New self-regulating tide gates have been installed in the Ballona Creek flood control channel levee, increasing the size of the tidal wetlands by approximately two acres.

The Ballona Wetlands Tidal Gate Restoration Project, a collaborative effort involving the City of Los Angeles Department of Public Works, the Army Corps of Engineers, the County of Los Angeles and Playa Capital, has entered its final phase.

Installed under a federal program designed to improve ecosystems impacted by flood control projects, the new tide gates replaced the Ballona Creek Flood Control Channel’s one-way “flap gates” that were installed in 1937 to prevent the adjacent lands from flooding.

While successful in preventing flooding, the flap gates had an adverse effect on the adjacent Ballona Wetlands.

Severely deteriorated due to limited tidal action, the salt marsh survived only as a result of the meager waters that leaked through the gates, according to Department of Public Works officials.

The new tide gates have improved water flow into the wetlands for the first time in 70 years, allowing water and marine organisms to pass more freely and increasing the size of the tidal wetlands, officials said.

After the new tide gates were installed, the amount of water allowed to enter the wetlands was increased in multiple phases to allow the fragile plants and animals of the wetlands sufficient time to adjust.

After observing what officials describe as the Ballona Wetlands’ positive response to the water entry, experts from city, state and federal agencies have determined that water levels can be increased, giving way to the final phase of the project.

Following the recommendation of the multi-agency team, Los Angeles County Flood Control District staff will adjust the tide gates to allow up to four more inches of water into the wetlands.

Four more inches of water is expected to create another seven acres of tidally flooded wetlands or salt marsh and provide more critically needed habitat for common and endangered species such as the Belding’s Savannah sparrow, Department of Public Works officials said.

While the tide gate project enters its final phase, the California Coastal Conservancy is leading a multi-agency restoration planning effort for the entire 600-acre Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve.

The enhancement project will restore and enhance a variety of native habitats on the site, and will also provide for public access and recreational opportunities consistent with the sensitive resources of the property.

Enhancement of the Ballona Wetlands is one of the largest and best remaining opportunities to restore coastal wetland habitat in Southern California, according to Departmentof Public Works officials.

The City of Los Angeles Department of Public Works is responsible for the construction, renovation and operation of public projects such as municipal buildings, streets, bridges, street lights, water treatment plants, sewers and sidewalks, and it provides public services such as recycling and solid waste management.