World’s First Artificial Kelp Reef Completed Off San Clemente, CA

As reported on www.signonsandiego.com
It’s first in world, will help kelp grow
By Michael Burge
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER

SAN CLEMENTE – State and utility officials applauded the completion yesterday of the world’s first artificial kelp reef, which they say will provide a thriving habitat for fish and marine organisms for decades.
Artificial Kelp Reef

Spread over two miles south of San Clemente Pier, the pioneering reef was undertaken by Southern California Edison to make up for environmental damage caused by the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

“In the end we have both the energy and the environment we need,” Cecil House, a Southern California Edison vice president, said during a ceremony on the pier attended by about 100 people.

The 175-acre reef was constructed by dumping 120,000 tons of rock ranging from the size of a soccer ball to a miniature refrigerator in a patchwork over an area about 1 mile by 2½ miles, at a depth of 30 feet to 50 feet.

The reef is named for the late Wheeler North, a California Institute of Technology scientist and kelp researcher.

“There have been many failed attempts to build a kelp forest,” House said. “We learned you just can’t pile high rocks and expect a successful reef.

David Kay, Southern California Edison’s manager of environmental projects, said the rocks must be large enough to anchor the kelp, which are algae that can grow 1½ to 2 feet a day to a length of 120 feet.

Artificial-reef facts

The Wheeler North Artificial Kelp Reef will cover 175 acres in an area south of San Clemente Pier.

The reef will add marine habitat to the Southern California coast by nourishing as many as 50 varieties of fish and invertebrates.

The reef, named for Cal Tech kelp researcher Wheeler North, was constructed to compensate for damage to marine life caused by the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.
Some of the rocks have to be light enough so the ocean can toss them about, to shake off organisms that crowd out the kelp.

Peter Douglas, executive director of the California Coastal Commission, praised the reef’s completion as “the closure of a circle, but the continuation of a process that’s taken us about 35 years.”

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