The Long Beach City Council at its meeting on April 19 unanimously approved entering into a contract with Lisa Wise Consulting, Inc. (LWC) to assist city staff with reviewing and processing a project proposed by an oil operator to relocate oil operations and restore portions of the degraded Los Cerritos Wetlands.


Synergy Oil & Gas, which acquired wetlands property and mineral rights from the Bixby Land Company several years ago, is requesting entitlements for a project that includes creating a “wetlands mitigation bank” that would allow the oil operator to receive credits for restoring several acres of wetlands. The credits would then be sold to developers interested in pursuing development in the area.


The project also involves relocating Synergy’s oil drilling infrastructure from the oil field at 6433 E. 2nd St. to a seven-acre site owned by Lyon Housing at 6701 E. Pacific Coast Hwy., known as the “Pumpkin Patch,” where Synergy also plans to relocate its executive offices and headquarters.


Oil drilling will also be relocated to an adjacent site owned by the Los Cerritos Wetlands Authority, a governmental entity formed in 2006 for purposes of wetlands preservation in an agreement between the California State Coastal Conservancy, the Rivers and Mountains Conservancy and the cities of Long Beach and Seal Beach.


As part of Synergy’s proposal to restore the Los Cerritos Wetlands back to its natural habitat and to allow for public access with trails and an interpretive center, the oil operator plans to eventually move and consolidate all oil drilling operations from the wetlands to the two sites using new oil drilling technology. The project will require city, state and federal approvals as well as an environmental impact report.


Due to the complexity of the project, the number of discretionary approvals required and the number of city departments, external agencies and stakeholders involved in various phases of review and approval, the project warrants a “high level of coordination and oversight,” according to a city staff report.


The consultant, who has worked with the city and was recommended by city staff, is being retained to ensure compliance with all local, regional, state and federal procedural requirements and statutory provisions, including those from the California Coastal Commission, so that the project remains on schedule, city staff stated.


Lyon Housing has agreed to reimburse the city the estimated annual costs of $120,000 for the consultant to assist in processing the project through 2017, with the option to renew for two one-year periods. Lyon plans to make periodic payments of $20,000 upon prior notice by staff, city staff stated.


Environmentalists with the Los Cerritos Wetlands Land Trust have been skeptical of the proposal and have requested that the city hold off on processing entitlements until the Southeast Area Specific Plan (SEASP) is approved.