Bird-watching limited

City Council approves limited access to Chico Oxidation Ponds Wildlife Sanctuary

On Tuesday (April 18), the Chico City Council voted unanimously to approve limited access to the Chico Oxidation Ponds Wildlife Sanctuary, an area popular with bird-watchers.

The ponds—a series of diversion pools located behind the city’s Water Pollution Control Plant west of town—were closed to the public in early March after state regulators determined that access could continue only with the addition of expensive site improvements to comply with public safety and water recycling standards. One option considered by city staff was building a fence around the ponds, but the project’s estimated cost—$143,000—proved prohibitive.

Now the city is moving forward with an agreement that would allow access on a handful of predetermined dates throughout the year, as long as there is no waste water in the ponds and tours are led by Altacal Audubon Society docents who have been trained on safety measures. Upcoming negotiations between the city and state will determine how often birders will be able to visit. Viewing likely will be open at least once a month, said Erik Gustafson, the city’s director of public works-operations and maintenance.