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South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project
November 2010   Volume 24

South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project Public Tours and Outings

Join Us for An Interpretive Tour
From aerial kite photography to historic walking tours, to bird watching and photography clinics, Refuge Interpretive Ranger Jennifer Heroux and a newly minted team of volunteer docents are offering a rich variety of outings in and around the Restoration Project over the next few months. Don't miss your chance to visit the ponds and explore the wild heart of the South Bay. Please check the Events on the Project website for a complete description of outings and dates.

Hunting Season Begins
November marked the beginning of waterfowl hunting season at both the Eden Ecological Reserve managed by the CA Department of Fish and Game and the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Hunting in both areas is restricted to certain dates, times and locations. Safe wildlife observation opportunities still are available throughout the project area, even during hunt periods. Please visit the Project website for more information and to view hunting information for Eden Landing and the Refuge.

Public Meetings

The Restoration Project continues to rely on input from the local Working Groups and our Stakeholder Forum members to help guide the planning and implementation of every phase of the Project. As we continue to implement the first set of Phase 1 actions, we are now asking the public to help shape our approach to restoration and public access in the next phase of the Project. In September members of the Alviso Working Group met to review the latest information about restoration, recreation and flood control issues in the Alviso pond complex and to begin to consider actions for Phase 2. And in October the full Stakeholder Forum held its annual meeting to begin a review of proposed Phase 2 actions throughout the Project site. You can find agendas and notes for these meetings on the Events and Meetings page of the Project website. The Project website also contains working drafts of Phase 2 planning documents. In addition to the comments we receive during public meetings we are also accepting comments regarding Phase 2 on the web. View current Phase 2 information. We plan to convene a meeting of the Eden Landing and Ravenswood Working Groups in early 2011.

Science Symposium Set for February 2011
bird release
The South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Science Team, headed by lead scientist Laura Valoppi, is planning the next Science Symposium for 2011. This event will be the third of its kind for the Restoration Project and will include a day of presentations, poster sessions and discussion about the latest science news related to restoration in the South Bay. The event will take place at the USGS Menlo Park Facility on Thursday, February 3, 2011. We will provide more details as they become available.

South Bay Shoreline Study Update
After months of modeling and number crunching, preliminary conclusions from the flood plain mapping for the South Bay Shoreline Study are complete. The maps indicate that the highest damages from future flooding in the South Bay will occur in four of the Shoreline Study's 14 economic impact areas. The areas with the highest potential damages from flooding include: Matadero Creek to Barron Creek; Barron Creek to Adobe Creek; Stevens Creek to Sunnyvale West Creek; and Guadalupe Creek to Coyote Creek. As a result, the Army Corps of Engineers is considering a new, phased approach to completing the Study focusing on these four areas first.

The South Bay Shoreline Study provides an opportunity to secure Federal funding to assist in implementing the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project. Portions of the Restoration Project cannot be completed unless flood control levees are in place to protect low-lying parts of the South Bay shoreline.

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

Fall has been a busy time at the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project with a large number of habitat and recreation components of the Project completed or entering new phases of construction. Below is a quick summary. For an overview of all the activities planned for Phase One please visit the Track Our Progress page of the Project website.

Senator Feinstein Celebrates Completion of Ravenswood Pond Complex

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein joined a large crowd of supporters in September to celebrate the completion of work at pond SF2. The 240-acre site near the west end of the Dumbarton Bridge has been transformed into a network of islands and waterways for migrating shorebirds with a large section of dry nesting habitat for threatened snowy plovers. Click here to watch video news coverage of the event.

In addition to habitat restoration, the site also includes a new trail and two new viewing platforms. One of the platforms includes a set of ADA-accessible binoculars which also great for kids to use. To visit the newly opened ponds, follow directions on the project web site. It wasn't long before ducks and brown pelicans began using the new islands. The Project is working to design a similar but smaller combination of managed ponds with nesting islands at ponds A16 and A17 near Alviso. The bulk of the design work on that Project is slated for next year with construction scheduled to begin in 2012.

Work Continues at Eden Landing

Restoration work at ponds along the eastern side of the Bay near Hayward continues with the first stage of construction to be completed in December. By year's end crews will have partially removed levees in areas slated for tidal marsh restoration (ponds E8A-9-8X). The next stage of construction will include completion of levee lowering and breaches to restore full tidal action in 2011. The sediment excavated from this area will be used to reconstruct levees around managed ponds (E14-13-12). The final design for the reconfigured ponds is to be completed next year and construction is expected to begin in 2012.

Pond A6 Scheduled to be Breached in November

pond a6 Although it sits further from the Bay shoreline than any other pond in the Project area, crews are preparing the 330 acres of dry pond bed at A6 for restoration to tidal marsh at the end of November. Excavators will make four planned cuts in levees surrounding the pond during high tide. Because the pond sits so far away from the surrounding shoreline there is no good place to hold a public event for the breach, but we will take pictures and keep our readers posted. Similar to the Island Ponds, pond A6 is expected to develop gradually into full tidal marsh over a period of years.

Project Opens new 2.2 mile section of Bay Trail to the Public

After a long delay due to issues with the transfer of land from Cargill to the federal government, a new 2.2 mile trail connecting the Shoreline at Mountain View Park and the City of Sunnyvale is now open to the public. Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, representatives from the Bay Trail, restoration supporters, agency staff and a colorful pack of bicyclists were on hand for the celebratory bolt-cutting ceremony in September. Click here to watch video news coverage of the event. One way to visit the trail is to start in Mountain View and walk or ride south along the Bay Trail to the newly opened levee. You can find directions to the Shoreline at Mountain View park on the Project website. In addition to open water views, the newly opened levee trail includes a rest stop with benches, interpretive signs and a pair of mounted binoculars for bird watching.

Construction at Pond A8 Completed

Work crews have completed constructing the notch at pond A8 near Alviso which means the 1400-acre site is ready to be connected to the Bay in what is known as a muted tidal system. Project managers expect to open the gates on the notch for the first time in the spring. Construction was managed by the Santa Clara Valley Water District.

Who Is Visiting the Restoration Project Now?

Migration season is here and once again waterfowl and migrating shorebirds are flocking to various parts of the Restoration Project. Starting in the southeast corner of the Bay with the Island Ponds, which were breached in March of 2006, we have seen a steady increase each year in almost all guilds of birds using the ponds. Researchers continue to track increasing numbers of dabbling ducks and small and medium sized shorebirds. The only exception to this trend is eared grebes, which prefer high salinity foraging areas. These areas were eliminated at the Island Ponds when they were changed from salt making ponds to tidal ponds but the plan is to accommodate grebe habitat in other parts of the Project area.

Further west, brown pelicans and northern shovelers have responded to our invitation and are now roosting on the newly created islands at pond SF2 near the Dumbarton Bridge. Although most of the ducks have already arrived, managers expect to see a steady increase in shorebirds as flocks continue to travel along the Pacific Flyway through December. To view a recent report on shorebird migration numbers in the Bay Area please visit Documents on the Project website.

In the East Bay at the Eden Landing ponds, managers have been adjusting the water level and salinity of many ponds because of Phase One construction. As a result, ponds that are normally flooded have been drawn down over the summer and these shallow water ponds are now attracting thousands of migrating shorebirds and ducks. Large groups of northern pintails, northern shovelers, as well as more recent sightings of American wigeon, ruddy ducks and scaup have been reported.

Some shallow water ponds were drawn down even further over the summer to create foraging habitat for threatened snowy plovers. Once the plovers moved on, managers began to fill these ponds, creating high salinity ponds (due to the effect of the evaporative draw down). These high-salinity ponds have attracted hundreds of less common species to the restoration site including Bonaparte's gulls and red-necked phalaropes.

Science Update: The Carrying Capacity of Mudflats

marsh Mudflats, also called shoals or tidal flats, are a very visible feature of the far South Bay environment and they serve an incredibly important function in the Bay area food web. About 2/3 of the entire surface area of the far South Bay is mudflat. Over one million shorebirds visit the Bay's mudflats every year making San Francisco Bay a site of Hemispheric Importance, the highest ranking, by the Western Hemispheric Shorebird Reserve Network. Shorebirds using the Bay's mudflats include western sandpiper, least sandpiper, dunlin, American avocet, willet, marbled godwit, dowitcher, black-bellied plover, black-necked Stilt, semi-palmated plover, and long-billed curlew. Shorebirds feed on invertebrate organisms that burrow in the mud. As the tide recedes, this abundant food source becomes available turning the exposed mudflat into a large restaurant for thousands of migratory shorebirds. Organisms in the mudflat provide the fuel needed for long migration flights and to sustain those species that overwinter here.

Faces of the Restoration:
Brian and Katrina Higgins

There are many challenges to restoring natural areas in the heart of a major urban center like the Bay Area, not the least of which is trash. From plastic cups and bottles to rotting tires and boat hulls, Brian and Katrina Higgins have seen it all. On lunch hours, after work and on weekends, with a diligence that surprises even the most avid conservationists, Brian and Katrina Higgins have been picking up and hauling away trash from the Bay including South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project sites. Since the start of this year, they have been responsible for collecting and hauling away over 19 truckloads of trash. We caught up with them earlier this fall to find out more about their amazing contribution to the Restoration Project.

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