Author: Aaron

The First Step to Restoration of the Sacramento River

The First Step to Restoration of the Sacramento River

Building with nature: Can reviving a marsh save this California town from sea level rise?

It might take 50 years, but the marsh might one day return wetlands to the hillsides where they belong. But it will probably cost $100 million.

An hour west of Sacramento in Stanislaus County, a town called Marshfield wants to raise land to the top of a mountain, and keep it there as a long-term preserve of native plants and animals. To do so, it must buy and clear some of the land owned by San Joaquin County.

The town has just started work on that purchase. The deal is likely to take a year or more, and the price tag will probably be in the tens of millions. And yet the first phase of that purchase is perhaps the most important step toward the long-term goal.

The marsh restoration project could be a turning point in the story of marsh restoration in California. The marsh in question is Lake and Riverdale, a stretch of marshes, wetlands, and river levees that make up the Sacramento River watershed, about 20 miles northwest of Sacramento.

In the past, when this marsh was dry, the land was used by farmers for hay meadows, but now, in many places, the land belongs to the federal government as it is needed for flood control and other purposes.

But as the Sacramento River and its tributaries have slowly dried up, so has the marsh. In some areas, the water level has dropped by 10 feet in a generation. And with the water level dropping in the Sacramento, which is at or near maximum, the entire wetlands system could dry up and become unusable.

That’s why, in 2002, an organization called the San Francisco Bay National Estuary Program (SFNEP) got national attention when it proposed restoring Lake and Riverdale wetlands, for the first time, to provide habitat and food for a variety of animals, and for a variety

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