Agencies to stop funding Catalina Island bald eagle program

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Posted by on June 24, 2005 at 07:02:09:

In Reply to: Catalina Eagle Hopes Grounded posted by on June 23, 2005 at 20:49:29:

AVALON Federal and state officials will stop funding a program to reintroduce bald eagles on Santa Catalina Island, but they could restart the project after 2007.

Officials representing six environmental agencies made the decision as they determined how to spend $25 million in settlement money over the next five years.

A Montrose Chemical Corp. factory near Torrance from 1947 to 1971 flushed the pesticide DDT into Los Angeles County sewers that empty into the ocean off the Palos Verdes Peninsula. The bald eagle population on Catalina Island was destroyed in the 1960s by the DDT deposits.

Montrose and other companies paid California and the federal government $140 million after 10 years of litigation that started in 1990. It was the second-largest settlement in U.S. history to the public for damage to natural resources.

About $38 million, plus interest, must be used to restore the population of local fish, eagles, peregrine falcons and seabirds.

Wildlife experts for the past 25 years have spent several million dollars trying to revive the bald eagle population on Catalina Island, which is about 26 miles west of Los Angeles. The eagles reintroduced on the island still carry so much DDT that their eggs cannot hatch without the aid of scientists.

The eagles haven't been able to produce any chicks on their own because DDT continues to seep from the ocean floor and contaminates their prey.

In April, the trustee council that decides how the settlement money is spent proposed ending all Catalina funding to instead spend $6.2 million to restore the eagle population on Santa Cruz Island and Channel Islands to the north, where they may be less contaminated. The plan called for ending funding for eagle restoration in 2007, if the birds were unable to produce chicks on their own.

The trustees responded to public comments by reserving the entire $6.2 million for restoring eagles, even if they can't breed successfully.

After 2007, $1 million to $2 million of eagle funds could be spent either on the Channel Islands or on Catalina, depending on which area has the greater chance of success.

Ann Muscat, president of the Catalina Island Conservancy, said Wednesday that the decision was "extremely disappointing."

"The so-called concession is really meaningless," she said. "Even though public comment was overwhelmingly in favor of continuing the project on Catalina, they chose essentially to stick with their proposed plan."

The 15 to 20 Catalina eagles, reintroduced by scientists beginning in 1980, are the only resident population of bald eagles along Southern California's coast.

The council also approved $6.8 million to help restore peregrine falcons, pelicans and other seabirds on the Channel Islands and $12 million to restore fish.

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