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 lions. 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 wildlife up and down the stream course.

b) Public Outreach and Education

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 Connection

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 Enhancement

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 Harmonious Channel

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 exists today.

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.

For more information on the Las Virgenes Creek Restoration Project, please contact Alex Farassati, Environmental Services Manager, at (818) 224-1600.

Las Virgenes Creek Naturalization and Restoration Project

Project Report: Las Virgenes Creek Restoration Project - Healing a Stream (.pdf)

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