The Bay Foundation and the City have completed the Wild Beach Restoration Pilot Program along a section of local beach and officials hope the program will showcase environmental restoration in the area.

The City of Santa Monica and The Bay Foundation worked together to hold an opening ceremony for the project at the Annenberg Community Beach House on Tuesday, May 9.

The partners got the ball rolling for this project last year and since then, have been working tirelessly to ensure the pilot project would make a part of Santa Monica beaches a wild life.

The Bay Foundation took the reins on the project and transformed three acres of the beach into a coastal ecosystem. This area is meant to address coastal hazard risks and protect coastal resources, which would include public beach access, recreation, and natural shoreline habitat.

Dean Kubani, Chief Sustainability Officer for the City of Santa Monica has been excited for this pilot project since it began.

“It is a great example of a multi-benefit project that has the potential to provide habitat for many beach species, allow the public to interact with a natural, living beach environment and will help safeguard against the impacts of climate induced sea level rise and storm surges,” said Kubani.

In December 2016, the 3-acre section was seeded, and with the help of the rain Santa Monica received in past months, the area has produced thousands of sprouting seedlings. Now the area is slowly forming small sand dunes.

The small dunes will continue to form naturally as part of the project and will help dissipate wave energy from more frequent and stronger storms that are anticipated in the coming years because of climate change.

The project will continue to evaluate the increased protection from sea level rise and erosion for coastal infrastructure and residences. However, it will also provide a vital refuge for coastal vegetation species, invertebrates, and birds.

In April the first snowy plover, a bird that has not been seen in California for years formed a nest on the 3-acre coastal ecosystem Santa Monica State Beach. Not long after three more nest were found on Malibu Lagoon State Beach and Dockweiler State Beach. The nests were discovered and monitored by the Los Angeles Audubon and The Bay Foundation.

Sadly the Santa Monica State Beach experienced three consecutive days of high winds leaving the nest covered and lost in the sand.

The pilot project has brought in wildlife and sand dunes, and is slowly brining plants to the beaches.

“The best part is as the plants grow they capture the sand and they continue to grow and all of a sudden we can have our beaches in a natural way,” said The Bay Foundation Executive Director, Tom Ford. “This project has been nothing but a run away success for us.”

The 3-acre area was designed to encourage visitors to learn about the local native plants and still allow locals and tourist to see Santa Monica beaches as a wildlife habitat, provided they stay out of the protected zone.

“Part of the reason for this pilot is to determine the effectiveness of this type of strategy at mitigating climate change impacts,” said Kubani. “If it proves effective we may look to repeat it in other locations that are potentially vulnerable to sea level rise and storm surge impacts as an alternative to less natural options.”

This is their fifth month into the pilot program and they will be focusing on this project for many years to come. In one to three years, organizers hope to see taller and full-grown dunes, as it will be a natural barrier for locals and the City.

“We are very proud of this project and we will be good stewards to this feature on our shore,” said Mayor Ted Winterer. “Our 93,000 residents and 60 million annual beach goers will be able to see the natural beauty.”

marina@smdp.com

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