Images from seven photographers were selected as the winners of the 16th annual Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve photo contest. The winning photos were recognized at the June 21 Olivenhain Municipal Water District board meeting.
The contest offers amateur photographers an opportunity to connect viewers with wildlife and the outdoors. Submissions support the reserve’s efforts to protect wildlife and natural resources.
More than a century ago, an accidental oasis in the California desert created a popular residential and vacation spot for families.
But over the last few decades, environmental experts say climate change and drought in the Salton Sea have led to a destination that’s been plagued with dust bowls, receding waters and other hazards.
Following the driest three-year period on record, California experienced one of the wettest three weeks in January. But now those extreme wet conditions have activated a water quality standard in the Delta that, coupled with the extended dry period since then, could result in a sharp reduction in the amount of water that can be retained or moved into storage for both the State Water Project and federal Central Valley Project.
The Department of Water Resources and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation are working in real time to operate the state’s water system to maximize water supply while protecting species and the environment. However, California continues to experience unprecedented swings in weather impacting water management operations.
Amateur photographers turned their lenses on skies and streams, coyotes and cactus, and overlooked details in nature to produce seven winning images in the 15th annual Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve photo contest. The winners were announced at the Olivenhain Municipal Water District February 2022 board meeting.
The seven photos are now on display in the Elfin Forest Interpretive Center Honoring Susan J. Varty through April 30, 2022. The Escondido Creek Conservancy contributed printing services to showcase one of the North County’s favorite hiking spots.
The contest’s goal is to promote the importance of open space and wildlife habitat preservation. Talented amateur photographers get an opportunity to share images of the natural beauty protected at EFRR through a partnership between OMWD, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, and the San Diego County Water Authority.
Supporting the mission to protect natural resources
Contest entries assist in educating the public on local recreational opportunities and support EFRR’s mission to protect wildlife and natural resources.
“I think we have all come to appreciate the outdoors and nature a little more during the pandemic,” said OMWD Vice President Kristie Bruce-Lane. “The beautiful scenes depicted in these winning photos shine a light on the importance of open space so that future generations can experience and enjoy it.”
Winners were selected in five categories: Scenic View, Water Scenery, Plants, Animals, and Youth (under age 15). The public also selected a “People’s Choice” award winner by voting for their favorite among 12 entries posted on EFRR’s Facebook page. One photo received the “Best In Show” designation as the top photo.
This year’s photo contest winners
Photographers received prizes including San Diego Zoo tickets, a 24″ x 36″ canvas print donated by PC Photo & Imaging, outdoor equipment donated by REI, and a $100 cash prize donated by Escondido Creek Conservancy.
The interpretive center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., subject to docent availability.
EFRR offers approximately 11 miles of hiking, mountain biking, and equestrian trails, as well as picnic areas and scenic mountain viewing points. Open daily from 8 a.m. to approximately thirty minutes before sunset, EFRR is located at 8833 Harmony Grove Road in Escondido. Admission and parking are free. More information is available on its website.
Land and waterway managers labored hard over the course of a century to control California’s unruly rivers by building dams and levees to slow and contain their water. Now, farmers, environmentalists and agencies are undoing some of that work as part of an accelerating campaign to restore the state’s major floodplains.
Nine-thousand trees, mostly willows, are being planted in the 1,000 acre Managed Marsh wildlife habitat in northern Imperial County.
The planting is part of the final construction phase of the Managed Marsh, located off Highway 111 between the city of Calipatria and Niland.
Funded by the Quantification Settlement Agreement Joint Powers Authority (QSA JPA), the habitat, located close to the Salton Sea, is a key environmental mitigation project to serve the needs of wildlife that depend on area surface drains in the Imperial Valley. With the planting of the 9,000 trees now underway, the Managed Marsh will be completed by early 2022.
Formed under 2003 legislation to administer the funding of environmental mitigation requirements related to the QSA water transfers, the QSA JPA is comprised of the Imperial Irrigation District, San Diego County Water Authority, Coachella Valley Water District and California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Salton Sea Restoration Projects
As part of the legislation (specifically Senate Bill (SB) 654), the three water agencies of the QSA JPA have a responsibility to fund environmental mitigation projects related to the QSA up to $133 million in 2003 dollars (or $288 million in nominal dollars). The state has the responsibility to cover mitigation costs that exceed the $133 million mark and to address the larger issue of restoration at the Salton Sea. However, the three water agencies also have paid a combined $30 million in 2003 dollars (or $67 million in nominal dollars) as seed money for restoration, which was provided to CDFW as part of the Salton Sea Restoration Fund.
Nine-Thousand Trees for Wildlife in Managed Marsh
The Managed Marsh, built by IID as the implementing arm of the QSA JPA, was funded as part of the $133 million covered by the three water agencies. The project has been constructed over three phases, each 300 acres of marsh, with phase one completed in 2009 in and phase two in 2014. Phase three, the final stage, began last year when as many as 6,000 trees were planted. In total, once the Managed Marsh is completed, the entire facility will consist of more than 17,000 trees as well as wetlands, providing a habitat for more than 60 species of birds and other wildlife.
For years, the Managed Marsh has been open to the public, providing a resource for bird-watching enthusiasts and trail hikers. The facility also is an educational resource for area schools that have used the facility for field trips.
Since the QSA JPA was formed, it has been actively implementing mitigation projects in line with the QSA’s environmental permits, with much of that effort focused on the Salton Sea. For the first 15 years, the QSA JPA funded a fallowing program in the Imperial Valley that provided about 800,000 acre-feet of water to the Salton Sea, both to maintain salinity levels and to give the state time to begin a restoration program. At the same time, the QSA JPA implemented additional projects, like the Managed Marsh, in its ongoing efforts to address environmental mitigation.
Along with working toward the completion of the Managed Marsh, since 2018, the QSA JPA has focused on providing more permanent on-the-ground projects at the Sea, meant to address air quality impacts, including completing nearly 3,000 acres of surfacing roughening projects, with another 7,000 acres in development, growing vegetation, and supporting the reclamation of exposed playa for agricultural development where possible.
The QSA JPA will also be funding a groundwater pilot project as a potential water source for habitat development at the Salton Sea. While separate from the state’s Salton Sea Management Program, these are projects that work hand in hand with restoration in a collaborative effort.
Officials said Sunday that no oiled wildlife has been located in San Diego County from last weekend’s massive oil spill off the coast of Orange County.
Meanwhile, San Diegans can expect to see shoreline cleanup assessment teams and contracted crews in protective gear monitoring, inspecting and cleaning San Diego County beaches.
Las Vegas visitors can still snap selfies with the mermaids swimming among tropical fish in the Silverton Casino’s massive aquarium and gaze at the colorful dancing water displays of the iconic Bellagio fountains — for now.
But southern Nevada and much of the American West are struggling to cope with a worsening drought that has strained municipal water supplies, agricultural operations and wildlife populations.
California’s drought and wildfire conditions are accelerating at unprecedented rates, according to state officials, and residents should brace for a summer of widespread burning and mandatory water conservation measures in some regions.
As reservoir levels across the state continue to drop, and as parched vegetation poses an increasing threat of wildfire, officials in Sacramento and Southern California offered a bleak assessment of the state’s drying climate, saying it has already begun to affect people, plants and animals.