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Port Commissioners approve adding amendment for oyster project to Port Master Plan

The Port of San Diego Board of Port Commissioners adopted a resolution approving a Port Master Plan amendment for the San Diego Bay Native Oyster Living Shoreline Pilot Project and directed staff to file for certification with the California Coastal Commission.

SAN DIEGO—The Port of San Diego Board of Port Commissioners approved an amendment to the Port Master Plan (PMP) adding a pilot project to create a native Olympia oyster reef in the South San Diego Bay adjacent to the Chula Vista Wildlife Reserve.

At the Dec. 8 board meeting, commissioners adopted a resolution approving a Port Master Plan amendment for the San Diego Bay Native Oyster Living Shoreline Pilot Project and directed certification with the California Coastal Commission.

“Proposed development in the Wetlands designation in this subarea would be for a living shoreline pilot project, which would involve the placement of oyster reef ball elements that consist of “baycrete” or concrete mixed with local sand and shell aggregate, as well as a five-year biological monitoring program with data collection,” the amendment added to the PMP stated.

The pilot project would take up 10 acres near the Chula Vista bayfront with the goal of testing the effectiveness of baycrete elements in establishing native oyster reefs that protect shorelines from erosion while providing important habitat for wetlands, aquatic plants and ecologically and commercially important wildlife.

While the proposed structures are not considered an allowable use in the Wetlands-designated area, in this case, the project has been sited to avoid impacts to eelgrass beds, includes design features and controls to avoid the recruitment of non-native oysters, and will provide valuable research into techniques for minimizing shoreline erosion that do not involve seawalls or riprap armoring.

The project would be managed by a multi-agency team that consists of the port district, the Coastal Conservancy, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Southwest Wetlands Interpretive Association, and California State University Fullerton.

Following installation, which is anticipated to occur in early Spring 2021, a five-year biological monitoring program would be used to assess the pilot project’s success.

The pilot project’s reef ball elements will be removed if, at the conclusion of the five-year monitoring period, adaptive management measures are not successful or feasible and the project meets one or more of the removal criteria. If the pilot project does not meet any of the removal criteria, the reef ball elements would be expected to be left in place as habitat.

According to the Southern California Wetlands Recovery Project (SCWRP) website, native Olympia oysters were a dominant native species in these areas of San Diego Bay until the early 1900’s when their populations declined due to over-harvesting, pollution, and loss of wetlands. Today, viable native oyster stock still exists in San Diego Bay, but a lack of hard substrate habitat prevents oyster populations from re-establishing.

“Decades of dredging and channelization have resulted in a loss of 42 percent of San Diego Bay’s shallow subtidal habitat and 84 percent of its intertidal mudflat habitat since the late 1800’s,” a project description on SCWRP’s website stated. “These modifications and associated shoreline armoring have resulted in the loss of most of the natural shoreline protection that marshes, oyster beds, and other intertidal and shallow subtidal habitats provided.”

 

 

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