More than 80,000 native plants are being carefully reintroduced to the Malibu Lagoon this week as part of an ongoing restoration project.
The plants will have about two weeks to take root before an earthen dike separating the main body of the Malibu Lagoon from the channels is removed. Under a permit for the project, the contractor, Ford E.C., Inc., has until Oct. 15 to finish the work in the wetlands area, according to California State Parks.
Three truck loads of plants had been delivered to the site as of Tuesday morning, with another expected that afternoon, said Suzanne Goode, a senior environmental scientist for State Parks.
The process of reintroducing the plants involves several steps to ensure their survival, including placing color-coded survey flags at different elevations throughout the lagoon, she said.
"When we take away the dike and the water comes through here and in the summer time when it is closed, these plants will be under water for most of the time. Some of them can tolerate that and some can't," Goode said. "They'll sort themselves out, but we're trying to give them a start by putting them at the elevation that we know they like to be at."
Volunteers fanned out across the lagoon, planting and watering the lower elevations by hand, one at a time.
Some of the plants were salvaged before the bulldozing began by Santa Barbara-based Growing Solutions, and then grown and multiplied in a nursery. Others were taken from nearby locations around Malibu. The plants are all native to Malibu, according to Tim Kirshtner, nursery manager for Growing Solutions.
Kirshtner, who stood preparing the plants to planting at the lagoon, said the fall is the best time for planting, but his biggest worry is to beat out the weather.
"These are all originally from Malibu. We don't take plants from outside an area and grow them because there are different genes that are meant for plants. They won't survive very well if they come from outside the area," Kirshtner said.
He said at the nursery in Santa Barbara native plants are propagated in four different ways and carefully cataloged.
In all, 60 species will be reintroduced to the lagoon, even though only 15 to 20 were at the Malibu Lagoon before, according to Kirshtner.
"This wetland was filled a long time ago for certain needs of the city, for infrastructure, for baseball diamonds, you name it. They altered the function of the wetland and we're helping to make it flow, to clean the water, to make it more visually beautiful, to clean the air," Kirstner said.
He said the more diverse plants will help bring the lagoon even more to life.
"We're all working together really well and I think this is going to be a great success," Kirshtner said.
The Malibu Lagoon Restoration and Enhancement Project began in June and is expected to wrap up on time in December.