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Phase 1 studies summary of major findings of the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project, South San Francisco Bay, California

April 2, 2018

Executive Summary

The South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project (Project) is one of the largest restoration efforts in the United States. It is located in South San Francisco Bay of California. It is unique not only for its size—more than 15,000 acres—but also for its location adjacent to one of the nation’s largest urban areas, home to more than 4 million people (Alameda, Santa Clara, and San Mateo Counties). The Project is intended to restore and enhance wetlands in South San Francisco Bay while providing for flood management, wildlife-oriented public access, and recreation. Restoration goals of the project are to provide a mosaic of saltmarsh habitat to benefit marsh species and managed ponds to benefit waterbirds, throughout 3 complexes and 54 former salt ponds.

Although much is known about the project area, significant uncertainties remain with a project of this geographic and temporal scale of an estimated 50 years to complete the restoration. For example, in order to convert anywhere from 50 to 90 percent of the existing managed ponds to saltmarsh habitat, conservation managers first enhance the habitat of managed ponds in order to increase use by waterbirds, and provide migratory, wintering, and nesting habitat for more than 90 species of waterbirds. Project managers have concluded that the best way to address these uncertainties is to carefully implement the project in phases and learn from the outcome of each phase. The Adaptive Management Plan (AMP) identifies specific restoration targets for multiple aspects of the Project and defines triggers that would necessitate some type of management action if a particular aspect is trending negatively. U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) biologist Laura Valoppi served as the project Lead Scientist and oversaw implementation of the AMP in coordination with other members of the Project Management Team (PMT), comprised of representatives from the California State Coastal Conservancy, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Santa Clara Valley Water District, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

To implement the AMP, the PMT have selected and funded applied studies and monitoring projects to address key uncertainties. This information is used by the PMT to make decisions about current management of the project area and future restoration actions in order to meet project.

This document summarizes the major scientific findings from studies conducted from 2009 to 2016, as part of the science program that was conducted in conjunction with Phase 1 restoration and management actions. Additionally, this report summarizes the management response to the study results under the guidance of the AMP framework and provides a list of suggested studies to be conducted in “Phase 2–A scorecard summarizing the Project’s progress toward meeting the AMP goals for a range of Project objectives.” The scoring to date indicates that the Project is meeting or exceeding expectations for sediment accretion and western snowy plover (Charadrius alexandrinus nivosus) recovery. There is uncertainty with respect to objectives for California gulls (Larus californicus), California least tern (Sternula antillarum), steelhead trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), and regulatory water quality objectives. Water quality and algal blooms, specifically of the managed ponds, is indicated as trending negative. However, the vast majority of objectives are trending positive, including increased abundance for a number of bird guilds, increasing marsh habitat, maintenance of mudflats, visitor experience, estuarine fish numbers, and special-status marsh species numbers.

Publication Year 2018
Title Phase 1 studies summary of major findings of the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project, South San Francisco Bay, California
DOI 10.3133/ofr20181039
Authors Laura Valoppi
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 2018-1039
Index ID ofr20181039
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Ecological Research Center