Plan to fence off plovers’ nesting habitat takes baby steps toward flight 

After years of planning and heated public debate, the snowy plovers along the dunes of Pacifica’s State Beach may finally have a safe place to nest.

Eventually.

City council members last month approved a plan that would fence off plover nesting boundaries and provide educational signs along the beach, city officials said.

But after three years of work, the plan to protect the Pacifica Western Snowy Plover still has several more hurdles to overcome before the fences become a reality.

The plan calls for symbolic fences along Highway 1’s bicycle path that would discourage beach-goers from entering the beach through the sand dunes where the endangered shorebird nests, according to Michael Perez, Pacifica’s Parks, Beaches & Recreation department director. Additional educational signage on the beach as well as regulations for beach activities in the area north of Crespi Drive, such as surf contests, are also included in the plan.

With the council’s approval, city staff is expected to present the protection plan to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services for further comment and recommendation, said Noel Blincoe, a member of the city’s Open Space Committee, who helped prepare the plan.

After that, the plan will be submitted to the State Coastal Commission for final approval, but there is no timetable for when that will happen.

Even if the project wins full approval, however, finding funding for the fencing and signage could be tough.

“It will have to be grants, because there isn’t any city money,” said Pacifica City Manager Stephen Rhodes.

Blincoe described the project’s slow progress as “extremely frustrating.”

“I wish I could put fire under the situation,” Blincoe said.

According to the plan, fencing and signage will cost $68,000 to $98,000 depending on the length of the fence along the beach path.

“At this stage, talking about how it will be funded is a little premature,” Blincoe said, but he acknowledged that the committee is keeping its “fingers crossed” for various grants. “But we need to get our plan approved.”

The western snowy plover has been listed as threatened since 1993 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services.

While the Pacifica plover habitat is technically on a state beach, the city assumed control of the beach under a 1990 operating agreement with the state, Blincoe said. The plan also calls for strictly enforcing the beach’s dog on-leash rule, which Blincoe says is frequently broken. Off-leash dogs add to the list of plover predators, Blincoe added.

aterrazas@sfexaminer.com

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