On October 25, 2015, after 10 years of planning and $18 million dollars raised, Sonoma Land Trust, with the help of Ducks Unlimited, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and several other partners breached a levee along the north edge of San Francisco Bay at Sears Point Ranch. The 285-foot-wide breach allowed salt water to fill a recently constructed 1,000-acre tidal marsh basin for the first time in 140 years. The area quickly filled with Bay water although it is expected to take decades to turn into the type of tidal marsh it was before being cut off from the Bay.


A: Nearly 1,000 acres of future tidal marsh connected to the earlier Sonoma Baylands restoration site in the background; B: Separated from the tidal marsh by the railroad track and the new habitat levee, this area will be a focus for seasonal wetland enhancement; and C: Sears Point uplands, nearly 1,000 acres of grasslands, seasonal wetlands and riparian drainages. Photo by Robert Janover, courtesty of Sonoma Land Trust.

This two-minute video by Sonoma Land Trust staffer Corby Hines (with drone operators Eric Carpenter and Michael Heumann) provides an up-close glimpse of the breach event.

During the design phase, the San Francisco Bay Joint Venture offered a design review process with funding from the California State Coastal Conservancy. Four area experts in Bay ecology, hydrology, geomorphology, and tidal modeling, along with staff from the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge helped address key project design elements. The project benefited from lessons learned by other projects, as well as from nature itself. It incorporates several innovations to reduce overall costs and increase the pace at which the marsh is expected to grow.

Once established, the marsh will enhance the entire Bay ecosystem. Like all tidal marshes it will provide important habitat for endangered and native species. Just as important, the restored marsh will also provide ecosystem services such as the capture and sequestering of carbon, pollutant filtration, and protection of homes, roads, and railways from rising seas and storm surges expected to increase in the near future. Additionally, a new 2.5-mile-long section of the San Francisco Bay Trail on top of the new levee will provide some of the best access to the Bay in Sonoma County. The trail and a kayak ramp will open to the public by early 2016.

Photo by Scott Hess via Flickr Creative Commons

Photo by Scott Hess via Flickr Creative Commons

For more information or to read some of the extensive coverage of the breach event visit the Sonoma Land Trust website or contact Julian Meisler, Baylands Program Manager.