UCSB is using the sun to clean the water in the Campus Lagoon. Now all they need is a little help from the rowing team to get rid of the stench.
Last summer, Lagoon Park Project workers completed construction of 1,300 feet of wetlands that will serve as natural filters for storm runoff. The construction of Manzanita Village provided $200,000 in funding for the already-completed Phase One. Phase Two, which will concentrate on the cultivation of native endangered plant species, has $400,000 in funding set aside.
The constructed wetland system’s main purpose is to remove nutrients (bird crap and dead plants) from runoff water before they reach the lagoon and feed its dominant form of algae, Enteromorpha intestinalis. As runoff from roofs, roads and sidewalks stream through the system, plants assimilate the nutrients and the sun kills much of the bacteria.
“It’s really a cutting-edge system,” said Wayne Ferren, executive director of the Museum of Systematics and Ecology.
Though original planting was completed in the fall, workers are continually experimenting with different combinations of soil and plants to determine which assimilate best, a process that will take a couple years, Ferren said.
While the constructed wetlands, known as “swales,” should improve water quality, they will do little to eliminate the lagoon’s sometimes-pungent aroma. That would require the removal of the plastic dock used by the rowing team. Ferren said that the team only uses the dock during the early part of Fall Quarter. For the rest of the year, it serves only as an outhouse for seagulls.
“We believe that removing the dock when the team isn’t using it would take care of almost all the smell,” Ferren said.
Lagoon restoration coordinator Matt James said he had been unable to contact anyone who might have the authority to remove the dock.
The project’s current focus is the cultivation of three species of endangered plants: the southern tarplant, Coulter’s saltbush and the narrow-leaved plantain.
“Santa Barbara is the only mainland locale of the saltbush that I’m aware of,” Ferren said.
Future plans for the Lagoon Park Project include the construction of an additional stairway near the marine biology laboratory leading to the Campus Point area. Though the California Coastal Commission has approved the stairway in concept, planners still need to design it and acquire permits. Ferren hopes to have that done over the summer so construction can begin in fall.
Project coordinators also plan to re-create vernal pool habitats, which fill with water in winter but dry up by spring.
“They are home to a lot of rare organisms, and most of them have been destroyed by development,” Ferren said.