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By Shawn Raymundo

Construction to expand Southern California Edison’s man-made kelp forest from the coast of San Clemente up to Dana Point’s waters could resume next week, the San Onofre power plant operator announced Friday, June 5.

Depending on ocean conditions, the utility company said that the work to more than double the size of its Wheeler North Reef could pick back up as early as Monday, June 8. The project started back in July 2019 before being placed on pause in October—the start of lobster season.

SoCal Edison is working to extend the artificial reef—currently stretching about 174 acres from Seal Rock to out past the end of the San Clemente Pier—up north into Dana Point’s coast. When complete the reef is expected to cover 384 acres.

As of September, SCE concluded the 2019 portion of the $20 million expansion project with 91,895 tons of rock placed, 119.33 acres built, 27 barge trips and zero safety incidents or near-misses, the company previously stated.

Mandated by the California Coastal Commission (CCC) in the 1990s, the reef is intended to facilitate kelp forests that were lost to warm-water discharge from the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS).

The Commission’s permit for SONGS required that SCE study and improve in-plant fish return and create 150 acres of tidal wetland, both of which have been completed. SONGS is still required by the Commission to create an additional 150 acres of kelp reef, which produces 28 tons of fish.

According to SCE, work this summer will focus primarily on the stretch between just north of the San Clemente Pier and just south of Dana Point Harbor, where another 58,000 tons of rock remain to be placed.

“This reef, what some have called the largest artificial reef in the world, is already providing benefits to the local marine ecology,” Jenny McGee, SCE’s project manager for the reef expansion, said in a press release. “Those benefits will extend far into the future as we see more and more marine life thrive in and around these kelp forests,” she added.

The Coastal Commission will discuss the ongoing project during a webinar it will host on June 16. Members of the public can RSVP for the webinar with Jonna Engel at jonna.engel@coastal.ca.gov.

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