Mostly clear

Work begins to restore Sears Point wetlands

Work has started on the $18-million Sears Point wetland restoration project south of Highway 37, but it could be 30 years or more until nature completes what the Sonoma Land Trust and Ducks Unlimited have started.

The 960-acre project, which represents the largest private tidal marsh restoration project in the San Francisco Bay and one of the largest on the West Coast, got under way on Friday.

“When this project is complete,” said Julian Meisler, the Sonoma Land Trust Baylands program manager, “it will require us to rewrite the map ofv San Francisco Bay.”

More than 85 percent of San Francisco Bay’s historic tidal wetlands were lost beginning in the late 1800s when extensive diking of marshes took place and land was “reclaimed” for growing oat hay and wheat, and grazing dairy cows, to supply the growing city of San Francisco. The Sears Point project will assist in turning back this loss by reintroducing the tides and, as a result, restoring critical habitats for wildlife, protecting against sea level rise, improving water quality and expanding the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Meisler bemoaned the loss of natural filters and said, “Restoring the marshes will protect us.” He said there are 500 species of plants and animals that call the future marshes home including 20 threatened species.

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