The northern rim of San Diego’s Mission Bay could be in for a major facelift.
The Audubon Society is pushing to greatly expand the wetlands near Rose Creek in an effort to bring back habitat that used to dominate the area.
Rebecca Schwartz, a program manager at the nonprofit, recently stood on a small overlook on the north rim of Mission Bay and pointed out at the small sliver of existing marsh.
“Right now it’s low tide, so we can see a lot of the salt marsh. At high tides this area would be inundated, probably almost up to this fence line,” Schwartz said.
“We have some tidal channels come in so what looks like these little creeks running through here, that’s where the bay water can actually come up and enter the marsh,” Schwartz said.
That tidal exchange alternately floods and drains the area, letting the marsh filter impurities out of the water, much like a kidney does for the human body.
California has lost 90 percent of its historic wetlands. But there are ongoing efforts to reclaim patches of the habitat all along the state’s coast. The Southern California Wetlands Recovery Project is a key force pushing for wetlands recovery.
This protected and managed 40-acre wetland is all that’s left of about 4,000 acres of marshy habitat that used to be Mission Bay.
The bay became a recreational playground thanks to dredging in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s.
But without healthy wetlands, the bay’s water doesn’t get the benefit of a natural filter.
“This area of Mission Bay, we have closures sometimes,” Schwartz said. “There’s a lot of water quality issues in Mission Bay and providing that functional benefit for water quality and water purification that wetlands provide would be a huge resource to the bay.”
Schwartz wants to see the wetlands get bigger so she’s working on an effort called re-wild Mission Bay.
The idea is to nearly quadruple the size of the marsh.
“People love the natural resources of Mission Bay. People come here specifically to enjoy that,” Schwartz said. “As soon as they hear about this project they get excited. Because it’s an opportunity to have more engagement with this resource that’s right in their backyard.”
It could end up being a massive undertaking. That’s because this island of wetland habitat is surrounded by development and the marsh requires human intervention to survive, according to Jeff Crooks, a research biologist who works at the Tijuana River estuary.
“Historically, this would have been a big expansive marsh, wetland. And now we have the little fragment that is the Kendall Marsh northern wildlife preserve,” he said.