By: Sarah Correa, Sales and Marketing Manager
Westervelt Ecological Services gathered with our agency partners and contractors on October 15th, 2019, to celebrate the completion of the 460-acre tidal wetland known as Tule Red in the Suisun Marsh. More than 100 attendees watched as a giant excavator perched on top of a 200-foot wide levee removed the earth, separating the high tides of Grizzly Bay from the interior channels. The crowd cheered as tides began flowing over the breached levee. With the site opened to the daily tides, this ideal location along the Grizzly Island Wildlife Area will provide much-needed habitat to benefit endangered fish and wildlife species. This pivotal restoration project was implemented by a multi-agency public-private team, including the State and Federal Contractors Water Agency and the California Department of Water Resources (DWR), with the Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) set to take over the long-term management.
The need to address declining fisheries and the Delta ecosystem has united many unique collaborators. Many of the same scientists, engineers, resource managers, and elected officials watching the breach had gathered at the same site three years ago to celebrate the project’s groundbreaking. “DWR is proud to support this effort and is looking forward to continuing these partnerships and seeing habitat benefits on the ground,” said Ted Craddock, DWR’s Deputy Director of the State Water Project. Tule Red will provide credits toward the 2008 US Fish and Wildlife Service mandate to create 8,000-acres of tidal wetlands to benefit Delta smelt. After construction is complete, DWR obtains credits through a credit letter towards meeting this federal mandate.
The project site in the Grizzly Bay region of Suisun Marsh was a long-time duck club commonly known as the Tule Red Hunting Club. Before it was diked to create fresh and brackish water habitat favored by game ducks in the mid-1900′s, this property was tidal habitat. A significant portion of Grizzly Island was also diked around the same time to create agricultural production, grazing, and dairy operations. The Suisun Marsh, south of Fairfield, is the largest contiguous brackish water marsh on the west coast of North America. The 116,000-acre marsh represents more than 10 percent of the remaining natural wetlands area in the state, and this Project makes a big contribution towards restoring Suisun Marsh natural functions.
The Tule Red project is now completed, marked by the breaching a natural berm to allow for full daily tidal exchange through the interior of the project site and the creation of a network of channels to convey water across the marsh plain. The project is designed to not only provide habitat for Delta and longfin smelt and other native fishes but also to reestablish important ecological processes that will maximize production of the microscopic plants and animals at the base of the food web that nourishes native fish in Grizzly Bay and beyond. One of the factors that have led to the precipitous decline of Delta smelt and other native species is lack of food resources such as zooplankton and phytoplankton, which the project is designed to export within the larger Delta tidal system.
To learn more about California EcoRestore and other habitat restoration projects underway in the Delta, go to http://resources.ca.gov/ecorestore/.