Locals Trade Vines for Resilient Rivers

Locals Trade Vines for Resilient Rivers

Cold water, essential for the life cycle of Chinook salmon, is all too often in short supply along the Sacramento River. A primary cause: California’s massive water conveyance system, using reservoirs, dams, and hydroelectric plants to divert water and deliver power to farms and cities. “When we started releasing water in spring, we let cold water out too early. None was left by fall, when salmon really needed it,” says USBR hydraulic engineer Tracy Vermeyen. Two clever innovations have been...
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In Humboldt County’s coastal dunes, a multi-agency partnership is restoring the native plant community to build resilience to sea level rise.

The project, along with four others in the Bay Area and Southern California, is featured in a new report, Case Studies of Natural Shoreline Infrastructure in Coastal California. Much of the state’s dunescape was built over or hauled away before its value as habitat for unique species and a buffer against climate change was recognized. San Francisco’s dunes are long gone, and with them the endemic Xerces blue butterfly. Humboldt’s 32-mile stretch still shelters endangered plants like the Menzies’ wallflower...
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And also…

Nearly Half of California’s Vegetation at Risk From Climate Stress https://www.ucdavis.edu/news/nearly-half-california-vegetation-risk-climate-stress USACE Releases Yuba River Floodplain Restoration Plan http://www.spk.usace.army.mil/Missions/Environmental-Projects/Yuba-River-Eco-Study/ http://www.chicoer.com/general-news/20180108/feds-release-yuba-river-floodplain-restoration-plan Report Recommends Adding 37 Miles of the Mokelumne to Wild and Scenic River System https://mavensnotebook.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/AB-142-study-NR_joint.pdf   Contributors: Joe Eaton, Robin Meadows, Ariel Rubissow Okamoto, Nate Seltenrich, Cariad Hayes Thronson Please send suggestions for future Pearls to editorestuarypearls@gmail.com
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After the Burn Comes the Rain

When fire strikes upper watersheds like it did last October, responses can vary widely depending on land use and ownership. “We view wildfire as a natural process,” says Cyndy Shafer of California State Parks. Wildlands and backcountry areas have largely been left alone, but it’s a different story when lands are managed not for ecosystems but for drinking-water quality. “You want to minimize the erosion that occurs on site,” says Scott Hill of the East Bay Municipal Utility District, “we...
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Minding the Margins

“The language changed from should restore to must restore,” says David Thomson of the San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory, referring to federal guidance on tidal marsh recovery. Marsh-upland transition zones are crucial for a properly functioning estuary, but nearly all of these historic zones have been impacted by human activity. Thomson, along with a number of partnering agencies have worked to figure out how to bring transition zones back to life. “We have seeded over 30 species of local native...
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Smart Plover Predators

The South Bay’s salt pannes, bleak unvegetated flats left behind by commercial salt works, seem inhospitable to life. To western snowy plovers, though, they look like home. Still, the plovers are in trouble themselves. Considered a California species of special concern, the Bay-wide snowy plover breeding population sits at about 250. As Karine Tokatlian explained in her State of the Estuary Conference presentation in October 2017, efforts to boost their breeding success in the remaining salt pannes have encountered unexpected...
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Nudging Natural Magic

“Miraculous” isn’t a term that comes easily to the lips of scientists and engineers. But the word, along with a quickly quelled gulp of incredulity, cropped up more than once in interviews concerning the preliminary results of the horizontal levee experiment on the San Lorenzo shore – including off the charts levels of removal of nitrogen and pharmaceuticals from wastewater passed through the system and growth of willows, cattails, and wet meadows. This pilot sea level rise adaptation project, led...
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A wedge of gravel, mud, and grasses irrigated by treated wastewater outperforms all expectations as a prototype for climate change adaptation.

Experts monitoring 16 months of plant growth on a humpbacked levee experiment on the San Leandro shore, a project led by the Oro Loma Sanitary District, found early weed colonization followed by rapid dominance of target native perennial vegetation. “Native vegetation outcompeted weeds,” says Peter Baye, who designed the planting palette for this multi-benefit infrastructure project. The results were apparent during an October 2017 tour for international design teams looking at homegrown innovations in sea level rise adaptation as part of...
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“Sometimes doing nothing is the best option” is just one of the sometimes counterintuitive tips for post-fire restoration compiled by the Napa County Resource Conservation District in the wake of October’s North Bay firestorm.

A new web page simply titled “Fire” contains a suite of online resources for land owners and managers. From finding sources of invasive-free native plant seed to recommending that burned soils be left undisturbed wherever possible (so as to maintain their natural hydrophobic properties, which help prevent erosion), the website offers a trove of tips to help maximize the recovery of a healthy landscape in a series of “After the Fire” fact sheets that include titles such as Dos and Don’ts,...
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A former Japanese-American-owned nursery/brownfield in Richmond is being transformed into a green infill development that includes affordable senior housing, a four-acre greenbelt with a daylighted creek, an urban forest, and easy connections to transit via the Richmond Central Greenway.

Tucked into a corner of the city next to the I-80 freeway and BART tracks, the “Miraflores” site was the heart of the Japanese-American nursery industry in the East Bay. From the early 1900s to 2006, three Japanese-American families operated a rose and carnation nursery there, one of about a dozen such nurseries in the Richmond-El Cerrito area, according to Bay Area historian Donna Graves. During World War II, the families were sent out of state to camps but returned...
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High Road for the Wettest Highway?

As Bay Area cities and counties grapple with the formidable challenge of preparing for a higher San Francisco Bay, there is perhaps no better example of the obstacles and opportunities than the effort underway to adapt Highway 37. The 21-mile North Bay corridor running from Vallejo to Novato has long been a source of tranquility and frustration. The highway offers sweeping views of tidal baylands dotted with roosting waterfowl and shorebirds plumbing mudflats for food, along with mile-upon-mile of open...
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A new Bay Area screening tool helps me wrap my brain around a TMI project.

The day I began editing a monolithic overview of Santa Clara County’s Coyote Watershed I received a gift from my handler. He’d just thrown me for a loop by suggesting we describe not just Coyote Creek’s vast extent and myriad One Water management issues, but also its six sub-watersheds. I asked him to summarize the differences. Rather than composing a detailed memo, or searching water district literature for the materials, he logged into Bay Area Greenprint. Within hours I had...
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Two Massachusetts restoration projects have recently returned close to 740 acres of commercial cranberry bogs to wetlands.

Like the Bay Area’s salt ponds, cranberry farming originally involved creating an artificial environment from a natural wetland through the installation of dams and weirs. The cranberries—a plant native to North America that naturally grows as a vine—were then trained to grow in mats on the water’s surface. A project on Tidmarsh Farms in Plymouth, Massachusetts included redirecting a natural stream that had been diverted into an agricultural canal back into its original channel and planting 6,000 Atlantic white cedars...
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Small-scale conservation can have outsized ecological impacts, says an international group of researchers.

Among the small natural features that can have disproportionate ecological value are the bark of grand old trees, which has nooks and crannies that provide microhabitats for wildlife; patches of native plants alongside agricultural fields, which can provide some species with their only remaining natural habitat; and rocky outcrops, which nurture unique and diverse flora and fauna. Other benefits of conserving these modest yet influential—and often under-appreciated—landscape features include relative ease and affordability as well as compatibility with land uses...
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Caspian Push and Pull

The origin story of a project to lure Caspian terns to several barren islands in the South Bay Salt Pond Habitat Restoration Project stretches all the way to the mouth of the Columbia River in Washington. This bird story that turns out to be a fish tale shows what can happen when multiple agencies and states work together to protect the numbers of an endangered species by changing the patterns of another species. In this case, the robust population of...
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Back to the Bones of the Delta

Chris Rose likens a 500-acre farm
 in the northwest Delta to a bakery in downtown Manhattan. Each property has obvious characteristics that would be hard to replace. In the Delta it’s some of the best water rights available and land that isn’t so subsided and salty you can’t grow good grass. In Manhattan, it’s the chance to bake and sell comfort food in the heart of a city with a big appetite. Each property is prime real estate in terms...
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Options for Orphan Species

Off a bustling Delta highway, next door to a branch of the California Aqueduct, sprawls a tidy collection of shipping containers, humming pumps, and cylindrical tanks. Paved in cracked asphalt and encircled by chain link fencing, it resembles any number of light industrial sites at the margins of many communities. In fact, this resolutely artificial site is devoted to preserving a disappearing piece of natural California: the Delta smelt. “Our fish are a refuge population,” says Tien-Chieh Hung. Director of...
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Wetland Protections in Transition

Environmentalists are heading warily into the fall following two regulatory developments that they fear may cramp efforts to protect California’s wetlands. In June the State Water Resources Control Board released a draft document overhauling wetlands protection procedures but leaving open the question of exactly which wetlands are eligible for protection. In the same month the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that landowners may mount court challenges to U.S. EPA or Corps of Engineers jurisdictional determinations before a permit is issued, potentially...
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Mainstreaming Resilience

Whatever the “perturbation” coming our way – a flood, a drought, a weed or Donald Trump – our recovery, in the aftermath, depends on something ecologists call resilience. It’s a term everyone is pasting onto their management initiatives these days – resilient landscapes, resilient shorelines, resilient water supplies, neighborhoods, infrastructure… But what exactly does it mean, and how is it different from other fashionable buzzwords that have galvanized Californians into thinking about the future?
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Scaled-Down Plans to “Fix and Restore”

Surprising many observers, Governor Jerry Brown announced late in April that the Bay Delta Conservation Program, which had embraced the new water conveyance popularly known as the Twin Tunnels and a broad program for restoring the complex and heavily impacted Delta environment, was being split into two new entities: Cal WaterFix and Cal EcoRestore. This was followed
by the release of a Partially Recirculated Draft Environmental Impact Report/Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement spelling out the changes: on the conveyance side, reduction...
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