$3 Million Earmarked for Three California Coastal Habitats by U.S. Department of the Interior

Three California coastal wetlands habitats will each be receiving $1 million for restoration projects according to an announcement by the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI). U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt announced last week that 11 coastal states will be sharing in a total of $20 million for 22 projects in 11 coastal states to protect, restore or enhance more than 7,000 acres of coastal wetlands and adjacent upland habitats under the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program.

California’s Big Canyon Wetlands Restoration, Eel River Estuary Preserve Restoration Project Phase 2, and Elkhorn Slough Tidal Marsh Restoration Phase 2 are three of the 22 projects. The DOI grants will have wide-reaching benefits for local economies, people and wildlife – boosting coastal resilience, reducing flood risk, stabilizing shorelines and protecting natural ecosystems. Numerous other state and local governments, private landowners, conservation groups and other partners will contribute more than $26.7 million in additional funds to these projects. In addition to the three California projects funds have also been awarded to projects in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin.

“Through the National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program, we are demonstrating our commitment to promoting coastal sustainability with healthy ecosystems, vibrant economies and resilient communities,” said Bernhardt. “These projects will continue successful conservation partnerships with numerous public, non-profit and private stakeholders while providing public education and research opportunities as well as conserving thousands of acres of coastal habitat.”

The $1 million grant for the Big Canyon Wetlands Restoration will be used by the California State Coastal Conservancy to restore 9.6 acres of coastal wetlands and associated uplands draining to Upper Newport Bay in the 60-acre Big Canyon Nature Park in Newport Beach. The grant funds will be used to restore a self-sustaining coastal wetlands complex across the tidal to freshwater to uplands continuum restoring and enhancing 1,000 feet of channel and instream habitat, 5.8 acres of riparian scrub, one half-acre of alkali meadow and 3.3 acres of coastal sage scrub.

Big Canyon Creek is in urgent need of habitat restoration and enhancement due to watershed impacts from channel incision, loss of floodplain, unstable banks, poor water quality and aggressive encroachment of invasive species. This project will benefit listed species including least Bell’s vireo, Belding’s savannah sparrow, coastal California gnatcatcher, light-footed Ridgway’s rail and California least tern. The total project cost will be $1,641,854; The California State Coastal Conservancy will assume the cost sharing amount in excess of the DOI grant of $1 million.

The 384-acre Eel River Estuary Preserve Restoration Project, Phase 2, will restore and enhance a coastal wetlands complex comprised of both wetlands and associated uplands in the Eel River estuary. As California’s fourth largest estuary preserve this 384-acre Phase 2 project is part of an overall project comprising the restoration and enhancement of 1,255 acres of coastal wetlands, dunes and other associated uplands. The work to restore the resilient complex of wetlands, dunes and riparian habitats in the Eel River Estuary Preserve is part of a larger regional effort to restore not only the estuary but also the threatened species that call the estuary home.

The California State Coastal Conservancy will be working to restore and enhance the wetlands to provide a nursery habitat for state and federally listed fish species and habitat for waterfowl and shorebirds. The dunes will be rehabilitated to provide nesting and wintering habitat for the threatened western snowy plover. The conservancy will share in the total project cost of $1,504,891.21.

The California State Coastal Conservancy, in partnership with the Elkhorn Slough Foundation, California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve will use their $1 million DOI grant to restore approximately 30 acres of tidal wetlands in Elkhorn Slough and to establish perennial grassland on five acres adjacent to the restored tidal wetlands. The total project cost of $1,510,000 will be further offset by other federal funds of $10,000 and the Elkhorn Slough Tidal Marsh Restoration project will cost share for the remaining $500,000. Phase 2 of the project is part of a larger plan to restore at least 100 acres of tidal marshes in Elkhorn Slough and the adjoining 35 acres of existing buffer areas to perennial grassland.

Restoration of Elkhorn Slough estuary tidal marsh along the central coast of California — on the west coast south of San Francisco Bay — carries particular significance because of the relative rarity of tidal marsh and the extent of its historic loss. Along the 300-mile stretch of coastline from Point Reyes to Point Conception, only 4,490 acres of tidal marsh exist. Elkhorn Slough accounts for 17 percent of the tidal marsh.

“These grants are a superb example of states, local governments and private landowners working hand-in-hand with the federal government to ensure coastal communities and their irreplaceable natural environments continue to thrive for future generations,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Principal Deputy Director Margaret Everson. “In addition to providing myriad conservation and economic benefits, these grants will increase recreational opportunities for anglers, boaters, hunters and wildlife-watchers across the nation.”

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