After almost 10 years of planning and a nearly $18 million fundraising effort, Ducks Unlimited and the Sonoma Land Trust broke ground on the 2,327-acre Sears Point Restoration Project along San Pablo Bay in early June. It is slated to be the largest private tidal marsh restoration project in the San Francisco Bay area and one of the largest on the West Coast.
With media, local residents, and DU and Sonoma Land Trust staff in attendance, workers manning bulldozers and an excavator began work to reintroduce tides that will restore vital habitats for wildlife, protect against sea-level rise, improve water quality, and expand the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge. More than 85 percent of San Francisco Bay's historical tidal wetlands have been lost since the late 1800s, when marshes were drained extensively for agriculture to supply the growing city of San Francisco.
"Sonoma Land Trust has spearheaded an incredible effort to restore this land," said DU Regional Biologist Renee Spenst. "Once the tides are restored, a nearly instantaneous conversion from managed agricultural land to habitat for waterfowl, fish, and other wildlife will take place before our eyes."
"The Sears Point project goes a long way toward meeting habitat goals in the San Francisco Bay region, an area that is vitally important to diving ducks," said Mark Biddlecomb, director of DU's Western Region. "Working with Sonoma Land Trust, as well as our federal, state, and other funding partners, we've been able to restore a place that will benefit people, waterfowl, shorebirds, and a host of other wildlife for generations to come."
Along with the tidal marsh restoration, the Sears Point project also calls for enhancing more than 1,300 acres of seasonal wetlands, stream corridors, and grasslands north of the new marsh. In fall 2015, an aging levee will be breached in what should be a fascinating spectacle for public viewing.