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San Clemente’s Wheeler North Reef Expansion Project Under Construction

The Wheeler North Reef Expansion Project in San Clemente is now on the works. This project is why you see a barge in the south of the San Clemente pier offshore. The Southern California Edison (SCE) begun the project by laying rocks about 0.6 miles offshore.

Wheeler North Reef is a 10-year old, 174-acre, man-made kelp forest in San Clemente. Formerly, it stretches past the south end of the San Clemente pier to Seal Rock. The project aims to expand the reef more than twice its current size, with a projected measurement of 384 acres. This expansion will stretch the reef until the Dana Point waters.

The reef, as mandated by the California Coastal Commission, will facilitate kelp forests. It will make up of the kelp forests lost as a result of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station’s (SONGS) warm-water discharge.

Jenny McGee, Wheeler North Reef Expansion Project’s project manager, has shared some information about the ongoing project. She mentioned that Derrick Barge Long Beach is now stationed in the city’s southernmost point.

SCE is currently working 0.6 miles offshore and will continue to deposit rocks until mid-August to the ocean floor off the San Clemente coast.

According to McGee, the barge will then move north about the third week of August until it’s directly in line with the pier. It will work its way northward. The new reef’s northernmost part will be located off the Beach Road on the southern end of Capistrano Beach.

The rocks placed this month are arranged in a single layer at 38 to 38 feet depth in precise, carefully studied locations, said McGee.

The material used in the reef includes about one-half to three feet diameter metavolcanic and granitic boulders. Hail from rock quarries in Catalina Island and Ensenada, Mexico are also used in the project.

Although the project started this August, it’s expected to be paused by September due to some other concerns. It will then resume by May and September 2020.

SCE also issued warnings to the boaters in the area because of the barge. According to McGee, they currently have six anchors stabilizing the barge. All are secured with large white surge cans. She added that they need boaters to have a 2,500-foot distance from the derrick barge since it’s a construction zone.

Other watercraft also need to sail with caution around the area. Kayakers and paddlers should keep a safe distance from the barge and the two tugboats carrying the rocks to the barge.

McGee said, “We just don’t want boaters going in between the wires and barge itself or getting too close to the surge cans.”

SCE works with Connelly Pacific to help with reef construction.

She added that it would be an exciting project for everyone. The expansion project will surely create a giant kelp habitat.

The U.S Coast Guard Local Notice to Mariners has listed the project for boaters. They will provide call signs and radio frequencies for the derrick barge and tugboats working on the project.

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