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Tidal Marsh Preservation at Rush Ranch

This project is conceptual at this point, but the Coastal Program office in Sacramento has provided technical assistance with design review for the final design and assessment planning.  The project will restore a 70 acre tidal marsh and the associated upland transition zone.

This project will provides support needed to complete construction designs for tidal Marsh Restoration at Rush Ranch. Rush Ranch Open Space Preserve, acquired by the Solano Land Trust (SLT) in 1988, is a 2,070-acre ranch located along the northern edge of the Suisun Marsh in Solano County, California. The property consists of 940-acres of grassland, a 70-acre diked marsh, and 1,050 acres of tidal wetlands which form one of the largest extant tracts of undiked, brackish marsh within the San Francisco Estuary.

The tidal marsh at Rush Ranch provides a home for numerous federally and state-listed threatened and endangered species, including the last known meta-population of the Suisun thistle (Cirsium hydrophilum var. hydrophilum). In 2007, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) designated much of the marsh at Rush Ranch as critical habitat for Suisun thistle and soft bird’s beak (Chloropyron molle ssp. molle, syn. Cordylanthus mollis ssp. mollis), another listed plant. Rush Ranch also provides important habitat for listed species such as salt marsh harvest mouse (Reithrodontomys raviventris), California clapper rail (Rallus longirostris obsoletus), and other rare and special status species. First Mallard Slough, a natural tidal channel at the center of the marsh, has been shown to harbor among the highest counts of splittail (Pogonichthys macrolepidotus) and tule perch (Hysterocarpus traski) in Suisun Marsh. ESA listed fish that utilize the marsh include delta smelt (Hypomesus transpacificus) and longfin smelt (Spirinchus thaleichthys). Anadromous fish include NOAA-trust species such as Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha).

This project focuses on the 70 acre diked tidal marsh.  The 70-acre diked marsh restoration project site is situated in the northwest corner of Rush Ranch, on the edge of Suisun Slough. In the 1940’s a levee and water control structures were constructed around the site and it was operated as a duck club. Hunting was stopped at Rush Ranch when it was opened up to public access in the early 1990’s (hunting opportunities are widespread elsewhere in Suisun Marsh). Since the 1990’s the diked marsh has fallen into disrepair. Today the diked marsh is subsiding and overgrown with emergent vegetation. A trail circumnavigates the diked marsh on top of the levee, but storm events often damage the levee, creating a safety hazard, and brambles have taken hold on the levee edges, sometimes interfering with passage. The Rush Ranch Tidal Marsh Restoration Project will breach the levee and create a starter channel to allow daily tidal inundation and restore natural patterns of sedimentation, marsh plain and channel evolution. A footbridge and boardwalk will be constructed in an alternate site nearby that will be less intrusive, increase public safety, and allow visitors a close-up view of the restoration project as it evolves.

Restoration of this area will result in a tidal marsh-upland ecotone and fully connected transitional zone that will connect existing tidal marsh habitat to the north and south. Across the slough from the project site, CA Department of Fish and Game, is planning an additional tidal marsh restoration site nearby. Moreover, the draft Suisun Marsh Plan—a regional plan under development by state and federal agencies—has proposed to restore between 5000-7000 acres of tidal marsh restoration within Suisun Marsh over the next 30 years. The existing tidal marsh at Rush Ranch is an important reference site for restoration projects in general. In light of the surrounding projects and planning processes, the proposed restoration and monitoring of the 70-acre diked marsh at Rush Ranch will generate important information to benefit future hydrologic/tidal reconnection projects in Suisun Marsh.

In April 2008, SLT hired consultants from PWA, Ltd, WSP Environmental Strategies, and CA Waterfowl Association to prepare Conceptual Designs and Cost Analyses for various alternative restoration strategies for the 70-acre diked marsh at Rush Ranch. Interested stakeholders were invited to review the multiple design concepts and decide whether the site would remain a “managed marsh” or be restored to un-muted tidal action. Upon recommendation of a majority of stakeholders, the SLT Board of Directors passed a resolution to restore the site to tidal marsh.

The last step before restoration is to develop final construction designs and permit the project. This proposal will provide a portion of the funding needed to complete construction designs. The San Francisco Bay Coastal program Manager will also assist with design review and project assessment. Match funds from the State Coastal Conservancy and potentially the NERR Science Collaborative provide the necessary cost share.

Case study provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.


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