Napa River Salt Marsh Restoration Project

Napa Marsh

Photo: USGS

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.

western sandpipers

Photo of Western Sandpipers: USGS


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.

Project Goals

  • Restore large tracts of connected tidal marsh to benefit endangered and special status species
  • Manage the depths and salinities of salt pond to create habit diversity for birds
  • Provide wildlife-oriented public access and recreation


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 began construction of Phase 3, which is mostly complete.

 Phases Location Habitat Type Acreage
Pre-Project Pond 2A Tidal Marsh 500
Phase 1 Ponds 3, 4 and 5 Tidal Marsh 3,000
Phase 2 Ponds 1/1A and 2 Managed Ponds 1,800
Phase 3 Ponds 6/6A, 7/7A and 8 Managed Ponds 2,000

Note: remaining acreage consists of fringing tidal marsh, sloughs and levees.

pond phases

Project Phases

The project is now 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


Napa Sonoma Marsh Restoration Group

Napa Plant Site

San Francisco Bay Area

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