By Eric Heinz

Officials with the California State Lands Commission and Coastal Commission gave a short presentation about the next phases of the Wheeler North Reef project.

The meeting on the artificial reef, which was held Monday, April 29, at the Ocean Institute in Dana Point, discussed an official date of when Southern California Edison will expand the current 174-acre reef to 384 acres, stretching north into Dana Point waters. The reef is intended to facilitate kelp forests that were lost to warm-water discharge used by San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) as ocean water was used to cool its reactors.

The reef has been comprised of various materials, but the expansion is needed, State Lands Commission officials said, because it hasn’t reached the minimum amount of fish standards in the 10 years since monitoring of the reef began.

This has been a contentious project for local stakeholders, as the reef has been described as disruptive to the natural environment currently in the area.

The project was mandated by the Coastal Commission in the 1990s for mitigation efforts following the construction of SONGS’ Unit 2 and Unit 3.

The reef construction is scheduled to begin on July 7 and pause on Sept. 29. Construction will resume the last few portions of construction in spring 2020.

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