Project Proposal

South Ormond Beach Wetland Restoration Project Spring 2000 Report

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Plovers OPPORTUNITIES FOR LINKS
RESEARCH QUESTIONS SOURCES OF DATA AND INFORMATION
IMPORTANCE OF RESEARCH METHODOLOGIES, PROCEDURES, AND TASKS
TECHNICAL SCOPE EXPECTED RESULTS
BACKGROUND INFORMATION REFERENCES
  Western Snowy Plovers
One of many endangered species that occur at South Ormond Beach
 

Executive Summary

Ormond Beach in Oxnard, California 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 examine the hydrology, contaminant transport, ecology, remediation alternatives, and policy and management implications of the proposed wetland restoration. The restoration area encompasses approximately 660 acres of beachfront and upland buffer zone. Ormond Beach is located in a mixed-use agricultural and industrial area. Historical maps of Ormond Beach indicate that in 1855 an extensive system of estuarine wetlands extended from Mugu Lagoon to the south to Port Hueneme to the north. Since that time, upstream creeks have been dammed and diverted for development, infrastructure controls have been placed on the tidal flow of Mugu Lagoon, and the wetland complex has declined drastically. This study will investigate a favored approach for the hydrologic restoration of tidal waters to South Ormond Beach: the connection of the Oxnard Drain, an industrial/agricultural drainage ditch to Mugu Lagoon, a natural, tidally-influenced lagoon. Laboratory analytical results have indicated that sediments in the Oxnard Drain are contaminated with pesticides, including organochlorines such as dichlorodiphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT), PCBs, and other hazardous chemicals. Similar contaminants are present in Mugu Lagoon. Making this connection could potentially redistribute contaminants to other parts of the Ormond Beach site, Mugu Lagoon, and marine waters. The South Ormond Beach Wetland historically contained a diverse array of habitats. The site supported, and to some degree still supports, a wide variety of plant and animal species including a number of rare, threatened, and endangered species, collectively referred to as "special-status" species.

Research will be conducted to determine the benefits associated with the purchase and remediation of a contaminated and/or degraded land for wetland restoration, given the history of South Ormond Beach, the contaminants present, and the regulations involved. This will include an assessment of remediation alternatives, comparison of South Ormond Beach purchase price with other wetland recovery purchase prices, and an evaluation of how the Coastal Conservancy deals with acquisitions.

The success of the Ormond Beach restoration will be largely dependent on determining both the optimal alternative for managing the contaminated sediments in the Oxnard Drain and the feasibility of restoring tidal flow.

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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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Importance of Research

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). Much of the planet's life depends on the existence of wetlands (California Resources Agency, 1999). Wetlands serve many important functions including maintaining water quality by operating as filters to remove pollutants and sediments from moving waters; flood control and groundwater recharge and discharge via slow wetland throughflow; erosion control and shoreline anchoring; habitat for fish and wildlife, including special status species; and human recreational use.

Ormond Beach has been identified as a priority wetland restoration site under the Southern California Wetlands Recovery Project (SCWRP), a partnership of public agencies working cooperatively to acquire, restore, and enhance coastal wetlands and watersheds between Point Conception and the international border with Mexico (California Coastal Conservancy, 1999). The goal of the SCWRP is to accelerate the pace, the extent, and the effectiveness of coastal wetland restoration in Southern California by developing and implementing a regional prioritization plan for the acquisition, restoration, and enhancement of Southern California's coastal wetlands and watersheds.

Under the SCWRP, the Ormond Beach project involves acquiring and restoring approximately 660-acres of wetlands and dunes parcels currently owned by Southern California Edison (SCE) and utilized for numerous purposes including industry and agriculture. A restoration plan has been completed for this site and preliminary costs of this restoration project, which include acquisition and restoration, are estimated to be $1.5 million (Jones & Stokes, 1995).

A component of the proposed restoration may involve the connection of South Ormond Beach, via the Oxnard Drain, to the Mugu Lagoon tidal channel located on the adjacent U.S. Naval Air Station (NAS). The restoration plan maintains that re-establishment of this flow is necessary to attain the highest level of wetland restoration. The success of the Ormond Beach restoration will be largely dependent on determining both the optimal alternative for managing the contaminated sediments in the Oxnard Drain and the feasibility of restoring tidal flow.

The goal of the Project is to provide a standard to which other proposed wetlands restoration projects in similar environments can be compared to determine their viability and value.

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Technical Scope

Mission Statement
The mission of the South Ormond Beach Wetland Restoration Project is to determine the hydrologic and economic feasibility of restoring tidal influence to South Ormond Beach via Mugu Lagoon with minimal ecological impact from contaminants.

Project Components
The scope of the project has several components as outlined below in their anticipated order of completion:

Model Water Circulation: Potential routing plans to connect South Ormond Beach with Mugu Lagoon will be examined. Water flow patterns, following connection of the Oxnard Drain to Mugu Lagoon, will be determined. Specifically, the anticipated extent of tidal influence at South Ormond Beach will be studied. This will be accomplished by analyzing existing tidal flow data and assessing the hydrological impact through a quantitative evaluation. Data will be incorporated into a computer model that depicts anticipated water circulation patterns. Other hydrologic restoration methods, such as those in the prepared management plans for the area, will be addressed but not specifically evaluated.

Fate and Transport of Pollutants: Previous investigations have indicated that sediments in the Oxnard Drain and Mugu Lagoon are contaminated with organochlorine pesticides, PCBs, and heavy metals (Jones & Stokes, 1995). By reviewing existing data, we will estimate the current mass of contaminants in these sediments. We will focus on the contaminants that are persistent, found in large concentrations, or have significant toxicological effects on special-status species. If current data is insufficient, sampling of the Oxnard Drain and Mugu Lagoon will be carried out to determine contaminants present. Equilibrium distributions of these pollutants under various scenarios will be simulated. Future fate and transport of these contaminants will be predicted based on the modeled water circulation and sediment transport patterns.

Effects on Ecosystem: The effects of connecting the Oxnard Drain and Mugu Lagoon, specifically alterations to water flow patterns and redistribution of contaminants on area wildlife, will be examined. Existing and potential special-status species in the area will be identified, and existing ecotoxicity information will be used to determine the effects of contaminants on sensitive species. Indicator species will be identified and used to assess the current health of the ecosystem. This information will be useful for later restoration efforts in order to document changes to ecosystem health.

Remediation Alternatives: Following a determination of the mass of contaminants found in the sediments, various remediation alternatives will be considered to determine the costs and feasibility of reducing contaminants to levels that do not present a threat to wildlife or human health.

Management and Policy: Research will be conducted to determine the benefits associated with the purchase and remediation of a contaminated and/or degraded land for wetland restoration, given the history of South Ormond Beach, the contaminants present, and the regulations involved. This will include an assessment of remediation alternatives, comparison of South Ormond Beach purchase price with other wetland recovery purchase prices, and an evaluation of how the Coastal Conservancy deals with acquisitions.

Ecological Restoration: Following hydrologic restoration of tidal influence to South Ormond Beach, an ecological restoration of the coastal wetland will be carried out by another agency under the California Coastal Conservancy's jurisdiction. Various methods and anticipated costs of performing this restoration will be researched (i.e. active restoration versus natural restoration) and recommendations will be made. Our recommendations will focus specifically on the maintenance of hydrologic pathways, habitat creation for special-status species, and relevant ecotoxicological issues.

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Background Information

Site History and Background
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 to the south to Port Hueneme to the north (Ferren, 2000). 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 the NAS base, and the wetlands complex has declined drastically.

Land use patterns at Ormond Beach have been influenced by the historical development of the City of Oxnard (Urban Land Institute, 1999). Oxnard was developed around its strong agricultural economy and its center for commerce was established inland, miles from the shoreline. As a result, the shoreline, including Ormond Beach, was the back door to the city, and became the site of less aesthetic uses including heavy industry, power generation, and wastewater treatment.

Various proposals for changing land use patterns at Ormond Beach have been developed in recent decades. In addition to wetland restoration proposals, other proposed uses for Ormond Beach have included commercial, residential, and recreational uses. The City of Oxnard has been generally supportive of proposals for development, which would increase tax revenue and could help enhance the nearby economically distressed South Winds neighborhood.

In winter 1999, the California Coastal Conservancy commenced purchase of approximately 660 acres of land at Ormond Beach, including South Ormond Beach, from SCE. Remaining acreage at the larger Ormond Beach proposed restoration site includes a 309-acre parcel that is currently owned jointly by the Metropolitan Water District, a regional public water management and distribution agency, and the City of Oxnard Community Development Commission. One proposed use of that parcel was for the construction of a water desalination plant. Currently, this parcel may be under consideration for future purchase by the California Coastal Conservancy.

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 (Jones & Stokes, 1995). These methods include altering existing hydrologic controls to restore historical tidal influence from Mugu Lagoon to the southeast of South Ormond Beach; piping of 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.

Wetland Benefits and Threats to Wetlands
Wetland restoration is proposed at Ormond Beach because coastal wetlands provide several ecological services and cultural benefits. 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 (U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [NOAA], 1990). The tidal, sheltered waters of coastal wetlands support unique ecosystems. Extensive ecosystem analysis of coastal marshes has led to an understanding of the structure and function of these ecosystems, which are among the most productive on earth. Several endangered species are entirely dependent for their survival on coastal wetlands (Jones & Stokes, 1995). Coastal wetlands also provide cultural benefits such as recreation, opportunities for science and education, and aesthetics. They provide economic benefits to the tourism and commercial fishing industries.

Stresses caused by current land use practices and resource exploitation by increasing human populations have jeopardized these valuable ecosystems. Individual estuaries and coastal wetlands face similar environmental problems and challenges. These include changes in water flow and sediment transport; introduced species; nutrient overloading; contamination with pathogens and toxic chemicals; and loss of habitat.

The California Coastal Act of 1976 states that it is important not only to protect the remaining coastal wetland areas, but also to restore degraded coastal wetlands where feasible. Ormond Beach has been identified as a priority wetland restoration site under the SCWRP.

Proposed Restoration
The goal of SCWRP is to accelerate the pace, the extent, and the effectiveness of coastal wetland restoration in Southern California through developing and implementing a regional prioritization plan for the acquisition, restoration, and enhancement of Southern California's coastal wetlands and watersheds. Ultimately, the SCWRP's efforts are expected to result in a long-term increase in the quantity and quality of the region's wetlands.

In the 1995 Jones & Stokes South Ormond Beach Wetland Restoration and Management Plan, several phases of restoration were proposed. The final phase and highest level of restoration included the reintroduction of tidal water flow to inland areas of the site. The most favorable alternative for restoring a tidal influence is the connection of the west arm of Mugu Lagoon, located 4 miles southeast of South Ormond Beach, to the Oxnard Drain, an agricultural drainage canal that intersects the site. Laboratory analytical results have indicated that sediments in the Oxnard Drain are contaminated with pesticides, including Dichlorodiphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT), and other hazardous chemicals. Making this connection could potentially introduce contaminants to other parts of the Ormond Beach site, Mugu Lagoon, and marine waters.

Hydrology

Historic Conditions: The historic extent of tidal inlets on-site is shown on an 1855 map surveyed by W. M. Johnson. Historically, wetlands in the southeast area at South Ormond Beach were tidally connected to the west arm of Mugu Lagoon (Jones & Stokes, 1995). There also may have been a tidal connection from the northwest area of South Ormond Beach to wetlands located farther to the northwest. The tidal influence to the South Ormond Beach wetland has always likely been muted. The site probably received most of its water as runoff from inland sources and from the high water table in the area. The majority of the runoff entering the project site historically came from the Oxnard Plain to the north and northeast. This runoff was retained on-site in small coastal lagoons from which it evaporated or migrated eastward to Mugu Lagoon and the Pacific Ocean (Jones & Stokes, 1995).

Current Conditions: Areas of Ormond Beach have become isolated hydrologically due to the construction of levees and dikes in the surrounding area within the last 50-60 years. The Oxnard Drain (Drain), which now originates along Edison Drive, is an agricultural drainage canal separating the southeast area of South Ormond Beach from agricultural fields to the north. The canal is connected hydrologically with Mugu Lagoon located on NAS property to the southeast. The Drain was rerouted around the east and north sides of the SCE generating facility in the early 1970s. The drain carries mostly agricultural drainage water from nearby fields to the west arm of Mugu lagoon. The Drain also carries stormwater runoff away from the fields and surrounding areas. The lower ends of the fields flood during heavy storms as the Drain overflows. Tidal swing gates designed to prevent tidal seawater from entering the Drain are located on NAS land. The gates reportedly are in disrepair and stuck open so salty and brackish water from the lagoon enters the Drain. However, tidal influence is muted because the mouth of Mugu lagoon is not always open to the ocean and the drain connection to the lagoon is four miles from the proposed restoration site (Jones & Stokes, 1995).

Surface Water Elevation Data: Phillip Williams & Associates (PWA) of Corte Madera, California installed seven tide gauges in Mugu Lagoon and South Ormond Beach as part of an ongoing hydrologic investigation. These tide gauges have reportedly been removed and the results of PWA's investigation are forthcoming.

Proposed Restoration: Hydrologic restoration alternatives discussed by Jones & Stokes for South Ormond Beach (1995) are presented below:

  1. Hydrologic connection of the site directly with the ocean
    This option was rejected due to high costs of constructing and maintaining ocean connections, impacts on habitat, safety concerns, and uncertainty regarding the success of such a system.

  2. Hydrologic connection of restoration areas
    The northwest and southeast areas would be connected by constructing a new channel or pipe between them. This option was rejected for the same reasons as the previous alternative.

  3. Construct groundwater wells
    Groundwater could provide a source of fresh or brackish water for wetland restoration. This option was rejected due to concern that it would not meet the goal of implementing a self-sustaining system and the ecology would be altered. Pumps would require maintenance and be susceptible to vandalism.

  4. No hydrologic improvements

  5. Onsite hydrologic improvements
    Same as alternative 4, but with improved drainage from the existing artesian well, installation of culverts beneath the rail line, and excavation of pools and channels in barren parts of the site.

  6. Offsite hydrologic connections
    Similar to alternatives 4 and 5, including connecting the site to available water sources and reinstating the historic hydrologic connections with nearby wetland systems and water sources. Hydrologic connections would potentially be made to the Oxnard Drain, the nearby industrial wastewater outflow lines, the west arm of Mugu Lagoon, and the Oxnard Industrial Drain. The Oxnard Drain would be cleared of sediment barriers and drain levees breached in two locations to supply water to the restoration area.

  7. Preferred alternative
    Combine alternatives 4, 5, and 6 in a phased plan.

 

Contaminants and Ecotoxicology

Current Status: The land surrounding the Ormond Beach site in the City of Oxnard is characterized by commercial agriculture and industrial use. The Oxnard Drain, which was originally constructed as a flood control channel for the area, runs through the proposed restoration site. Today, the Oxnard Drain contains more than 63 known contaminants (Jones & Stokes, 1995). Runoff from agricultural fields has laced the sediments of the Oxnard Drain with organochlorine pesticides including toxaphene, DDT and its derivatives, and chlordane. Other land use has left PCBs, Chemical Group A residuals and heavy metals in the Drain (Jones & Stokes, 1995).

Monitoring of South Ormond Beach and Mugu Lagoon through the Toxic Substances Monitoring Program (TSMP) and the State Mussel Watch Program (SMWP) by the California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) is ongoing. Sediment and fish samples are taken in June of every year in various locations including the Oxnard Drain at Arnold Road. Based on these samples, SWRCB has identified specific contaminants in the sediments of the waterbody that are associated with the surrounding area's land use (Jones & Stokes).

A 1996 report on water quality reviewed the analysis of data from statewide monitoring programs (TSMP, SMWP), as well as Regional Board special studies, and other available data related to sediment and water quality and the health of the biota (CRWQCB, 1996). The preliminary report was conducted by the SWRCB for the Ventura-Los Angeles Coastal Watershed area. The report describes the contaminants present in the various waterways including the Oxnard Drain, Rio de Santa Clara, Calleguas Creek, and Mugu Lagoon, and supports the findings of the Jones and Stokes report within the Oxnard Drain.

  1. Organochlorines: Organochlorine pesticides were used extensively in commercial agriculture as a method of invertebrate and weed control during the 1950s to 1970s. They are known for their persistence in the environment. Persistence levels are measured both by the half-life in the physical environment and as the half-life in the organism (Hoffman et al., 1995). In addition to the chemical properties of these contaminants, the persistence of the residues depends on environmental factors such as temperature, light, pH, and moisture, and biotic factors such as microbes. Most organochlorines adsorb readily to sediment and organic matter. Adsorption and subsequent sedimentation may immobilize the organochlorines for relatively long periods of time in aquatic systems. However, redissolution of the contaminants into the water column has been shown to occur in the environment. Therefore, sediments can be an aquatic reservoir of slow release.

    High lipophilicity, or high solubility in fats, also characterizes organochlorines. Organochlorines are readily bioaccumulated in the fat content of wildlife through dermal uptake, from eating other contaminated organisms or through gills. Organisms that store high levels of organochlorines in their fat may suffer adverse effects in times of stress. When body weight decreases, lipids with residues of pesticides can be mobilized into the bloodstream (Hoffman et al., 1995).

    The physiological effects of low organochlorine levels include disrupted estrogenic activity, reproductive failure, and the breakdown of sex hormones that regulate the mobilization of calcium. Thyroid secretion, adrenal function, migratory condition, biogenic amines, and the immune system can all be adversely affected. Toxicity in organisms occurs when molecules of organochlorine pesticides attach to and act upon receptors within the affected organisms. Effects are determined by a number of factors, including sex and age of vertebrates, repellency, type of exposure, formulation of the pesticide, and interactions with other contaminants. Stresses such as shortage of food, weather extremes, migration, reproductive activities, hibernation, molting, and additional disturbances also can act to enhance toxicity. Some species have a higher sensitivity to certain contaminants (Hoffman et al., 1995).

    Organisms in the environment are frequently exposed to a mixture of contaminants simultaneously. Residues of most organochlorines are positively intercorrelated. Therefore, toxic effects may increase due to mixed exposure. For example, Northern bobwhites (Colinus virginianus) pretreated with chlordane for 10 weeks followed by exposure to endrin had greater accumulations of chlordane in their brains than did birds treated only with chlordane (Hoffman et al., 1995). Organisms in this wetland area have the potential to be exposed to other agricultural pesticides through runoff effluent coming into the marsh via the Oxnard Drain and Mugu Lagoon.

    Aquatic exposure is most often through oral exposure, except for fish, where surface exposure through skin and gills is most common. Fish may suffer from reproductive toxicity, producing eggs with low survival rates and/or deformities (Hoffman et al., 1995). Piscivourous birds also suffer from reproductive failure.

Organochlorine pesticides present:

DDT: Usage of DDT in the U.S. peaked in 1959 when 78million pounds were applied (Hoffman et al., 1995). In 1972, DDT production and use was banned in the U.S. Subsequent bans in many other countries have been implemented.

DDT derivatives: DDD and DDE are the most common derivatives associated with wildlife toxicity.

Chlordane: Chlordane is a mixture of organochlorine insecticides that has been used since the late 1940s. Despite being banned in the U.S., chlordanes and metabolites are still persistent in the environment (Hoffman et al., 1995).

Toxaphene: Toxaphene is a broad-spectrum pesticide. It was first used in the U.S. in 1948, and in 1980 it was the most heavily used pesticide, with annual production exceeding 45 million kilograms (Hoffman et al., 1995). Toxaphene use was banned in the U.S. in 1982. Toxaphene was used as a piscicide, which could have effects today on local fish populations and piscivorous birds.

  1. PCBs: Polychlorinated biphenyls were widely used from 1920 to 1976. They were used as lubricants, hydraulic and heat exchange fluids, dielectric fluids in transformers and capacitors, and as plasticizers in applications where flame resistance was important. Today there is concern over the widespread dispersion in the environment and potential carcinogenicity. PCBs in sediments can be biodegraded in both aerobic and anaerobic conditions, depending on the arrangement of chlorines in the particular type of PCB. PCBs, like organochlorines, have a high lipophilicity and bioaccumulate readily (Hoffman et al., 1995).

Results of ecotoxicology studies in the Oxnard Drain: The following concentrations were found in the study organisms (Jones & Stokes, 1995):
DDT - 19,270 ppb in goldfish
- 2,264 ppb in sediments
PCBs - 858 ppb in mosquito fish
Toxaphene - 6,800 ppb in goldfish
- 1,200 ppb in mosquitofish
Chlordane - 1,916 ppb in goldfish
- 334 in mosquitofish
Chemical Group A - 8,860 in goldfish
- 1,696 ppb in mosquitofish
- 1,510 in sediment
Restoration Plan: The hydrologic restoration plan involves connecting the west arm of Mugu Lagoon, at the bottom of the Calleguas Watershed, to the Oxnard Drain to restore historic tidal flow to the area. The Calleguas Creek Watershed drains primarily into Mugu Lagoon, and collects contaminants from a widespread multi-land use area. Freshwater shellfish in Calleguas Creek, between the years of 1985 and 1992 had levels of toxaphene, DDT, and PCBs in tissue that exceeded acceptable levels of the National Academy of Sciences. Fish collected in Calleguas Creek during 1985 and 1987 exceeded the NAS guidelines for toxaphene (CRWQCB, 1996).

Mugu Lagoon is listed as an impaired water body for the State Water Quality Assessment due to pesticides in fish and shellfish (CRWQCB, 1996). The report divides Mugu Lagoon into two sections; the eastern arm, which is somewhat removed from the rest of the lagoon, and the main (central) lagoon and western arm. In a 1987 study, the sediments of the eastern arm were found to contain moderately high levels of DDE (CRWQCB, 1996). The central lagoon and western arm have been studied more intensively than the eastern arm of the lagoon resulting in a greater amount of data available for these areas. The SMWP has established monitoring stations at the L-Street drain, at the Laguna Rd. causeway/tidegate, and from a bridge over Calleguas Creek where it drains into the lagoon. In 1993, a sample was analyzed which resulted in only 14% survival in a bulk sediment test using amphipods (CRWQCB, 1996). A toxicity test was conducted from the extracted porewater from the sediment, and results showed zero percent fertilization in urchins. Subsurface water was tested and resulted in the normal development of 75% of the mussel larvae tested. In 1994, the mean amphipod survival in the bedded sediment test was 66%. Mean polychaete survival in bedded sediment was 85%. The 1996 CRWQCB report summarizes these findings.

The central and western arms of Mugu Lagoon, the areas of the lagoon most utilized by birds, have reported concentrations of 80 ppb DDT. Also reported in the lagoon are copper, mercury, nickel, zinc, endosulfan, dacthal, arsenic, cadmium and silver. A 1990 report to Fish and Game concerning the endangered light-footed clapper rail described impaired reproduction in the species, linked to elevated pesticide levels and PCB bioaccumulation (CRWQCB, 1996).

Total chlordane levels in transplanted mussel tissue reached levels of 100-200 ppb dry weight. Total DDT levels are also high, reaching levels of (1000-4000 ppb dry weight). Mean percent survival of abalone in sediment porewater was only 12% in 1993. Mean percent urchin fertilization in porewater was 31%, while the site with abalone larva resulted in a mean survival of 87%. Mean percent development of urchin embryos was 10% (CRWQCB, 1996).

Many of the contaminants, found in both the drain and the lagoon, are now banned in the United States due to their deleterious effects on wildlife and ecosystem function. However, they are still found in high concentrations due to their persistence in the environment. One of the challenges of this Project will be to determine at what levels these chemical residues are present, and to determine if they will pose a threat to wildlife following restoration.

Ecology
The South Ormond Beach Wetland historically contained a diverse array of habitats. The site supported, and to some degree still supports, a wide variety of plant and animal species including a number of rare, threatened, and endangered species, collectively referred to as "special-status" species.

Special-status plant species are defined as plants that are listed, proposed for listing, or candidates for possible future listing as threatened or endangered under either the federal or the California Endangered Species Acts; plants listed under the California Native Plant Protection Act; plants meeting the requirements of rare or endangered under the California Environmental Quality Act; or plants considered rare, threatened, or endangered by the California Native Plant Society (Jones & Stokes, 1995).

Currently, the flora of the project site consists of herbaceous annual and perennial herbs and grasses, annual aquatic herbs, long-lived perennial herbs and shrubs, and small trees. The site is dominated by a pickleweed salt marsh with mudflats that separate stands of elevated vegetation. A total of 124 species of vascular plants were recorded from the project site, 64 (51.6%) of which are native, 59 (47.6%) are naturalized non-native species, and 1 (<0.1%) is cultivated The special-status plant species that occur or may have occurred at the project site include salt marsh bird's-beak (Cordylanthus maritimus maritimus), spiny rush (Juncus acutus leopoldii), red sand-verbena (Abronia maritima), Ventura marsh milk-vetch (Astragalus pycnostachyus lanosissimus), Santa Barbara morning-glory (Calystegia sepium binghamiae), beach spectaclepod (Dithyrea maritima), Coulter's goldfields (Lasthenia glabrata coulteri), and woolly sea-blite (Suaeda taxifolia) (Jones & Stokes, 1995).

Similarly, special-status animal species are defined as animals that are listed, proposed for listing, or candidates for possible future listing as threatened or endangered under either the federal or the California Endangered Species Acts; animals meeting the requirements of rare or endangered under the California Environmental Quality Act; animal species that are of special concern to the California Department of Fish and Game; and animals fully protected in California (Jones & Stokes, 1995).

The fauna of the project site consist of resident, migratory, and visitor birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians, fish, and both terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates. Special-status species that occur, or that historically have been known to occur within the wetlands or vicinity thereof, include Southern California salt marsh shrew (Sorex ornatus salicornicus), California least tern (Sterna antillarum browni), Belding's savannah sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis beldingi), western snowy plover (Charadrius alexandrinus nivosus), California horned lark (Eremophila alpestris actia), California brown pelican (Pelicanus occidentalis), light-footed clapper rail (Rallus longirostris levipes), California black rail (Laterallus jamaicensis coturniculus), California yellow-billed cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus occidentalis), Least Bell's vireo (Vireo bellii pusillus), burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia hypugea), southwestern pond turtle (Clemmys marmorata marmorata), San Diego coast horned lizard (Phrynosoma coronatum blainvillei), California red-legged frog (Rana aurora aurora), globose dune beetle(Coelus globosus), wandering (salt marsh) skipper (Panoquina errans), tiger beetles (Cicindela), California brackish water snail (Tryonia imitator), and the unarmored three-spine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus williamsonii) (Jones & Stokes, 1995).

Restoring tidal flow to the site could benefit both plant and animal species by improving hydrologic circulation, reducing site salinity, controlling invasive exotic plants, enhancing habitat and improving growing conditions for plants, and creating more diverse habitat for both aquatic and terrestrial wildlife species, allowing for increased biological diversity. However, these benefits are contingent on the response of the toxic contaminants currently located within the water and sediment of the Oxnard Drain and surrounding area to the restoration of tidal influx from Mugu Lagoon. Consequently, the project will investigate the potential movement and distribution of these compounds within the wetland and their possible effects on the site's special-status species.

Management and Policy
Estimations of ecosystem benefits are often needed to decide how to allocate spending on an ecosystem's conservation, preservation, or restoration. Since money is the most common form of exchange, it is commonly recognized as the measure of economic value. However, such a monetary system of valuation can become problematic as most ecosystem services are primarily non-market goods. That is, they are not exchanged in a clear market system where value or price can be assigned.

The expressions "functions" and "values" are often used interchangeably when discussing wetlands, even though these are different concerns. The "functions" of a wetland are the physical, chemical, and biological processes occurring in and making up the ecosystem. Included in these functions are processes such as the movement of water through the wetland into streams or the ocean; the decay of organic matter; the release of nitrogen, sulfur, and carbon into the atmosphere; the removal of nutrients, sediment and organic matter from water moving through the wetland; and habitat for wildlife.

Wetland "values" are an estimate, usually subjective, of worth, quality, or importance (Richardson 1994). These values may be classified as "use values" and "non-use values." The use values consider benefits that can be consumed directly such as recreation, while the non-use values consider functions occurring within the ecosystem, such as water quality and flood control. Non-use values also include possible future benefits or indirect uses such as biodiversity or conserved habitats, as well as existence value or the knowledge that such habitats or species exist (Serageldin, 1993).

Failure to account adequately for the non-market environmental values of wetlands is a major reason for excessive depletion and conversion of such resources. Economic valuation can be a powerful means to facilitate and expand sensible use and management of wetland resources and can offer an approach to assist with the difficult decisions involved in land use planning. However, economic valuation is "also not a panacea for decision-makers making difficult choices concerning the management of wetland resources" (Barbier et al., 1997). As Barbier, et al. explain, decision-makers have often already decided on management strategies for a wetland, such as conversion or conservation, and rely on economic valuation to validate their choice after the fact. In such a case, the valuation has done little to inform the decision-making process and "essentially serves no purpose" (Barbier et al., 1997). The difficulty with determining the value of a wetland is that valuation can be a subjective assessment, particularly the valuation of indirect use, future use, or existence values. People may value the intangible fact that wetlands exist, but would not be able to place a price on them. In contrast, the value of estuaries for producing shrimp can be calculated based on the price of shrimp (NCSU, 2000).

A central problem facing valuation of a complex environmental system, such as wetlands, is that there is insufficient information on important ecological and hydrological processes to support the various values generated by the wetlands. Without such information, as is often the case for the numerous non-market environmental values of a wetland, it is important that such limitations be noted. At the same time, decision-makers must realize that realistic estimates of non-market environmental values cannot be expected without added investment of time and resources. A familiarity with the functions and values of an ecosystem such as a wetland can improve decision making today and protect values that may be held by future generations as well.

The Group Project aims to determine the benefits associated with the purchase and remediation of South Ormond Beach. This will be accomplished through an assessment of remediation alternatives and a comparison of South Ormond Beach's purchase price with other wetland recovery purchase costs. Additionally, an evaluation of the benefits of restoring tidal influence through a connection with Mugu Lagoon compared to other possible options will be conducted based on "relative (non-monetary) indices of ecosystem value," similar to that described by King and Wainger (1999) and the general appraisal framework for wetland valuation described by Barbier et al. (1997). This will aid in an evaluation of how the Coastal Commission deals with acquisitions, given the implications of the Coastal Act.

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Opportunities for Links

Sixteen public agencies with responsibilities for coastal wetlands and watersheds in Southern California participate in the SCWRP administered by the California Coastal Conservancy. The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service in Ventura, California is one of the leading agency participants in the Ormond Beach wetland restoration. Other stakeholders and potential collaborators include Ormond Beach Observers, a local advocacy group, the City of Oxnard, and the NAS at Point Mugu.

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Sources of Data and Information

Several previous studies have been conducted at the Ormond Beach site, including hydrologic studies, land use management plans, and restoration plans. Most of these documents and data are available at the Ventura office of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and are available for this study. An evaluation of the existing hydrologic and chemical data will be performed as part of this study, and may be incorporated into a model of water and contaminant flow at the site. Field data on the volume of sediments in the Oxnard Drain will be collected as part of this investigation. If the budget allows, additional sample data on contaminant concentrations in sediments will also be collected.

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Methodologies, Procedures, and Tasks

Existing Research and Data
Group members will conduct research of existing data. This data will include previous sampling of sediment, water, and organisms in the area. Members will also conduct extensive literature reviews. Historical maps and aerial photos will be consulted to determine previous conditions and land use of the area. Tidal influence will be determined by analyzing data from tidal gauges already in place at the site. A review of the California Coastal Conservancy's land acquisition policies will be conducted and analyzed.

New Research

Sampling: Sediment and water sampling will be conducted in areas that do not have adequate sampling data available, such as the Oxnard Drain. Sample analysis will either be done in the Keller Laboratory located at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) in the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management or will be sent to a private company for analysis. Contaminant levels will be evaluated using the National Academy of Science standards for acceptable contaminant levels.

Modeling: A model will be purchased for use in the analysis of potential sediment/contaminant transport and distribution throughout the restoration site and Mugu Lagoon. An Equilibrium Concentration model (EQC) will be used initially to determine general distributive properties of specific contaminants. A GIS map will be created using ArcView to identify land use, priority restoration areas, habitat types, and other relevant factors.

Personal Communication: Stakeholders have been identified and will be included in the discussions of the project. They will be especially helpful in providing information regarding the management and political aspects of the project.

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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.
Deliverables:
  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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References

  1. Armbrust, Roma. Ormond Beach Observers, Ormond Beach: Past, Present, and Future.
  2. Barbier, Edward B., Mike Acreman and Duncan Knowler. Economic valuation of wetlands: A guide for policy makers and planners. Ramsar Convention Bureau, IUCN-The World Conservation Union. Gland, Switzerland 1997.
  3. California Coastal Conservancy. Southern California Wetlands Recovery Project. 13 May1999.
  4. California Environmental Resources Evaluation System. California Wetlands Information System. May 2000.
  5. California Regional Water Quality Control Board. Calleguas Creek Preliminary Report: Water Quality. Jan 1996.
  6. California Regional Water Quality Control Board. Pesticide Contamination in Mugu Lagoon and its Tributaries. 23 Dec 1988.
  7. Ferren, Wayne. Member, Science Advisory Board. Southern California Wetlands Recovery Project. Personal Communication. May 2000: Santa Barbara, CA.
  8. Hoffman, David J., Barnett, A. Rattner, G. Allen Burton, Jr. and John Cairns, Jr. Handbook of Ecotoxicology. Lewis Publishers, 1995: London.
  9. Jones & Stokes Associates. South Ormond Beach Wetland Restoration and Management Plan. May 1995: Sacramento.
  10. King, Dennis and Lisa Wainger. Assessing the Economic Value of Biodiversity Using Indicators of Site Conditions and Landscape Context. Draft Copy, Oct 1999: Paris.
  11. McClelland Engineers. Ormond Beach Wetland Restoration and Management Program. Oct 1985.
  12. North Carolina State University. Watersheds. May 2000 .
  13. Phillip Williams & Associates. Interim Field Survey Report, South Ormond Beach. 8 Dec 1999: Corte Madera, California.
  14. Polakovic, Gary. Dead in the Water. Los Angeles Times. 20 Feb 2000: Los Angeles, CA.
  15. Pritchett, David. Biologist, US Fish and Wildlife Service. Personal Communication. May 2000: Ventura, CA.
  16. Richardson, C.J. Ecological Functions and Human Values in Wetlands: A Framework for Assessing Forestry Impacts. Wetlands, Vol. 14(1): 1-9, 1994.
  17. Serageldin, I. Making Development Sustainable. Finance & Development. Vol 30:(4): 6, 1993.
  18. Simons, Li and Associates, Inc. Sediment Transport Analysis Carpinteria Salt Marsh Enhancement Project. 7 Oct 1994, Santa Barbara County Flood Control and Water Conservation District: Santa Barbara, CA.
  19. Taylor, Brent D. Sediment Management for Southern California Mountains, Coastal Plains, and Shoreline. Oct 1981, CA Institute of Technology: Pasadena, CA.
  20. United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Ocean Service. Estuaries of the United States: Vital Statistics of a Natural Resources Base, Oct 1990.
  21. Urban Land Institute. Advisory Services Panel Report, Ormond Beach, Oxnard, California. 1999: Washington, D.C.

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