Friday, April 25, 2014

Levee Breach in San Pablo Bay

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."

Read the complete article here.

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