Greening Dickson’s Heights

Greening Dickson’s Heights

Looking east from the levee-top trail, a silvery swath of bay is dotted with low islands -- some tufted with plants, others mere muddy humps that barely break the surface. This is low tide at the nearly 1,000-acre Sears Point wetland restoration project on the western side of San Pablo Bay. The islands, 500 in all, are actually man-made mounds, scattered across the mudflat as an integral part of the restoration design. Each is roughly 60 feet across and was...
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State Could Step Up

Despite an official California policy in place since 1992 that calls for “no net loss” of wetlands, the lack of a specific wetlands definition has led to the loss of many thousands of acres of ecologically important lands. That could change soon, thanks to an update from the State Water Resources Control Board expected out soon after more than a decade of work. California environmentalists are optimistic that the updated policy, titled “State Wetland Definition and Procedures for Discharges of...
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Hauling Out on Higher Ground

Harbor Seals “have this dual existence,” says Sarah Allen, National Park Service ecologist. “They’re tied to the land physiologically and tied to the bay waters for food and travel.” From rocky islets to tidal marshes, the Bay shoreline offers respite to these native marine mammals. Rocky islets like the Castro Rocks, located near the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, are particularly important refuges -- but more than half the islets that exist throughout the Bay are likely to be erased by sea-level...
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Restoring wetlands is an extremely effective way to cool land surfaces, a study conducted in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta indicates.

For three years, Kyle Hemes of UC Berkeley and colleagues kept tabs on the heat flux and air flow above three restored Delta wetlands on Twitchell and Sherman islands, and an alfalfa field on Twitchell Island. Surface temperatures at wetlands with open water were up to 5.1 degrees Celsius cooler than the crop field during the daytime. As expected, the dark open water absorbed more solar radiation, and released the energy slowly at night. But wetland vegetation played a role...
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Just months after becoming the first project awarded Measure AA funding, the first phase of tidal breaching at the Montezuma Wetlands restoration project will be two-thirds complete by the end of November.

“We are on track to complete the levees and transition zones next year so we can breach into the slough and restore the area to tidal action,” says Jim Levine, managing partner of Montezuma Wetlands LLC, which owns the property. The breach of the first major restoration area is planned for December 2019. This phase of the multi-phase project will restore 600 acres of previously subsided shoreline on the eastern edge of Suisun Bay to tidal, seasonal and some sub-tidal habitat....
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Big Restoration Experiment for the Delta’s Dutch Slough

Development agreements were already in place for three parcels of land around Dutch Slough when John Cain first took a hike in this West Delta area in the spring of 1999. “It was clear as day to me that removing the levee would be a great way to restore freshwater wetlands at the mouth of Marsh Creek,” says Cain, who now works for American Rivers. Almost two decades later, earthmoving equipment is now preparing 1,178 acres for conversion to marsh...
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Alameda Creek: Harnessing a Watershed for Public Sediment

In Resilient by Design team Public Sediment’s effort to unlock Alameda Creek, the key lies in sediment--raw material needed to build levees and raise marshes so shorelines can withstand sea level rise. “We’re designing a suite of special structures, a mix of living and constructed features, to move more sediment and create a dynamic new equilibrium for the creek,” says team leader Gena Wirth. To get a conversation about sediment going, Wirth’s teammate Claire Napawan will often start by talking...
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South Bay: Swaps and Sponges Create Absorbing Vision

East Palo Alto is a microcosm of Silicon Valley’s most pressing social and environmental issues. Home to low-income communities, the city faces rising rents and the displacement of longtime residents. As one of the lowest-lying communities in the Bay Area, it is also ground-zero for sea level rise in the South Bay. Although located at the northern end of Resilient by Design’s Field Operations Team’s 20-mile shoreline jurisdiction, much of their public engagement effort was focused on East Palo Alto....
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Supply Side Synthesis

“Small sensors are the foundation of big science,” says Phil Trowbridge, director of the Bay’s Regional Monitoring Program which has just released a new synthesis report on sediment science. The report, combining the results of eight bodies of work, yielded some surprises concerning how much sediment moves from the Sierra and Bay watersheds to the Golden Gate. “The system is calming down after two huge disruptions,” says David Schoellhammer of the U.S. Geological Survey, referring to hydraulic gold mining and...
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Two-Way Bay: Estuary Leaders Reflect on Resilience

This 8-minute film interviews eight directors of water quality, restoration, and environmental programs around the San Francisco Estuary about their experience of the 2017-2018 Resilient by Design Bay Area Challenge.
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Two Urban Estuaries Soften Shorelines

For two cold clear days in February, scientists, engineers, and other specialists from all three North American coasts gathered at the Oakland Airport Hilton, in what a local speaker called “the least interesting part of Oakland,” for the second national Living Shorelines Technology Transfer Workshop. The event, co-sponsored by Restore America’s Estuaries, the California Coastal Conservancy, and Save the Bay, featured talks and interactive sessions on this emerging approach to coastal protection that went well beyond technology. Referred to by...
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Overdue Levee Almost Shovel Ready

After more than a decade of study and planning, the first part of a critical flood protection and environmental project is creeping towards construction near the town of Alviso. The South Bay Shoreline Project will eventually include over four miles of levee, 2,900 acres of restored tidal wetlands, and upgrades to the iconic Bay Trail. While the US Army Corps of Engineers waits on financing, other partners are focused on getting ducks in a row, such as coordinating access with...
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The battle of Point Buckler Island isn’t over yet.

In January the Bay Conservation and Development Commission and the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board appealed decisions by a Solano County Superior Court Judge voiding $3.6 million in fines and cleanup and restoration requirements that the agencies imposed on the island’s owner for dumping excavation spoil in Suisun Bay and draining tidal wetland without authorization. The agencies held that due to the failure of previous owners to maintain levees, the interior of the island had become tidal...
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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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Bridges - public shore

Public Sediment Favors Mud

“We’re finally seeing a change in paradigm,” says Brett Milligan regarding how sediment is treated in the Bay Area. What was once considered waste is now considered a resource, and a group called “Public Sediment,” part of the Bay Area Resilient by Design Challenge, are proposing mud rooms, mud berms, mud pathways, and top-to-bottom mud management to better build up Bay Area shorelines and keep them above rising water.
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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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Buckler Brouhaha

There’s a big dispute over a small island at the edge of the Suisun Marsh. John Sweeney, the current owner of Point Buckler Island via a limited liability corporation, faces enforcement action by the Bay Conservation and Development Commission and the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board for diking and draining a tidal wetland and dumping excavation spoils in Suisun Bay. The extensive work he did was subject to regulation by state and federal agencies, and no authorization...
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Waiting for the Big One

If and when El Niño decides to dump a big storm on the Bay Area — even at 2:00 am on a Saturday night — SFEI’s Lester McKee and Alicia Gilbreath and their team are ready to pull on their parkas and dash out to take water samples. Last September, stakeholders in the Regional Monitoring Program decided they would be remiss if they did not try to measure some high priority pollutants during an El Niño year. “With plenty of...
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No Drought of Dirt

With its massive environmental and economic costs, it’s hard to see a bright side to the California drought. Consider mud, though. According to US Geological Survey scientist David Schoellhamer, the long dry spell may be giving tidal wetland restoration efforts an unexpected boost by promoting the buildup of sediment in the South Bay where former salt ponds await conversion to tidal marsh.
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Cullinan Finally in the Fold

Real estate developers often name their projects for what they’ve displaced: Quail Acres, Live Oak Estates. Egret Bay would have been another such necronym. The 4,500-home development proposed for the former Cullinan Ranch on San Pablo Bay in 1983 would have left little room for egrets, or other birds. A citizen’s group, Vallejoans for Cost Efficient Growth, supported by Save the Bay and other environmental organizations, helped kill Egret Bay, and, in a deal brokered by Congresswoman Barbara Boxer, the...
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