A New Front, and a New Opportunity, to Pursue Wetland Restoration in Mission Bay

It’s been a year since San Diego City Council greenlighted new and expanded RV camping leases in northeast Mission Bay, but we’ve recently confirmed that a long-awaited Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP) by the city will examine the “Wildest” wetland restoration proposal at the same level of attention as the city’s own plan for wetland restoration in the northeast corner of Mission Bay.

This is a good news for our effort, because the SEP will give city council a clear choice between our Wildest option and the city’s existing plan. This project, if approved by the Regional Water Quality Control Board, will be undertaken as mitigation for an earlier sewage spill in Tecolote Canyon that polluted Mission Bay.

Some of the components of the SEP include “associated transitional and upland areas” in the wetland restoration consideration. ReWild Mission Bay has long emphasized these habitats are critical components of a functioning, restored wetland.

The SEP also indicates a desire on the part of the city to pursue “maximum implementable wetland restoration reflective of existing feasibility studies,” and since ReWild Mission Bay is a feasibility study, it’s clear our plan will be analyzed. As we’ve long maintained, Wildest demonstrates how much wetland is feasible in the northeast corner of the bay.

And, responding to our advocacy for a resilient plan that acknowledges sea level rise, the SEP proposal aims for 80 acres of restored wetlands by 2100 with sea level rise modeling, in addition to the existing Kendall-Frost Marsh Reserve. This is what was initially called for in the Mission Bay Park Master Plan from 1994.

Granted, this isn’t a perfect scenario. We didn’t get everything we’d hoped for with the SEP proposal, like comparative carbon sequestration analysis, an agreement about improving access and accessible land uses, or a long-term comparative economic analysis. We’re also concerned that we aren’t guaranteed a look at anything pertaining to the city’s new plan until it’s made available for comments at the end of the process. We’ll need to continue informing and pressuring our councilmembers and mayor to embrace the visionary opportunity the city has in Mission Bay for improved access and restored wetlands, especially now that they’ve identified funding, and the will, for a new alternative.

What we need now is your support at the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board. We need to do everything we can to ensure councilmembers support our ReWild goals, and that city staff has solid direction on what they should be investigating as the SEP moves forward.

The public comment period is open through Monday, Aug. 10. That’s not much time, so submit your thoughts and comments now to environmental scientist Christopher Means with the compliance assurance unit of the San Diego Regional Water Board at christopher.means@waterboards.ca.gov, and learn more at the Regional Water Board’s website.

Photo by Greg Hoxsie