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City Council OKs funds for vernal pool conservation

The City Council Tuesday authorized the use of a $500,000 federal Endangered Species Act grant to develop a conservation plan for vernal pool habitats in San Diego.

The city plans to use the bulk of the money, about $400,000, to contract with the San Diego Association of Governments to prepare the plan, which will identify the remaining vernal pool habitat and establish proposed preservation zones.

The project, which is more than a decade in the making, is scheduled to begin in May and be completed by June 2012.

Vernal pools are small, shallow ponds that are dry most of the year, but fill up with water during winter rains. The pools are home to several plant and animal species, including the endangered fairy shrimp.

Vernal pools, which can be found in Del Mar Mesa, Mira Mesa, Carmel Mountain, Kearny Mesa, Mission Trails Regional Park and Otay Mesa, are threatened by development.

According to a report to the City Council, about 97 percent of the known habitat for vernal pools in San Diego County has been lost to development and agriculture.