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Saving Threatened Habitat Means More Jobs for San Diegans

Above: City and State officials celebrate the groundbreaking of the South San Diego Bay Wildlife Restoration Project on September 23, 2010.

— Work started Thursday to restore 280 acres in South San Diego Bay. The area is currently occupied by commercial salt ponds that are to be converted back to protected wetland habitat.

"It's really a two-part project: one restoring habitat, but also generating jobs for the community," said Bob Hoffman, with the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Volunteers will donate more than 1,500 hours of their time to removing invasive plants in order to replant native species. Workers will move a total of nearly three football fields (140,000 cubic yards) worth of dredged material from the Chula Vista Wildlife Reserve to the project site near the South San Diego Power Plant.

Removal of material dredged from the wildlife reserve will promote tidal flow into the area. Depositing the same dredged material into the commercial salt ponds will provide nesting grounds to thousands of migratory and local birds.

Hoffman said the $7 million project will benefit roughly 400 species of birds and fish as the wetland’s ecosystem is improved. The restored area will be home to Osprey, Pacific green sea turtles and four other species of endangered or threatened birds.

"What we're talking about is removing pollution sources, restoring habitat that can act as filters for some of the pollution that we still generate regardless of reduction efforts,” said Hoffman. “So, all of that is a positive for the local community."

Officials with the Environmental Protection Agency (EAP) said wetlands serve as important filters for future drinking water and storm runoff, and they're less expensive to create and maintain than water treatment sites.

This is one of nine habitat restoration projects in California funded by federal, state and local agencies.

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