Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) Director Dan Ashe today announced four grants, totaling more than $3 million to support critical coastal wetland projects in California. The California projects are part of the National Coastal Grants Wetlands Conservation Grants Program.

Nationally, $16.5 million in grants were awarded to support 21 critical coastal wetland projects in 12 states and Puerto Rico. The complete list of projects funded by the 2014 grant program can be found here.

State and local governments, private landowners, conservation groups and other partners will contribute an additional $2.3 million to the California projects, which include acquiring, restoring or enhancing coastal wetlands and adjacent uplands to provide long-term conservation benefits to fish and wildlife and their habitats.

“Coastal wetlands not only provide key habitat for fish and wildlife but they also improve water quality, support local economies through jobs and provide flood protection,” Jewell said. “These grants, funded through excise taxes paid by anglers and boaters, give us the opportunity to join with states and territories and other partners to conserve and restore these areas that are so vital to our environment and our quality of life.”

Coastal wetlands comprise less than 10 percent of the nation’s land area yet support a significant number of wildlife species, including 75 percent of migratory birds, nearly 80 percent of fish and shellfish, and about half of all our threatened and endangered species. Wetlands in coastal watersheds in the U.S. are experiencing a net annual loss of about 80,160 acres according to a new study by the Service.

“With the latest data showing dramatic annual loss of coastal wetlands, these grants become even more important,” Ashe said. “These wetlands are invaluable resources we must protect, and, with these grants, states, territories and partners will be able to undertake high priority projects.”

The National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program is administered by the Service and funded under provisions of the 1990 Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act. Funding is provided by Sport Fish Restoration Act revenue – money generated from an excise tax on fishing equipment, motorboat and small engine fuels.

The Service awards grants of up to $1 million to states based on a national competition, which allows states to determine and address their highest conservation priorities in coastal areas.

Since 1992, the Service has awarded $336 million in grants under the program.

The California projects receiving grants today are:

Bair Island Restoration Project

(Grant:  $554,485; Non-federal match:  $660,000; Total project cost:  $1,214,485)

The California State Coastal Conservancy is awarded a $554,485 grant to restore 188 acres of estuarine tidal marsh habitat and 1.1 miles of historic slough channel, enhance 20 acres of transitional upland habitat, and provide valuable habitat for numerous listed and wetland dependent species. Bair Island was diked in the late 1800s for agriculture and later converted for salt production. The project will restore the wetland habitat by breaching levees along the historic channel, armoring one of the breaches to maintain the channel, making levee improvements, planting native vegetation, and monitoring project improvements. The majority of the Bair Island complex is owned by California Department of Fish and Wildlife and USFWS. The restored habitat will assist with the protection and recovery of both the California clapper rail and the Salt marsh harvest mouse, both of which are federally listed as endangered. As the site accretes, the intertidal mudflats will support shorebirds and water birds.

Los Osos Creek Wetland Conservation Project – Phase 1

(Grant:  $510,222; Non-federal match:  $182,005; Total project cost:  $692,227)

The California State Coastal Conservancy is awarded a $510,222 grant to protect in perpetuity 81.7 acres on lower Los Osos Creek in the Morro Bay watershed. The parcel abuts Morro Bay estuary and is comprised of 64.6 acres of nationally decreasing palustrine wetlands, including 0.5 miles of designated critical habitat for the federally threatened South-Central California Coast steelhead trout and 9 acres of critical habitat for the federally endangered Tidewater goby. The parcel will be owned and managed by the Coastal San Luis Resource Conservation District. The project will include a restoration alternatives study to consider opportunities and constraints, recommend restoration options, and complete conceptual design and cost estimates for the project. Morro Bay was designated as an estuary of national significance because it is a relatively intact lagoon and wetland environment, and supports the most significant wetland system on the coast of Central California.

San Francisco Bay Coastal Wetlands Vegetation and High Tide Refuge Islands Project

(Grant:  $1,000,000; Non-federal match:  $1,000,000; Other federal funds:  $21,000; Total project cost:  $2,021,000)

The California State Coastal Conservancy is awarded a $1 million grant to reverse coastal wetland habitat degradation and enhance 1,200 acres of estuarine intertidal emergent wetland habitat in the San Francisco Bay estuary by propagating and planting 150,000 native plants and constructing 20 high tide refuge islands in eight key locations. The goal of the project is to provide critically-needed cover, forage, nesting, breeding, and high tide refuge islands for the federally endangered California clapper rail, and to enhance habitats for other tidal salt marsh dependent fish, migratory birds, and other wildlife. This project will help complete the final two years of a major five-year habitat enhancement program lead by the Conservancy and the USFWS Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge Complex in coordination with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, East Bay Regional Park District, and other local partners.

White Slough Restoration Project

(Grant:  $1,000,000; Non-federal match:  $457,759; Total project cost:  $1,457,759)

The California State Coastal Conservancy is awarded a $1 million grant to restore 37 acres of coastal wetlands and 3 acres of associated uplands located in the White Slough Unit of the Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge on Humboldt Bay in Humboldt County, California. The project will be carried out by non-profit partners of the Conservancy and USFWS. The project area contains diked former tidelands, consisting primarily of 35 acres of brackish marsh, and small areas of agricultural wetlands, freshwater marsh, and riparian habitat. Of the 40 acres project area, approximately 25 acres will be restored to saltmarsh, and at least 13 of the 15 remaining acres will be brackish or freshwater marsh that will have enhanced ecosystem function once tidal influence is restored. The remaining acreage will consist of restored slough channel and remnant portion of the existing dike to provide high tide bird refugia. The project will provide valuable habitat for the endangered Tidewater Goby, federally threatened Green sturgeon, Coho salmon, and Steelhead trout.

Logo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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