Los Cerritos Wetlands Southern Area Planning and Permitting

Location: Los Angeles County

Project Type: Acquisition, Restoration

Status: Current

Cost: $142,000,000

Funding Gap: $114,364,172

Area Affected: 504 acres

Assembly District: 70

Senate District: 34

Congressional District: 47

Project Lead/Grantee: Los Cerritos Wetlands Authority

Project Lead Website: Joel Gerwein, joel.gerwein@scc.ca.gov

Until the late 1800s, the Los Cerritos Wetlands Complex spanned approximately 2,400 acres and consisted of a network of meandering streams, vegetated wetlands, and upland areas. Most of the historic wetlands have been filled, lost or degraded, primarily because of oil extraction, channelization of the San Gabriel River, and construction of a cooling channel for nearby power plants. Portions have been used as land fill or burn dump areas, while others have been reduced in size by commercial and residential development. The Los Cerritos Wetlands provide regionally-significant wildlife habitat. The site is a feeding ground for local and migratory shore birds and a nesting site of special status species. Portions of the wetlands provide important spawning areas and food sources for intertidal and marine aquatic species. A variety of rare plant species inhabit its tidally-influenced drainages and disturbed wetland areas.

The Los Cerritos Wetlands Authority is working to provide a comprehensive program of acquisition, protection, conservation, restoration, maintenance, and environmental enhancement of the Los Cerritos Wetlands area consistent with the goals of flood protection, habitat preservation and restoration, improved water supply, water quality, groundwater recharge, and water conservation. Program goals include restoration of tidal influence to support tidal marsh habitats, restoration of habitat for special status species, and expansion of public access compatible with those goals.

The LCWA adopted the Conceptual Restoration Plan (CRP) in August 2015, which identified opportunities for restoring tidal connections, creation of new wetland and associated upland habitats, consolidation of oil operations, improvement to passive recreation facilities, creation of a visitor’s center, and accommodation of special status species at the Los Cerritos Wetlands. In January 2021 the LCWA certified a Program Environmental Impact Report (PEIR) utilizing the CRP designs to create a program description for a 503-acre program area. The potential impacts of this proposed program were analyzed, and mitigation measures were determined for potentially impacted resources. In May 2021 the LCWA adopted the Los Cerritos Wetlands Habitat Restoration Plan that refined the designs from the PEIR and made recommendations for which projects should be prioritized to tier off from the PEIR.

The Los Cerritos Wetlands Southern Area Planning and Permitting Project is the first project to tier off from the PEIR.  This project would restore 103.5 acres of tidal wetlands, transition zone, and upland habitat on the South LCWA site (aka Hellman Ranch Lowlands) and the State Lands Commission site (together comprising the Project Area).