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Montrose Restoration—10 Years of Progress in Southern California

Decades after manufacturing companies released chemicals off the Southern California coast, NOAA and other federal and state agencies are still working hard to restore affected habitats and wildlife. From the late 1940s to the early 1970s, millions of pounds of the pesticide DDT were discharged into the ocean, most of it originating from the Montrose Chemical Corporation's manufacturing plant. Montrose also dumped hundreds of tons of DDT-contaminated waste into the ocean near Santa Catalina Island. Large quantities of PCBs from numerous sources throughout the Los Angeles basin were also released into ocean waters.

These pollutants contaminated fish, causing local authorities to warn against eating them and even ban commercial fishing in some cases. The pollutants also harmed birds—the DDT caused their eggshells to be too thin to survive the nest, which decimated populations of bald eagles and peregrine falcons in the Channel Islands.

Decades later, more than 110 tons of DDT and 11 tons of PCBs remain in the sediments at the ocean bottom. In 2001, NOAA and other federal and state agencies reached a settlement with the responsible parties, establishing the Montrose Settlements Restoration Program.

In the ten years since the program started, we’ve had some major achievements in restoring affected habitats and wildlife, including:

  • In 2006, a bald eagle chick hatched naturally on Santa Cruz Island—for the first time in 50 years!
  • Fifteen bald eagle nests were discovered on the Channel Islands in 2010.
  • Biologists and volunteers planted more than 17,000 native plants on Santa Barbara Island and Scorpion Rock, helping to restore habitat for seabirds.
  • Feral cats were removed from San Nicolas Island to protect nesting seabirds and the unique island ecosystem.
  • Nearly 70 acres of nursery habitat were restored at the Magnolia Marsh in Huntington Beach, benefiting California halibut and providing recreation opportunities for nearby residents.
  • Three interactive educational kiosks about our restoration programs were placed in nature centers and aquaria in Southern California.
Later this year, the program will release a phase two Restoration Plan. The second phase will evaluate the success of its efforts so far and build on the initial restoration projects. The program will be holding several public meetings to hear your comments about the plan. You can learn more about these meetings at


Volunteers planting native plants near Elephant Seal Cove on Santa Barbara Island
Volunteers planting native plants near Elephant Seal Cove on Santa Barbara Island