open channel rendering (copy)

The open channel will connect Colorado Lagoon, top, and Marine Stadium.

Trees not native to the area are being marked for removal in Marina Vista Park between Colorado Lagoon and Marine Stadium.

Those trees will come down to make way for an open channel connecting the two bodies of water. Currently, there is a large pipe running under the park to allow water to circulate from the stadium to the lagoon and back.

A $26.3 million project, the open channel is the second phase of improvements to Colorado Lagoon in the name of better water quality. A $2 million cleaning of the pipe and dredging of the lagoon — along with a county project diverting low flow storm drain water — has revived the area. Water quality now is consistently good enough to allow swimming in the lagoon.

"What we're doing now is make ready work," Josh Hickman, project manager for the Public Works Department, said. "These trees are in the area that will become part of the open channel… We have a small window of time to remove them during the non-nesting season."

Trees being removed include some outside of the actual channel area. Taking those trees out will allow land leveling to create new athletic fields, replacing those disrupted by the channel.

In total, 74 trees will be removed. Hickman said they eventually will be replaced, tree for tree, with native, habitat-friendly trees lining the channel and in other areas of the park.

A field biologist has been on site during the tree marking, and will stay on site while trees are removed. People are welcome to ask the biologist questions, Hickman added.

"Tree work will be wrapped up in the next few weeks," Hickman said. "Then later in the spring the work begins in earnest."

Port of Long Beach officials will be watching closely, and not just because they will be paying the bills. The channel and surrounding area is designed as a mitigation bank — habitat creation to be traded for work in port areas that degrade natural habitat.

"Currently, there are existing non-native trees in the mitigation bank area must be replaced with native trees to meet the mitigation bank performance
criteria," an announcement from Third District Councilwoman Suzie Price said. "If the criteria are not met, the Port will not provide funding for the project."

The contract for the actual channel construction, along with bridges on Colorado and Eliot streets, will be advertised for bid soon. The current schedule calls for heavy construction starting in late summer or fall.

Areas of the park will remain open as long as possible, with work areas marked off limits. The project is expected to take two years to complete.

"We'll be reaching out regularly to make sure the neighborhood is aware of what's happening," Hickman said. "There will be times when closures (of the park and/or the streets) are unavoidable. But we'll do the best we can to keep everyone informed."

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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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