Controlled Levee Breach to Launch the Opening of 630 Acres to the Bay

Contacts:
John Krause, DFG Wildlife Biologist (415) 454-8050
Kyle Orr, DFG Communications, (916) 322-8958

Controlled Levee Breach to Launch the Opening of 630 Acres to the Bay

Stimulus-Funded South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Created 40 New Jobs in San Francisco Bay Area

On Sept. 13, the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) will mark a major milestone in the decades-long effort to restore wetlands in theSan Francisco Bay. After a 1 p.m.ceremony, DFG’s contractor will conduct a controlled levee breach of the first of eight breaches in the Eden Landing Ecological Reserve, allowing Bay waters, fish and other wildlife back in to 630 acres of former wetlands along theshore of  Hayward and Union City.

“We have lost the overwhelming majority of our wetlands here inCalifornia. It is our responsibility to protect and restore the areas we do have,” said California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird. “This project is a great example of what can be accomplished with cooperation and long-term vision. The restoration of these wetlands will provide much needed habitat for birds, fish and other wildlife, while moving California toward a healthier ecosystem.”

The breach of this levee, along with seven that will follow in coming weeks will open earthen berms built by salt-making companies and flood-control projects in the 19th and 20th centuries. As excavators take the last bite out of a berm along Pond E8A, inundating it, they will be laying the groundwork for the reestablishment of tidal salt marshes that were eliminated by the construction of the levees.

Bay waters and adjacent creek inflows introduced this month are expected to bring fish, crabs, harbor seals and other marine life as well as multitudes of native and migratory birds back into previously diked ponds. The water will also bring sediments that will settle into the pond and provide a bed for the regrowth of pickleweed, marsh gumplant, saltgrass and other native tidal marsh plants that provide habitat for the endangered California clapper rail and salt marsh harvest mouse.

The opening of Ponds E8A, E9 and E8X – three former salt evaporation ponds in Eden Landing – marks the first South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project construction project completed on state-owned lands.

Restoration efforts on the 630 acres were partly funded by American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) grants through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The Eden Landing construction project created 40 jobs in addition to making a significant step toward wetlands restoration in the Bay.

As of the completion of this work, the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project has restored nearly 3,000 acres of salt ponds to tidal action in theSouthBay. The project is the largest tidal wetland restoration effort on the West Coast. Its goal is to restore at least 7,500 acres to tidal marsh habitat, while also enhancing pond habitat, expanding Bay access and recreation, and improving flood protection.

 “This marsh restoration project doubles the area of the Reserve now open to the tides,” said John Krause, the DFG Wildlife Biologist who manages the Reserve. “It’s a very different landscape from what it was five years ago.”

 The work at the three ponds was conducted through a collaborative partnership between by DFG, NOAA, the State Coastal Conservancy, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the Alameda County Flood Control and Water Conservation District, and other local partners.

NOAA has provided a total of $7.4 million in ARRA funds to the South Bay Salt Pond Project to create jobs and restore habitats in and around the Bay. The funds helped not only the 630-acre Eden Landing restoration, which received $3.2 million in grants, but a total of 2,360 acres of project restoration work, as well as contributing to the battle against invasive Spartina, a non-native cordgrass that degrades marsh and mudflat habitat.

Reporters and photographers should arrive at the Eden Landing Ponds Ecological Reserve at 12:45 p.m. for the opening ceremonies, including remarks by honored guests and an opportunity to view the breach. In the event of rain, the ceremony will be rescheduled.

About the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project
The South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project is the largest tidal wetland restoration project on the West Coast. When complete, the restoration will convert thousands of former commercial salt ponds to a mix of tidal marsh, mudflat, managed pond and other wetland habitats. The project will also provide flood management and opportunities for wildlife-oriented public access and recreation. The 15,100 acre property was purchased from Cargill in March, 2003 using state and federal funds as well as private funds from the Hewlett, Packard, Moore and Goldman Foundations. The California Wildlife Conservation Board contributed $72 million of the $100 million purchase price from Proposition 40 and Proposition 50 bond funds. These lands are managed by DFG as part of the Eden Landing Ecological Reserve and FWS as part of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Shortly after the property was purchased, DFG, FWS and the State Coastal Conservancy launched a five-year public process to design a restoration plan for the property. The final plan was adopted in 2008 and the first phase of restoration began in 2009. For detailed information about the project, please visit  http://www.southbayrestoration.org/.

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