Wetlands Land Trust Supports Land Swap

Elizabeth Lambe, Executive Director, Los Cerritos Wetlands Land Trust

We admit it. It took us awhile. But after a great deal of research, discussion and with some additional protections put into place, the Board of Directors of the Los Cerritos Wetlands Land Trust has voted to support the mitigation bank and land swap proposed by Beach Oil Mineral Partners (BOM).  We know the project has been the subject of great controversy and of strong opinion both for and against. We were, frankly, torn, in that we supported the idea of restoring Los Cerritos Wetlands but concerned it be done right, not take too long, and have the right balance of wetlands access and protection.

taken by Tidal Influence

In the end, we support this project because it includes comprehensive wetlands and habitat restoration, provides unique public access opportunities, consolidates oil operations offsite, and will transfer ownership of a substantial portion of Los Cerritos Wetlands into the public domain. These are all things for which the Land Trust has long advocated.

Our review process-of both the proposed oil consolidation and the restoration aspect of the project--was diligent and thoughtful. We formed a dedicated committee of Board members who did a great deal of their own research and reviewed all relevant information regarding the proposed project. We had numerous meetings with the BOM principals and their experts and consultants in order to ensure our many questions were answered and addressed.

We have always understood that the potential for wetlands restoration is the cornerstone of the project. However, the project area is known to be contaminated. We were concerned that site contamination could spread once outside water was introduced to the area. This could harm sensitive habitats and the species that depend on them. We were concerned that the restoration would not live up to its potential. To alleviate this concern, with BOM's agreement, we brought our own soil and water expert into the process in order to ensure we had a clear understanding of the details regarding contamination on the site and how best to remediate it.

BOM has been a transparent and integral partner in our review process, responding promptly to our many detailed questions and providing our committee with the answers they needed to understand the project. In addition, as this project is implemented, BOM has committed to involving the Land Trust in order to ensure we are fully updated and involved as the project moves through the regulatory review process.

The project offers tangible conservation benefits. It will reduce the footprint of oil operations to approximately 10 acres from approximately 187 acres, accelerating and funding a transformation of this highly degraded landscape to a restored functioning wetlands and uplands.

The project maintains environmental integrity. As a result of our conversations with the BOM team and advice from our soil and water consultant, BOM has committed to a thorough and transparent process regarding the assessment and removal of onsite hazards and contamination. This will ensure there will be no site contamination of Los Cerritos Wetlands as the land transitions from oil operations to conservation.

The project could offer conservation benefits sooner. Through conversations with BOM, we know they are committed to accelerating the transition to conservation if at all feasible.

Our watchdog role is integral and ongoing. BOM has agreed to full communication with us, including production numbers, to track BOM's adherence to its well abandonment schedule. The Land Trust's experts will play a significant oversight role, including helping to scope an ecological risk assessment prior to restoration work, receiving and reviewing any and all reports about site conditions, testing, and clean-up protocols. We will be on-site when excavation or other key activities occur.

We appreciate the time and effort BOM put into reaching out to us, the many meetings they had with us, and their fast response to our concerns. We consider BOM a partner and look forward to an enduring relationship with them. We hope this will serve as a model for other projects that will impact Los Cerritos Wetlands.

For all of these reasons, our Board has voted to support BOM's wetlands consolidation and restoration project and we look forward to a continuing partnership with them, the Los Cerritos Wetlands Authority, and other conservation groups in order to see through this joint commitment to transition from oil to conservation.

We know there are those who want conservation and restoration without the need for ongoing oil operations or a mitigation bank. But that was not on the table. We know there are differences of opinion on this matter and perhaps there always will be. However, it is my sincere hope that our community of environmental activists, who are working so hard to bring this damaged piece of wetlands back to life, will always operate from a place of respect for each other's views and understand that while others may have a different path towards protecting our fragile blue planet, our goals are shared.

We have deepest appreciation for all who have taken time out of their lives to advocate with us for the protection and restoration of Los Cerritos Wetlands. We have made great strides; and with your partnership and community support, I am sure we will continue to do so.






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