Naval Base Ventura County
The Nature Conservancy partners with Naval Base Ventura County to fight the effects of climate change on the military installation, home to the largest wetlands in Southern California...
In a first-of-its-kind effort, an environmental group will help Naval Base Ventura County, home to the largest remaining coastal wetlands in Southern California, prepare for rising sea levels caused by climate change.
The project announced this month by the naval base and The Nature Conservancy could serve as a model for U.S. military installations worldwide endeavoring to protect their coastlines from the impacts of global warming, said Lily Verdone, coastal project director for the Ventura office of the national nonprofit.
The U.S. Department of Defense has defined climate change as a major threat to America’s national security. That danger is especially acute at coastal military installations, according to a 2014 report on climate change.
The Defense Department is one of the largest coastal landowners in the United States and controls more than 200,000 acres of oceanfront property in California, including Naval Base Ventura County and its six miles of coastline and 2,500 acres of wetlands.
Situated along the low-lying Oxnard Plain, the naval base is particularly susceptible to rising tides and surges set off by hurricanes and other weather events around the country and the world, according to The Conservancy.
“The Navy is one of the greatest stewards of the environment,” said Theresa Miller, a spokeswoman for the base. “We do recognize climate change is something we need to prepare for and because of this agreement, we’ll be able to do that.”
The Nature Conservancy, which has conducted climate modeling and developed a coastal resilience mapping tool for U.S. communities, will evaluate the effects of climate change on the base’s natural resources and infrastructure, Verdone said.
The organization will assess the base’s ability to adapt to rising sea levels and will conduct an economic analysis of the various options for protecting the installation and surrounding coastal areas.
The project could take years to complete but some recommendations could be made sooner, she said. The formal agreement runs through Sept. 30, 2020.
The effort will focus on allowing natural buffers to protect Mugu Lagoon and the dunes, wetlands and floodplains on the base.
“It’s an environmentally sound and cost-effective approach,” Verdone said.
California has lost 90 percent of its coastal wetlands to development and much of the remaining 10 percent is transitioning to open water, causing a significant impact on endangered species and coastal habitat, she said.
One of the goals of the project will be to reconnect Ormond Beach with Mugu Lagoon, a union altered by agricultural and other human uses over the decades.
The base was established in 2000 when Naval Air Station Point Mugu and Naval Construction Battalion Center Port Hueneme merged, but the Navy has been using Point Mugu for 70 years. It serves as a sea, air and ground test range and is the county's largest employer with 19,000 personnel.
The agreement came about after The Conservancy’s Coastal Resilience project in Ventura County found the base was the coastal area most at risk to rising sea levels and other impacts of climate change.
That information led to a partnership between the Navy and The Conservancy to develop a long-term climate change plan for the base. The nonprofit is not charging for its services.
The Conservancy, the State Coastal Conservancy and the city of Oxnard own 650 acres of land in the Ormond Beach area next to the base and are seeking to protect another 1,000 acres nearby with help from the Navy.
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