South Bay Salt Ponds Restoration Project’s May 2013 Newsletter

  • by BPC Staff
  • on May 30, 2013

May 2013 Newsletter

Volume 30

Upcoming Events
and Meetings
More events, including volunteer restoration opportunities, are listed on the Events and Meetings section of the project web site.

Save the Date

Restoration Project Science Symposium
Tuesday, July 16
USGS, Menlo Park

San Francisco Estuary Partnership State of the Estuary Conference
Tues-Wed, October 29-30
Oakland Marriott at City Center, Oakland

June 2013

Drawbridge Van Excursion
Saturday, June 1
Saturday, July 6
Saturday, August 18
2:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Environmental Education Center, Alviso

There?s a ghost town in the San Francisco Bay? That?s right! Nestled on an island in the salt marshes of South San Francisco Bay, the town of Drawbridge once boomed. Was it a quiet, peaceful town full of nature lovers, or a rip-roaring town full of two-fisted rowdies? Find out at this program, led by Ceal Craig. We?ll start with a slideshow and then take a short van excursion to view Drawbridge across Coyote Creek. Note: we do not visit the town itself ? we go to the closest spot that one can legally view Drawbridge. Program is intended for adults and space is very limited. RESERVATIONS ARE ESSENTIAL. Call Debra at 408-262-5513 ext. 102.

Explore Bay Ecology at Eden Landing Ecological Reserve
Saturday, June 1
9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Eden Landing Ecological Reserve, Hayward

Can you list the major functions of wetlands or name one animal that relies on our hard work? How many different species of San Francisco Bay mammals do you know? What?s the difference between a native plant and an invasive weed? If you know the answer to any of these questions, please come out and share your knowledge. If not, we invite you to come out and learn! Volunteers will help us remove invasive species while our project leaders teach the importance of wetland restoration. More info.

Habitat Under Construction
Bike Ride – Alviso
Saturday, June 22
Saturday, July 13
Saturday, August 24
10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Environmental Education Center, Alviso

The South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project is engaged in an effort to convert former salt ponds into lands for wildlife habitat, wildlife-oriented recreation, and natural flood protection. Join Park Ranger Jose Garcia in this bike ride and learn about the structure of several different habitats which make up the bay front. Helmets required. Water and other safety gear recommended. PowerPoint will be substituted in case of inclement weather. Call 510-792-0222 ext. 141 for more information.

Refuge Rambler Walk
Saturday, June 29
8:30 a.m.

Moffett Bay Trail, Sunnyvale

Meet new people while getting fit and healthy! This 6.7-mile trail is a compacted dirt levee that is flat and level. The walk is self-paced and you may turn back at any time. No reservations are needed. Hats, water, and sunscreen are strongly recommended. A Refuge Representative will be there to greet you. More info.

July 2013

Midsummer’s Bay Restoration at Eden Landing or Ravenswood
Saturday, July 13
9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Eden Landing Ecological Reserve, Hayward/Union City
Ravenswood Ponds, Menlo Park

Shakespeare and his cast of colorful characters would be proud of the habitat restoration we are completing in the wetlands! A chorus of birds and a bevy of magnificent mammals await your presence. Please join us for a morning of invasive plant removal and help use prepare the site to receive its next batch of native plants come winter.

More info and RSVP
for Eden Landing Event

More info and RSVP
for Ravenswood Event

August 2013

Power to the Plants at Eden Landing
Saturday, August 3
9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Eden Landing Ecological Reserve, Hayward/Union City

Enjoy Bay breezes and the sweet sound of bird songs as you prepare former salt ponds for the next batch of native seedlings. You will play a vital role in the largest wetland restoration project on the West Coast. Invasive plants and trash may think they?ve won. Let?s show them that the native plants are here to stay! Come learn about the exciting changes happening at Eden Landing Ecological Reserve. More info.

Habitat Under Construction
– Menlo Park
Saturday, August 10
10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Bayfront Park, Menlo Park

The South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project is coming to the end of Phase 1 restoration and beginning Phase 2. Take a nature trail walk with Park Ranger Jose Garcia and enjoy the abundant wildlife. Come see and be a part of the exciting transition. Call 510-792-0222 ext. 141 for more information. Children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult.

Photo Credits: Judy Irving, Cris Benton, Carleton Watkins

For a complete list of our partners, major donors and participants, see here.

Become a Friend of the
Salt Ponds on Facebook

Want to receive regular updates, interesting trivia and the latest pictures and videos about the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration? Join us on Facebook.

Salt Ponds Restoration Celebrates 10 Years of Hard Work & Progress

This year, 2013, marks the 10th anniversary of the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project.

It was in March 2003 that 26 square miles of land were transferred from Cargill Salt to state and federal land management agencies, after months of careful negotiations and preparations, setting the stage for the largest coastal wetlands restoration project in California history.

After the transfer, many people — activists, agency and local government leaders, scientists, business representatives — helped us craft a long-term restoration plan that sets an initial goal of turning a minimum of 50% of the area into tidal marsh. The plan calls for adaptive management, using strategically designed scientific studies to evaluate and refine our progress.

Since that time, Project managers have been working to transform the landscape in a way that will best support a diversity of plants and animals, from secretive marsh dwellers like the endangered clapper rail and salt marsh harvest mouse, to many species of fish, to the thousands of shorebirds who stop here along the Pacific Flyway to rest and nest.

  • We have opened up more than 3000 acres of ponds to the Bay, achieving about 40% so far of our initial goal.
  • We have enhanced about 480 acres of ponds by adding islands for nesting and equipment to create the shallow water that shorebirds like, achieving about 30% of our pond-enhancement goal.

Managers are also working to build more trails and other public amenities so people can come down to the Bay and enjoy themselves.

And the Project and its partners are working to enhance flood protection, planning for a suite of wide and sloping levees that can support plants and animals escaping rising tides.

Scientists continue to conduct the key research to inform our next steps.

We will celebrate the 10th anniversary at the late afternoon poster-viewing and reception at the end of our biennial Science Symposium, on Tuesday, July 16, as USGS in Menlo Park. While space at the event is limited by the size of venue, we still have more tickets (which are free) available. Ticket information

Additional information about Project progress through 2012 is available in the latest Annual Report, which can be viewed and downloaded from our website here.

We reminisce about the early days of the Restoration Project in this edition’s Faces of the Restoration, below, through an interview with Pat Mapelli of Cargill, one of the many people involved in the Project’s infancy, who helped our wildlife managers learn a thing or two about taking care of salt ponds.

On the Ground:
Track Our Progress at the Ponds

Alviso: New Nesting Islands and Reopened Loop Trail!

Birds are already nesting at Pond A16 after construction crews finished sculpting 16 new islands there this spring. The completion of enhancement work at Pond A16 doubles the amount of enhanced ponds at the Project to a total of about 480 acres.

The $6.5 million cost of construction for Pond A16 and neighboring Pond A17, which was opened to the Bay on Halloween 2012, was paid for by:

  • US Fish and Wildlife Service, $4 million
  • California Department of Water Resources, $1.265 million
  • US EPA, $725,000
  • State Coastal Conservancy, $625,000

The work paid for lowering levees and breaching Pond A17, constructing the 16 new islands, installing a new automatic fish screen and new pond outlet structures, and improving the newly reconfigured Mallard Slough Trail with a viewing platform and interpretive signs.

Plovers, avocets and stilts are mainly nesting on exposed areas of the pond bottom, although a couple avocets have created nests on the new islands built just for birds. Chicks have already hatched.

To visit, see more information and a link to the new trail map here.

Eden Landing: If You Drain It, They Will Come

Nesting snowy plovers have slowed construction work at Eden Landing this spring. Construction workers have a big job underway at Eden Landing, where they are developing a 230-acre mosaic of bird ponds that will host different salinity levels to suit multiple species. When ponds were drained dry for toiling humans, the moonscape became attractive to another animal: the threatened western snowy plover, which historically used beaches and alkaline flats for nest sites. Biologists at the San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory now count 35 nests at the construction zone, along with 28 plover nests elsewhere at Eden Landing. Work will start again once plovers leave the site some time this summer. Workers here will eventually be building an extensive network of trails to a historic saltworks, and a kayak launch. Work is expected to be complete by the end of 2014. A year of wildlife surveying will follow, with trails likely opening in early 2016.

Ravenswood: Smoothing the Way for Chicks
At the Ravenswood ponds, managers used the Refuge’s new amphibious tractor this spring to grade some of the nesting islands at Pond SF2 in an effort to reduce cracks that could trap chicks. So far this spring, a handful of plovers have nested on the dry plover nesting area of SF2 and on one nesting island.

Sister Project at Bair Island Moves Forward
A sister restoration effort at the Refuge’s Bair Island has breached all of the outer and middle island to the Bay, and erected a new pedestrian bridge. For more information, see the Refuge website here.

Phase 2 Planning: Scoping Meeting in September

Planning for our suite of Phase 2 construction projects continues to progress, with consultants in the process of developing environmental analyses of potential actions at the Ravenswood and Alviso ponds. A public scoping session for the environmental analyses will be held at our annual Stakeholder Forum meeting, which has been scheduled for Tuesday, September 24.

Meanwhile, we are working with our partner, the Alameda County Flood Control Agency, on Phase 2 planning for Eden Landing. The Agency is working with the rest of the management team to develop scenarios for restoration and flood risk management projects there.

Science Updates:
Scientists Find Increased Mercury
in Birds & Fish Near Alviso

One of the key challenges for the Project is how to manage habitats in parts of the South Bay where mud is contaminated with mercury from the largest historic quicksilver mine in North America. The old New Almaden mine site in the hills above San Jose is drained by the Guadalupe River into Alviso Slough and our surrounding Alviso Pond Complex. Read More…

Other Science News

  • Science Symposium: As noted above, space is still available at the Project’s biennial Science Symposium, to be held Tuesday, July 16 at the USGS campus in Menlo Park. To register for the free event, or to view the event by webinar, go here
  • Bird Response to Trails: One of the goals of the Project is to provide access for people to enjoy bird watching, walking, biking and similar activities. However, we also want to do this in a way that protects the number of different birds that use the ponds at various times of the year. Lynne Trulio of San Jose State University has been studying how nesting snowy plovers and wintering waterfowl and shorebirds respond to people walking on trails. Her studies found that nesting snowy plovers were the most sensitive, with birds flushing from the nests when people approached closer than about 500 feet. Wintering waterfowl were also quite sensitive, needing a buffer of about 400 feet between where they are feeding in the ponds and the trail. Wintering shorebirds were the least sensitive, needing a buffer distance of about 164 feet between where they are feeding and the trail. Researchers found birds were less disturbed if the trails were bordered by wide ditches. Managers will use this information to determine where to best locate new trails to minimize impacts on birds.

Faces of the Restoration: Pat Mapelli

Pat Mapelli is a Real Property Manager for Cargill. In his work for the salt-making company, he was a key participant 10 years ago in facilitating the birth and successful infancy of the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project. He was responsible for making sure Cargill lands met certain standards before they could be transferred to state and federal land managers. He and others at Cargill worked for the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge to install early infrastructure necessary for operating Alviso ponds for wildlife. And he worked with Restoration Project managers, including then-Refuge Manager Clyde Morris and Alviso ponds manager Eric Mruz [now Refuge Manager], to pass along his knowledge and experience keeping levees and other pond infrastructure maintained in the face of harsh winds, strong waves, and goopy Bay muds. “They have been a tremendous help to the Refuge over the years, and we would not be where we are today without Cargill’s help,” Eric Mruz says. Along with sitting on the Project’s Stakeholder Forum, Pat also is a board member of the San Francisco Bay Trail. Read More…

New Project Website Design

The Restoration Project has redesigned our website at The new website is wider and allows us to better display images of the restoration, as well as a new Google Earth fly-over video that helps those less acquainted with the Project understands its geography. We aim to make the website useful and easy for visitors; as always, we welcome your feedback and comments. Feel free to provide them via this link to our comment form.

Benton Salt Ponds Photos Grace New Exploratorium

Kite photographer Cris Benton’s artwork is exhibited at the Exploratorium’s new San Francisco waterfront home. Cris, a UC Berkeley professor emeritus of architecture, captures beautiful aerial images of both salt-production ponds and restored landscapes along the South Bay. The hands-on science museum commissioned his work to wrap up a stairway connecting two exhibit halls. The Exploratorium celebrated the grand opening of its new Pier 15 building on the Embarcadero in April; Cris talks about and shares photos of the exhibit in a blog entry here. His work will soon be featured in a book, to be published by Berkeley-based non-profit publisher Heyday this fall.

Salt Pond Restoration in the News

A compendium of recent media coverage

  • San Francisco Bay is designated by the federal government as a wetland of importance under the international Ramsar Convention: Article
  • Bay Nature looks at how the Shoreline Study is working to protect low-lying Silicon Valley from tidal flooding and sea level rise: Article
  • Terraced “horizontal levees” – such as those the Project is planning – that could provide refuges for wildlife in the face of sea level rise are discussed in the San Jose Mercury News: Article
  • Our surveys finding 41 species of native fish in and around our restored marshes gets noted as Outdoor Life magazine highlights a new report “More Habitat Means More Fish”: Article
  • Project Lead Scientist Laura Valoppi discusses the Project’s adaptive management approach in the North American Bird Conservation Initiative’s All-Bird Bulletin: Article
  • All about mud and its importance in building restored Bay wetlands: Article
  • The National Geographic website features RISE, a radio series on climate change and the Bay Area, that includes an episode the community of Alviso: Link