Residents who wish to voice their concerns over the proposed interpretive center that would sit on part of the remaining 600-acre Ballona Wetlands area can do so by writing the Fish and Wildlife Department by March 1.
The 46,000-square-foot interpretive center, expected to cost about $50 million and financed in party by the Annenberg Foundation, would house exhibits on wildlife and domestic animals and include an auditorium, classrooms, facilities for animal adoption and office space for staff.
The adoption program would consist of rooms for dogs and cats, a holding area for future adoptions and veterinary services.
When the interpretive center was publicly announced on Jan. 27, both the Ballona Wetlands Land Trust and the Ballona Institute opposed placing the building on the remaining wetlands area and suggested that a suitable alternative off-site be considered.
“Our opposition to constructing facilities within the protected ecological reserve is very simple – we don’t have the luxury to further erode an ecosystem that is already greatly diminished from its original state,” the Ballona Institute states on its website. “There are still undeveloped acres of land adjacent to or near the ecological reserve that the Annenberg Foundation could help us acquire that would be more suitable for this construction project.”
A phone message left with the Annenberg Foundation was not returned.
The California Fish and Wildlife Department, formerly Fish and Game, will analyze the proposed project’s impacts for aesthetics, recreation, biological resources and land use and planning among several factors in the environmental impact report.
The report, started on July 25, 2012 and drafted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Fish and Wildlife, will assess the environmental effects of restoring the 600-acre Ballona Wetlands. Revisions will include alternatives to the interpretive center project, including a scenario in which no center is built.
In their report, engineers are also including options that will analyze the impacts of maintaining the wetland as-is or restoring a smaller portion of the 600-acre site.
The Ballona Wetlands stretch from Playa del Rey to Venice. The site is owned by the state and managed by Fish and Wildlife as an ecological reserve. The California Coastal Conservancy and the California State Lands Commission are partners in the planning and restoration of the wetlands.
The development decades ago of Marina del Rey and the Ballona Creek Flood Control Channel severed the connection between the ocean and the freshwater Ballona Creek, leaving the wetlands unable to support many of the native species that once lived there, according to Fish and Wildlife.
The Ballona Wetlands Restoration Project aims to return the daily ebb and flow of tidal waters, maintain freshwater circulation and improve the overall ecosystem to give native species a chance to survive. Once restored, the wetlands could resume its role as a refuge for the millions of birds that travel from South America to Alaska each year.
The public may comment on the scope of the interpretive center until March 1 by writing a letter to Ballona Wetlands Restoration Project C/O Donna McCormick 1 Ada, Suite 100 Irvine, CA 92816 or by emailing Donna.McCormick@icfi.com.
To learn more about the Ballona Wetlands restoration, visit www.ballonarestoration.org