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Contact: John A. Dell’Osso, 415-464-5135
Contact: Brannon Ketcham, 415-464-5192
The National Park Service (NPS) announced today the release of the Giacomini Wetland Restoration Project Final Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report (FEIS/EIR). The FEIS/EIR has been developed in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The Giacomini Wetland Restoration Project proposes to restore more than 600 acres of wetland within the Waldo Giacomini Ranch and Olema Marsh, as well as to incorporate opportunities for the public to experience and enjoy the restored wetlands.
In 2000, the Park Service acquired the Waldo Giacomini Ranch for the purpose of wetland restoration. Because the Giacomini Ranch is in the northern district of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA), it is managed by Point Reyes National Seashore (Seashore). The Seashore and Audubon Canyon Ranch jointly own Olema Marsh. The Giacomini Ranch and Olema Marsh represent approximately 12 percent of the total wetlands present along the outer central California coast, excluding San Francisco Bay. The NPS is the lead agency under NEPA and the agency managing the proposed project. The California State Lands Commission (CSLC), which owns the portion of Lagunitas Creek within the Project Area, is the lead agency under CEQA.
Release of the Final EIS/EIR is a key milestone in development of this landmark wetland restoration project, which would enhance the quality and functionality of more than 50 percent of wetlands within Tomales Bay. Planning for the proposed project was initiated in 2001, shortly after the Giacomini Ranch was purchased. Since then, the NPS and CSLC have conducted detailed studies and computer modeling to identify and characterize existing resources and issues and some of the complex technical challenges involved in restoring the Giacomini Ranch and Olema Marsh and incorporating public access opportunities. Throughout this process, the agencies have worked hard to involve the public and regulatory and local agencies in planning efforts through an extensive number of public meetings and workshops.
The Draft Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report (DEIS/EIR) was circulated for public review and comment for approximately 60 days, with the public comment period ending February 14, 2007. Responses to comments submitted to the Park Service and CSLC by agencies, organizations, and individuals during the public comment period are included in Chapter 5.
Principal differences between the draft and final EIS/EIR include change in the preferred alternative, slight modification to Alternative D, and slight changes to impact determination. Based on agency and public comment, the Park Service decided to select Alternative D rather than Alternative C as the lead agencies’ preferred alternative in the FEIS/EIR. Alternative D is the lead agencies’ preferred alternative, because it best meets the purpose of restoring wetlands while also meeting the agencies’ objective of providing public access opportunities that allow visitors and residents to experience and enjoy the restored wetland. Alternative D is also the environmentally preferred alternative, because it provides the most restoration. Alternative D has been slightly modified to improve restoration potential and access opportunities, without causing more than a negligible change in the level of impacts.
During the comment period, it became clear that certain elements of the southern perimeter trail require further planning and analysis, and was therefore considered “not ripe for decision” by NEPA standards. While Alternative D does not include a non-vehicular bridge across Lagunitas Creek, as was proposed under Alternative C, the Park Service would commit to working in the future with the County of Marin and other agencies on development of additional access facilities on the southern perimeter, including a potential trail along Levee Road and Green Bridge, extension of a trail to Inverness Park, and/or construction of a non-vehicular bridge across Lagunitas Creek at the site of the old summer dam through a separate planning process. Alternative D also includes addition of an ADA-compliant access to be provided at the White House Pool County Park.
The Giacomini Wetland Restoration Project is somewhat unique within the NPS, because most of the funding has been raised from external sources. The NPS received mitigation monies from the California Department of Transportation to purchase the Waldo Giacomini Ranch and to initiate planning and wetland restoration efforts. The Point Reyes National Seashore Association (PRNSA), a non-profit organization that provides direct and indirect support to the Seashore, has been spearheading efforts to raise more funds. Since 2004, the Point Reyes National Seashore Association (PRNSA), a non-profit organization that provides support to the Seashore, has raised more than $5.0 million in non-NPS funds for implementing the proposed restoration project. Reaching this milestone is a testament to the effective working relationship PRNSA has with the Park, according to Sally Bolger, Acting Executive Director. Fund sources include The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, North American Wetlands Conservation Act, National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Program, the California Water Resources Control Board (Prop 50), California State Coastal Conservancy, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation – Northern California Restoration Grant.
The FEIS/EIR documents some of the important benefits that wetland restoration can provide for wildlife and humans. 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. Because of its importance to wildlife, Tomales Bay is not only part of the Golden Gate 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). 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 salmon, federally endangered tidewater goby, and other species of concern such as the saltmarsh common yellowthroat and the southwestern river otter.
The FEIS/EIR is available on-line from the Seashore’s website at http://www.nps.gov/pore/parkmgmt/planning_giacomini_wrp.htm. To spare precious natural resources and costs to the park, we encourage you to view the plan digitally. If you wish to obtain a CD or hardcopy version of the document, you may email the park (in subject line type: Giacomini Wetlands Restoration Plan) and a copy will be mailed to you.
In conjunction with this release, the CSLC board will consider certification of the FEIS/EIR at their meeting scheduled for June 28, 2007. This meeting is noticed at the CSLC web site http://www.slc.ca.gov/.
With consideration of all public and agency comments, and following careful review of the FEIS/EIR, the Regional Director, Pacific West Region will make the final decision on the plan. A record of Decision may be signed by the Regional Director not sooner than 30 days after the EPA’s publication of the notice of filing of the FEIS/EIR in the Federal Register. Notice of the final decision will also be posted in the Federal Register and on the park’s web site and a press release will be sent to local and regional newspapers. Following approval of the Giacomini Wetland Restoration Project, the official responsible for implementation will be the Superintendent, Point Reyes National Seashore.