San Clemente could see extension of manmade kelp reef soon

The 174-acre kelp reef that was built a mile off San Clemente, Ca. in 2008 could more than double in size in 2018 or 2019. In a city council meeting on Tuesday, Southern California Edison told city council members that the reef they built is only sustaining half the volume of fish required by the permit from the California Coastal Commission. This issue is leading Edison to propose adding another 200 acres of kelp reef to the project.

As The Orange County Register tells, the reef was built by Southern California Edison to “offset a perceived reduction in the fish population off San Onofre, said to have been caused by the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station's saltwater cooling system.”

The proposed addition to the existing project would see it extend north of the San Clemente Pier in much the same fashion. Patrick Tennant, Edison's senior manager for mitigation and restoration, told city council members, "The beauty of this design is that it very much mimics what we have out there now, which is kind of a known commodity. We've been studying it for a long time. We know how it responds.”

Yearly monitoring of the fish stock around the kelp has shown that it has sustained only around half of the 28 tons required by the Coastal Commission. While Edison believes this extension could rectify that, they also believe that it will not directly increase the great white shark population either.

“We typically haven't seen an increase within the reef area of some of the larger sharks,” Tennant said. “We do get a lot of the bottom sharks. The leopard sharks are very common in the reef. The larger sharks don't like to get tangled up in the kelp."

Edison estimates that they could begin construction as early as next summer, although there is a narrow window for the project to be completed due to south swell season surging before summer and lobster season after summer.

While the benefits are mainly to be focused on wildlife, some hope it could help the surf as well. San Clemente Councilman Chris Hamm said in the meeting, "The last project you guys had was fantastic, increased the quality of the surf we have here in San Clemente. I'm looking forward to the second half of this going in."

A kelp bed, as seen from below. Photo: NOAA National Ocean Service/Flickr

More about Southern California from GrindTV

Make SoCal your #vanlife winter home

5 possible reasons for the increased shark activity in Southern California