Large Wetlands Project Opens in Long Beach

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Los Angeles County officials opened 50 acres of wetlands in Long Beach Thursday. The $7 million Dominguez Gap project will protect land from floods and irrigate native plants with stormwater. KPCC's Molly Peterson has more.

Molly Peterson: You can't pick a better time than wildflower season to open new walking and horse trails to camera toters from Long Beach and beyond. TJ Moon, an engineer who worked on Dominguez Gap, can remember the way the place used to look.

TJ Moon: it was black as night, there were no birds, no color, no vegetation; it was pretty much just this black ponding water all the way to the top. There was no life. It's really changed a lot.

Peterson: Yellow deer weed, purple owl clover, and coastal sage testify to that, along with a few Palos Verdes blue butterflies attracted to the riparian plants.

The park's slopes will catch and control the county's rain runoff just as they always have. But now the wetland will also filter that water before it flows into the adjacent L.A. River.

L.A. County public works senior engineer Mark Pestrella says Dominguez Gap is a model project for his agency, because it serves multiple interests.

Mark Pestrella: Flood protection, safety of the public first; water conservation. Water quality, because we want to deliver water is of some quality to the community we serve; and then open space and habitat. This facility, I think, represents those four components better than any facility I can think of.

Peterson: Pestrella says that getting money for Dominguez Gap took some work. But if this project is a success, county officials hope it'll become easier to raise money for similar ones from individual donors, private conservancies, and especially the federal government.