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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

DON EDWARDS S.F. BAY NWR: Innovative Deal on Restoration Dirt Saves Taxpayers Money

Region 8, September 25, 2012
Each day, up to 500 dump trucks of dirt are hauled to the wetland restoration site on Bair Island, part of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Each day, up to 500 dump trucks of dirt are hauled to the wetland restoration site on Bair Island, part of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge - Photo Credit: n/a
The 1500-acre wetland restoration site on Bair Island in Redwood City.
The 1500-acre wetland restoration site on Bair Island in Redwood City. - Photo Credit: n/a

By Doug Cordell

An innovative arrangement to acquire uncontaminated dirt for an ongoing wetland restoration project on Bair Island, a part of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge near Redwood City, Calif., is saving taxpayers more than $5 million.

When the project broke ground in 2006, the total cost was expected to be $12 million. Close to half that amount was the projected cost of acquiring 1.5 million cubic yards of dirt to reverse decades of erosion and subsidence of the land--a result of its historical use for agriculture. It turns out though, that area construction firms have limited options for disposing of dirt from their own projects, and they’re willing to pay the contractor on the Bair Island project, Pacific States, of Dublic, Calif., to take it.

While securing a supply of free dirt has lengthened the project’s timeline somewhat, it is ultimately lowering the cost of the total project to $6.9 million.

Currently, up to 500 dump trucks of dirt are being carted to Bair Island each day from various construction sites in the Bay Area. The goal is to raise the elevation of the restoration area by two feet.

It’s not simply a matter of trucking in the surplus dirt, however. First, the soil must be inspected by trained professionals hired by Pacific States to ensure it does not exceed required standards for levels of contaminants.

The six-year, 1500-acre restoration of Bair Island is now nearing completion. The restored site will bring back thriving wetland habitat for a wide range of birds, fish and marine mammals. It will also feature a number of public access amenities. A pedestrian foot bridge is scheduled to be installed in December 2012, and by April 2013, the site will feature viewing platforms, interpretive displays and an ADA-compatible public trail.

Contact Info: Doug Cordell, 510-774-4080, doug_cordell@fws.gov