Restoration and Enhancement Projects
The Marin Audubon Society (MAS) began to implement wetland habitat restoration and enhancement projects in the early-1980s. Our restoration activities began with MAS’s removal of water hyacinth from Smith Ranch Road Pond, San Rafael, in the early 1980s. Subsequently MAS assisted the City of Larkspur with enhancement of the Remillard Pond, and the Richardson Bay Sanitary District with the enhancement of a pond along the Tiburon bike path. Since that time we have successfully completed the projects on properties owned by the City of San Rafael, County of Marin, the California Department of Fish and Game, and the Marin County Open Space District (MCOSD) as well as properties owned by MAS. The map below shows locations of restoration projects we have been involved in.
1. SMITH RANCH ROAD POND ENHANCEMENT - MAS removed water hyacinth, a highly invasive exotic plant, which was invading this fresh water pond along Marsh Preserve. The MCOSD is in the process of moving Smith Ranch Road in San Rafael. The pond is owned by the City of San Rafael. Funding from the City of San Rafael, Marin Audubon and the Marin County Wildlife and Fisheries Advisory Committee enabled MAS to hire a harvester and operator to remove the invasive plants. All of the plants were successfully removed in the Spring of 1987, after MAS volunteers labored for about nine months pulling plants out by hand.
2. REDWOOD HIGH SCHOOL MARSH ENHANCEMENT PROJECT - In 1986, MAS received grants from the Coastal Conservancy and the Marin Community Foundation that enabled us to develop and implement a plan to enhance this 11-acre diked salt marsh. The wetland is owned by the Tamalpias Unified School District and is adjacent to Redwood High School. The enhancement involved deepening and widening channels in the marsh to improve circulation and fish habitat, installing a tide gate and culvert to improve water circulation, removing invasive non-native plants, planting native plants on the adjacent upland, and installing fencing around the site to discourage people and dogs from entering the habitat. The project construction was followed by five years of monitoring.
3. CORTE MADERA ECOLOGICAL RESERVE RESTORATION PROJECT -One acre of filled land was restored to tidal action and a refuge island for endangered California Clapper Rail and Black Rail, a candidate species for listing, was created at the Ecological Reserve in 1990. The Reserve is owned by the California Department of Fish and Game. Funds were provided by two dischargers who violated water quality criteria and the Regional Water Quality Control Board’s Administrative Civil Liability program. A five-year monitoring program followed construction. Some marsh plants colonized within six months, cordgrass took almost five years.
4. GALLINAS CREEK RESTORATION (Phase One) - This restoration was completed in three phases, each with different funding. Phase One was implemented in 1992 with Administrative Civil Liability funds for sewage spills by nearby sanitary agencies, plus a grant from the Coastal Conservancy to develop the overall design plan. The site is owned by the State Lands Commission and was leased by the Department of Fish and Game to allow this project to be implemented. The project restored two and one-half acres of filled land to tidal marsh, and enhanced approximately one-third acre of seasonal wetlands and uplands. This first phase included removal of fill, excavation of channels, and breaching a levee to restore about one-half acre of filled land to tidal marsh. The Marin Community Foundation provided funding for development of the overall plan.
5. GALLINAS CREEK RESTORATION (Phase Two) - This phase was implemented in 1992 with Administrative Civil Liability funding from another sewage spill. Approximately 500 cubic yards of fill was excavated and about one-quarter acre restored to tidal action.
6. GALLINAS CREEK RESTORATION (Phase Three) - The third and final phase of this project was completed in January 1997 with funding from the Marin Community Foundation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, San Francisco Bay Program, and the Environmental Protection Agency.
7. MILL VALLEY RESTORATION PROJECT - Administrative Civil Liability funds for sewage spills in the Richardson Bay area funded this project that was implemented in 1993. Part of an old railroad levee and a collapsed culvert were removed to restore an area of tidal marsh, isolate a section of levee for a high tide refuge island for shorebirds, and improve circulation to the adjacent tidal marsh in Mill Valley marshes owned by the Marin County Open Space District.
8. DAVIDSON MIDDLE SCHOOL ENHANCEMENT - Administrative Civil Liability funds from a spill in San Rafael provided funding to (1) develop and distribute brochures to local businesses on proper handling of industrial toxic substances, and (2) implement an enhancement project for a creek that flows through the Davidson Middle School grounds. The enhancement involved purchasing and planting the native plants along the creek banks. The project was a joint effort with the Friends of Corte Madera Creek Watershed. Students from Davidson’s Environmental Club helped with the planting.
9. REDWOOD HIGH SCHOOL MARSH MOSQUITO ABATEMENT CHANNEL - This project took place at the same marsh as the Redwood High School Marsh (Project 2 above). It was implemented in response to vegetation damage caused by the Marin/Sonoma Mosquito Abatement District’s driving equipment through the marsh to spray Bacillus therengensus, which left track damage in the marsh. MAS widened and deepened several existing channels and the Mosquito Abatement District created small channels to drain several low areas that were ponding and producing mosquitoes. The project was implemented in 1995 and was followed by three years of monitoring.
10. BOTHIN MARSH FENCING - Using Administrative Civil Liability funds again, MAS hired a contractor to install fencing to prevent renters of an adjacent property from moving debris onto the wetlands and adjacent uplands of Bothin Marsh.
11. RUSH CREEK/CEMETERY MARSH ENHANCEMENT PROJECT -MAS obtained Administrative Civil Liability funds from two sources, and grants from the Marin County Department of Public Works and the MCOSD, the State Coastal Conservancy, the Wildlife Conservation Board, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service San Francisco Bay Program, NAWCA, and the Marin Community Foundation to successfully complete this project. The project consisted of excavating channels to improve circulation within the two marshes and replacing several tide gates. Construction was completed in 1999. The 230-acre Rush Creek marsh is owned by the California Department of Fish and Game and the 50-acre Cemetery Marsh is owned by the MCOSD. Both of these marshes are managed by the MCOSD as part of the Rush Creek Open Space Preserve.
12. TRIANGLE MARSH RESTORATION PROJECT - When it was acquired by MAS, Triangle Marsh had been partially filled by a developer in anticipation of a housing project. MAS obtained funds to undertake a restoration project on its Triangle Marsh property from the North American Wetlands Conservation Act. Mitigation funds from San Quentin for a project along that shoreline and Caltrans for retrofitting of the bridge over Corte Madera Creek. The restoration project was designed by Wetlands and Water Resources of San Rafael and consisted of removal of fill that had been imported to build houses, excavation of a channel connecting to the bay and constructing a berm along Paradise Drive with the fill removed to restore tidal marsh. Some of the fill that was removed was retained on-site to provide a buffer between the road and the marsh, and the remainder was trucked to Redwood Landfill to be used as cover material. The construction contractor was Cooper Crane and Rigging.
The channel has revegetated with Pickleweed, Grindelia and other native plants the seeds of which were carried in by the tides and deposited along with sediments. The berm was planted with upland plants but it takes the efforts of ongoing work parties of volunteers to maintain this vegetation and remove non-native plants. Broom and Harding grass have been particular problems requiring removal.
13. PETALUMA MARSH RESTORATION PROJECT - The 182 acre Petaluma Marsh property mostly consisted of diked former baylands, which was used for cattle grazing. In order to become a part of the Petaluma Marsh system the diked baylands needed to be restored to tidal action. Restoration of this property consisted of constructing a half-mile long dike to protect the railroad tracks from washout once tidal action was restored. Philip Williams and Associates prepared this project design, and the construction contractor was Cooper Crane and Rigging. As part of the restoration a number of abandoned hunters shacks along Mud Slough had to be removed. Volunteers continue to work to remove non-native vegetation.
14. BAHIA RESTORATION PROJECT - In 2009 MAS completed a project at Bahia to restore 317 acres owned by the California Department of Fish and Game and 61 acres owned by MAS. This project was designed by Philip Williams and Associates and had the objective of opening up much of the former baylands to tidal action. The construction contractor was Cooper Crane and Rigging. The main objective has been to extend the available habitat for the endangered California Clapper Rail, which already inhabits the existing marshes in the Bahia area. More on Bahia here.
Pickleweed (Salicornia spp.) is quickly establishing itself in the tidal zone. Growing beds have been constructed for raising creeping wild rye (Leymus triticoides) and other native plant species for planting upland areas. Volunteers with the help of the Watershed Nursery of Berkeley have been working to remove non-native vegetation which volunteers after a construction project.
An easement agreement with the Bahia Homeowners Association provides access across MAS property to their lagoon for recreational purposes. Signs have been installed to show the extent of the public access area and the areas being restored as wildlife habitat.
Extensive public access is available on approximately five miles of trails managed by the MCOSD on the Blue Oak wooded hills adjacent to the restored tidal area.