Wetland Restoration In Marin County
Dec. 8 - KGO (KGO) -- An aging North Bay levee came down Friday. It was torn down by demolition crews to help make California's largest natural wetland bigger and healthier.
For the first time in 50 years, bay water is flowing into a section of the Petaluma marsh that was once destined to be a garbage dump.
Alongside the freeway where Marin meets Sonoma County sits a 200-acre landfill, and next to all the trash, a treasure. As of now, a new tidal wetland where before there was dried-up dirt.
Barbara Salzman, Marin Audubon Society: "You never know exactly how it's going to turn out, whether it's going to be a trickle or a lot."
It was a healthy surge as cranes punched through the last of the levee, high tide filling all the nooks and crannies, creating currents, and whirlpools so fast that spectators had to move to higher ground -- happy to see years of effort and engineering pay off.
Barbara Salzman, Marin Audubon Society: "It is not only habitat for many species of migratory birds, resident birds, endangered species, they help to purify the bay, provide flood control benefits, many public benefits of the wetlands."
Like so much California marshland, this property was diked in the 50's. The trend then? To convert it to farming or development. The original owners wanted to make it part of the dump, but that was always controversial, and the current owners were agreeable to selling the 100 acres for a million dollars to return it to natural habitat.
Ann Borgonovo, project engineer: "What we have to look for in the Bay Area is more opportunities, because a lot of the land has already been claimed for development and there's always that tension."
How fast the wetland comes back depends on how much sediment flows in for plants to grow. Nature heals, but it does take time.
In only a few minutes though, some egrets found the new place and excavation experts who've done this before in Napa and the South Bay say it's always a striking change.
"Cooper," Cooper Cranes: "It'll change overnight. All of a sudden tomorrow there'll be different bird habitat out here and it's unusual because when it all drains out, it'll be like a moonscape."
The company that gave up the land has other environmental plans too, like converting the methane gas from buried garbage into electricity.
Jessica Jones, Waste Management: "We can probably power 4,000 to 5,000 homes currently today with the gas that's coming out of the landfill and that will increase over the next 10 to 15 years."
After today's toasts, the new wetland will be pretty much off-limits, surrounded by private property, the only way to get to it is by boat from the connecting waterways -- a marsh invisible to most people, but irreplaceable to plants and animals that will thrive here.
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