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South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project
February 2011   Volume 25

South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project Upcoming Events and Meetings
Complete listing here

Eden Landing Working Group Meeting
March 24, 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm

Come hear the latest information about restoring the salt ponds at Eden Landing. This meeting of the Eden Landing Working Group will take place at the Alameda County facility on Turner Court in Hayward. For more details and an agenda check the Events and Meetings section of the project web site.

South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project Beginning Birding Clinic
Saturday, March 5, 9:30 am to 12:00 pm

Winter waterfowl are back! Project work has created fabulous birding opportunities at the Alviso salt ponds. But if you can’t tell your egrets from your cormorants, this class is for you! We’ll learn about binoculars, identification books, and other birding basics through hands-on activities and conversation. Then we’ll go out into the field to practice our new skills. Binoculars and books provided during the class, but if you have your own please bring them. Be prepared to be outdoors in the weather for about an hour. Reservations Required. Please call 408-262-5513 x106 to reserve your spot.

Salt Pond Remodel - A Work in Progress
Saturday, March 19, 11:00 a.m.

Docent Jane Moss will lead you on a 1-mile walk through the ever-changing panoramas surrounding a former salt pond. In the Ravenswood Complex. Learn about the exciting ways this area is being reshaped as wildlife habitat. Trail is easy and level. All ages and abilities welcome. For information, please call 408-262-5513 x106.

Ravenswood Hike
Saturday, March 26, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

The 2.3-mile perimeter trail at Bedwell Bayfront Park offers great opportunities to discover winter wildlife and to discuss how future wetlands restoration will shape this piece of the Bay. Offered by the Don Edwards SF Bay National Wildlife Refuge and the Friends of Bedwell Bayfront Park. Meet at the main parking lot bathrooms at Bedwell Bayfront Park. Call 408-262-5513 x106 for information.

South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project
Earth Day Cleanup
Saturday, April 23, 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Help us protect wildlife and the environment while enjoying great Bay views! Join the refuge and Save the Bay at our Annual Earth Day Cleanup at Ravenswood Point in East Palo Alto. We’ll supply latex gloves and trash bags. Please wear sturdy shoes, a hat, and sunscreen. Prepare to get dirty and to have fun! Minors must be accompanied by an adult. For more information, call 408-262-5513 x106. Reservations are required. Please reserve your spot through Save the Bay here.

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Photo Credits: Cargill Incorporated, Chris Benton, Doug Cordell, Judy Irving,Patricia Kulish, Cheryl Strong, D. Wong.

Planting Seeds for Phase 2!

The Project Management Team is currently considering specific actions for the next phase of restoration. As most readers know, we broke ground on Phase 1 of restoration in 2008 and have completed a large part of the work outlined for that phase. We will base our decisions about what construction and restoration activities to pursue in Phase 2 of the project, in part, on the evaluation of adaptive management information collected to date (see article on Science Symposium below). The overarching guiding principles for the selection of Phase 2 actions are first, to “do no harm” relative to flood impacts, and second, not to deviate significantly from the goal of creating at least 50 percent managed ponds and 50 percent tidal marsh at the restoration site. Until adaptive management results supply us with significant data to the contrary, our plan is to build upon decisions made in previous planning processes.

We outlined the Initial concepts for Phase 2 in an August 2010 memo, and then took those ideas to the public for initial feedback and brainstorming. The Project Management Team will consider the input we received at the Stakeholder Forum meeting, as well as at the Alviso and Ravenswood Working Group meetings in making its final selection of Phase 2 actions. The public can also provide input on Phase 2 actions at the upcoming Eden Landing Working Group or via the website. We anticipate making a decision in late Spring 2011, with a Request for Services for design, permitting and environmental review to follow in the summer of 2011.

On the Ground:
Track Our Progress at Eden Landing, Ravenswood and Alviso

Pond A6 Breached in December

In early December of last year, the tides returned to salt encrusted pond A6, just north of Alviso. Excavators began breaching the levee that surrounds the dry pond in the morning and water from the upcoming tide poured in across the surface of the pond bottom. Pond A6, also known as the Knapp Tract, sits far away from the Bay shoreline, making views of this dramatic levee breach visible only from the air. Fortunately photographer Judy Irving of Pelican Media braved the levees with a few other staff and snapped the photo you see here. Although Pond A6 has subsided over the years, sedimentation studies in the area indicate that new marsh could be established at this site within 5 to 10 years. The restoration will immediately provide habitat for fish and birds, and ultimately for marsh dependent species such as the endangered Salt marsh harvest mouse.

Pond A8 Scheduled to Be Opened This Year

Work is completed on Pond A8 and we expect to open the specially- constructed tide gates at a celebratory event in June. Project managers have allowed enough water into the system to cover the dry bottom of the pond in order to prevent California gulls and other shorebirds from nesting there. Ultimately the pond will provide deep water habitat for pelicans, cormorants and ducks.

Rethinking the Design for Ponds A16 and A17

The final Phase 1 project in the Alviso Complex is the reconfigured pond at A16. This action was delayed due to engineering constraints, and the Project Management Team is in the process of refining the revised restoration concepts. The new design may include a reduction in the number nesting islands and interior berms and the addition of tidal wetland restoration along Coyote Creek in Pond A17. This new tidal restoration component will also mean that changes will be occurring to the trail alignment, both temporarily during construction, as well as over the long-term. When the project is complete, an improved but shorter loop trail will remain with a spur trail out to the edge of Coyote Creek. A new overlook structure and interpretive features will be added to the trail however to make it more accessible and useful for visitors. The project partners are in the process of setting up meetings with the community to discuss these potential changes.

Second Phase of Construction Scheduled for Eden Landing

At the Eden Landing Pond Complex near Hayward, project managers have completed the first of two stages of construction on 630 acres known as Ponds E8A, E9 and E8X. If dry weather continues to hold, they will resume work in the spring prior to Snowy plover nesting season. Otherwise, work will resume this summer after the birds are done nesting. We expect to celebrate the restoration of the ponds this fall with an event scheduled around the breaching of levees. Elsewhere in Eden Landing, design work on Ponds E12 and E13 will begin this spring.

Eden Landing Working Group Scheduled for March

If you are interested in more detailed information about the Eden Landing ponds please attend the next Eden Landing Working Group meeting scheduled for March 24 at 1 pm in Hayward. Check the Events and Meetings page of the project web site for details.

Update on the Ravenswood Ponds

This month the Ravenswood Working Group met to review progress at these important ponds near the Dumbarton Bridge. After completion of 30 nesting islands at Pond SF2 last year and the opening of a new trail and viewing platforms, federal Refuge managers report that birds are indeed returning to the area. Researchers have also been out in force continuing to monitor sentinel species like the Western sandpiper (pictured above with researcher Katie Rodriguez).

Because SF2 is so close the Dumbarton Bridge, it is one of the Project’s most visible ponds, making it a convenient and inspiring way for passing motorists to glimpse the restoration in progress. The location also makes the area more vulnerable to disturbance. Recent CalTrans work on the Dumbarton Bridge temporarily limited parking and visual access to the site, but the agency will be removing these barriers. So if you’ve had any difficult gaining access to Pond SF2, please try again.

Third Science Symposium A Great Success!

About 200 people attended the third South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Science Symposium on February 3, at the U.S. Geological Survey campus in Menlo Park. The entire symposium was broadcast live on the web, and is now available on the SBSP website along with copies of the agenda, presentations, posters, and abstracts.

SBSP Lead Scientist Laura Valoppi and Executive Project Manager John Bourgeois provided an overview of the Salt Pond Restoration Project and the key scientific uncertainties inherent in a wetland restoration project of this size and scope. These uncertainties create the framework for the Project’s Adaptive Management Program. Under the guidance of the Project Management Team, researchers from state, federal and local agencies as well as universities and private consultants are collecting data designed to adjust and improve the restoration process as it happens. As Lead Scientist Valoppi explains, “We are conducting a large experiment in restoration by measuring the effect the restoration is having on the South Bay ecosystem and then adjusting our management actions accordingly. ” So far we are finding:

  • The natural movement of sediment will feed and grow the new tidal marshes – preliminary data is indicating there is sufficient sediment to support marsh restoration for the life of the project.
  • Loss of mudflat habitat is still a concern, as researchers don’t fully understand how sedimentation processes on the mudflats are connected to sedimentation in the ponds.
  • Wildlife are returning to restored habitats – already we have found 30 species of fish using the newly restored ponds, including Longfin smelt and anchovy that are of regional importance. Almost all of the fish species found are native.
  • Shorebird and dabbling duck populations have generally increased, while diving duck populations have stayed the same.
  • Questions remain regarding habitat for nesting waterbirds. The project continues to offset the loss of pond habitats by creating managed ponds and nesting islands for these birds. However, we are still monitoring how different species respond to these new habitats. We are also continuing to monitor the mercury impacts associated with restoration, as well as California gull predation on waterbird nests and chicks.
  • Western snowy plover hatching success has decreased between 2004 and 2010, while depredation of chicks and eggs has increased. It is not clear that altering plover habitat by using shell enhancement is an effective means to decrease depredation. USFWS is developing a gull management plan to help decrease the impacts of California Gull on plovers and other waterbirds.
  • Decreases in California clapper rail survival are correlated to high tide events in winter. Researchers believe that the lack of high water refugia and increased predation during high water events are responsible for the decreased survival of these endangered birds.

Faces of the Restoration:
Volunteer Docent Rich Kulish

Rich Kulish is one of a handful of local residents who are working to expand the public’ understanding of the Restoration Project by serving as a volunteer docent at the Refuge. Docents work with USFWS Interpretive Specialist Jennifer Heroux to understand every aspect of the Restoration Project and then work to craft and lead tours designed to appeal to a variety of different audiences. We asked Rich how and why he decided to take on this important role for the project.

  1. How did you first learn about the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project?
    Shortly after I retired from my full time job I thought it would be interesting to get involved in bird watching as a hobby. After a little research I ended up joining the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society and along with the membership came the book "Birding at the Bottom of The Bay". One of the recommended locations for birding was the Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge. During the first visit both my wife Patricia and I were pleasantly surprised at the number of programs that were being offered to the community. We began attending the programs, one of which was the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project presented by Jennifer Heroux.
  2. What made you decide to train to be a docent?
    All the programs we attended were educational and enjoyable and we were inspired by the work being accomplished by the Restoration Project. Jennifer asked if we would be interested in getting involved as docents and we jumped at the chance. I thought it would be great to be involved with the project in some fashion.
  3. What did you learn from the training that you had not expected?
    I was surprised just how comprehensive the training program was. I realize it is a cliché, but I was surprised at just how much I did not know. I have certainly gained a greater understanding and appreciation for a National Wildlife Refuge System.
  4. What kind of tours are you putting together as a docent? How often do you give tours and where do you give them?
    The program that I am presenting is titled "Wetlands Restoration: The 50-year Journey", which for the most part is a mirror of the program that Jennifer presented. It is a general overview of the Restoration Project that includes a short classroom presentation accompanied by a tour of New Chicago Marsh and ponds A16 & A17. The program is presented approximately every six weeks and is held at the Don Edwards NWR.
  5. What kind of challenges have you encountered so far as a docent-in-training?
    I think the biggest challenge is remembering that the program I am presenting is designed to be a general overview of the project. I am certain I have condensed my notes more than a dozen times in an attempt to focus on the key elements of the restoration. There are just so many exciting things going on with the project right now.
  6. What aspects of being a docent do you most enjoy?
    It is so incredibly peaceful and tranquil at the Don Edwards NWR. Each time I come out here it seems that there is something new to be seen and appreciated. It is a great opportunity to pass on the knowledge that others have shared with me and hopefully inspire others to do the same.
  7. What inspires you most about the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project?
    I have lived here all of my life and in fact my family goes back way over 100 years in the Valley. My grandfather was a prune rancher. Since attending the programs and becoming a docent I have gained a much greater appreciation for my heritage and for the history and beauty of this area. I believe the Restoration Project is playing an integral part preserving the health and beauty of this valley.
  8. When you are not leading tours what parts of the South Bay do you like to visit?
    When I am not leading tours I often frequent the salt ponds to bike ride the levees and to enjoy the wildlife.
  9. In addition to your volunteer work with the Refuge how else do you spend your time?
    I officiate high school football and basketball, which keeps me pretty busy. Additionally, I am also a volunteer for an organization called Good Karma Bikes that repairs bikes for homeless or low- income individuals. My wife and I also have another fun volunteer gig as a Deputy Marriage Commissioners a couple times per month.
  10. What do Deputy Marriage Commissioners do?
    We perform civil marriage ceremonies. When we are on the schedule we perform approximately 15-18 per day. Couples apply for a marriage license at the County Office and they schedule an appointment to be married in the chapel (a small room decorated next to cafeteria). It goes at a brisk pace and we handle a ceremony about every 10-15 minutes. It is a lot of fun, everyone is happy and on one occasion I married a San Jose Shark pro hockey player.

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