Transcripts from the Napa Sonoma Marshes dedication and media event

Paul Bonderson: Senior vice president of DU, chairman of DU's Conservation Programs Committee

Hi. My name is Paul Bonderson and I am senior vice president for Ducks Unlimited.

As one of the nearly one million DU volunteers across North America, I welcome you. We are a group of folks who raise funds to protect and restore waterfowl habitat on this continent, like this important wetland.

We certainly want to thank everyone who was involved in this fabulous restoration; many of you are standing in front of me. Most especially we would like to acknowledge our key partners. I would first like to thank California Department of Fish and Game. We are co-hosting this event today, on their property. It is their stewardship which will manage this wetland. We want to thank the California Wildlife Conservation Board for their leadership and financial support. We want to thank NOAA for their financial support and hope this serves as an example of the wonderful restoration projects we can complete on all our coasts. We thank the California Coastal Conservancy, San Francisco Bay Joint Venture and the many Bay Area NGOs that supported this effort. We want to thank Cargill for its vision here and potential for salt pond management and wetland restoration in other parts of the Bay Area. We thank Viansa Wineries for our wonderful refreshments. I personally want to thank the DU biologists and engineers who helped design and implement this restoration. Finally, we thank Congressman Thompson, who has received many DU awards, for his leadership in protecting and restoring key waterbird habitat.

This is a great day, but the real celebration begins this fall when greater scaup return from the tundra; when northern shoveler and pintail return from the Canadian Prairies; when lesser scaup and goldeneye return from the Western Boreal Forest; when mallard and gadwall return from Suisun Marsh; when shorebirds and arctic terns return from high arctic islands; when rails and song sparrows find this habitat from Toley Creek; when falcon and harrier soar above where we stand today. That day will mark the true celebration of the return of these wetlands.

I hope you will join us in returning sometime this fall, winter and spring and join in the celebration of these waterbirds. Today is a great beginning, but this winter is the celebration.

Thank you. Please join me in continuing to support wetland restoration across the Bay Area.


Chuck Armor: Regional manager for California Department of Fish and Game

For nearly half a century, the city of American Canyon was home to an 11,000-acre expanse of former salt evaporation ponds, an area long devoid of fish and wildlife.

It has long been a vision of DFG and others that the salt ponds, degraded wetlands and surrounding habitats around San Pablo Bay could be restored to support the diversity of fish and wildlife that once existed there.

Beginning in the 1990s, as part of one of the largest restoration projects in our nation's history, aka the Napa Sonoma Marshes Restoration Project, the California Department of Fish and Game, Ducks Unlimited and other partners gradually restored 5,000 of these acres back to their historical and valuable form, that of tidal marsh habitat.

Today we celebrate the capping off of the Napa Plant Site Restoration Project with the restoration of 1,400 acres of tidal wetlands that, combined with the earlier restored area, provides a mosaic of habitats and will benefit a large diversity of wildlife including state and federally listed species. This was truly a collaboration of those with the land, those with the funding, those with the vision and interest and those with the on-the-ground experience coming together and creating something great.

Collaboration works!

There are several important things we need to note. While we talk about tidal habitat, these areas also include freshwater marsh, saltwater marsh, saltwater tidal marsh, wetlands and upland habitats. These areas were designed to benefit state and federal threatened and endangered species, fully protected species, game and non-game fish and wildlife. These areas will not be locked up but will be used for hunting and fishing; bird watching; art and photography; research and education; boating/kayaking; and hiking and biking.

In broad scale, this is a place where Bay Area residents and visitors can enjoy the outdoors and observe nature. This is something we often dismiss and don't think about, but it is very important.

In this sense, this area is a refuge for the residents in the surrounding communities. We can take pride in what we have accomplished; generations to come will thank us.

When you look at all of this area, remember. There are only four permanent staff actively managing all the Wildlife Area properties in the North Bay (totaling over 25,000 acres).

I would like to acknowledge Larry Wyckoff, senior biologist supervisor, Karen Taylor, associate biologist, Tom Huffman, habitat supervisor II, and Mike Sipes, fish and wildlife technician for their care, dedication and for finding ways to manage such a jewel of an area on less than a "shoe string" budget.

The list of partnerships formed by regional staff with others to promote restoration of these wetlands is long and includes USGS, UC Davis, Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, NOAA and Cargill.

Special thanks to WCP, Resources Legacy Fund Foundation, State Coastal Conservancy and NOAA Stimulus. Without their financial support, these restoration efforts would not have happened.

And lastly, we owe special thanks to the consulting firms who have helped mold the restoration efforts, in particular, the staff at URS for their hard work and Susanne Von Rosenberg for her tireless dedication to DFG as our project manager through all these projects. She truly has been instrumental in the success of all these restoration transformations.


Bob Hoffman: Assistant regional administrator for habitat conservation for NOAA

Good afternoon, I am Bob Hoffman, assistant regional administrator for habitat conservation for NOAA.

I'm excited to be here today to celebrate the levee breach and to highlight this important wetland restoration Recovery Act project. Shovel-ready projects like the one here at American Canyon are especially important as our nation is recovering from an economic crisis not seen since the Great Depression. Our coastal environment, too, is grappling with increasing threats, including those related to climate change and sea level rise. The truth is that a healthy economy and a healthy environment go hand-in-hand.

Our coasts in particular are tremendously important to the nation's economic bottom line; they support more than 28 million jobs and generate half of the nation's Gross Domestic Product. Commercial and recreational fishing alone employ 2 million people and contribute $185 billion to the nation's economy. By protecting the health of our coasts, we also help to protect these jobs.

A year and half ago, NOAA received $830 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Approximately $167 million was invested in coastal restoration to create work opportunities restoring habitat along our coasts. NOAA immediately set out to competitively select a set of shovel-ready projects that not only represent potential for the greatest environmental benefits, but create and retain the equivalent of more than 1,500 jobs.

In the end, NOAA received an astonishing 814 project proposals - totaling billions of dollars in requests - which clearly indicates a growing backlog of much-needed actions to improve the condition of our nation's coasts and an opportunity to send Americans back to work in the process. The agency selected 50 projects nationwide, including this one.

NOAA invested $8.4 million of Recovery Act funding in this project, which supported removing levees and allowed for tidal flow to then be restored to more than 1,100 acres of former salt evaporation ponds, returning them to their natural state as tidal marshes and creating habitat for important fish species like steelhead and Chinook salmon.

This project, which has been implemented by Ducks Unlimited over the last 15 months, has been employing local citizens to restore this important wetland. Jobs are especially important here in California - which is experiencing one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation. NOAA is using Recovery Act funds to take on some if its largest habitat restoration projects to date throughout the state.

In addition to this project, there are eight other projects being funded throughout coastal California, which will restore hundreds of acres of salt ponds and wetlands and open miles of river to migratory fish.

This salt pond restoration is not only the result of hard work by NOAA and Ducks Unlimited. It also took the support of many community members, private partners and state agencies such as the Department of Fish and Game and the Wildlife Conservation Board.

With all of this support, combined with Recovery Act funds, we were able to get this project moving quickly, to get people back to work and restoring important wetlands habitat for fish and wildlife.

In fact, we have already found juvenile Chinook salmon from the Sacramento Valley in the Central Unit of this project, which was breached last fall. This is a good sign that our work here is already having a positive impact on salmon throughout the Bay/Delta area.

Partially as a result of the success of this project, NOAA has been able to contribute significant funding towards restoration of an additional 1,575 acres of nearby tidal wetlands. Cullinan Ranch on the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge is located about two miles southwest of where we are today, and is one of the last remaining diked areas in the lower Napa River floodplain. Ducks Unlimited, in partnership with many of the agencies and organization here today, hopes to complete that project in 2012, so hopefully we will have reason to celebrate another major restoration success in the not-so-distant future.

At the national level, I'm happy to report that all 50 of NOAA's habitat restoration Recovery Act projects are actively progressing. A total of 40 have broken ground or been complete and the remainder will commence within the next eight months.

When complete, these projects will have restored more than 8,000 acres of habitat and removed obsolete and unsafe dams that open more than 700 stream miles where fish migrate and spawn. The projects will also have removed more than 850 metric tons of debris, rebuilt oyster shellfish habitat, and reduced pollution threats to over 11,000 acres. Nearly all of these projects directly benefit a wide variety of threatened and endangered fish and wildlife species, including salmon, migratory birds and turtles - to name a few.

But, it's not just wildlife that stands to benefit from coastal restoration. We shouldn't forget that a healthy environment supports healthy people and economically vibrant communities.

When President Obama signed the Recovery Act into law in February, he called for the funds to be spent in a transparent way. In keeping with this directive, NOAA has set up a dedicated website, www.noaa.gove/recovery, where you can track the progress of each of the 50 habitat restoration projects through an interactive "Restoration Atlas." You can view before, during and after images of our restoration work as well as videos documenting "on-the-job" progress.

Finally, I want to thank you all for being here today to celebrate the restoration project. Coastal wetlands restoration in California is a priority for NOAA and we are actively participating in these types of projects throughout the state.


John Donnelly: Executive director of the California Wildlife Conservation Board

The WCB became involved in the Napa Marshes in the mid-1970s, completing its first acquisitions at White and Fagan Sloughs - totaling more than 300 acres. With the passage of Prop 70 in 1988, our involvement in the Napa Marshes really took off with the culmination of the 9,367-acre Napa Salt Ponds in 1994. Prop 50 created a new burst of activity, allowing for the acquisition of another 5,000 acres, as well as restoration of much of the previously acquired lands.

To put it into perspective, since 1979, WCB has allocated more than $27,000,000 and leveraged nearly $16,000,000 in match money to acquire more than 17,000 acres of San Pablo Baylands. Additionally, WCB has allocated nearly an equal amount and leveraged more than $11,000,000 to restore almost 10,000 acres. To date, WCB's investments in this immediate area are over $54 million.

We are living in an historic moment for the Bay Area. Only a generation ago, nearly all the vast historic salt marshes of the estuary were still locked behind levees, set aside for agriculture or salt production. Over the last fifteen years, massive strides have been taken and strategic investments have been made to renew these lands, to once again provide the habitats needed by the myriad species of fish and wildlife that call the Bay Area home.

Tidal restorations like this one, and others elsewhere in the San Francisco Bay, are benefiting endangered least terns, California clapper rails and salt marsh harvest mice and providing tidal marsh and nurseries for threatened Chinook salmon, steelhead and green sturgeon and many other species of fish. San Francisco Bay contains greater concentrations of wintering canvasbacks and scaup of any other place on the Pacific Flyway. Shorebirds by the millions stop over on the mudflats and wetlands each year on their way to or from their breeding grounds farther north.

With a little bit of help, the ability to adapt, heal and thrive is the cornerstone of success of these wetlands that we are witnessing today. No one organization or entity could do it alone and I am proud and honored to be a part. I want to thank all of the federal, state and local agencies, the nonprofit and foundation communities, for helping to achieve one of the largest wetland restoration projects in the nation. I also want to thank the DFG and WCB staff: Peter Perrine and Nancy Templeton and I particularly want to acknowledge Bonnie Turner, retired program manager with WCB, who spent nearly her entire career at WCB working to restore these wetlands.

Job well done!


Pat Mapelli: Real property manager for Cargill

The first time I came to the Napa plant site was 21 years ago. As a Cargill Engineering Tech and a college student, I was sent up here from our Newark Plant on assignment to catalog equipment data for our maintenance department. My first impression as I was driving in the gate was, "Wow, what a great place to come to work everyday." I met up with a gentleman by the name of Dan Steel, the plant manager. He was sitting in his office at the time with the back door open. When I sat down and look out the back door, I noticed he had a fishing rod in a holder with his line out to the barge canal. At that time I was convinced that this had to be the best place on earth to work.

I made a couple of trips up to Napa that year, but would not return for another 10 years. Little did I know that my next trip up here, as a maintenance supervisor, was for a completely different purpose - to see what equipment could be used in our Newark operations since the Napa plant had been shut down. I took what equipment we could use and kept my focus on our operations in Newark.

About five years later, a few of my colleagues and I were tasked with starting the plant back up in order to harvest and ship what salt we could to Canada for road de-icing. We spent about a year straight, driving from Newark to Napa and back every day, planning a salt harvest and constructing a shipping facility. Although the drive everyday did wear on me, knowing where I was going to start my day made it all worth it.

Today I have the honor of speaking for Cargill, and telling you a little bit about this property. But first, I would like to start off by recognizing our longstanding and extremely dedicated partners on this project (and other projects in the South Bay), the people at the California Department of Fish and Game, specifically Tom Huffman, Karen Taylor and Larry Wyckoff. We've been working together for many years to manage the wildlife habitat, going back to when this was an operating salt facility. And we've rolled up our sleeves and solved many challenges over the years, which has led us to today's celebration.

As you all know, this property, like much of the Bay's shoreline, underwent a great transformation 100+ years ago. Originally converted for agricultural purposes, the property was used for salt making from 1952 to 1993.

Then, in 1994, a new and equally great era of transformation began. It began on the west side of the Napa River, when Cargill donated and sold 10,000 acres of salt ponds to the state - lands that have been managed ever since by DFG. At that time, it was the largest dedication of land to wetlands restoration anywhere on the Bay and was viewed as "essential to the success of regional wetland restoration efforts." This was partly made possible by the Shell Oil Spill Litigation Trust Fund, headed by Will Travis of BCDC. At the time, this was Cargill's largest environmental contribution in the company's 145 year history, something our employees are extremely proud of.

In 2003, that landmark status was surpassed when Cargill complete the transfer of the Napa facility, as part of the 16,500-acre donation and sale of salt-making properties, most of which was in the South Bay, but did include the Napa plant site. Since 1994, Cargill has remained involved and engaged with DFG working to prepare the site so that this day would become a reality.

Together, working side-by-side, we've addressed a multitude of technical issues - all with a mind to achieve the best site-specific results. We are tremendously proud to have played a role in that effort. Cargill's overall contribution to wildlife habitat and land transfers in the San Francisco Bay Area now exceeds 40,000 acres and more than 73 miles of public access to the Bay Trail, and includes donations of land values exceeding $150 million.

This is a record our employees are very proud of. Our contributions have been made possible through the corporate support we've received and a company ethic to "walk the talk" on the environment.

But this has been a group effort from day one, and that terrific public/private partnership is on display here today.

Our partners include the acquisition teams at the WCB; all the dedicated people at DFG; the Resources Legacy Fund and the Hewlett, Packard, Moore Foundations and Goldman Fund, who helped kick start this acquisition and, although their role is not as great here in Napa as it is in the South Bay, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who managed the 2003 acquisition process.

I wanted to provide you with a little background and personal history of the site, but the focus of today properly belongs to the work that has taken place just to the south of us. With planning and oversight by DFG and their consultants along with funding by NOAA and construction management by Ducks Unlimited, this project has come to fruition. And let's not forget the actual construction of the project - made possible by Galindo Construction. Thank you for all your leadership and your participation in his project.

I would also like to take this opportunity to recognize my colleagues at Cargill, Barbara Ransom, Butch Paredes, Terry Lewis and now-retired Carl Gamma for their knowledge, tireless efforts, attention to detail and their desire to see this project through from the beginning to end.

What we are witnessing here today, without a doubt, is a real example of a public/private collaborative partnership that continues to grow and can make some wonderful things happen. Through this partnership, we've kept our focus on the ultimate goal, and here we are today to celebrate our achievement, together.

I would like to say, from the heart, and I think I'm speaking for everyone at Cargill, it's an honor and a pleasure to be part of this partnership. Thank you.