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RANCHO CORDOVA, Calif. – June 30, 2009 – The San Francisco Bay area got a boost today with an $8.5 million grant to stimulate the economy while conserving critical wildlife habitat. The grant was awarded to Ducks Unlimited by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Ducks Unlimited will use the money to restore approximately 1,300 acres of former salt evaporation ponds to estuarine tidal marsh. The project is located at the California Department of Fish and Game Napa-Sonoma Wildlife Area.
"This is a great day, not only for citizens of the San Francisco Bay area, who will soon see $8.5 million pumped into their local economy, but also for millions of waterfowl and other wildlife, including endangered fish and shorebirds," said Rudy Rosen, director of DU's Western Regional Office. "This is one of the largest grants Ducks Unlimited has ever received, and the implications for conservation are huge."
Ducks Unlimited plans to begin work on the project immediately. It's part of a much larger complex of restored and soon-to-be restored salt ponds in the San Pablo Bay. The former salt ponds once produced road salt through a complex process of evaporation, but the high salinity prohibited aquatic species from thriving in the water. Once restored, the marshes will provide important habitat for multiple threatened and endangered fish and wildlife species, particularly Coho salmon, steelhead, green sturgeon, Delta smelt, and least tern and snowy plover.
"This project also lies in the San Francisco Estuary, which is one of the most important staging and wintering habitats for waterfowl in western North America," said Rosen. "More than 30 species of waterfowl occur here, including 50 percent of the entire flyway's diving ducks and one of the largest concentrations of wintering canvasbacks on the continent."
Ducks Unlimited projects in the San Francisco Bay Area
Napa-Sonoma Project (recently completed)
At the Napa-Sonoma Wildlife Area, the 1994 purchase by California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) of approximately 10,000 acres of former salt ponds jump-started the largest restoration effort in the estuary to date. Utilizing funds from the Wildlife Conservation Board, DU restored more than 5,100 acres into a habitat mosaic including shallow muted tidal and managed ponds for shorebirds and waterfowl, deep-water ponds for diving ducks and large-scale tidal marsh restoration.
"Originally estimated to cost nearly $15 million, DU was able to value-engineer the restoration of Ponds 1, 1a and 2 through 5 at the Napa-Sonoma Wildlife Area and save the State over $2 million. Given the current fiscal situation in California, this was a huge benefit to taxpayers in general and wildlife enthusiasts in particular," said Mark Biddlecomb, director of conservation programs for DU's Western Regional Office.
Napa Plant Site
Ducks Unlimited, in partnership with the California DFG and the Wildlife Conservation Board, is currently managing a 380-acre project that will restore and enhance tidal wetlands and associated transitional habitats on former commercial salt ponds along the Napa River next to Fagan Slough Ecological Reserve, a high-quality remnant salt marsh. Where once stood a privately owned commercial salt production plant, there will be opportunities for public hiking and biking on the Bay Trail, hunting, fishing, bird watching and environmental education.
"Ducks Unlimited is working diligently to ensure taxpayer dollars are spent in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible in restoring the former Salt Plant Site here at Napa-Sonoma Wildlife Area," said Biddlecomb. "DU has a lot of experience delivering tidal restoration projects, and we're able to make sure it's done properly and with an eye on cost savings wherever possible."
More than 10 years ago, DU and Viansa Wineries partnered to restore one of the largest privately owned freshwater wetlands in the Sonoma Baylands. While still very valuable for the wide variety of wildlife, some rejuvenation is now needed. Enhancement of the wetlands will increase the habitat diversity, thus increasing the wildlife-viewing opportunities. Seasonal wetlands are a particularly rare and important habitat type in the Sonoma Baylands, and Viansa provides an important one. The winery is planning to provide guided tours of the wetlands, and opportunities to see ducks, shorebirds and other wildlife will be abundant.
next page: South Bay Projects