Sonoma Land Trust secures $4 million from Coastal Conservancy and EPA for Sears Point Wetlands Restoration Project
SANTA ROSA, CALIF., Oct. 25, 2012
The Sonoma Land Trust is the recipient of $3,189,500 approved by the California Coastal Conservancy for implementation of the Sears Point Wetland and Watershed Restoration Project. In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency’s San Francisco Bay Area Water Quality Improvement Fund has awarded $941,941 to Sonoma Land Trust to prepare for the restoration of 960 acres of tidal marsh at Sears Point Ranch for the benefit of endangered species and improved water quality.
“This funding will enable us to go from the planning and permitting phase to the on-the-ground construction phase,” said Julian Meisler, Sonoma Land Trust’s Baylands program manager. “In a time of diminishing budgets, we are grateful to be able to move forward on what will be the most significant wetland restoration and public access project on Sonoma County’s bay shoreline in years.”
The State Coastal Conservancy awarded the project $965,000 and also authorized the disbursement of $992,000 from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Program, and $1,232,500 from the California Department of Water Resources Integrated Regional Water Management Program.
“In an increasingly tight funding environment, the Conservancy is directing its funds where they will have the greatest chance of success and impact,” said Sam Schuchat, executive officer of the State Coastal Conservancy. “The science tells us that Sears Point is an ideal location for tidal marsh restoration and we’re happy to be able to continue our support there.”
The EPA grant is designated for site preparation work, which needs to be completed at the beginning of the tidal marsh restoration project — specifically the removal of lead-contaminated soil, construction of a 2.5-mile levee for flood control, and contouring the site to accelerate sediment accumulation.
"EPA supports the opportunity to restore our North Bay tidal wetlands," said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA's Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. "Healthy wetlands are critical to improve water quality and make Sonoma shorelines more resilient to damage from pollutant discharges and rising sea levels."
The EPA recently awarded $6.5 million for 10 projects throughout the San Francisco Bay watershed that will prevent pollution, restore streams and tidal marshes, and manage floodwaters in an environmentally sound manner.
“Projects that receive these grants need to be innovative and cutting edge,” said Meisler. “At Sears Point, we will use all the tools we have available to make the project cost effective and resilient to climate change. Our designs represent the best knowledge that has accumulated over time from the Bay’s restoration community.
Background to Sears Point wetlands restoration
The 2,327-acre Sears Point project, one of the largest tidal wetlands restoration projects in the nation, includes restoration of a 960-acre coastal wetland ecosystem in northwestern San Pablo Bay, and enhancement of more than 1,350 acres of seasonal wetlands and uplands grasslands in southern Sonoma County.
More than 90 percent of the San Pablo Bay’s historic tidal marshes have been lost since the late 1800s, when extensive diking of historic marshes took place and land was “reclaimed” for growing oat-hay and wheat, and used as dairy land. The levees that were built eliminated natural tidal action, which dramatically reduced natural habitats and caused declines in key Bay Area wildlife species. The Sears Point project will assist in turning back these losses by restoring critical habitats, improving water quality, and expanding state and federal wildlife management areas.
The Sears Point tidal marsh restoration will ultimately be an $18 million project. It is scheduled to break ground in Spring 2013.
“Few projects are large enough in scope to actually change the map. Sears Point is one of those projects — it will change the map of the San Francisco Bay,” concluded Neal Fishman, a member of the Sonoma Land Trust board of directors and former deputy director of the State Coastal Conservancy.