Feds order removal of granite paths at Fairview

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service calls for 'emergency' action to protect the endangered fairy shrimp.

November 27, 2013|By Bradley Zint
  • The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently directed Costa Mesa to remove two unpermitted trails in Fairview Park that have damaged sensitive habitat and affected the San Diego fairy shrimp, an endangered species. One of the trails, pictured here, runs along the fence between the park and Estancia High School's Jim Scott Stadium. The entire area is also roped off to prevent further damage or intrusion upon the sensitive habitat and fairy shrimp.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently directed… (DON LEACH, Daily…)

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has directed the city of Costa Mesa to remove two man-made trails threatening a tiny endangered species that breeds in the seasonal ponds at Fairview Park.

Both trails, located along the 208-acre park's southeastern edge next to Parsons Field and Estancia High School, were topped in the summer with decomposed granite, which the federal agency fears will harm the San Diego fairy shrimp this winter.

The work was done without the city's permission, possibly by volunteers unaware of the area's biological significance. No one has taken responsibility for the work.

According to a city-issued environmental study from September, the two trails meet upon and have damaged a small corner of one of the park's vernal pools, a once-common but now rare temporary wetland that hosts the fairy shrimp and other species.

The FWS issued its "emergency" directive in a letter dated Nov. 14. The Daily Pilot obtained a copy of the letter Tuesday.


FWS Field Supervisor Jim Bartel wrote that the decomposed granite, or chemicals on it, could wash into the two nearby vernal pools, preventing the fairy shrimp from hatching.

It could also limit their productivity, he wrote.

"[FWS] considers the removal activity to be an emergency action necessitated by the unauthorized construction and is intended to prevent [a] take of the listed species anticipated to occur during the upcoming storm season," Bartel wrote.

The city is choosing a firm to do the removal work, which must be done by hand, said Public Services Director Ernesto Munoz.

The cost of the project has not been determined.

"Once we select a firm, we will submit that firm to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for their approval," Munoz said. "Once they approve that firm, then they'll get to work."

In September, the city's environmental study gave some mitigation recommendations, including restoring only the damaged portion of the vernal pool or relocating the entire pool.

Bartel gave some specific instructions for how the removal should be done. Under the supervision of a FWS-approved "biological monitor," the decomposed granite must be carefully scraped from the surface "to prevent impacts to the clay soil crust within the pool basins and to prevent any changes in topography that may alter the vernal pool hydrology."

Within 30 days of the project's completion, the city must also give FWS a report that includes photos.

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