Napa River Salt Marsh Restoration Project
The Napa River Salt Marsh Restoration Project is a pioneering effort to restore 10,000 acres of former salt ponds, remnant sloughs, fringing marsh and levees to tidal marsh and other valuable habitats in the North Bay of San Francisco. The project also provides wildlife-oriented public access. The Napa Sonoma Marsh Restoration Group provides an ongoing forum for information sharing about this and other projects in the area.
San Francisco Bay has lost an estimated 85 percent of its historic wetlands to fill or alteration. This dramatic decline in tidal marsh habitats has caused populations of marsh-dependent fish and wildlife to dwindle and has also decreased water quality. Now nearly complete, the Napa River Salt Marsh Restoration Project provides an opportunity to begin to reverse these trends and improve the health of San Francisco Bay for years to come.
The goals of the Napa River Salt Marsh Restoration Project are compatible with the regional goals stated in the Baylands Ecosystem Habitat Goals Report (1999).
Specifically, the goals of the project are to:
- Restore large tracts of connected tidal marsh, with a band of marsh along the Napa River, to benefit
- Special status species, such as the salt marsh harvest mouse, Ridgway’s rail and black rail;
- Endangered fish, such as Delta smelt, Sacramento splittail, steelhead trout, and Chinook salmon; and
- Aquatic animals, including the Dungeness crab, and other species.
- Manage the depths and salinities of salt ponds to create habitat diversity for birds, including
- Shallow areas for shorebirds and dabbling ducks; and
- Deeper areas for diving ducks.
- Provide wildlife-oriented public access and recreation, including
- Hunting; and
- Environmental education.
The State Coastal Conservancy played an important role in this project, from contributing to the funds for acquisition of the land to leveraging $3 million in federal funds to complete a feasibility study and final environmental document. The Conservancy partnered with other state agencies on Phases 1 and 2 of implementation, tidal restoration of 3,000 acres and enhancement of an additional 1,800 acres of wetlands.
State agencies also led the draft design of the third and final phase of the project, 2,000 additional acres and a recycled water project to dilute saline water in the former salt ponds. After entering into a project agreement with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers constructed Phase 3.
The lands are managed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife as part of the 15,200 acre Napa-Sonoma Marshes State Wildlife Area. It is located across the Napa River from its sister restoration project, the Napa Plant Site Restoration Project.
Scientists will continue to collect and report data to support adaptive management of the site for 15 years after project completion. Wildlife observations have demonstrated a positive, immediate wildlife response to the newly restored areas. Monitoring surveys to date show heavy use of the site by waterfowl and shorebirds and a healthy population of salt marsh harvest mice. In addition, otters and bald eagles have been observed in the area.
Progress to Date
The Napa River Salt Marsh Restoration Project has restored and enhanced 6,800 acres of former salt ponds to tidal marsh and managed ponds. Now nearly complete, the project provides fish and wildlife benefits and public access, including signage and benches.
- Pre-Project: Pond 2A, tidal marsh, 500 acres
- Phase 1: Ponds 3, 4, and 5, tidal marsh, 3,000 acres
- Phase 2: Ponds 1, 1A, and 2, managed ponds, 1,800 acres
- Phase 3: Ponds 6/6A, 7/7A, and 8, managed ponds, 2,000 acres
- Note: remaining acreage consists of fringing tidal marsh, sloughs and levees.
1994 – State agencies purchase salt ponds from Cargill
1997 – Pre-Project restoration complete (Pond 2A)
2004 – Final EIR/EIS complete
2005 – State agencies begin Phase 1 (tidal restoration of 3,000 acres) and Phase 2 (enhancement of an additional 1,800 acres)
2006 – Phase 1 complete (Ponds 3, 4, and 5)
2006 – Phase 2 complete (Ponds 1/1A and 2)
2007 – Congress authorizes the project in the Water Resources Development Act
2007 – Scientists release first monitoring report on water quality, vegetation growth, and wildlife presence (which became the Biennial Report) for Phases 1 and 2
2008 – State agencies complete draft design of Phase 3 (restoration of 2,000 acres and integration of a recycled water pipeline to assist with the dilution of hypersaline water)
2010 – Initial development of tidal marsh vegetation in Ponds 3, 4, and 5
2012 – California Department of Fish and Wildlife and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sign project partnership agreement
2013 – Construction of Phase 3 begins (Ponds 6/6A, 7/7A and 8)
2016 – Phase 3 nearing completion (Ponds 6/6A, 7/7A and 8)
2017 – Scientists continue to collect and report data to support adaptive management of the site for 15 years after project completion (see Biennial Reports in Project Library).
San Francisco Bay Area
- San Francisco Bay Area Water Trail Implementation Meeting #32 – December 6, 2019Time 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Location Elihu M. Harris State Office Building 1515 Clay Street, 10th Floor, Del Norte Conference Room Oakland, California Conference Call / Webinar Information: To participate remotely by telephone, dial 1-877-336-1829; Participant code: 555450#. Please use your mute button when not speaking and do not put us on hold. For […] (Read more on San Francisco Bay...)
- San Francisco Bay Area Water TrailUpdated October 2019 Please visit the Water Trail website to see a map of Water Trail sites (trailheads), learn more about specific sites’ amenities and accessibility features, plan a trip, and explore more about the San Francisco Bay! The San Francisco Bay Area Water Trail (Water Trail) is a growing network of access sites (or “trailheads”) […] (Read more on San Francisco Bay...)
- Coastal Conservancy Awards Over $10 Million for Coastal Protection, Restoration and AccessBoard approves funding to support coastal projects and programming Arcata, CA – Today, the Board of the California State Coastal Conservancy awarded $10.8 million to 17 projects to protect and restore the California coast and San Francisco Bay, and increase public access to these natural resources. The projects funded include $1,500,000 to Monterey […] (Read more on Coastal Conservancy Awards...)