heavy metals and other toxins from 154 square miles of primarily developed urban areas, roads and parking lots. Fertilizers from golf courses, ranches and landscaping cause heavy algae growth, which crowds out native wetland plants, starves the Bay of oxygen and chokes off vital food sources for hundreds of fish and bird species. Heavy metals, such as lead, copper and selenium settle into the Bay s mudflats, where they are eaten by small shellfish and invertebrates that are the food source for many fish and shorebirds. These metals concentrate as they move up the food chain, posing serious survival threats to fish and to already critically endangered birds like the clapper rail and least tern. Pesticides in the Bay have recently been found to be at levels toxic to aquatic life. Selenium, a heavy metal notorious for its fatal impacts at high levels, was recently found to be above acceptable levels in the Bay. THRAT High fecal and coliform bacteria counts regularly exceed public health standards, reaching levels that cause public beach closures. PUBLI HALTH Swimming has been prohibited in the Bay since A quarantine has been in place on all shellfish consumption since thnic communities who consume fish with high heavy metal content are particularly at risk. 2

4 THRAT Sensitive nesting sites are degraded by trespassing, urban runoff, noise and trash, and critical food sources are harmed by fertilizers and poor water quality. DLINING NDANGRD SPIS The endangered Light-footed lapper Rails breeding population is steadily declining, down to only 105 breeding pairs in the Bay. Upper Newport Bay is the only place in the world where this shy bird is successfully reproducing. The endangered Least Tern s nesting areas in Upper Newport Bay are heavily impacted by trespassing boaters. This bird nests on bare, sandy areas near open water, and is easily frightened. No Least Terns have nested in Upper Newport Bay since The endangered Belding Savannah Sparrow nests in pickleweed habitat that fringes the Bay. These areas are easily accessed by hikers and dog owners looking for areas to run their dogs off-leash. Light-footed lapper Rails are already in serious danger of extinction, so they are especially vulnerable to toxins, urban runoff, human encroachment and declining habitat. The endangered Salt Marsh Bird s Beak flowers in only a few sensitive areas of the Bay that are easily accessible to trespassing visitors. This delicate plant is easily damaged; it is found only in coastal saltwater marshes. THRAT Trespassing by boaters in tidal channels destroys endangered bird nesting sites and disturbs critical feeding sites. TRSPASSING & POOR PUBLI ASS Trespassing by boaters and hikers on islands frightens away endangered ground-nesting birds who are sensitive to disturbance. No system of public access, boardwalks, trails or signage exists to direct people to proper spots, so visitors make unauthorized trails and damage sensitive saltwater marsh habitat as a result. THRAT Unchecked erosion dumps sediment into the Bay from Big anyon reek, Santa Ana Delhi hannel, and 23rd Street Springs as well as from San Diego reek, and from numerous storm drains, ravines and canyons. SDIMNTATION AND INVASIV PLANTS Heavy sediment loads hurt the Bay s sensitive habitats, filling in open water channels needed by fish and destroying mudflats that support shellfish and invertebrates. These areas supply critical food sources. elgrass has disappeared in the Upper Bay due to algae growth and heavy sediment loads. elgrass is the primary habitat for baby fish and shellfish, on which thousands of shorebirds depend. Sediment deposits from Big anyon reek. Non-native alien plants displace native plants, destroying critical food sources and further threatening already endangered species. 3

5 Solutions: What an Be Done to Restore Upper Newport Bay Water Quality and Public Health SOLUTION lean up urban runoff through catchment, filtration, treatment Implement a Best Practices program for golf courses, businesses, parks and homeowners to handle runoff on site Improve sewage handling to prevent overflows Restore habitat and drainage in Big anyon and other key areas Decrease fertilizers flowing into Bay Implement better water quality monitoring in Bay SOLUTION Install information buoys to keep boaters our of sensitive channels and prevent trespassing on nesting sites Trespassing, Public Access and Declining ndangered Species Build boardwalks and viewing areas over marshes and sensitive wetlands Develop well-designed public use trails and access points that protect sensitive habitat and endangered species, and provide recreation opportunities for visitors Install public information on sensitive sites around the Bay so visitors learn why they need to stay in designated areas Restore buffer lands and eelgrass beds to protect and restore links in the Bay s food web SOLUTION Restore Big anyon so sediment does not flow into Bay Sedimentation and Invasive Non-native Plants Address erosion from lands surrounding the Bay Replant eroding areas with native vegetation radicate invasive, non-native plants Stabilize buffer lands and improve habitat for wildlife by re-planting with native vegetation 4

6 Background Why We re Working to Restore Upper Newport Bay The protected lands of Upper Newport Bay comprise approximately 1,000 acres. Numerous federal, state and local public agencies manage the Bay s resources. But almost no restoration of damaged areas has occurred, and the results of decades of intensive urban growth has seriously degraded the Bay s already sensitive habitats. The Army orps of ngineers (AO) plan for Upper Newport Bay addresses only sediment from the San Diego reek Watershed; the AO plan is primarily for dredging to increase tidal flow and remove accumulated sediment from the Bay. The AO plan does not address the numerous other critical threats to the Bay s health as detailed in this report. Long dedicated to protecting the Bay s resources, Newport Bay Naturalists and Friends (NBNF) is deeply concerned with the seriousness of unaddressed problems threatening the Bay, and recognizes the need for renewed efforts to restore damaged and degraded areas. The Friends have asked for assistance from ommunity onservancy International in researching unmet needs in the Bay and in working to secure funding for the most pressing problems. For more information on restoration needs at Upper Newport Bay, please contact the Newport Bay Naturalists and Friends at or , or ommunity onservancy International at or ex.1. The Newport Bay Naturalists and Friends (NBNF) is a non-profit volunteer group dedicated to protecting the habitat and wildlife of Upper Newport Bay, and to educating the public about the Bay s rich resources. NBNF coordinates and conducts educational programs as well as community-based restoration projects, and advocates for the Bay on issues that affect its fragile ecosystems.the Newport Bay Naturalists and Friends works closely with the alifornia Department of Fish and Game, Orange ounty Department of Public Facilities & Resources Department Harbors, Beaches and Parks, and the ity of Newport Beach on projects at Upper Newport Bay. ommunity onservancy International (I) is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving natural lands and waters worldwide and to implementing conservation-compatible projects to protect and serve local communities. I focuses on developing innovative solutions to complex conservation projects and on involving local communities in preservation efforts. I has expertise in securing significant public and private funds for conservation projects, and in working closely with both government agencies and community groups to solve critical issues. Printed on recycled paper Sources: alifornia Department of Fish and Game. Biological Resource Inventory. Southern alifornia Wetlands Inventory, March State oastal onservancy. Restoration Feasibility Study IR 9/00, Outdoor alifornia, Jan-Feb Orange ounty Water Quality nhancement Project U.S ensus Army orps of ngineers, Upper Newport Bay Feasibility Study and IR, September Bacteriological Monitoring Program Data, 2001, Orange ounty Health are Agency. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Written by: sther Feldman, President I Design by: JDesign Photographs Russ Kerr 5

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