Benefiting wetlands and uplands, the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) has green-lighted six habitat restoration efforts as part of Measure M.

In 2006, Orange County voters renewed Measure M, a half-cent transportation sales tax extension, which was supported by a coalition of conservation groups including EHL. Up to $240 million was designated for habitat mitigation for freeway projects. OCTA recently authorized a second phase of habitat funding, so that a total of $45 million can be spent during 2011 and 2012. It is anticipated that 20% will go to restoration, with the rest for acquisition and management.

Out of a highly competitive field, OCTA chose the following restoration projects, along with a contingency list, for $5.5 million in funding:

  • Coastal sage scrub and riparian woodland in Laguna Canyon
  • Native grassland, coastal sage scrub, oaks, and riparian habitat in San Juan Capistrano
  • Wetlands and riparian habitat in Fairview Park in Costa Mesa
  • Sycamore and willow riparian habitat along the Santa Ana River
  • Mixed uplands focusing on coastal sage scrub at the Irvine Ranch Conservancy
  • Cactus scrub at the UC Irvine Ecological Reserve

An Environmental Oversight Committee – on which EHL’s Executive Director serves – advised OCTA during its careful selection process. A set of initial land acquisitions is expected to be finalized this spring. We are excited about the great potential of these and future projects.