Aliso Creek Habitat Restoration

Restoring the Aliso Creek Watershed

Current Status: In Progress | Start Date: May 2011 | Expected Completion: January 2021 | Project Lead: Josie Bennett

One of Laguna Canyon Foundation's key restoration priorities is removal of Arundo donax – a highly invasive plant that has devastated Aliso Creek’s ecosystem. “Prior to the introduction of Arundo, Aliso Creek was an extraordinary riparian ecosystem filled with rare birds, threatened pond turtles and a remarkably diverse group of plants," notes Derek Ostensen, Laguna Canyon Foundation board member. "Unfortunately, Arundo, a non-native invader from the Mediterranean, has taken over large portions of the ecosystem and outcompeted as much as 75 percent of the native species in some areas."

After decades of Arundo causing devastating impacts to local flora and fauna, the tide is now beginning to turn. LCF is leading a multi-year, multi-agency effort to remove invasive species from Aliso Creek, with particular focus on its dense forests of Arundo. In March 2012, the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) awarded LCF a $1.1 million grant to begin the project, and LCF has helped coordinate $3 million from Proposition 84 Integrated Regional Water Management grant funding and other sources. The overall restoration of the Aliso Creek Watershed will remove invasive species from 55 acres across a 19.7-mile stretch – from Portola Parkway all the way to Aliso Beach – comprising one of the largest restoration projects in Orange County history.

“Over the next ten years, a transformation of Aliso Creek will occur,” says Ostensen. “The Arundo and other invasive plants will be comprehensively removed. In their place, native willow, wild rose, blackberry and many other riparian species will be planted, helping to support the myriad wildlife that depend on a healthy creek and improving water quality and open space viewsheds for the public.” The project is a collaborative effort between LCF, OC Watersheds, OC Parks, Orange County Conservation Corps, and OCTA.