marketplace wetlands signs

A portion of the Los Cerritos Wetlands can be seen from the Marketplace parking lot.

A final draft restoration plan from the Los Cerritos Wetlands Authority targets the south 100 acres of the 503-acre complex for the first work.

That draft is available for public review now, with a public Zoom meeting planned at 7 p.m. next Thursday, March 18, for discussion and comments. Actual restoration is still years away.

In the meantime, a lawsuit filed two years ago against the state Coastal Commission's approval of a proposed land trade between the oil operator and the authority will be in Los Angeles Superior Court today, Thursday, March 11. That trade still hasn't taken place, but is addressed in the restoration plan.

The lawsuit against the Coastal Commission was filed by Anna Christensen and a group called Puvunga Wetlands Protectors, a nonprofit apparently formed specifically for the lawsuit. Its articles of incorporation were filed one week before the lawsuit's filing date of Feb. 11, 2019, and Christensen is the listed director.

In the Petition for Writ of Mandate, Christensen claims the commission violated its own regulations by improperly using an overriding consideration provision. The trade would increase oil production, the lawsuit claims, without any real wetlands reclamation.

The trade between Beach Oil Minerals LLC and Los Cerritos Wetlands Authority (LCWA) would move oil operations to a parcel behind the Pumpkin Patch east of the Marketplace shopping center in exchange for eventual restoration of 150 acres of privately owned wetlands and transfer of ownership to LCWA.

The lawsuit asks the court to void the land trade and for payment of legal fees. While the suit is against the Coastal Commission, the city, LCWA, Beach Oil Minerals, Los Cerritos Wetlands LLC and Lyon Housing (owner of the Pumpkin Patch property) are all listed as respondents.

Because this is ongoing litigation, none of the respondents would comment on the case.

Meanwhile, the 175-page final draft of the Restoration Plan is moving forward. After the comment period, final edits could be made before certification by the LCWA board.

That plan addresses both the 166 acres owned by LCWA and the other 337 acres owned privately, with Beach Oil Minerals the largest landholder. The publicly-owned wetlands are three district parcels, with the largest at 100 acres known as the South LCWA Site.

"The LCWA views restoration in this area as a near-term priority so restoration designs for this area are developed in the most detail in this plan," the plan's executive summary says. "The smallest of the LCWA areas already has a restoration plan being implemented and the third area is currently constrained by active oil leases and easements so further planning and implementation will occur later."

Originally, the wetlands were tidal marsh. A key to any restoration, the plan says, is reintroduction of tidal flow in areas where there is little or no flow. 

That effort likely will include creating a new tidal channel connecting to the Haynes Cooling Channel (connected to the LADWP Haynes Power Plant) and grading to return areas to near-original elevations.

Once the overall plan is certified, restoration plans for specific wetlands areas will be developed, including separate Environmental Impact Reports. No timeline is offered in the plan.

"Finally, an important theme that is apparent throughout this plan is that tradeoffs must be made on a wide range of issues in the development of restoration designs," the report says.

The 175-page restoration plan is available at Gazettes.com/go/wetlands. The deadline for comments is currently March 25. Comments should be emailed to lcwa@tidalinfluence.com.

For information about attending the Zoom meeting on March 18, go to the LCWA website, intoloscerritoswetlands.org.

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Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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