Monthly Archives: May 2014
CALIFORNIA’S FIRST SUCCESSFUL NATIVE HABITAT RESTORATION ON A CLOSED LANDFILL CELEBRATES 20TH ANNIVERSARY
Twenty years ago, the Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA) made history when they planted 122 acres of coastal sage scrub on the former Coyote Canyon Landfill in Newport Beach, Calif. It was the first time that native habitat for an endangered species had ever been planted on a closed landfill. Today, it is a thriving habitat that supports native wildlife and requires no maintenance.
“Coyote Canyon proves to everyone that habitat restoration that is carefully planned and flawlessly executed can produce great results. It truly is one of the great environmental success stories in Orange County,” said Rush Hill, mayor of Newport Beach and chairman of the San Joaquin Hills Transportation Corridor Agency.
Central Orange County’s solid waste was disposed of at the Coyote Canyon Landfill for 27 years (1963 to 1990). During that time, more than 60 million cubic yards of waste were buried on approximately 395 acres. Since 1982, the gas produced by the decomposing waste has been fueling electricity production and currently generates roughly seven megawatts of power, supplying electricity for at least 6,000 homes for 32 years.
When it closed in 1990, Coyote Canyon Landfill’s closure plan was the first in the nation to include specifications to create habitat for a federally-listed bird species, the California gnatcatcher. The landfill was designated as a special linkage for birds and animals between the San Joaquin Hills and Upper Newport Bay in the Nature Reserve of Orange County’s Natural Community Conservation Plan.
“TCA spearheaded the restoration of the Coyote Canyon Landfill as mitigation for construction of the 73 Toll Road and because it is a critical part of a comprehensive plan to provide a wildlife link from the Back Bay to the San Joaquin Hills,” added Hill. “The goal was to establish a resilient habitat that needed no maintenance after initial establishment.”
Coastal sage scrub — a low-growing, aromatic and drought-deciduous shrub found in coastal California — developed across the landfill after seeding in the fall of 1994. Because coastal sage scrub includes deep-rooting plants, four and a half feet of soil was added on top of the Coyote Canyon Landfill to accommodate the habitat. Soil monitoring was conducted to ensure the native plants’ moisture and roots did not negatively affect the landfill’s clay cap and gas recovery system. The monitoring and resulting reports were the first demonstration in the southwest U.S. that native vegetation could be planted and maintained without compromising a landfill closure cover or gas recovery system.
Listed as “Threatened” by the federal government in 1993, the California gnatcatcher is a small, non-migratory bird that frequents dense coastal sage scrub. The first California gnatcatcher pair arrived at the Coyote Canyon Landfill ahead of schedule — just two years after the habitat was planted. By 1999, the site’s fifth year, fifteen pairs of California gnatcatchers were successfully breeding in the habitat; 58 percent produced one brood successfully and 33 percent successfully produced two broods. These percentages were comparable to other populations in the region and the Coyote Canyon Landfill habitat was deemed acceptable as mitigation for the California gnatcatcher.
The coastal sage scrub habitat has met all federal permit requirements and the performance standards established by the Biological Opinion issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the 73 Toll Road.
TCA is comprised of two joint powers authorities formed by the California legislature in 1986 to plan, finance, construct and operate Orange County’s 67-mile public toll road system in the most environmentally sensitive way possible.
TCA has conserved and restored 15 locations in Orange County. Hundreds of birds and animals – including the California gnatcatcher – have found a safe home on TCA’s more than 2,100 acres of coastal sage scrub, wetlands, riparian and salt-water marsh. At least 75 baby gnatcatchers, more than 40 species of birds, five species of rodents, 13 invertebrates and larger mammals such as coyote, bobcat and mountain lions utilize TCA’s habitat mitigation areas.
Since 1996, TCA has been a proud participant and active contributor to the Central/Coastal Natural Community Conservation Plan (NCCP), a reserve created to set aside 38,783 acres of prime habitat in Orange County for 42 individual species. During the three years it took to create the plan, TCA contributed its mitigation sites to the reserve and provided $6.6 million of a $10 million endowment, which funds the ongoing management of the reserve. The goal of the NCCP is to conserve native animal and plant species while continuing to allow appropriate development and growth. An estimated 699 acres of TCA’s mitigation areas are included within the reserve and the agencies plan to continue participation through ongoing oversight of the preserved lands.
Beginning Wednesday, May 14 at 12:01 a.m., cash toll collection will cease on The Toll Roads in Orange County, making travel faster and more convenient for the more than 250,000 weekday commuters who choose The Toll Roads.
“Tuesday will be the final day to pay with cash on The Toll Roads,” said Lisa Bartlett, chairwoman of the Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency. “The removal of cash tolls is a trend throughout the tolling industry and we’ve surveyed our cash customers to provide new electronic payment options that will work for them.”
In January, the Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA), which operates The Toll Roads, introduced four new ways to pay tolls to replace cash toll collection. Along with the hugely-popular FasTrak® payment method, the three new ExpressAccount™ types and the new One-Time-Toll™ option make the drive on The Toll Roads fast and convenient.
More than 82 percent of transactions are already paid electronically using a FasTrak or ExpressAccount, while 13 percent are cash transactions.
“We want all customers to experience the benefits of a free-flowing drive that our FasTrak and ExpressAccount customers enjoy,” said Rush Hill, chairman of the San Joaquin Hills Transportation Corridor Agency. “If they haven’t signed up for a FasTrak or ExpressAccount, now is the time to ensure you always have options.”
Tomorrow is also the final day of work for toll attendants, who have worked at the Toll Roads toll plazas since the first plaza opened in 1993. All toll personnel (toll attendants, lead toll attendants, managers, assistant managers, etc.) are contract employees of Central Parking System, the largest parking management firm in the country, operating approximately 700 parking locations in Orange and Los Angeles counties alone. CPS will seek to find alternate employment options for these employees in other company positions in Southern California.
“We honor the service they’ve provided our customers and they have been part of the success of The Toll Roads,” said Chairman Hill.
In just six days cash toll collection will cease on The Toll Roads. Are you ready? If you have FasTrak® or AN ExpressAccount™ the answer is yes.
If you currently pay with cash when you drive State Routes 73, 133, 241 and 261, now is the time to decide how you will pay after 12:01 a.m. on May 14.
There are five ways to pay tolls on The Toll Roads: FasTrak, three new ExpressAccount types and the new One-Time-Toll option. Click here for information about the different account options and to learn which one is right for you.
TCA is offering new FasTrak and ExpressAccount customers a free week of nonstop driving as soon as they establish an account at thetollroads.com (PROMO CODE: FREETOLL). The offer ends May 11.
Will you join the 450,336 people who have a FasTrak account or the 69,619 who have an ExpressAccount?