In 1977, approximately 400 feet of Las Virgenes Creek between Highway
101 and the Agoura Road Bridge was lined with concrete, severely
disrupting the wildlife corridor and removing all viable riparian
(green, vegetated areas on each side of streams and rivers) habitats
from this once thriving natural creek segment.
The Las Virgenes Creek Restoration
Project, when complete, will have a regional impact on policy for
urban stream restoration in the Santa Monica Mountains. The Malibu
Creek Watershed provides habitats for numerous species including
steelhead trout, the southwestern pond turtle, Arroyo toad, Pacific
tree frog, American goldfinches, song sparrows, coyotes, mountain
The City of Calabasas has sought funding from numerous State and
Federal agencies to restore this segment of Las Virgenes Creek to its
native condition and re-establish the ecosystem and tributary to the
Malibu Creek and Lagoon.
Ground breaking for the Creek
Restoration Project was held on Wednesday, July 18, 2007. The
Grand Opening Ceremony took place on Saturday, February 23, 2008.
In 2003, the City Council approved a
conceptual design and the final restoration plans provide useful
riparian habitat while still meeting flood control requirements. Some
important design elements of the restoration plan are as follows:
a) Wildlife Protection
The Las Virgenes Creek once provided
refuge and a safe passage for wildlife to travel between the Baldwin
Open Space and the Malibu Creek State Park. The restoration will
re-establish direct connectivity between these two existing riparian
communities. Successful restoration will afford better cover for local
wildlife and promote increased movement of animals and aquatic
and down the stream course.
b) Public Outreach and
The project includes a gazebo
overlook with story boards to educate visitors about water resource
issues, watershed protection issues and water conservation practices.
c) Footpath and Trail
The restoration design includes a
footpath to encourage pedestrian and bike access to the future
creek-side park. The establishment of the proposed footpath is part of
a larger parkway plan envisioned by the Region and incorporated in the
City’s General Plan.
d) Water Quality
This project will enhance the water
quality of the creek by constructing a vegetated habitat with canopy
to deflect the sunlight, thereby drastically reducing algal blooms for
which this segment has been listed under the Clean Water Act Section
303(d). The planting of native vegetation will partially restore the
riparian habitat and tree canopy required for native habitat and
ecosystems for wildlife to flourish and travel.
e) An Environmentally
This project seeks to recreate the
flood control facility in an environmentally harmonious fashion that
will undo the wildlife corridor fragmentation, provide essential
riparian habitat, protect fish passage, and still provide adequate
flood control within the confines of the engineered channel that
Investment in public goods like
environmental quality can generate very valuable returns.
“Quality of life” benefits enjoyed by residents from creek restoration
are commonly called non-market goods, because there is no purchase
price for them, but they do hold value. Riparian property owners could
conservatively expect an increase in property values. Parks that are
improved with naturalization projects also tend to draw more people,
which can benefit nearby businesses.
The City secured funding from the
Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission and the California Coastal
Conservancy for the project design phase and is currently soliciting
funding for the construction phase. Another grant application was
submitted by Los Angeles County within the context of the Integrated
Regional Water Management Plan (IRWMP) to receive funding under Prop.
50, Chapter 8. The project was short listed as one of the 12 priority
projects within the County of Los Angeles, and the first priority
within the North Santa Monica Bay sub-region.
information on the Las Virgenes Creek Restoration Project, please
contact Alex Farassati, Environmental Services Manager, at (818)