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Giving nature a helping hand

September 01, 2002

Paul Clinton

A one-year effort to bring glorious green canopies of kelp back to

the waters off Crystal Cove State Park has been showing solid

results, an environmental group said last week.

For more than a year, Orange County CoastKeeper, which operates

out of offices in Newport Beach, has been diligently adding baby kelp

plants attached to miniature one-inch strips of tile to the marine

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environment.

Underwater divers with the group make the trip two to three times

a week to plant the kelp on reefs on the cove's ocean floor.

"Of everything we plant out there, about 80% doesn't make it,"

said Garry Brown, the executive director of the group. "We have to

keep going back and replanting and replanting to get a reef going."

What began as a pilot program in early 2000 at Little Corona Beach

has blossomed into a full-fledged planting effort to help reestablish

the lush kelp forests of the 1950s and '60s, Brown said.

Since that time, kelp plants have virtually disappeared off the

Newport Beach shoreline. The plants are harvested for shampoo,

ointments to treat psoriasis and other commercial products.

Now, the group has brought three canopies of kelp to the waters at

Crystal Cove, Brown said.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration handed the

statewide CoastKeeper group $600,000 for kelp reforestation for a

three-year time frame.

On Sept. 1, the group will begin the second year of that grant,

which must be matched with an equal amount from the group.

A marine biologist hired by the group incubates the tiny spores of

kelp in a lab at the Southern California Marine Institute on Terminal

Island.

Once they are attached to the strips of tile with latex rubber

bands, the baby kelp plants are grown at between 52-and 57-degree

heat to almost an inch tall. The group then calls on a handful of its

more than 300 volunteer scuba divers to place the kelp in the ocean.

Long strings of leafy kelp helps add a much more diverse

collection of sea life to the cove, Newport Beach Asst. City Manager

Dave Kiff said.

"It's terrific that CoastKeeper has stepped up to do it," Kiff

said. "Having the kelp there should allow for a much more diverse set

of species. It's giving nature a helping hand."

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