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VENTURA FWO: New Wetland Habitat is Result of Creative Solution to Waste Problem
California-Nevada Offices , June 7, 2008
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Steve Henry, Ventura FWO
A soon-to-be-built series of California red-legged frog and California tiger salamander breeding ponds in northern Santa Barbara County are the result of creative negotiations between the Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

During the planning for the cleanup of the Casmalia Resources hazardous waste landfill site, it was discovered that the site’s numerous surface water retention ponds were being used by California red-legged frogs.  The ponds are also habitat for California tiger salamanders, though use of these ponds for breeding by the salamander has not yet been determined.  The Casmalia Resources site is located on about 250 acres in a rural area of the Casmalia Hills in Santa Barbara County.

The dilemma was that pond storm water management practices at the site were degrading water quality in the ponds by raising the levels of dissolved salts.  Additionally, EPA’s long-term remediation plans required draining the ponds and cleaning up the sediment.

In consultation with state agencies and EPA, the Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office contaminants staff recommended the creation of an alternate breeding habitat area at the Casmalia site, an area that was free of contamination and suitable for creating habitat similar to, but even better than, the existing retention ponds.

The EPA and Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office contaminants biologists were able to negotiate an arrangement in which EPA consulted with the Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office on a revised remediation plan that included replacement habitat for frogs and salamanders.  The Service provided EPA with biological opinion that found the site storm water management and eventual closure of the surface water ponds would not jeopardize the threatened and endangered amphibians.  Given the benefit of constructing the six wetland ponds, the EPA’s proposed action will have a long-term benefit to these species.

Construction is scheduled for summer 2008.  The new ponds are expected to provide ideal breeding habitat for these two amphibians that have been steadily losing breeding habitat throughout coastal California.  The EPA and its partners in the cleanup are exploring options to protect the new habitat through a conservation easement or other tool. 

Contact Info: Scott Flaherty, , Scott_Flaherty@fws.gov



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