The Bay Trail construction is currently running according to schedule: paving has started at the north and will work toward the south this week and next. Along with the pavement there will be extensive fencing and three overlooks. But because of all the other construction work, some of the trail may be closed temporarily to ensure safety.
Further out to the east along San Pablo Bay, the last bit of concrete is being removed from the area where the breach will be located. A few weeks ago a dredge was brought in to dig a pilot channel out across the mudflat. This channel will facilitate strong tidal flows in and out of the site after breach.
And finally, the Corps of Engineers continues to work out contracting details related to the native plant nursery with the hope of having the facility back and running full tilt by the end of the calendar year. Of course construction progress can always be impacted by rain, but with this very dry fall weather it looks like much will accomplished in the coming weeks.
Can you spot the deer?
After many years of waiting, the Hamilton community and site visitors will soon have a trail to travel upon! The 2.67 mile Bay Trail is expected to be completed by the end of November. Of course weather or the federal government shutdown could delay the project, but the Corps’ contractor, Marathon Construction, has already started work on the trail and is scheduling subcontractors for various elements of the project. We expect to have a trail dedication when the trail is complete and will be sending out a formal invitation to the public when we have a firm date.
The Hamilton community is invited to join Point Blue Conservation Science educators from their STRAW (Students and Teachers Restoring A Watershed) Program for a tour of how this exciting, multi-faceted project is enriching ecosystems and the local community. Hear from STRAW Program High School students about their experiences at the site. Do some birding and learn about how birds help indicate restoration success. See the result of local STRAW students’ hard work to restore the wetland and learn about local plants. We hope to coordinate and promote more community tours like this, so stay tuned.
This Point Blue Monthly Walk is open to Novato community members.
Sign up require by Friday 11/22/13 To sign up or get more information, contact Eve Williams, Point Blue Development Operations Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please let her know all the names of the attendees who would like to sign up. This walk will have a maximum sign-up limit of 20 people and a minimum sign-up of 5. Visit www.pointblue.org/monthly-walks to learn more.
FUDS – Ah What’s that again? No it’s not the catchiest acronym around but it stands for Formerly Used Defense Sites and is an environmental remediation program that covers all sites that were previously used by any branch of the military anywhere in the US and its territories and transferred from the military prior to Oct 1986. One exception is if the site is already covered under the Base Realignment and Closure program (BRAC), which was the case with the Hamilton Airfield. So they have quite a list of sites to work from! And to confuse you further, the FUDS program in the western US is carried out by the Sacramento District of the Corps of Engineers, versus the wetland restoration project which is run by the San Francisco District. Our Hamilton FUDS site is at the North Antenna Field (NAF) which was a piece of land that was handed back to the State of California in 1984 – well in advance of closing the Airfield. So the Airfield was a BRAC site and the North Antenna Field is a FUDS site. Are you confused yet?
In the context of the Hamilton Wetland Restoration Project, the BRAC program took care of the contaminants at the Airfield before the wetland project started construction, and several years ago the Sacramento District began the hard work of dealing with the legacy contaminants at the NAF. In addition to having antennas and radio facilities on it, the site was once used for small arms training complete with a shooting range, and fire practice. In fact the FUDS program had been investigating and had even conducted spot removals of the pollution off and on for decades. But serious FUDS resources were brought to the site in 2009, the result being that thousands of truckloads of soil were removed from the NAF and taken to specialized disposal sites. Actually the soil, which was contaminated with stuff like lead and petroleum compounds, was not terribly hazardous to humans so much as a problem for the future wetlands. And since the next phase of restoration includes breaching the levee, the FUDS program agreed that remediation should include taking away the soil so that it would not ever get mixed into the bay. This was largely a trade off of constructing an engineered “cap” that would have to be monitored and managed forever, versus removing the soil and thereby removing the liability. The FUDS program chose the latter approach.
In general FUDS has a much smaller budget than BRAC so we were fortunate to get Hamilton added to the FUDS work plan. And after a few years of digging and scraping and testing, the FUDS remediation is now winding down and expected to be finished later this fall of 2013. This remedial work follows the process laid out for the U.S. EPA Superfund program and the work is overseen by state regulatory agencies including the Department of Toxic Substances Control and the Regional Water Quality Control Board. There is also a citizen’s advisory panel called the Restoration Advisory Board (RAB) which meets quarterly to stay informed on the remediation and give feedback to the Corps. You can learn more about the FUDS remediation by contacting the program’s public affairs liaison, Mary Ann Parker email@example.com or the project manager, Karole Ward at: Karole.L.Ward@usace.army.mil.
STRAW. You may have seen the news about Novato students who have been visiting the site and doing native plant work. Since the beginning of the school year last fall, the Students and Teachers Restoring a Watershed (STRAW) project, administered by Point Blue Conservation Science of Petaluma, has held seven planting events at Hamilton. These are days when kids from elementary schools come out to the site to help plant various kinds of native plants. Prior to coming out for a planting day students are engaged in an in-class presentation in which they learn the importance of restoration and the colorful history of the Hamilton area, among other watershed topics. Students ranging from second to fifth grade, planted about 1,100 plants this year.
Nearly all of the plants came from the on-site nursery and went into the “wildlife corridor”, an area of the site nearest the hangers (see map under Project – Images). Future plantings will go in the north seasonal wetlands and the area at the south end of the site which will be graded later this summer. You may see volunteers working with STRAW at the site as they water the newly planted seedlings from a portable water tank. Eventually these hardy natives will be on their own, but for the first year or two, STRAW will be coming to the site to help the plants make it through the summer.
And in addition to elementary schools, STRAW got Novato High School got involved in the project. The high school students not only put plants in the ground, they also worked on science projects like monitoring soil salinity and the various bird species that are using Hamilton. Some of the students also ended up volunteering in the native plant nursery, which is highlighted in previous project news. We expect that
STRAW will be back in the fall with more busloads of students to do more this fun and exciting work. You can see more about what STRAW has been doing by going to the STRAW website: http://www.prbo.org/cms/683