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 the Resilient By Design Bay Area Challenge (see photo). With so much of the Bay shoreline in need of protection from increased flooding, as well as habitat for wetland species at risk and new wastewater infrastructure, progress on this experimental levee is being closely watched. “Why rebuild all our aging discharge pipes way out into the Bay when we could be irrigating habitats on shoreline levees with scarce water instead?” says Mike Connor of the East Bay Dischargers Authority. According to Donna Ball at Save the Bay, whose restoration teams established a nursery on site and planted 12 experimental beds on the levee: “I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s remarkable to get more than 90% cover in so short a time.” Part of it is the magic ingredient irrigation, and part of it is how carefully planned the project is, she says. Each of the beds is designed to test a different mix of soils, species, and watering regimes. Early results for vegetation growth, water quality, and soils are beyond expectations. “If you build levees with all these ingredients, it gives them superpowers,” says Baye. Find out why in our extended story in ESTUARY News this December.  ARO

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 the Resilient By Design Bay Area Challenge (see photo). With so much of the Bay shoreline in need of protection from increased flooding, as well as habitat for wetland species at risk and new wastewater infrastructure, progress on this experimental levee is being closely watched. “Why rebuild all our aging discharge pipes way out into the Bay when we could be irrigating habitats on shoreline levees with scarce water instead?” says Mike Connor of the East Bay Dischargers Authority. According to Donna Ball at Save the Bay, whose restoration teams established a nursery on site and planted 12 experimental beds on the levee: “I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s remarkable to get more than 90% cover in so short a time.” Part of it is the magic ingredient irrigation, and part of it is how carefully planned the project is, she says. Each of the beds is designed to test a different mix of soils, species, and watering regimes. Early results for vegetation growth, water quality, and soils are beyond expectations. “If you build levees with all these ingredients, it gives them superpowers,” says Baye. Find out why in our extended story in ESTUARY News this December.  ARO

About the author

Ariel Rubissow Okamoto is both today’s editor-in-chief and the founding editor of ESTUARY magazine (1992-2001). She enjoys writing in-depth, silo-crossing stories about water, restoration, and science. She’s a co-author of a Natural History of San Francisco Bay (UC Press 2011), frequent contributor of climate change stories to Bay Nature magazine, and occasional essayist for publications like the San Francisco Chronicle. In other lives, she has been a vintner, soccer mom, and waitress. She lives in San Francisco close to the Bay with her architect husband Paul Okamoto.