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Queen Butterfly photograph by Craig Chaddock, Mission Trails Regional Park

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Tidal Wave: Celebrating Coalition Triumphs in Mission Bay

ReWild Coalition members and volunteers rallying outside the San Diego City Council office

First and foremost, thank you to all of our community members and coalition representatives who showed up for birds and the bay on Tuesday, demanding wetlands at City Council. The Council chambers was a sea of aqua, just like the bay in a rising tide. Our voice was passionate, diverse, and united, showing councilmembers that people care about wetlands, have a vision for the future of Mission Bay, and that the implementation of wetlands is our next priority. With an incredible Coalition and you on our side, we’re already working towards an accessible, equitable, and climate-ready shoreline. 

The De Anza Natural Plan for the ReWild area was unanimously approved by the City at yesterday’s Council meeting. It commits to 226 total acres of wetlands, including existing marsh, and it outlines the need for transitional infrastructure that prepares for marsh migration. 

This was not all we asked for, and it was expressed many times that compromise is hard, but we would not be looking at 226 acres of restored marsh, 226 acres of new Ridgway’s Rail habitat, 226 acres of water filter infrastructure, 226 acres to rekindle culturally-critical customs, without the power of the ReWild Coalition. Countless individuals and 89 organizations and local businesses have shown up time and again to countless meetings, rallies, and Saturdays in the marsh to get us here. 

Thanks for all your hard work. 

As the meeting started, our advocacy resulted in City staff addressing two of our asks right off the bat. The De Anza Natural plan was improved to affirm that at least 80 acres of tidal marsh will remain in the bay as sea levels rise, and a ‘wetlands management and implementation plan’ was added to clarify the next steps in the timeline.

Council President Pro Tem Joe LaCava stated, “The expansion to over 260 acres of tidal marsh and upland is a generational opportunity that is becoming less and less possible these days.…The science is clear that the bay, our city, and our region need it now more than ever.” We want to see them take significant steps towards these goals–we’ll be pushing them the whole way! 

Our focus now turns to implementation, as was highlighted as essential by Councilmember Kent Lee. The ReWild Coalition’s request to direct Improvement Fund money to wetland restoration was heard loud and clear by Council President Elo-Rivera, with the City committing to funding the remaining top priority–wetland restoration!

The plan will next be reviewed by the Coastal Commission, Wildlife Agencies, and the Regional Water Quality Control Board who will evaluate and provide expertise on creating a healthy, flourishing wetland habitat. The inclusion of wildlife agency review was a point of contention for some at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. Councilmembers Campillo, Campbell, and Whitburn asked to strike from the plan the inclusion of State and Federal Wildlife agencies’ review, despite multiple assurances from City Staff that it needs to happen. 

The bay took a giant leap towards restoration, and as we push the plan towards actual marsh creation, the ReWild Coalition will continue to prioritize equitable access to our shared shoreline, restoring Kumeyaay connections to the bay, opening up opportunities for school groups and families to experience the wetlands, and creating a future where wetlands and recreation both grow together. 

During the public comment period which was heavily tilted towards support for our ReWild goals, Chuck Dunning poignantly noted, “Conservation and recreation are not mutually exclusive.” This statement encapsulates our vision for Mission Bay — a future where the natural environment and human enjoyment coexist harmoniously.

Original: rewildmissionbay.org

Photo Credit: Rita de la Fuente

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