Questions and Answers from the Oct 14, 2021, Zoom discussion of the Suisun Marsh sponsored by the Solano County Orderly Growth Committee.
From Steve Chappell, Exec. Director of Suisun Marsh Resource Conservation District:
Q: What impact is increased salinity due to drought having on the health of the marsh and its inhabitants?
A: As I stated in my presentation, the Suisun Marsh is a Brackish Marsh. The Suisun’s wetland and wildlife resources have adapted and thrive in the environment of the seasonal and annual salinity variability. Droughts are natural and needed events in the ecosystem, with some species or communities becoming stressed and declining, while other species can benefit with less competition and increase in abundance. I think the biggest future threat to the Marsh is the impact of extensive upstream water use and reduced Delta outflows. That is why I took the time in the presentation to highlight the fact that Suisun Marsh has regulatory Water Quality Salinity Objective to protect beneficial uses of the Marsh (fish and wildlife) and the fact that DWR and USBR are required to mitigate the impacts of the State and Federal Water Projects diversions and dam operations on the Marsh.
With future climate change, prolonged drought events, or increased upstream diversions – it will likely result in a long term increase in overall Marsh salinities. These types of changes will ultimately result in reduced wetland diversity, degradation of existing habitat conditions and likely negative impacts to existing wildlife species that are not tolerant to increased salinities.
Q: Within the past year, the levee south of Rush Ranch was intentionally breached (west side of Suisun Slough). Do you know why? Are you aware of any other levee breaches planned?
A: The project you are asking about is the Wings Landing Tidal Restoration Project. See attached project description: https://resources.ca.gov/CNRALegacyFiles/docs/ecorestore/projects/Wings-Landing-Project.pdf
\Dept of Fish and Wildlife is currently breaching levees on the Hill Slough Wildlife Area on both sides of the Grizzly Island Road – before you get to Rush Ranch. And DWR has completed construction at the Arnold Slough tidal restoration site in the Nurse Slough are of the Marsh this Summer. https://water.ca.gov/Programs/Environmental-Services/Restoration-Mitigation-Compliance/Suisun-Projects
Q: As sea level rises, properties that previously were outside of the 100' shoreline band will begin to come into the jurisdiction of the Suisun Marsh Protection Plan. Does Suisun RCD and/or BCDC have any specific program to educate landowners about the changing location of the shoreline band, and its implications for their land management?
A: This is a BCDC jurisdictional issue. Suisun RCD is not a regulatory Agency and is not involved with the 100’ shoreline band.
From Yair Chaver, Data and Policy Analyst, San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development District, (BDCD):
Good morning Michael [Orderly Growth] – thank you again for the chance to present to the group last week. I hope it was useful and provided some good information. Thank you also for passing along these questions. The answers are in bold below (I was helped by Erik Buehmann, our long-range planning manager, in these responses). Please feel free to ask anything else in the future.
BCDC uses the 2018 State of California Sea Level Rise Guidance prepared by the Ocean Protection Council for projections from Sea Level Rise. The State Guidance also has information for local government’s seeking to plan for sea level rise. Here is its website: https://www.opc.ca.gov/updating-californias-sea-level-rise-guidance/BCDC’s Climate Change Guidance adopted this year also has some helpful information for planners on how to incorporate sea level rise into planning (it is located here: https://www.bcdc.ca.gov/bpacc/San-Francisco-Bay-Plan-Climate-Change-Policy-Guidance.html) and BCDC’s Adapting to Rising Tides (“ART”) Project has a vast tool kit of resources for local governments and planners looking to conduct sea level rise planning. Here is the ART website: https://www.adaptingtorisingtides.org/
Any drilling proposal must be consistent with the policies in the Suisun Marsh Protection Plan, the Preservation Act, and the McAteer-Petris Act.
1. For Yair: you explained that, within the primary management area, BCDC is the permitting agency. Who is the enforcement agency within the primary management area? As a hypothetical example, if cattle ranching is allowed within the primary management area, which agency is responsible for verifying that a cattle rancher is following required practices?
We did touch briefly on BCDC’s enforcement authority, and I’m glad for the option to expand. BCDC enforces the requirements of the Suisun Marsh Preservation Act and the McAteer-Petris Act, but BCDC does not regulate ranching practices. Rather, that could be a number of agencies including the USDA, CDFA, the County or City. Very often a number of agencies have responsibility for enforcing different statutes within an area. For example, the Regional Water Quality Control Board has jurisdiction over water quality in the Marsh and the Bay.
2. For Yair: is there any sunset date on the Suisun Marsh Protection Act? Or any other reason why a property that is currently within the primary management area might be taken out of the protection area in the future? Or instead, is it correct to say that a property within the primary management area is permanently protected (barring repeal of the Act by the State Legislature)?
The Suisun Marsh Preservation Act states that no changes will be made to the boundaries of the primary and secondary management area except by act of the legislature. There is no sunset for the statute.
3. For Steve: within the past year, the levee south of Rush Ranch was intentionally breached (west side of Suisun Slough). Do you know why? Are you aware of any other levee breaches planned?
Steve answered this one, but we should add that BCDC issued a permit for the Wings Landing project, and has issued permits for other DWR restoration projects in the Marsh. Diked subsided former Baylands are very good places for marsh restoration because the elevation and soils can support marsh vegetation once the exterior levee is breached to expose the area to tidal activity. Aside from the obvious habitat benefits of restoration (the Marsh is one of the most important stops on the Pacific flyway for migratory birds) tidal marshes also mitigate greenhouse gas emissions through carbon sequestration and provide flood protection benefits.
4.For either / both: as sea level rises, properties that previously were outside of the 100' shoreline band will begin to come into the jurisdiction of the Suisun Marsh Protection Plan. Does Suisun RCD and/or BCDC have any specific program to educate landowners about the changing location of the shoreline band, and its implications for their land management.
BCDC has multiple overlapping jurisdictions, so it can be a little confusing. BCDC has Primary Management Area jurisdiction over most of the Marsh under the Suisun Marsh Preservation Act. Under the McAteer-Petris Act, large areas of the Marsh fall into BCDC jurisdiction because they are either Bay (tidal areas), the 100-foot shoreline band which is located 100-feet adjacent to the Bay, or Managed Wetland (former Baylands diked off from the Bay and used for duck hunting or agriculture). BCDC’s Primary Management Area and Managed Wetland jurisdiction will not be altered by sea level rise. It is true that the Bay jurisdiction and 100-foot shoreline band may change over time, and that is the case for most of the Bay Area. BCDC does not currently have a program for reaching out to landowners about these changes, but the impacts to the Marsh from sea level rise and climate change are certainly could be something that the Commission may want to address in subsequent Suisun Marsh Protection Plan updates or activities.
Thank you again,
The Solano Resource Conservation District hosted the first three-day Solano Water Institute for Teachers early this month at various sites throughout Solano County and at Lake Berryessa.
The new teacher workshop provided 27 Solano County educators with knowledge, skills and tools to help them teach watershed science and land preservation from a locally relevant perspective.
The Solano Water Institute featured presentations from nine local and state experts on water resources, open spaces and climate change with conversations integrating Project WET, an award-winning environmental education curriculum created by the Water Education Foundation.
“These place-based learning experiences give teachers knowledge on the impacts of drought and climate change in our area,” said Marianne Butler, education director for the Solano Resource Conservation District, in a press release. “We hope that the local presenters inspired teachers and encouraged them enough to empower their students to help protect our natural resources in Solano County.”
The training began Aug. 4 at Rush Ranch Open Space near Suisun City. Educators learned about the importance and challenges of managing the Suisun Marsh and other open spaces from both the Suisun Resource Conservation District’s John Takekawa and the Solano Land Trust’s Jasmine Westbrook-Barsukov.
Teachers also learned from Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Leonard about the Solano County Office of Education’s Explorers Quest program – an outdoor treasure hunt that offers students and their families the chance to discover native plants and animals in Solano County.
Educators from throughout Solano County learn about managing the Suisun Marsh and Lake Berryessa with Suisun Resource Conservation District Operations Manager John Takekawa (left) as part of the 2021 Solano Water Institute for Teachers hosted by Solano Resource Conservation District.
The second day of the workshop was spent boating on Lake Berryessa as part of an educational tour to help teachers experience first-hand the significance Lake Berryessa holds for them and their students.
“It’s extremely important that students know Lake Berryessa is their drinking water,” said Jennifer Onufer, Supervising Park Ranger with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation at Lake Berryessa, in the press release. “While they can also recreate and play here, it is first and foremost a precious drinking water source that they can help protect.”
Onufer’s statement came during a question-and-answer session halfway through the tour, at the Bureau of Reclamation Visitor Center. The panel discussion also featured Education Specialist Kathy Schulz from the California Department of Water Resources, Water Quality Supervisor Marc Bautista from the city of Benicia, and Senior Engineer Alex Rabidoux with the Solano County Water Agency.
Rabidoux also gave a full-hour presentation on the State Water Project, Central Valley Project and the Solano Project, which includes Lake Berryessa and the Putah South Canal.
Solano County Parks Supervisor Chris Drake closed out Thursday with an overview of the opportunities within Solano County Parks and ongoing efforts to increase park access.
The final training occurred Aug. 5 at the city of Fairfield’s Dunnell Nature Park and Education Center, where teachers were trained by California Project WET Coordinator Brian Brown to facilitate Project WET activities using the content they learned during the workshop.
Teachers who completed the workshop and participate in an October follow-up meeting are eligible for a $200 stipend and can receive 21 hours of continuing education credit. The date for the 2022 Solano Water Institute is yet to be determined.
The 2021 Solano Water Institute for Teachers was funded by the Solano County Orderly Growth Committee; the California Department of Water Resources; the Water Education Foundation; and the School Water Education Program, which includes the cities of Fairfield, Suisun City, Vacaville, Dixon, Vallejo and Benicia, the Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District and the Solano Irrigation District.
The workshop is hosted by Solano Resource Conservation District with support from Brian Brown, Project WET coordinator for California.
Copyright © 2021 Solano Orderly Growth Committee - All Rights Reserved.