Celebrating Fifteen Years: Wetlands
The San Francisco Bay is one of the most spectacular urban settings in the world, but it is also a threatened resource that has been subjected to degradation and habitat loss for over a century.
Tidal wetlands are crucial features of our landscape, providing a cost-effective, natural infrastructure for flood protection and water quality improvement. The Conservancy has been at the forefront of work to restore these benefits, participating in the planning or restoration of nearly 35,000 acres of wetlands. The following examples are part of over two dozen wetland initiatives that we have funded – efforts that have brought national attention and have been supported by Senator Feinstein, the San Francisco Bay Joint Venture, and many others.
“The Conservancy’s technical assistance, management support, and funding have been essential for regional coordination, vision, and the acceleration of the pace of wetland restoration in the Bay. We are truly in a wetlands renaissance.”
Beth Huning, San Francisco Bay Joint Venture
South Bay Salt Ponds
The South Bay Salt Ponds along theSan Mateo,Santa Clara, andAlamedashorelines are the largest wetland restoration project on the West Coast. The 15,100 acres of ponds were acquired from Cargill in 2003 with funds from the Wildlife Conservation Board, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Goldman Fund, and the Hewlett, Packard, and Moore Foundations. Planning and implementation of wetland restoration, flood management, and public access has been facilitated by the Conservancy, in partnership with the Fish and Wildlife Service, California Department of Fish and Game, local flood management agencies, USGS, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and others. The project is being implemented over decades, with a strong emphasis on adaptive management. The first phase of work includes the restoration or enhancement of 3,750 acres and 7 miles of new public trails, improving the SouthBay for wildlife and people.
The Conservancy has a strong commitment to protecting and enhancing natural areas within urban communities to benefit both wildlife and people. The following projects involved significant community involvement and support.
- The Yosemite Slough project, currently under construction by the California State Parks Foundation inCandlestick State Park inSoutheast San Francisco, includes habitat restoration for birds and other wildlife, cleaning of polluted urban runoff, neighborhood greening, and improvements to public access – including a Bay Trail segment.
- The Crissy Field wetlands were restored 10 years ago by the Golden Gate National Park Conservancy on National Park Service land. The 20-acre urban wetland and environmental education center is visited by thousands of residents and tourists each year, and has become one of the Bay Area’s most important resources for understanding the interface between urban and natural areas.
- The Lake Merritt project includes several innovative actions to improve the nation’s oldest wildlife sanctuary. The City of Oaklan dis installing equipment to remove pollutants, widening the channel between the Oakland Estuary and the lake, creating tidal marsh, increasing tidal fluctuations in the lake to create healthier habitats, and restoring several bird-roosting islands.
Napa Sonoma Marsh
The Napa Sonoma Marsh Restoration Project involves the restoration of nearly 10,000 acres of salt ponds. The land was purchased from Cargill in 1994 and is now managed as part of the Napa-Sonoma Marshes State Wildlife Area by the California Department of Fish and Game. Planning of the restoration work was facilitated by the Conservancy in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Fish and Game. Restoration began in 2005 with $15 million in funds from the California Bay-Delta Authority and the Wildlife Conservation Board, resulting in the enhancement of 1,700 acres of managed ponds for waterfowl and shorebirds and the restoration of nearly 3,000 acres to full tidal action – making it the largest completed tidal habitat restoration inSan FranciscoBayto date. The completed work has significantly improved wildlife habitat and hunting and fishing opportunities, as well as wildlife viewing. The Corps of Engineers will soon start the restoration of the remaining ponds.
The Hamilton Wetland Restoration Project’s goals are four-fold: tidal and seasonal wetland restoration in the Marin Baylands; beneficial reuse of dredged sediment; the clean-up and reuse of a former military property; and completion of a segment of the Bay Trail. At 2,600 acres,Hamiltonis the largest wetland restoration project in theUnited Statesto beneficially reuse dredged sediment. In 2003, the Conservancy acquired the 700-acre Hamilton Airfield at no-cost from the Army Base Realignment and Closure program. Placement of dredged material from thePort of Oakland’s harbor deepening project started in 2008 and the Airfield was filled with sediment by the end of 2010. The Corps of Engineers is currently grading the fill, preparing for installation of tens of thousands of native plants, and planning for construction of a Bay Trail segment. In 2013 the outboard levee will be breached to allow full tidal action. After completion of the Hamilton Airfield, the Conservancy and Corps plan to start the restoration of the adjoining 1,600-acre Bel Marin Keys.
Invasive Spartina Project
Invasive Spartina is a highly aggressive, non-native plant that significantly alters both the physical structure and biological composition of San Francisco Bay’s wetlands. A region-wide eradication project led by the Conservancy and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has become a successful model for effectively treating an invasive species – with multiple landowners, non-profits, and agency stakeholders participating in the project. Since 2003, the total infestation of hybrid Spartina in the Bay has been reduced from a high of more than 800 acres to fewer than 85 acres in 2011.