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Friday, February 15, 2013

Fairview Park Riparian Addition 

About 50 of the neighbors living on the “Lower Bird” streets were treated to a “pre-opening” tour of the Fairview Park Wetlands addition. John Manly put the "early" tour together. Great use of the "Nextdoor" neighbor alert system.

City officials including Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger attended. Public Services Director Ernesto Munoz and Senior Engineer Bart Mejia guided the crowd and explained how the system is designed to operate.

Cleaner is better  

Munoz explained the layout and function of the ponds and how water flows through each pond, getting cleaner as it goes. Water from the Greenville-Banning Channel will be pumped to Pond A and flow slowly through the system. Each pond has plants that filter and clean the water, such as cattails and bulrushes. The water flows from one pond to the next due to the grade – after the pumping it’s gravity powered.

Low impact funding, too 

Funding for the project was also “low-impact” on Costa Mesa. Most of the funds were acquired through grants. The money for the grants was largely from “mitigation fees” paid by developers and entities such as Caltrans to repair and replace features changed by development.

Something to crow about

A new pump for the system would have cost Costa Mesa about $2 million, according to Munoz. However, the existing pump, owned by Orange County, was in place to move overflow water out of the channel and into the Santa Ana River. It was re-plumbed to supply water to the Riparian (near a river or near water) habitat. Kudos to the City staff for saving a couple of million dollars.

Water cleaned as it flows

Water evaporates, seeps into the ground watering the surrounding plants, and flows from pond to pond, being cleaned by the vegetation. As the water level drops the pump is signaled to start by sensors in the overflow pond. And, the constant flow of the water prevents stagnant water and the mosquitoes it would attract.

Pump operation is also controlled by salinity sensors in the channel so salt water won’t be pumped into the system. And, if there’s a hazardous waste spill into the channel the flow will be pumped through the original pipes to the river, not threatening the habitat. The ponds will hold about eight million gallons when they are at their optimum levels.

Expenses end

That volume is the reason the ponds seem so slow to fill. Munoz compared filling the eight million gallon system with filling a swimming pool. He noted that it takes about a week to fill a 20,000 gallon pool with a garden hose, so filling a much larger pond system (about 400 times larger) takes longer even though the inflow is much greater.
During the development period irrigation with reclaimed water helps establish stable vegetation around the ponds. This water, which costs Costa Mesa money, is also being used to initially fill the ponds. Use of bought water will be discontinued when the ponds are filled and the bushes well-established.


A series of boardwalks to take visitors over some of the wetlands has been proposed; grants to develop the walks are being investigated. Munoz estimated that maintenance cost for the project will be in the “thousands to hundred thousand (dollars)” range. This will have to come from the City’s money and will need to be budgeted in future years.

Senior Engineer Mejia led and taught half of the group to facilitate questions and discussion. 

1 comment:

  1. We really appreciated the tour as next door neighbors, we are very happy with our City leaders.