Point Mugu Restores Critical Wetlands
Base personnel from the environmental department onboard Naval Base Ventura County (NBVC) Point Mugu, California with some help from the Channel Islands Restoration (CIR) staff and volunteers are enhancing critical wetlands without competing with the base’s military mission.
Coastal saltmarsh wetlands are a rare habitat in California and the Mugu Lagoon estuary complex located on NBVC Point Mugu is the largest in Southern California. There are over 2,100 acres of wetlands which supports hundreds of species, including 230 bird and 204 native plant species. Seven of these species are rare, threatened or endangered, and protected by environmental laws. NBVC Point Mugu has a comprehensive wetland restoration program that effectively protects this valuable resource while maintaining efficiency in implementing the base’s military mission.
Some projects or operations on NBVC Point Mugu occasionally require mitigation for impacts to wetlands. These impacts rarely occur even though the wetland complex on base is 48 percent of the total land area for the installation. Wetland restoration projects, implemented on the base since the 1990’s, are executed by personnel from the NBVC Point Mugu Environmental Division which oversees the associated construction, restoration, and permitting activities. The proactive wetland restoration projects provide opportunities for instant mitigation acreage if damage to wetlands occurs.
Currently, there is an effort to restore salt marsh in an abandoned land fill. The salt marsh vegetation used in restoration projects at Point Mugu require variable water inputs, particular elevation levels, and have different salt tolerance; these conditions can make it difficult to predict the success of restoration projects. “The features that make natural coastal wetlands unique are the same features that create restoration challenges: Their physiochemical environment is complex; they are biologically diverse, and they are vulnerable to changing sea levels. The complex physiography of coastal wetlands is difficult to create or restore, especially where prior landforms have been obliterated through filling.” (Source: Handbook for Restoring Tidal Wetlands, Zeller, 2001.) This is the case at the 12th Street restoration site since it was historically used as a land fill disposal site. The contents were removed and clean sediment was added before native plants (Western marsh rosemary) were reestablished.
Five thousand native plants were installed by Channel Islands Restoration (CIR) staff and volunteers. The native plants were started from seeds and cuttings collected at NBVC Point Mugu and grown in CIR’s nursery. Biochar was added in some areas of planting as an experiment to see if it increases the growth of the plantings. Biochar is made from organic matter heated until it decomposes; the result is a high carbon product with high surface area good for retaining water and nutrients in soil. It has been used at NBVC Point Mugu before with positive results of native vegetation colonizing the mounds and trenches where it had been placed. This has positive implications especially for newly restored areas that may not have developed the rich, biogenic soils required for salt marsh plant recruitment.