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FEDERAL AGENCIES, BCDC APPROVE NORTH BAY WETLANDS/FARM PROJECT

Release Date: 6/2/1995
Contact Information: Dave Schmidt, U.S. EPA (415) 744-1578 Homer Perkins, U. S. EPA, (415) 744-3276 Donna Hummel, U.S. FWS, (916) 979-2725 Christopher Mobley, U.S. NMFS, (707) 578-7513 Bob Batha, BCDC, (415) 557-8778 Carl Wilcox, CDFG, (707) 944-5525 Rebecca de la Torre, U.S. NRCS, (916) 527-2667

(San Francisco) -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers today signed
a permit giving the Southern Sonoma County Resource Conservation
District (RCD), representing 35 North Bay landowners, the green
light for levee maintenance work to protect their farmlands,
while at the same time launching one of the largest wetlands
restoration projects in the Bay Area -- at no extra cost to the
landowners.  


     The project is good news both for the landowners and for
endangered species such as the salt marsh harvest mouse and
California clapper rail, which will benefit from habitat
restoration.


     Corps of Engineers Lieutenant Colonel Michael Walsh and
local dairyman Mitchel Mulas, vice-president of the (RCD), signed
the permit in a ceremony at the Viansa Winery near Sonoma,
allowing the work to begin.  The U.S. EPA Environmental
Protection Agency (U.S. EPA), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
(U.S. FWS), and the Bay Conservation and Development Commission
(BCDC) have also approved the project.


     "This is a project that proves that development can continue
in the Bay Area while the environment is protected and enhanced,"
said Walsh.  "When everyone, federal, state, and local agencies,
and private citizens work together, it is possible to move
forward with necessary construction without adverse impacts to
the environment."  


     The cooperative planning effort that led to the signing of
he permit was set in motion late last year by U.S.  epresentative
Lynn Woolsey.  Participants included the RCD, the Corps of Engineers,
U.S. EPA, the U.S. FWS, the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service  
(U.S. NMFS), the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service
(U.S. NRCS) the BCDC, the California department of Fish and Game
(CDFG), and local government agencies and environmental groups.  
The permit, which was issued to the RCD, lets the farmers repair
40 miles of levees that protect their fields from being flooded
by water from the Bay and nearby creeks.  

     "Here's what can happen when stakeholders roll up their
sleeves and work toward a plan that achieves complementary goals.
Federal, state, and local agencies were already working together
and used initiative and common sense to go beyond their initial
project.  The result?  A big win for the Bay wetlands ecosystem
and the neighboring farm communities," said Wayne White,
California State Supervisor for the U.S. FWS.

    "I'd like to thank every landowner, government agency, and
environmental group involved for working together and listening
to each other," said Jeff Rosenbloom, chief of U.S. EPA's western
regional wetlands and sediment management section.  "This kind of
cooperation and creative problem-solving is exactly what's needed
to restore the Bay's fish and wildlife while preserving
agriculture in the Bay Area."    

    "The issuance of this permit demonstrates what can be
accomplished through cooperative efforts to solve problems," said
Carl Wilcox of CDFG.  "By working together to solve a permit

problem the resources of all the involved parties have been
mobilized to achieve a larger environmental benefit while
maintaining the viability of an important agricultural activity."


     "The permit served as a focal point for dialogue among the
Southern Sonoma County RCD, agencies, organizations and
landowners, to meet the needs of the endangered species and
farmers without cost to them," said Hershel Read, state
conservationist for the U.S. NRCS.  "Communication is at an all
time high."


     "This project is another example of the kind of 'win-win'
solution that can be achieved for farmers and the environment
when the agencies and the farmers put their heads together and
try to think of new ways to solve old problems," said Chris
Mobley of the U.S. NMFS. "A lot of credit belongs to Lynn Woolsey
and her staff.  Grant Davis, in particular, was key to bringing
this project together."


     "We hope we have laid the groundwork for future cooperation
between landowners and government agencies," said Bob Batha,
staff biologist for the San Francisco Bay Conservation and

Development Commission.  "We believe that it is through such
cooperative efforts that we can best preserve and restore the
Bay's tremendous natural resource values while at the same time
protecting private property from the danger of flooding."


     Under the Clean Water Act, projects involving the dredging
and filling of wetlands require a permit from the U.S. Army Corps
of Engineers.  Such permits typically specify mitigation measures
that must be taken to offset any environmental impacts that may
result from a project.  When the U.S. FWS determined that
cumulative levee maintenance would harm the endangered California
clapper rail and salt marsh harvest mouse, the agency recommended
mitigation to be included in the permit, in the form of tidal
habitat restoration and timing restrictions to minimize impacts
to the endangered breeding birds.  


     Ordinarily, the permittee pays for the mitigation.  In this
case, however, the government agencies worked with the landowners
and environmental groups to identify other funding sources to pay
the full cost of the mitigation and restoration projects.


     The cost of these projects has been estimated at $400,000 to
$500,000.  Funders include the U.S. FWS, the Save San Francisco
Bay Association, the Sonoma Community Foundation, the Sonoma
County Fish and Wildlife Board, the Marin-Sonoma County Mosquito
Abatement District, the California Wildlife Conservation Board,
and the Shell Oil Spill Litigation Settlement Trustee Committee,
which oversees disbursement of monies from a penalty paid by
Shell Oil for a 1988 oil spill.


     Even before this year's work on the permit, the staff of the
FWS's San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge, the CDFG, and the
Marin-Sonoma County Mosquito Abatement District were working on a
plan to restore tidal waters to Tolay Creek.  Historically,
waters flowed from the Bay through the Creek to the Sonoma Creek
wetlands.  But over time, reduced tidal flows resulted in an
environment where upstream portions of the creek dried out, and
upland plants moved in, creating mosquito control problems and
habitat loss for resident endangered species.


     Together, the federal and state wildlife agencies crafted a
plan to meld their restoration plan with the RCD's mitigation
needs.  Their success is evident in the large extent of the
restoration project, which goes far beyond minimum mitigation
requirements.  


     Tolay Creek will now be restored by redirecting tidal flows.
The CDFG will purchase a 53-acre parcel just south of Highway 37
from the Vallejo Sanitation District.  This site will be added to
the ongoing restoration project on the San Pablo Bay Refuge,
resulting in creation of 106 acres of tidal wetlands and
restoration of approximately 300 acres more.  
         
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