Friday, August 25, 2006

Agencies look to restore tidal wetlands

From Daily Republic
By Barry Eberling

FAIRFIELD - Several state, federal and local agencies are turning back the clock on 70 acres in Suisun Marsh to restore tidal wetlands.

It's a start. The ultimate goal is to someday restore 5,000 to 7,000 acres of the marsh to the tidal wetlands that were once prevalent there. Tidal wetlands are home to such rare species as the delta smelt, Suisun thistle and California clapper rail, according to a study for the project.

Restoration work is to be done at the Blacklock site along Little Honker Bay in the eastern marsh. The California Bay Delta Authority provided a $536,000 grant for the project.

"This restoration represents an opportunity to realize the many ecosystem benefits that are commonly associated with healthy tidal marsh habitat," the project draft environmental study said.

Suisun Marsh and Suisun Bay in their natural state had 68,000 acres of tidal wetlands, a project study said. Farmers in the mid-1800s to early 1900s put up levees to create farmland. More than 90 percent of the tidal wetlands were lost.

Later on, many of these farms converted to duck clubs or became state preserves.

With managed wetlands, the land remains behind levees and is flooded and drained by the caretakers at certain times of the year. The goal is to grow plants that attract waterfowl.In contrast, tidal wetlands are subject to the daily rhythms of the tide.

The Bureau of Reclamation released an environmental report on the proposed Blacklock restoration project. It can be found at The bureau is accepting comments through Monday.

Restoration of the land involves breaching the levees. Sediment would be carried in by the tides over time build up the subsided land. Plants and wildlife communities would establish themselves naturally, the environmental report said.

The Suisun Resource Conservation District is a partner in the restoration effort. The goal is to complete the needed work by Oct. 15, Executive Director Steve Chappell said.

Also working on the project are the state Department of Water Resources and state Department of Fish and Game, with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers providing advice.

Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646 Ext. 232 or at

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