Ballona Wetlands in line for a major restoration

Some big changes could be on the way to the Ballona Wetlands on Los Angeles’s Westside, as federal, state, and county officials plan a major restoration of the 566-acre ecological reserve.

The wetlands ecosystem, which once stretched from Venice and Playa del Rey to Baldwin Hills, was concentrated into a concrete channel in the 1920s and partially covered over during the construction of Marina del Rey three decades later.

Now, as another walled in natural resource—the LA River—prepares for its own transformation, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife are planning a project that could restore parts of the wetlands to a more natural and meandering state.

According to a draft environmental report on the project, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has designated all parts of the wetlands as “impaired.” To “restore wetland habitat” within the reserve, the Department of Fish and Wildlife has proposed three options that would reshape portions of the site.

The first option is the most ambitious and would include work in 483 acres of space around the wetlands. It would remove levees controlling the flow of Ballona Creek, allowing tidal waters to flow in and out in a less restrictive pattern. The plan would also add new trails, bike and pedestrian bridges, a new bike path, and a parking structure for visitors.

The second option is similar, but would affect a slightly smaller chunk of the space around the wetlands and require the removal of fewer levees framing the creek. The new and improved amenities for walkers and bicyclists would be the same as those proposed in the first alternative.

The third option would affect just 163 acres of space, leaving the existing levee system fully intact. The bike paths, trails, bridges, and new parking structure would also be included in this version of the project.

All three alternatives would create new habitats for local wildlife and improve tidal circulation and…

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