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For the Birds

Bolsa Chica Wetlands
December 22, 2004

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We walked on a wooden platform over the water until it dead-ended at a cyclone fence that cut the wetlands off a few hundred feet from Pacific Coast Highway. When I wrote for the Seal Beach Sun years ago, I covered the battle between developers who wanted to plunk a few hundred homes onto the estuary and the environmental groups who were hoping to save for the birds one of the few remaining stretches of undeveloped land along Southern California's coast. Looking through the fence, at the bulldozers sitting on freshly graded, barren land, I guessed that the developers' patience had paid off. Restoration Project, we figured, was a slightly Orwellian term for development.

So imagine our surprise to find the happy ending: an explanatory diagram back at the parking lot detailing an actual restoration project. The bulldozers were removing dirt tainted by 70 years of oil drilling on the site. When the polluted sands are removed, contractors will restore the shallow tidal plain and open peripheral paths to the public again. I don't know how they did it (or what they gave the Lyons Development company in exchange), but it's an encouraging story and a happy ending for the terns and pelicans who live there.