June 2016 Newsletter    Volume 35

Lots Going on at Eden Landing:

June 30 Meeting; 
New Trails & Launch!

Eden Landing is now open to kayakers, and we’ve also unveiled 3.8 miles of trails there – including paths to see some 19th Century salt-making remains (see related salt-making story here), and to view specialized shorebird habitat.
The opening of the new trails and launch for non-motorized small boats at 230 acres of enhanced waterbird habitat on the State Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) ecological reserve completes the restoration’s Phase 1 construction. The $7.9 million construction work was funded by the State Wildlife Conservation Board.
With nearly $8 million in this latest construction work under our belt, we are now looking to the future – to plans for more restoration, trails and flood management in the southern part of Eden Landing. You are invited to a June 30 environmental scoping meeting – we will share preliminary alternatives for the next Eden Landing phase, take questions and your thoughts on areas the environmental report should analyze. The meeting will run from 1-3 p.m. at the Refuge headquarters. See the sidebar, or click here for meeting details.

L to R: CDFW Bay Delta Region Manager Scott Wilson, State Coastal Conservancy Executive Officer Sam Schuchat, Assemblymember Bill Quirk, California Natural Resources Secretary John Laird, Eden Landing Manager John Krause, and Wildlife Conservation Board Executive Director John Donnelly at the May grand opening celebration.
Leaders of Western Sea Kayakers inaugurated the launch to cheers from the crowd.

We are hearing positive feedback from kayakers on the launch.

The launch includes a turnaround for dropping off boats, an Astroturf strip for equipment staging, and a landing float on the dock with ropes so kayakers can pull themselves up. A concrete ramp is also nearby. Ducks Unlimited, the designer and construction manager, consulted with disabled boaters in an effort to make the launch universally accessible.

Aside from the kayak launch, the newly opened area along Mt. Eden Creek and ponds E12 and E13 includes:

  • About 3.8 miles of new trails, including a seasonal loop around ponds E12 and E13 and a year-round spur of the Bay Trail along Mt. Eden Creek, providing views of the Bay, nearby wetlands and historic salt-making remains.
  • The year-round trail joins a boardwalk into the 19th century Oliver Saltworks historic site, providing information and views of the ruins as well as views of wildlife and scenic vistas. The trail also links to additional historic structures, 1870s-era wind-driven pumps called “Archimedes screws.”
  • Enhanced Habitat (Ponds E12 and E13): Workers have built mounds and nesting islands and reconfigured the ponds to provide shorebirds and waterbirds with more prey and nesting habitat. The pond now has numerous cells of varying saltiness to offer different food options to birds and test which salinity levels may be most productive for birds.
  • An additional 50 acres within nearby Pond E14 has been enhanced for threatened snowy plovers by scattering 13 truckloads of oyster shells to provide better camouflage from predators for the light-colored birds, their nests and chicks.

Alviso/Ravenswood Environmental Report Finalized

The final environmental impact statement/report for Phase 2 work at the Alviso and Ravenswood ponds has been completed, and is available here.

The document was certified by the State Coastal Conservancy Governing Board in late May.

Project managers greatly appreciate the high level of stakeholder interest, and the many detailed comments interested members of the public and private sector and agency representatives made on the draft report. Altogether, 37 comment letters, a total of 162 pages with 350 individual comments, were received.

Those comments had a positive impact in refining the final document and our thinking as we move forward with planning and designing the construction projects. They corrected errors, omissions and oversimplifications, and increased the overall clarity and effectiveness of the document. They also helped us select and refine our preferred Phase 2 projects, and point out areas where more detailed design work and analysis should be done sooner rather than later, to help ensure that we achieve our larger restoration goals and avoid impacting the environment. The comments and responses to them are included as part of the final document.

Also included in the report is the final Phase 2 plan Project managers have selected for these ponds (referred to in the report as a “preferred alternative” and available here).

The Highlights:

Alviso Plans

At the largest Alviso Ponds project, the ponds in the Mountain View area, the Project will not link the restoration area to Mountain View’s Charleston Slough, as previously considered, as regulators were concerned that these changes could impact native fish. The plan would now breach Ponds A1 and A2W to restore their 710 acres to tidal marsh; raise and improve Pond A1’s western levee and the City’s Coast Casey Forebay levee, and build nesting islands and upland transition habitat to create refuge for marsh wildlife in rising tides and storms. Boardwalks, trails, bridges and viewing platforms will be built.

Also in the Alviso Complex, fill will be brought in to create transitional habitat at Pond A8, and the Island Ponds would be further breached to hasten tidal marsh development.

Ravenswood Plans

At Ravenswood, two small ponds, about 60 acres, would be enhanced as shallow habitat for dabbling ducks and small shorebirds, with a large, central bird island. A concept of connecting the ponds to the City of Redwood City’s Bayfront Canal and Atherton Channel Project, to handle overflow storm water runoff, is not being pursued at this time as there was not enough information to fully analyze the impacts. However, the option remains for nearby communities to bring forth that project at a later date.

In addition, the All-American Canal levee would be improved. Habitat transition zones would be added along the levee and along Bedwell Bayfront Park. 300–acre Pond R4 would be breached to develop tidal marsh habitat. A loop trail and a viewing platform would be added.

Next Steps

With planning completed, Project consultants are now beginning to design the specific construction projects and work with regulators on permitting.

Science Updates

Symposium Highlights

Over 200 people attended the biennial Science Symposium at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View in October 2015. Thanks to Google’s Ecology Program and the State Coastal Conservancy for their sponsorship. Some of the highlights:

  • The bright side of the drought – it appears to increase the sediment supply into lower South San Francisco Bay, which is good for building marshes and sustaining baylands habitats.
  • Restoring ponds to marsh is good for fish and other aquatic species. Over 90 species were observed in restored areas, the majority of which are native.
  • The habitat diversity experiment at Eden Landing Ponds E12/E13 is proving successful, especially for shorebird use.  Over 5,000 birds in each cell, mostly Western Sandpiper and Dunlin, have been observed in the winter months. This pond varies salinity and has low mounds as well as nesting islands to provide a range of salinity and water depths.

Presentations and posters from the symposium can be found here.

Project Has Doubled Wintering Bird Numbers

Susan De La Cruz and her team at the U.S. Geological Survey are finalizing a synthesis and analysis of over 10 years of monthly bird survey data to evaluate trends in numbers of birds and identify key characteristics of the ponds that the birds favor.  Not surprisingly, water depth and salinity were two key determiners of bird abundance. 

What the high-level of statistical analysis did provide was specific ranges for these variables, and others, that managers can use to manage for specific groups and species of birds, as well as features to add to future bird habitat enhancements. 

Dr. De La Cruz found that overall numbers of wintering birds have about doubled since the purchase of the ponds when managers began focusing on bird use rather than salt production.


Mercury Update

The Project since 2010 has been studying the effects of Alviso Pond A8 management on mercury accumulation and remobilization. The latest results from 2015 studies found that mercury levels in bird eggs (Foster’s tern and American avocet) are about at the same levels had no restoration actions been done.  Similar results were found for mercury in slough fish (threespine stickleback and Mississippi silverside) and in slough and pond water.

Analysis of the amount of sediment scour and mercury remobilization in Alviso Slough found that scouring out of the slough is progressing, with more erosion occurring in the upper part of the slough than seen previously.  Sediment is likely accumulating inside Pond A8. Scouring Alviso Slough will help increase its capacity to handle floods from stream runoff. Approximately 35 to 39 kilograms of mercury has been remobilized in the slough over the last 5 years, less than had been predicted; about two-thirds of the mercury released is from the breach of a nearby pond, A6, in 2010, not from operation of Pond A8.

These results are very encouraging; only a portion of the 8-gate weir connecting Pond A8 to the Bay have been opened in the rainy season, and scientists have indicated all 8 gates could be opened in August of this year. We are hopeful continued positive results with mercury studies will result in the eventual opening of Pond A8 to full tidal flows.

Eden Landing: the Cradle of SF Bay Salt-Making

Eden Landing’s new trails through the heart of the Bay Area’s early salt-making region provide access to some of the most intact remnants of 19th century saltworks, giving a glimpse into ways of the past.

The new trails lead to the following ruins:

  • The historic Oliver Salt Works, where pilings and foundations remain of the old salt production and refining buildings.
The Oliver Salt Works now
The Oliver Salt Works then
  • Archimedes screws, the salt-maker’s version of a Dutch windmill, which Oliver used to harness wind power to move water between ponds.
The Archimedes screws now
The Archimedes screws then
These salt-makers were using the sun and sea, and a lot of hard labor, in one of the most traditional ways of gathering salt.

Even today, the process Cargill uses in the South Bay is essentially the same as that used in the 1850’s: Bay water is moved into a shallow pond, where the summer sun and winds evaporate the water to concentrate the salt; the saltier water is moved through a series of ponds where it becomes ever saltier, until it eventually forms crystals that are harvested.

The 19th century salt makers launched their work along the Hayward shores where Native Americans from the Ohlone tribe had harvested salt from naturally occurring “salt pannes,” shallow pools where Bay water inundation and evaporation cycles naturally left salt crystals.
A kite photography abstract of the Oliver Salt Works by Cris Benton
Salt makers starting building earthen levees in the 1850s to block the Bay and transform baylands and salt marsh into man-made ponds for salt farming.

They were responding to the needs of San Francisco’s burgeoning Gold Rush-era population and demands for salt from leather tanners and miners at the Comstock Lode in Nevada, where it was used to extract silver from ore.

Soon, small family-owned farms of about 20 acres each dotted the Eden Landing area, many run by Scandinavian and German families and employing immigrant workers, often Japanese.

Swedish immigrant Andrew Oliver was one of the largest salt producers.

Around 1900, there were up to 20 salt-making family-owned enterprises in the South Bay, producing nearly 100,000 tons of salt each year, supplying much of the West and to customers as far away as Siberia.

As demand expanded, so did the salt ponds, until they covered most of the edges of South San Francisco Bay. The early 20th Century was the era of corporate consolidation. In 1907, Leslie Salt formed and began buying up the small salt farms; by the 1930s, the mosaic of salt ponds was owned by Leslie Salt, which was purchased by Cargill in the 1970s.
Archeologist Ellen Johnck leading a history tour on the boardwalk in the Oliver Salt Works at the May opening

For more information on salt-making history:

Salt Pond Restoration in the News

A Compendium of Recent Media Coverage

The San Francisco Chronicle has launched “A Region at Risk,” a major series on sea level rise in the San Francisco Bay Area. While the first installment does not discuss the Project, it is a piece well worth checking out – see here.

Other items:

  • Mercury News article on new Eden Landing public access: Article
  • Mercury News: Doubling of pond bird populations since 2003: Article
  • A local article on our Phase 2 plans for Ravenswood, including truck traffic to bring in dirt for levees: Article
  • A Scientific American blogger on our search for mud to save San Francisco Bay: Blog
  • Coverage of the Baylands Ecosystem Habitat Goals project’s latest report on what we can do about climate change and sea level rise:
    Mercury News Article and related Editorial
    KQED Forum Radio Program
  • A good overview of the Restoration Project and its science – drawn from a presentation by our Lead Scientist, Laura Valoppi, in Maven’s Notebook, the website on California water: Online Article
  • The Chronicle’s piece of Measure AA touches on the Project: Article
  • We talk about solutions and adaptations to sea level rise with Go Green Radio: Radio Episode

Upcoming Events and Meetings

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


Eden Landing Phase 2 Environmental Scoping Meeting

Thursday, June 30, 2016
1:00-3:00 p.m.
Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters
3rd Floor Auditorium
1 Marshlands Rd., Fremont

This is your opportunity to learn about alternatives for our next round of construction projects at Eden Landing -- restoration, public access and flood management -- and provide your thoughts on what the environmental impact analysis should include. We will send out further information as the agenda is developed, or check back on the project website Events and Meetings page.

Tours and Volunteer Opportunities

July 2016

Going Green, the Restoration of the South Bay Salt Ponds

Environmental Education Center, Alviso
Saturday, July 23
10:00 a.m.  – 11:00 a.m.

Join an interpretive walk to photograph the wildlife and wetlands in the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project. Learn about wetland restoration and why we are doing it. Knowing the area will both increase your appreciation for the baylands and your ability to see them in a whole new way. Discover plants and animals in their habitat and the best time to see them. Digital or film cameras welcome. Led by Joseph Garcia.
Call 510-453-6695 for more information.


August 2016

Wetlands Walking Tour

Environmental Education Center, Alviso
Sunday, August 14
10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Our refuge consists of salt marshes, salt ponds, tidal and non-tidal sloughs. How do humans and wildlife depend on our wetlands? Come enjoy a 0.5 mile walk through the wetlands, depicting the life and death struggles of our marsh inhabitants. Open to all ages, but best suited for ages 7 and up.
Register here.

Why Tides Matter

Environmental Education Center, Alviso
Sunday, August 20
10:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.

Laurel Stell will talk and walk you through all things tides. What are they? How do they affect wildlife? How have humans reshaped the Bay’s tidal lands? Program starts indoors but will move outside for an easy 0.5-mile walk. All ages are welcome.
For reservations, click here.

Photo Credits: Cris Benton, Kathleen Henderson, Rob Holt, Judy Irving, Jack Morris; Eden Landing artwork by Faith Rumm; historic photos courtesy of Hayward Historical Society
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