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Contact: John Dell'Osso, 415-464-5135
Point Reyes National Seashore, the Coastal Conservancy, and the Point Reyes National Seashore Association announced today that the Giacomini Wetlands Restoration Project received a $1.0 million grant from the National Coastal Wetlands Program. These grants under the National Coastal Wetlands Grant Program will help conserve, restore and protect coastal wetlands. The Giacomini Wetlands project was one of 25 projects nationwide that was selected for grants funds. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service granted $18.8 million to 14 states last week. States receiving funds from the National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program include Alaska, California, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.
Through the Giacomini Wetlands project, the National Park Service (NPS) and its state partner, the California State Lands Commission (CSLC), are proposing to restore more than 600 acres of wetland and floodplain habitat at the head of TomalesBay. Because of its importance to wildlife, TomalesBay is not only part of the Central California Coastal Biosphere Reserve, but in 2002, was nominated as a wetland of international importance under an international treaty called the Convention on Wetlands (commonly known as the Ramsar Convention). Natural wetlands provide habitat and food for hundreds of estuarine and marine wildlife species, many of which are listed by state and federal agencies as threatened or endangered. Some of the species expected to benefit from this project include the state threatened California black rail, federally and state endangered California clapper rail, federally endangered central California coast Coho salmon, federally threatened central California coastal steelhead trout, federally endangered tidewater goby, and other species of concern such as the saltmarsh common yellowthroat and the southwestern river otter.
Since 2004, the Point Reyes National Seashore Association (PRNSA), a non-profit organization that provides support to the Seashore, has been spearheading efforts to raise more than $5.0 million in non-NPS funds for implementing the proposed restoration project. The PRNSA has now raised $5.2 million for this project. Reaching this milestone is a testament to the effective working relationship PRNSA has with the Park, according to Sally Bolger, Acting Executive Director. Other fund sources include The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, North American Wetlands Conservation Act, Watershed Council of the State of California Water Control Board (Prop 50), and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation – Northern California Restoration Grant.
Decades ago, people did not recognize the vital importance of wetlands and treated them as worthless wastelands that should either be reclaimed for agriculture or used for dumping. Once the values of wetlands were finally recognized, many of them had already been eliminated or degraded. Restored wetlands not only support wildlife, but also can provide other important benefits such as reducing flooding, improving water quality, and providing recreational opportunities and support of mariculture and fisheries industries.
The benefits to estuarine and marine species from restoring coastal wetlands in Tomales Bay may take on added importance in coming years given the precarious state of ocean fisheries, which a recent study in Science predicted could be on the verge of collapse from overfishing by the middle of the 21st century.
The Giacomini Wetland Restoration Project focuses on enhancing the quality and functionality of wetlands within the Giacomini Ranch and Olema Marsh by restoring natural hydrologic and ecological processes rather than attempting to recreate historic conditions or design a specific mix of wetland habitats. Natural hydrologic processes include those flooding and sediment transport or conveyance processes influenced by tides and by creeks flowing into TomalesBay from the upper portions of the watershed. Hydrologic and ecological processes and functions would be restored within the Giacomini Ranch and Olema Marsh by removing sources of pollution, discontinuing harmful management activities, and/or removing or improving infrastructure that limit or eliminate hydrologic processes such as levees, tidegates, and culverts.
Water quality in TomalesBay has suffered from a number of anthropogenic impacts, including agriculture, failing septic systems, mercury mining, landfill operations, and oil spills. Because of these impacts, the San Francisco Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) declared waters of TomalesBay and some of its creeks as impaired for sediment, pathogens, nutrients, and mercury under Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act. The potential value of the proposed project to improving TomalesBay water quality is underscored by the fact that studies have shown two-thirds of water flowing into the Bay – and therefore the principal source of contaminants – comes from Lagunitas Creek and its tributaries. Increased connectivity of floodwaters with floodplains could also improve water quality, because floodwaters carry sediments, nutrients, pathogens, and contaminants that could now be deposited on floodplains rather than transported downstream to TomalesBay.