The Case for Swift Action on Wetland Restoration

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently released its fifth Climate Change Assessment Report. The report says restoring shoreline areas and taking other ecosystem-based adaptation steps can help coastal communities prepare for climate change, and also provide mitigation benefits. See our previous blog on the subject.

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We need to act quickly because the effects of climate change are already being felt, as detailed in a recently released National Climate Assessment by the federal government.

Though wetland restoration will not be the only tool in our kit to prepare our communities for climate change, there is virtually no downside to performing this restoration now, and a tremendous potential upside on the mitigation front. New studies are proving the ability of wetlands to sequester carbon in larger amounts than previously thought.

The good news is that wetland restoration is proceeding at a faster pace around the Bay than ever before, while a potential ballot measure by the Bay Restoration Authority in November could help our region start new projects that await funding and finish projects in progress now.

Here’s a status update on several prominent planned and in progress restoration projects that hold the greatest potential to protect communities from sea level rise and flooding caused by climate change:

Bair Island – Since being saved from development in the 1990’s, Bair Island has been a focal point of restoration in San Francisco Bay. Last spring, a pedestrian bridge was installed to connect Inner Bair with Uccelli Blvd, and project managers expect to formally complete restoration of Bair Island’s 3,000 acres this fall. Bair Island is in Redwood City, a low-lying city of 79,000 people. Its restoration will be an important part of Redwood City’s readiness for sea level rise.

Hamilton Field – A model for reuse, Hamilton Field was once a bustling military base along the Marin County shoreline. Earlier this spring, the decade-long restoration project was completed, returning this site to its natural state. Hamilton is north of San Rafael and adjacent to Bell Marin Keys, a community of 700 homes that sits 10 feet or less above sea level.

Cullinan Ranch – Cullinan Ranch’s 1,500 acres of restorable habitat along Hwy 37 were saved from development in the 1980s. Situated north of the City of Vallejo, this site will provide much needed habitat while continuing to protect the highway from flooding and sea level rise.

Eden Landing – The 1,000+ acres of Eden Landing mix the remnants of industrial salt manufacturing with restoration to create 50 nesting islands for migratory shorebirds including the endangered California clapper rail. Public access trails are slated to open in 2015. Eden Landing is situated near the San Mateo Bridge.

Ravenswood Ponds – Adjacent to the Facebook campus at the foot of the Dumbarton Bridge in an area prone to flooding, Ravenswood is one of the most visible interactions between the Bay and the built environment. Major restoration was completed in 2010, but volunteers continue to work on restoring native plants to the site.