In a challenging rescue, a six-foot male sea lion that had spent ten days caught inside an intake pool was lifted 40 feet out of the pool and released to the sea unharmed Wednesday, April 27th, at the City of Los Angeles Scattergood Generating Station, 12700 Vista del Mar in the southern portion of Playa del Rey.
The young 400-pound California sea lion had entered the pool through an intake pipe at the Scattergood Generating Station, a power plant operated by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP).
The intake pool, which is about 40 feet deep, is a basin where ocean water is collected and screened before entering into a cooling system.
Rescue workers were brought to the scene from the Whale Rescue Team, the DWP and Blackledge Diving of Long Beach to help free the sea lion from the intake pool, located 40 feet below the surface deck.
Peter Wallerstein, president of the Whale Rescue Team, arrived at the power plant Friday, April 22nd, to help assist in the rescue.
Although Wallerstein has already done about 80 marine mammal and 250 seabird rescues this year, he said the latest rescue of the male sea lion was “very difficult.”
“This was one of the most challenging rescues I’ve had in a decade,” Wallerstein said. “It was a big one.”
The sea lion rescue at the Scattergood plant posed such a challenge to rescuers because of the limited access to the pool, he said.
The rescue team faced a “restriction on techniques” normally used in rescues, which caused rescuers to devise a plan different from those they usually use, he said.
In many marine mammal rescues, a floating cage is used that will close behind the animal, once the animal is inside. But the five-foot cage usually used was too small for this sea lion.
When Wallerstein arrived, he said, he was concerned about the animal experiencing hypothermia after swimming in the cold water for eight days.
He also ruled out using a tranquilizer in the rescue effort because of the possibility of the animal drowning.
Wallerstein and workers fed buckets of fish to the sea lion to keep it hydrated while in the pool.
Blackledge Diving then brought to the scene a 16-foot boat, which was lowered to the pool and tied in the basin.
The boat proved to be the “key” in the rescue after it was used as a platform for a net that was later used to lift the sea lion from the intake pool, he said.
Once the sea lion finally got onto the net early Wednesday, April 27th, rescuers hoisted the animal to the surface deck, where it was put into a steel box and taken to an El Segundo beach.
Although the strong sea lion fought rescuers getting into the box, the animal was uninjured and taken to the shore.
“We decided to immediately release him to sea,” Wallerstein said. “He went out to the ocean and didn’t look back.”
The successful rescue of the sea lion took about two hours and was a “combined effort” by the rescue team and Scattergood employees, he said.
While Wallerstein said all marine mammal rescues are different, the latest one at Scattergood was as “rewarding and satisfying” as it was challenging.
The unique rescue also allowed rescuers to learn what to do in other similar incidents, he said.
Wallerstein said he will try to work with Scattergood facility officials to see what preventative measures may be taken for future incidents.