Wetlands are the link between water and land.

The SOUTH ORMOND BEACH WETLAND RESTORATION PROJECT is a group Master's thesis for the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

The purpose of the project is to investigate the feasibility of restoring tidal flow to South Ormond Beach in an effort to return the area to a fully functioning wetland.

Oxnard Drain
Oxnard drain bordering the South Ormond Beach wetland.
Southern California Edison's power plant in distance.

Project Synopsis:

In the mid-1800's, an extensive estuarine wetlands system existed on the coast of Oxnard, California. Since that time, most of the wetlands complex has been destroyed by development. South Ormond Beach is one of the few remaining pieces of this once vast wetland that is still relatively unmodified. It is severely degraded, however, and its waterways and soils have been polluted by agricultural and industrial residues.

Ormond Beach has been designated a priority site for preservation and restoration under the Southern California Wetlands Recovery Project of the California Coastal Conservancy.

The South Ormond Beach Wetland Restoration Project will investigate the hydrologic restoration of tidal waters to South Ormond Beach through the connection of the Oxnard Drain, an industrial/agricultural drainage ditch, to Mugu Lagoon, a natural tidally-influenced lagoon.

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Background Information:

Coastal wetlands are of vital ecological and socio-economic significance. Coastal wetlands in Southern California have declined by 70 to 75 percent and many of those remaining are degraded (California Coastal Conservancy, 1999). Wetlands filter contaminants from waters, store large volumes of water thereby reducing the threat of flooding, and provide nursery services that help ensure the productivity of marine life. Coastal wetland plants also help prevent erosion, stabilizing the shoreline. The tidal, sheltered waters of coastal wetlands support unique ecosystems upon which several endangered species are entirely dependent for their survival. Coastal wetlands also provide cultural benefits such as recreation, opportunities for science and education, and aesthetics. Additionally, they provide economic benefits to the tourism and commercial fishing industries.

Ormond Beach, labeled the "Jewel of Oxnard" for its remoteness and natural beauty, is located in a mixed-use agricultural and industrial area of Oxnard. Historical maps of Ormond Beach indicate that in 1855 an extensive system of estuarine wetlands extended from Mugu Lagoon, which lies four miles to the south, to Port Hueneme to the north. Since that time, upstream creeks have been dammed and diverted for agricultural and industrial development, infrastructure controls have been placed on the tidal flow of Mugu Lagoon to support an adjacent Naval Air Station, and the wetlands complex has declined drastically.

In winter 1999, the California Coastal Conservancy commenced purchase of approximately 660 acres of land at Ormond Beach, including South Ormond Beach, from Southern California Edison. The California Coastal Conservancy intends to implement a wetland restoration project on its Ormond Beach property.

Several methods of restoring water to the historical wetland at Ormond Beach have been suggested in planning reports. These methods include altering existing hydrologic controls to restore historical tidal influence from Mugu Lagoon to South Ormond Beach; piping treated wastewater from a nearby treatment plant; and/or utilizing groundwater by tapping a confined aquifer in the site vicinity.

This Project will focus on the option identified as most favorable: connecting the Oxnard Drain in South Ormond Beach to Mugu Lagoon.

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Research Questions:

The objective of the South Ormond Beach Wetland Restoration Project is to determine the technical and economic feasibility of restoring tidal influence to South Ormond Beach via Mugu Lagoon with minimal ecological impact from contaminants in the sediments of the Lagoon and connecting hydraulic units. The South Ormond Beach Wetland Restoration Project will investigate the following issues concerning the proposed restoration of the South Ormond Beach Wetland:

  1. How can the connection of Mugu Lagoon to South Ormond Beach be re-established to ensure that sufficient tidal influence to the South Ormond Beach site results in the formation of a permanent wetland?
  2. Will the proposed connection expose sensitive and/or special-status species to hazardous levels of organochlorine pesticides, PCBs, or heavy metals contaminants present in the Oxnard Drain and Mugu Lagoon, potentially disrupting ecosystem dynamics?
  3. What are the management implications associated with the purchase and remediation of contaminated and/or degraded land for wetland restoration, given the potential for future contamination and conflicting nearby land use?

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Expected Results:

Upon completion of the project analysis of the collected data, the subsequent results and the Group Project recommendations will be made available to all stakeholders and parties involved. Specifically, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the California Coastal Conservancy, SCE, other Federal and State agencies, as well as any other interested organizations and/or parties, will be provided with the project results.

The results are expected to include:
  1. A model to estimate the fate and transport of contaminants.
  2. Evaluation of the ecological effects associated with the hydrologic restoration of tidal water to South Ormond Beach.
  3. Alternatives for restoration.
  4. Analysis of the economic impacts related to restoration techniques.
  5. Development of recommendations for other wetland restoration projects.
  6. Geographic Information System map/database.
  7. Policy analysis of Coastal Conservancy's land acquisitions.
  1. A comprehensive report detailing the conclusions of the project.
  2. A series of presentations outlining and describing the project.
  3. An integrative poster to describe the project and its results.
  4. A website presenting the results of the project.

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For a complete description of the South Ormond Beach Wetland Restoration Project, view the Project Proposal.

For further information, please contact project members at: Ormond@bren.ucsb.edu

Web design and construction by Martin Schulz
Suggestions, relevant information, or electronic images? Send to: mschulzsd@aol.com

Page last updated on:  March 14, 2001   4:20 PST