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Pelican Oasis
Salton Sea State Rec. Area, Salton Sea California.
Restoring Recreation and Habitat.

Pelican Oasis is an environmental reclamation/restoration project to bring historical water levels to Varner Harbor at the Salton Sea State Recreation Area. This will allow for community enjoyment and sustainable deep-water habitat.
Project goals include:
*Removal of non-native Tamarisk
​*Berm installation, and fill from existing water source
*Repair of docks and public access areas.
aintain high-quality habitat for birds, fish and people.


The Pelican Oasis Project at Varner Harbor will act as a wildlife sanctuary to help fill the urgent need for deep water fish and bird habitat at the Salton Sea. The Project would be located in Varner Harbor at the Salton Sea State Park Headquarters and make use of the extant lagoon that already has a sustainable inflow of fresh or brackish water. Building a berm at the outflow channel would allow the water level to rise to a depth more conducive for wildlife to thrive. The Salton Sea hosts a variety of fish-eating (piscivorous) bird species and provides a critical feeding and resting stopover as they migrate along the Pacific Flyway. The Project aims to rejuvenate the aquatic habitat and non-functional harbor for wildlife and human use. This can be accomplished by removal of invasive shrubs, planting native species, repairing docks and improving Park infrastructure. A community outreach and engagement aspect will also help inform project needs and design.


Varner Harbor used to be connected to the Salton Sea via an outlet channel south of the Park's visitor center. In recent years the harbor has been cut off from the lake due to the receding shoreline. The majority of marinas around the Sea have dried out completely, with devastating effects on communities and wildlife. The consequences of a rapidly shrinking Salton Sea result in vast acreages of lakebed being exposed, parching of former wetland areas, loss of biodiversity, increasing salinity levels, declining of the fishery and more frequent algal blooms as the saline lake becomes more eutrophic. The water level in Varner Harbor has declined to where the boat launch and docks are unusable, the perimeter area is overgrown with invasive tamarisk and aquatic habitat quality is degraded. Loss of wetland and deep water habitat has serious negative impacts on the health and breeding success of bird populations at the Salton Sea. It is vital to protect the fishery that provides sustenance for migratory piscivorous birds that utilize the lake, such as pelicans.

The Project will be conducted in a phased approach beginning with tamarisk removal, planting of native trees, and repairing and improving vital Park infrastructure. Nature trails and concrete walkways around the harbor are key features that allow the community and visitors to enjoy the outdoors. Ensuring damaged pathways are repaired or replaced is important for public safety at the Park. Studies show access to natural areas promotes beneficial health impacts such as a sense of well-being and stress reduction. In surveys conducted with local residents, having green spaces nearby is a priority need. This is especially important in disadvantaged communities around the Salton Sea that are typically overlooked or neglected.

Restoring the Varner Harbor shoreline requires eliminating tamarisk in un-remediated areas. The invasive shrub threatens ecosystem biodiversity by outcompeting endemic vegetation. It consumes vast amounts of water, reducing availability for aquatic habitat and depletes groundwater resources. Dense, overgrown thickets block access to the pond and dock structures, but also present a fire hazard. The tamarisk will be removed by proven mechanical methods using appropriate equipment. It will be controlled further by application of herbicides by a licensed technician. The initial phases are important first steps for this multi-benefit project. By revitalizing an essential deep water habitat site, humans and a variety of fish and birds can

thrive. Maintaining biodiversity is critical to the health of the Salton Sea, and by extension, the surrounding shoreline communities.

Jasmyn Phillips Pelicans.jpg
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