Coastal Commission OKs Big Canyon Restoration

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The effort to restore Big Canyon Nature Park will include removing the Brazilian pepper tree forest, improving water quality, and planting natural vegetation.
— Photo by Sara Hall ©

The California Coastal Commission recently approved the second phase of Newport Beach’s four-phase plan to restore Big Canyon Nature Park.

Newport Beach city staffers plan to restore an 11.3-acre portion of the park between Jamboree Road and Back Bay Drive that’s home to a six-acre grove of invasive Brazilian pepper trees.

“Overall, the project will result in improved water quality and habitat for Big Canyon through watershed improvements by improving the flow of the creek to remove toxins [and] restoring connectivity of the creek to the flood plain,” Coastal Commission District Supervisor Shannon Vaughn said.

In 2016, the Commission approved the restoration of six acres in the first phase of Newport Beach’s coastal habitat restoration project. That work was completed by June 2018.

“It was a very successful project so we’re looking to build on that success, learn from our efforts, and do a similar project here,” Deputy Director of Community Development Jim Campbell said.

The plan approved Sept. 11 would re-establish a functioning complex of wetland and upland habitats downstream of a completed restoration area, Vaughn said. Many of the invasive pepper trees are infested with Shot Hole Borer beetles, which have spread to native willow trees that need to be treated or removed.

About 5,500 cubic yards of excavation and grading of the existing channel bank will create flood plain conditions to energize wetland habitat following storms. Lastly, a mosaic of native vegetation will be planted to create riparian and other valuable habitats, Vaughn said.

Newport Beach partnered with the Newport Bay Conservancy and received grant funding to execute the second phase of the coastal habitat restoration project, Campbell said.

Big Canyon provides habitat for sensitive plants such as California boxthorn

and southern tarplant as well as special-status animals such as orange-throated whiptail lizards, yellow warblers, Coastal California gnatcatchers and Least Bell’s Vireo songbirds, according to a staff report.

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