Funding secured for Middle Bair Island wetlands 

A state agency has approved more than $1 million for the restoration of wetlands off Redwood City’s shore.

The state’s Coastal Conservancy on Thursday agreed to allocate up to $1.85 million to the nonprofit Ducks Unlimited Inc. to restore Middle Bair Island’s wetland habitat. The project’s main source of funding will come from a pending Department of Water Resources grant of $1.25 million, while the rest will come from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said Brenda Buxton, a project manager for the Coastal Conservancy.   

Through the construction of a levee-breach system, environmentalists hope to restore tidal flow to the area while supporting the wetland’s habitat, said Renee Spenst, a Ducks Unlimited San Francisco Bay regional biologist.

The second phase of a larger Bair Island restoration project, Ducks Unlimited’s work on Middle Bair Island will restore 571 acres of tidal action while enhancing 307 acres of wetlands, according to Coastal Conservancy staff reports.  

In addition to the levees, officials plan to add trails, bridges and a parking lot for pedestrian recreational use. Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge spokesman Doug Cordell said the project also needs to add about 1.5 million cubic yards of clean soil to reintroduce salt marsh plants.

While Ducks Unlimited hopes to break ground on Middle Bair before the end of the year, Buxton said delays might occur due to the rain and nesting season of certain species in the marsh during September. And the final phase of the project is an estimated seven years from completion.

The project is part of a lengthy effort to protect local wetlands.

A local advocacy group calling itself Friends of Redwood City banded together in the early 1980s to ward off a city-approved development on Bair Island of 20,000 homes, a shopping center and an office complex, Cordell said.

Several years later, the group persuaded a developer to sell the land to the Peninsula Open Space Trust, Cordell said. The trust turned the islands over to the state Department of Fish and Game and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and they were made part of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Cordell said.

“Bair Island is a great example of protecting and restoring an area in the shoreline,” said David Lewis, the executive director of Save the Bay. “I think it’s a real success story.”

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