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Archived News Release from 2006

For Immediate Release

Temporary Closures of Bair Island Trail for Testing of Dirt Fill Delivery

Redwood City, CA - September 21, 2006 - For the next six-to-eight weeks, there will be periodic temporary closures of the loop trail on Bair Island, the popular National Wildlife Refuge at the end of Whipple Road. The temporary closures are necessary while large trucks deliver dirt to the site, as part of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s initial trial use of dirt fill related to the plan for environmental restoration of the island. Trail closures will occur during weekdays only, and generally will allow for the trail to be open to the public during the early morning and early evening hours. The trail will remain fully open to the public on weekends.

Bair Island is a 3,000-acre portion of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, frequented by an estimated 250,000 visitors annually. Walkers, joggers, nature lovers, and families from throughout the Bay Area enjoy Bair Island’s wildlife, open space, and scenery. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is undertaking the restoration of about 1,400 acres of Bair Island, to return it to its natural condition as tidal wetlands – a recovery from its historic human use as grazing lands and salt evaporation ponds. The restoration of this ecological treasure will help renew natural vegetation, protect critical wildlife habitat and endangered species, reduce mosquito breeding, and offer revitalized public access and renewed opportunities for environmental education.

Part of the restoration includes raising the level of the island so that when tidal action is re-introduced, the area will quickly become a more natural vegetated marsh. The FWS plans to bring in an estimated 500,000 – 1 million cubic yards of dirt fill as early as next summer to raise the island’s level. Initially, the FWS is testing the access to the fill area in order to gain more information to adequately plan for next year’s work. This testing involves hauling in and depositing 65,000 cubic yards of earth, on a newly-built ramp over the existing levee, adjacent to Whipple Avenue.

Starting as early as this week and continuing through November, as trucks haul dirt from the Whipple Avenue entrance onto Bair Island there will be periodic closures of the trail that currently loops around the island’s perimeter. The temporary closures will be during weekdays only, and generally mid-day to allow for the trail to be open to the public during the early morning and early evening hours. These closures are necessary for the safety of the public and the crews delivering the dirt fill.

The Environmental Impact Statement for the restoration project was recently approved, giving the go-ahead to begin planning in earnest for the work to be done. Redwood City has been very involved in the FWS’ restoration plan, creating a supplement to that plan outlining the City’s goals for low-intensity public access and environmental educational facilities and opportunities, and stating its strong desire, shared by the FWS and many other groups, for full restoration, protection of endangered species, and habitat restoration and preservation.

Once further funding is secured and the massive dirt fill takes place, the FWS will breach the existing levees at strategic locations, in order to restore natural tidal action. This in turn will provide for the natural evolution of the site to tidal wetlands, natural vegetation, and habitat for many species including the endangered California clapper rail and the salt marsh harvest mouse.

The restoration also has some critical economic benefits - the “beneficial re-use” of dredge materials from dredging of the channel serving the Port of Redwood City supports the continuing maritime commerce that is an important element of Redwood City’s and the region’s economy. This re-use also helps keep the bay clean, by avoiding the dumping of fill material into the Bay. Additionally, a vegetated tidal marsh habitat will help to prevent ducks and geese from becoming a bird “strike hazard” for planes using the San Carlo Airport.

The entire project represents a model which other entities throughout the Bay Area might use for similar beneficial re-use of dredge materials. An important part of that model is a unique partnership between a group of agencies and non-profit organizations to provide mutual support for the ongoing efforts for restoration of Bair Island. This group includes the FWS, the City of Redwood City, the Bay Planning Coalition, the Port of Redwood City, Save the Bay, South Bayside Systems Authority, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and others.

Visit Redwood City’s award-winning website at www.redwoodcity.org for information about the City and its services, the community, recreation programs, education, and local business. Take a look at the variety of City webcams at redwoodcity.org/webcam, and subscribe to Redwood City’s email newsletter by emailing e-news@redwoodcity.org.

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Contact:

Malcolm Smith
Redwood City Public Communications Manager
(650) 780-7305

Clyde Morris
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
(510) 792-4275 x25

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