Restoring Tidal Wetlands: Inclusive, Process-based Restoration in Working Landscapes
Kerry McNamee, Northcoast Regional Land Trust and additional project leads
The Wood Creek, Martin Slough and White Slough watersheds share a similar land-use history with other historic tidal wetland/estuarine habitat in Humboldt Bay in that, the vast majority (>90%) of the habitat was diked and leveed over the last 150 years for conversion into pasture land. These changes to the landscape have largely eliminated available habitat to estuarine dependent juvenile salmonids, especially coho salmon whose life cycle exhibits their retention in fresh and brackish water for approximately one full year after emerging as fry. The conversion from tidal wetlands and slough channel bottom lands to diked and drained grazing lands in the early to mid 1900’s has created an agrarian culture that many identify with here in Humboldt County. Many believe that our landscapes can either broadly support cows or coho, however we believe that with the right combination of seasonality and landscape types, it’s possible to restore and foster both the strong ecological nursery grounds that tidal wetlands provide for juvenile salmonids, as well as maintain the rich pastoral lands which embody the cultural history and our local agricultural economy.
This tour will visit three project sites which embody inclusive strategies to balance restoration and working landscapes including the Wood Creek Aquatic Habitat Enhancement Project (Phases I, II and the Phase I Adaptive Management Area) which is led in partnership by Northcoast Regional Land Trust, US Fish and Wildlife Service, NOAA Restoration Center, California Dept of Fish and Wildlife and the State Coastal Conservancy; the tide gate portion of the Martin Slough Enhancement Project which is led in partnership by Redwood Community Action Agency, Mike Love & Associates, GHD, NOAA Habitat Restoration Center, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the City of Eureka and Northcoast Regional Land Trust; and the White Slough Tidal Wetlands Restoration Project led by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. An overview of the entire Martin Slough Enhancement Project will be presented at the Wood Creek project site. The tour will include constructed tidal channels, large wood structures, various stages of restored and abundant tidal wetland habitat, a pasture actively undergoing restoration to balance high brackish marsh vegetation with agriculture use, a hydraulically-based and large scale tide gate, and if possible, a demonstration of capturing and tagging juvenile coho salmon. Each project’s context, goals, engineering design, implementation, challenges and successes will be discussed at the project sites.