North Area Planting Completed!

gold 1AmeriCorps   Over the past 6 weeks an AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) team has been at the Hamilton Wetlands Restoration Project.  They have been busy planting native plants to help restore the wetlands that once existed on the former Hamilton Airfield site. The team consists of twelve 18 to 24 year old individuals, from across the country, who have worked hard to plant 11,000 plants, rain or shine. Everyone on the team enjoyed planting, knowing they were helping to create a large and functional seasonal wetland. The team also enjoyed working with the project supervisor Christina McWorter.

Being outdoors was great and the team loved watching the sun rise over the bay.  The team liked to spend time discussing the conditions in which they are planting, and had debates as to whether wet or dry mud is better. Most NCCC members found that when it comes to planting, dry soil is the way to go. It makes for easy digging and easier backfilling. Corps member Elijah Rutledge said, ”Planting on dry land is heavenly.”   However, wet mud has its advantages. Even though the digging is sloppier, and the backfilling takes more time, smoothing the mud out afterward becomes so much easier after planting in wet mud. Stefanie Landman said, “ I like working in wet mud, taking my gloves off. Working with the plants and feeling the mud around them. Making it look like the plants just grew there.”NCCC Crew resize

Rain:  Soon after the team arrived in Novato, the rainy season began. In the beginning of the  project, the sun was out and smiling on the members. The last half of the project is when the rain really hit. AmeriCorps member Joshua Williams cheerfully announced, “It can be very difficult to work in the rain, but we can always find a way to make it fun. Plus a little rain has never hurt anybody.”

Plants, Plants, and MORE PLANTS!  As the AmeriCorps NCCC members will tell you, they were always planting a variety of plants, including pickle weed, gum plant, cattail, coyote brushes, salt grass, alkali heath, common rush and bull rush. They also spent some time pulling invasive species such the Russian tumble weed. There are so many joys to planting, from working in the mud and digging holes to the satisfaction of being able to see the progress that the team completed at the end of the day.

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Ribbon Cut!

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Thursday Afternoon’s ribbon cutting event was a big success with a great turnout from the Hamilton community and local dignitaries.   The Marin IJ ran a story about the trail and we now have the “Point” smartphone tours available for trail users.

This new phone app. is the first of its kind and we are excited to get feedback from the public.   To download, just look for “Point by Canogle” in your Apple App  or Android / Google Play Store.  There are two tours available:  one more focussed on history and one focussed on the wetland and natural  history.

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Hard Work Continues

The work at Hamilton Wetlands is far from over, though the Big Yellow Machines will rove no more.  Most obvious are the planting crews who are planting native vegetation.  The plants are grown in the project’s greenhouse, located just offsite north of Reservoir Hill and the Newport Neighborhood and volunteers, including kids from local elementary schools, are helping to plant them around the site.  The vegetation work is managed by Christina McWorter who handles both the greenhouse and the field work.  Assisting Christina has been Emily Allen and several interns from Point Blue’s STRAW Program (Students and Teachers Restoring A Watershed), which brought in hundreds of elementary and highschool students to help with the work.   The work follows a detailed script and an

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“adaptive management” approach, in which monitoring results feed back into decisions about future plantings.   If you are interested in getting your hands dirty and becoming a volunteer, contact Christina at: 1plantminded1@gmail.com

Vegetation plantings are marked with colored flags in order to monitor progress. Most plants will be watered and tended for three years from planting.  In addition to habitat plantings, this fall the nursery will be installing a row of shrubs along the northern portion of the Bay Trail to act as a barrier and visual screen.

 

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Monitoring the Marsh

As a major restoration effort, the project will be monitored for a variety of  parameters to help assess the success of the project.  The US Army Corps of Engineers is currently negotiating a contract to have standard parameters measured, for example cross sections of the channels and the amount of vegetation growing in the tidal areas.  Much of this work will be  done on a quarterly or annual basis and will make use of air photos and simple field instruments.  The monitoring plan, called the Monitoring and Adaptive Management Plan, is available on this website under “Documents”.Capture sturgeon

On the pollutant side, the project was constructed of sediment that is cleaner than the ambient bay (because most of it was from deepening of an existing shipping channel), but because of its pernicious nature, mercury is still of concern.  To address the mercury conundrum (marshes are good but marshes can also put mercury into the food-chain), the United States Geological Service (USGS) and the San Francisco Estuary Institute (SFEI) are monitoring mercury by sampling fish and birds.  Specifically small fish are caught in traps and whole tissues are analyzed. This is a good guage of the mercury problem because small fish, such as silversides and gobies, act as “bio-sentinels” and since they are prey for larger fish and birds, can be used to estimate food-chain effects. But because fish don’t frequent all parts of the marsh, scientists also monitor mercury in bird blood.  Samples are taken from song sparrows because they stick close to the marsh, feeding on marsh vegetation, and they are relatively abundant (a tiny bit of blood is taken and the bird released.  The data will be  compared to nearby marshes, like at China Camp, and to background stations throughout the bay, and measurements will be taken over a period of years to look for trends.   Interested in all the contaminant monitoring done in the Bay?  Check out the Regional Monitoring Program, part of SFEI.    http://www.sfei.org/rmp

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Site Breached – Construction Completed!

On April 25, a big milestone took place for the folks who have patiently watched this project for all these years (8 years since the start of construction, but who’s counting!) the

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site was breached on April 25th.  It started out a rainy day (with it raining hard the night before) but by the time the excavator was poised to open the dike, the rains had stopped and wind went to zero.  The event was well covered by local media and we have links to the stories and a very nice video of the breach – go to the Media Tab to see all the attention.

We were sorry that this was not an event open the public but due to the location and safety concerns, it turned into a modest VIP affair.   Given that all guests had to watch from behind the tractor, the best view is in the video  (which was shot with a remote controlled, battery operated quadcopter).   While this was the first water to flow freely onto the site, the tractors were actually still busy a week later simply because the breach is so wide (over 100 feet) and deep (12 feet). The excavated soil was carted over to the south east corner of the Bel Marin Keys V site were it is being stored for use in future use in the next phase of wetland restoration.

 

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