A landmark moment in the effort to restore Bay Area marshland habitat
Peter Fimrite, San Francisco Chronicle, April 25, 2014
A cheer went up as salt water from San Pablo Bay poured through a breached levee Friday and flooded old, abandoned Hamilton Army Airfield in Novato.
The flooding of the runway at the former Air Force base, which was
closed starting in 1973, is part of a regional effort to restore 100,000
acres of former wetlands around San Francisco Bay. The Hamilton area was diked off around the turn of the
19th century, cutting off a primary landing spot for thousands of
migrating waterfowl along the Pacific Flyway. It had remained dry until
Friday when a backhoe dug out the remaining mud barrier.
Creating the new tidal marsh, which cost $107 million over 10 years,
involved importing 5.6 million cubic
yards of dredged mud to raise the land to its
natural height, three
quarters of which came from dredging at the Port of Oakland, and growing and planting tens of thousands of native plants. The project was designed create
different habitats, including tidal marshland, brackish and fresh water
wetlands. The restored area, which includes a 3-mile section of the Bay
Trail, will provide crucial habitat for endangered and threatened
species, including Steelhead trout, salmon, California clapper rail,
black rail, brown pelican, and salt marsh harvest mouse.
"This was designed with sea level rise, climate change and ecological resiliency in mind," said Congressman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael. "This is also a model project for re-use of our resources."
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