[Federal Register: February 29, 2000 (Volume 65, Number 40)]
[Page 10815-10819]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Notice of Availability, Restoration Plan and Environmental 
Assessment for Natural Resources Injured by Releases of Pesticides From 
the United Heckathorn Superfund Site

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, on behalf of the 
Department of the Interior, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric 
Administration, and the State of California, announces the release for 
public review of the Final Tubbs Island Restoration Plan and 
Environmental Assessment (Plan/Assessment) for a wetland restoration 
project at Lower Tubbs Island, Sonoma County, California. The Tubbs 
Island Restoration Project was selected by the United Heckathorn 
Natural Resource Trustee Council (Trustees), consisting of 
representatives of the agencies listed above, as the preferred 
alternative to compensate the public for impairment of fish and 
wildlife habitat resulting from releases of 
dichlorodiphenoltrichloroethane (DDT) at the United Heckathorn 
Superfund Site in Richmond, California. Funds to carry out the 
restoration program were obtained via Consent Decrees between the 
government and the responsible parties in July 1996, and the Final 
Tubbs Island Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment was 
completed in August 1998, along with a Finding of No Significant Impact 
(FONSI) under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The Plan/
Assessment describes the approach, schedule, and budget for completing 
and monitoring the restoration project. A public hearing will be held 
to present the Trustees' proposal to fund the Tubbs Island Restoration 
Project with funds from the United Heckathorn settlement, and all 
interested parties are invited to submit comments on the proposal.

DATES: The public hearing will be held from 6:30 until 8:00 p.m., 
Wednesday, March 22, 2000, Richmond, California. The comment period 
closes March 30, 2000.

ADDRESSES: The public hearing will be held at the Martin Luther King 
Community Center, 360 Harbor Way South, Richmond, California. Written 
comments and materials should be sent to: Field Supervisor, Fish and 
Wildlife Service, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, 2800 Cottage 
Way, Room W-2605, Sacramento, CA 85825 (facsimile 916/414-6713). 
Comments and materials received will be available for public 
inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at the above 
address. The Plan/Assessment is available for review on the internet at 
http://www.r1.fws.gov. The Plan/Assessment is also on file at the U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service, San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge P.O. 
Box 2012, 1404 Mesa Road, Mare Island, CA 94952; (707) 562-3000. It is 
available for public inspection during normal business hours, by 
appointment, at that address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: James Haas, Fish and Wildlife Service, 
Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES section) at (916) 



    Between approximately 1947 and 1966, several operators formulated 
and packaged DDT and other pesticides at the United Heckathorn Site in

[[Page 10816]]

Richmond Harbor, Contra Costa County, California. These operations 
resulted in releases of DDT and dieldrin into the Lauritzen Channel, a 
water body that is physically connected to Richmond Harbor and San 
Francisco Bay via the Santa Fe Channel. Investigations supervised by 
the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) documented 
concentrations of DDT as high as 633,000 micrograms per kilogram (ug/
kg) in sediments of the Lauritzen Channel (White et al. 1994). Dieldrin 
concentrations as high as 16,000 ug/kg were also detected (White et al. 
1994). Concentrations of DDT and dieldrin exhibited a gradient with 
highest concentrations in the Lauritzen Channel at the United 
Heckathorn Site and lower concentrations with increasing distance from 
the site. The nearby Parr Canal also contained elevated concentrations 
of pesticides. Extensive contamination of upland soils was also 
detected by EPA and State of California investigations, and the site 
was listed on the National Priorities List (NPL List) in 1990.
    EPA's Ecological Risk Assessment for the United Heckathorn NPL Site 
(Lee et al. 1994) noted that concentrations of DDT in sediments were 
elevated to acutely toxic levels in the Lauritzen Channel and structure 
and abundance of organisms in the benthic community were affected. 
Water quality criteria for DDT and dieldrin were violated in the 
Lauritzen and Santa Fe Channels. High concentrations of DDT were 
detected in tissues of fish, transplanted mussels, and resident 
invertebrates from the Lauritzen Channel. Concentrations of DDT in fish 
exceeded by orders of magnitude levels that may cause adverse impacts 
to sensitive fish-eating birds. Overall, the results of the Ecological 
Risk Assessment indicated that the gross contaminant levels in the 
Lauritzen Channel threatened a variety of ecological receptors at 
various trophic levels, including benthic and water column organisms 
and fish-eating birds. While the Santa Fe Channel was less 
contaminated, DDT concentrations there were still significantly higher 
than levels which may threaten sensitive fish-eating birds.
    In its Record of Decision, EPA selected a cleanup alternative that 
involved dredging and off-site disposal of all soft bay mud 
(approximately 65,000 cubic yards) in the Lauritzen Channel and Parr 
Canal, placement of clean sediment after dredging, capping of 
terrestrial areas around the former United Heckathorn facility, a deed 
restriction or notice limiting use of the Levin-Richmond terminal to 
its current industrial classification, and marine monitoring to 
determine the effectiveness of the remedy. The remedy was implemented 
in 1996 and marine monitoring is in progress.
    The remedy selected by EPA should provide overall protection of 
human health and the environment and should enable natural recovery of 
the benthic and water column communities in the dredged area. However, 
the degradation of the habitat during the decades between the pesticide 
releases and the cleanup resulted in a cumulative loss of ecological 
services in the Lauritzen Channel. These lost ecological services were 
estimated by the Natural Resource Trustees using Habitat Equivalency 
Analysis and formed the basis of settlements with the responsible 
parties for natural resource damages. The $365,000 settlement was based 
on estimates of the cost of restoration of habitat that would provide 
comparable services to fish, benthic invertebrates and fish-eating 
    The restoration funds were recovered under the natural resource 
damage provisions of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, 
Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). A Trustee Council was 
established to review and select restoration projects to be funded with 
the settlement money and any interest it earns. The Trustee Council is 
responsible for ensuring that the funds are spent in an appropriate and 
cost-effective manner to compensate the public for the loss of 
ecological services of habitat affected by the pesticide releases from 
the United Heckathorn NPL Site. The selected projects must restore, 
replace, rehabilitate, or acquire the equivalent of natural resources 
or resource services that were injured by the pesticide releases.
    The loss of ecological services resulting from the contamination of 
sediments in the Lauritzen Channel was estimated using a Habitat 
Equivalency Analysis (HEA). Assuming that 10.3 acres of soft-bottom 
habitat were 100% impaired from 1981 to 1996, and that EPA's 
remediation project would result in natural recovery of the affected 
community by 2015, the HEA model estimates that the pesticide releases 
resulted in a loss of approximately 256 acre-years of services.
    The Trustees used the HEA model to estimate the size of a 
restoration project that would compensate for the loss of 256 acre-
years of habitat services. A scenario in which soft bottom habitat 
would be restored at a site other than the Lauritzen Channel to 
compensate for the habitat service losses in the Lauritzen Channel was 
modeled. In this model, the restoration project was assumed to increase 
the value of the restored habitat by a factor of two over a 20 year 
period and to provide this increased level of services in perpetuity. 
Under this scenario, each restored acre would provide 9.56 discounted 
acre-years of services, measured in terms of baseline level of services 
provided by the injured habitat in the Lauritzen Channel. Thus, a 
project involving restoration of 26.7 acres of soft bottom habitat (or 
2.6 acres of restoration project per injured acre) would compensate for 
the interim lost services resulting from the pesticide releases.
    In selecting restoration alternatives, the Trustees must decide 
whether feasible alternatives exist for the affected organisms (in-kind 
restoration) in the area affected by the releases (on-site 
restoration), or whether compensatory projects involving other 
organisms (out-of-kind restoration) or other sites (off-site 
restoration) are more appropriate. For United Heckathorn, the Trustees 
concentrated their damage assessment and restoration planning efforts 
on the types of natural resources that were most likely to have been 
affected by the pesticide releases. These resources include fish and 
benthic invertebrates that inhabit soft bottom habitats and fish-eating 
birds that forage in the vicinity of the site. Restoration of 
alternative species or communities was not considered because the 
Trustees felt that feasible restoration alternatives could be developed 
for the types of organisms that were affected by the releases.
    The Trustees considered whether to attempt restoration of soft 
bottom habitat in the Lauritzen Channel after completion of the 
dredging project. Since the United Heckathorn Site and adjacent areas 
of the harbor will, in all-likelihood, remain industrial, the Trustees 
felt that attempting restoration projects in the affected area would be 
less beneficial than implementing projects in less industrial areas of 
the bay. Therefore, the Trustees focused their on-site efforts on 
coordinating with EPA to achieve a protective remedy for the 
contaminated sediments. The dredging of the contaminated sediments, the 
application of clean sediment over the dredged area, and the monitoring 
program that is in place are intended to allow the natural recovery of 
the benthic and water column communities in the Lauritzen Channel. The 
interim losses in resource services can best be compensated for through 
off-site restoration projects that benefit the same types of organisms 
that were affected by the releases (i.e., restoration projects that are 
in-kind but off-site).
    Restoration of subtidal soft-bottom habitat in San Francisco Bay 

[[Page 10817]]

viewed by the Trustees as an infeasible option for use of the 
settlement money for several reasons. Subtidal soft-bottom habitat in 
the bay typically is restricted to shipping lanes and industrial areas 
that are periodically dredged to maintain adequate depth. Disturbance 
from dredging, vessel traffic, and industrial and municipal discharges 
would make it difficult to maintain the ecological value of any 
restoration projects that could be implemented in these areas. In 
subtidal areas that are not in shipping lanes, dredging may actually be 
necessary in order to rehabilitate contaminated sediments. However, the 
$365,000 that the Trustees received in the settlement would not be 
sufficient to cover costs of dredging and off-site disposal of 
contaminated sediments.
    The Trustees regard creation of soft bottom habitat through 
restoration of tidal slough/salt marsh complexes as a more feasible and 
cost effective way of providing comparable soft bottom habitat services 
to those that were lost due to the pesticide releases. Soft bottom 
habitat is prevalent in the early years of a marsh restoration project 
as the salt marsh vegetation takes years to establish and become 
dominant. Prior to maturation of the salt marsh vegetation, the area 
restored to tidal action must fill with silt, a process that can take 
several years. The silt filled area functions as soft bottom habitat 
until marsh vegetation gets established. Tidal sloughs also form during 
this time and persist even after the marsh vegetation becomes 
established. Slough bottoms provide many of the same ecological 
services to fish, aquatic invertebrates, and fish eating birds as the 
subtidal soft bottom habitats that were affected by the pesticide 
releases. Restoration of tidal slough/salt marsh complexes is the 
alternative the Trustees have selected to compensate for the ecological 
services lost at the United Heckathorn NPL site.
    The Trustees developed a list of criteria to consider in selecting 
wetland restoration projects for funding. The criteria included:
    (1) Replacement of lost ecological services (foraging, nursery, and 
spawning habitat for estuarine fish and invertebrates and fish-eating 
    (2) Restoration of fully tidal salt marsh habitat containing open 
water sloughs.
    (3) Projects located within the North Bay or San Pablo Bay (i.e., 
projects located north of the Bay Bridge).
    (4) Projects that can be implemented fairly easily in one year with 
little additional cost for long-term operation and maintenance.
    (5) Projects that will develop resource services relatively 
    (6) Projects that are situated on uncontaminated property.
    (7) Projects that do not involve costs of acquiring land (i.e., 
projects that are on land that is already in public ownership).
    (8) Projects that are consistent with the goals for San Francisco 
Bay-wide planning, particularly projects that have been identified in 
Regional Restoration Plans or equivalent documents that are products of 
multi-agency planning efforts.
    (9) Projects that have already been designed and have begun to 
complete required environmental documents and to obtain necessary 
permits and do not appear likely to experience lengthy delays in 
completing these requirements.
    (10) Projects that have sources of matching funds or services that 
can be applied toward the projects along with the damage settlement 
    The site of the selected project is Lower Tubbs Island, which 
consists of the most southern 72 acres of Tubbs Island, situated 
between Tolay Creek and Sonoma Creek at the west end of San Pablo Bay 
National Wildlife Refuge. The site was formerly tidal flat or marsh but 
it was enclosed by levees at the turn of the century and converted to 
agricultural use, especially production of oats and hay. The property 
was leased to the Fish and Wildlife Service by the State of California 
in 1976 and agricultural activities ceased in 1983. Since then the site 
has reverted to upland habitat containing sparse grasses and weeds that 
provides a limited amount of ecological habitat services to terrestrial 
wildlife species.
    Restoration of Lower Tubbs Island is part of the Fish and Wildlife 
Service's long term plan for San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge but 
funding has not been available to perform the necessary restoration 
    The Lower Tubbs Island project consists of construction of a new 
interior levee approximately 2,000 feet in length, followed by 
reinforcement and breaching of the existing levee that separates the 
property from San Pablo Bay. Other work may include ditch excavation 
and installation of two culverts with gates to improve water 
circulation. Materials for construction of the new interior levee would 
be excavated on site. Natural sedimentation would be relied on to 
gradually fill in the area and permit establishment of salt marsh 
vegetation. The project design is not complex and completion of the 
environmental compliance and permitting process is not expected to 
create unanticipated delays. The Fish and Wildlife Service determined 
that an Environmental Assessment was the appropriate form of 
documentation of the project's environmental affects required under the 
National Environmental Policy Act. An Environmental Assessment was 
completed, and a Finding of No Significant Impact signed, in August 
    Lower Tubbs Island has a number of attractive aspects that have 
resulted in its selection as the top candidate for restoration of 
habitat services injured at the United Heckathorn NPL Site. The project 
will restore the site to full tidal action and will result in the 
development of a salt marsh/tidal slough complex that will provide 
habitat for fish, aquatic invertebrates, and fish-eating birds. The 
proximity of Lower Tubbs Island to other restoration projects on San 
Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge and adjacent State lands contributes 
to the re-creation of a semblance of the salt marsh ecosystem that 
existed in the North Bay prior to extensive agricultural and industrial 
development. This complex of interconnected restored areas may provide 
much greater ecological services than an equivalent number of restored 
acres scattered around the bay in isolated pockets.
    Preliminary project designs have already been completed by the Fish 
and Wildlife Service and the preliminary estimate of the project cost, 
not including monitoring, is $815,000. Matching funds and services have 
been obtained from several sources to complement the funding provided 
by the Trustees. These funding partnerships will enable the Trustees to 
contribute towards a larger project than would otherwise be possible if 
the damage settlement was the only source of money.
    The Trustees selected the Lower Tubbs Island project after 
developing a list of approximately 30 other sites for potential wetland 
restoration projects. This initial list was reduced to about 10 sites 
after an initial screening that eliminated projects that did not seem 
to provide a good match to the resources and services that were injured 
at the United Heckathorn NPL site. Besides Lower Tubbs Island, the 
sites considered were the following:

(1) Tolay Creek

    This project is adjacent to Lower Tubbs Island on San Pablo Bay 
National Wildlife Refuge and consists of restoration of tidal flow to 
Tolay Creek by excavating approximately 4 miles of sediment from the 
channel. Opening of

[[Page 10818]]

the channel would allow tidal flow to deepen and widen the creek to its 
original dimensions. The increased tidal flow would enhance 300 acres 
of marsh and provide habitat for all species that utilize salt marshes 
in the North Bay, including juvenile fishes. During the time the 
Trustees were reviewing projects the Fish and Wildlife Service obtained 
funding for this project from other sources, and the project was 

(2) Cullinan Ranch

    This project is located north of Highway 37 near the city of 
Vallejo and consists of restoring tidal flow to approximately 1,493 
acres of former diked oat and hay farmland now designated as the Napa 
Marsh Unit of the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge. During the 
time the Trustees were reviewing projects the Fish and Wildlife Service 
obtained funding for this project from other sources, and the project 
is in the process of being implemented.

(3) Burdell Unit

    This project is located on the west side of the Petaluma River, 
about 5 miles upstream from the mouth and south of the Petaluma Marsh, 
and consists of restoring about 500 acres of tidal wetland on an old 
farm field. Because the area has subsided, the marsh elevation would 
have to be raised with dredge spoils to restore tidal action, and there 
are potential flooding problems for adjacent land owners.

(4) Skaggs Island

    This project is located on the former Naval Security Group Facility 
on Skaggs Island, and consists of restoring approximately 3,310 acres 
of former tidal marsh through breaching of levees. Acquisition by the 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has not been completed, and there is a 
need to evaluate whether buildings need to be demolished and whether 
there are contaminant-related issues theat would affect restoration 

(5) Napa-Sonoma Marshes

    This project is located in former Cargill salt ponds located 
primarily north of Highway 37, recently acquired by the Department of 
Fish and Game, and consists of restoring approximately 5,000-6,000 
acres of salt ponds to tidal marsh. Present high salinity from salt 
evaporation will have to be addressed, and might be prohibitively 
expensive for the amount of money available from the United Heckathorn 

(6) City of Petaluma Marsh

    This project is located on the Petaluma River adjacent to the city 
of Petaluma, and north of the Petaluma Marsh, and consists of restoring 
approximately 100-150 acres of subsided, diked historic wetland to 
tidal marsh. Because of the distance upriver that the site is located, 
there is uncertainty as to whether the restoration will provide 
significant benefit to tidal marsh species.

(7) Bruener Property

    This project is located Point Pinole Regional Park in north 
Richmond and consists of restoring approximately 217 acres of diked 
former tidal marsh. Restoration would be constrained by the need to 
protect vernal pools already existing on the site.

(8) Hamilton Army Airfield

    This project is located on the former Hamilton Army Airfield near 
the city of Novato and would restore approximately 500-700 acres of 
diked historic tidal marsh now covered by runway areas to tidal action. 
Contaminant cleanup is a concern at this site, and is currently being 
addressed by the Army Corps of Engineers; the Crops of Engineers is 
also working with the California Coastal Commission to achieve wetlands 
restoration. However, the cleanup time line does not make this project 
feasible for funding by the United Heckathorn Trustee Council in the 
near term.

(9) West End Duck Club

    This project is located adjacent to Sonoma Creek and would consist 
of restoring approximately 774 acres of former Cargill property to 
tidal action. The site is currently functioning as a muted tidal 
wetland, making the benefit of restoration to full tidal action 
questionable in relation to the expense of the project. In addition, 
management responsibility for the property has not yet been transferred 
to a resource agency.
    The Trustees intend to allocate the $365,000 damage settlement and 
the interest it has earned, to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for 
implementation of the Lower Tubbs Island project by May 2000. The 
project will be implemented in the summer of 2000 if all permits and 
matching funds are obtained by that date. A ten year monitoring plan 
will be developed and monitoring will begin within a year of completion 
of the project(s).
    The Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), acting in its capacity as 
lead trustee for the United Heckathorn Trustee Council (Council), will 
host a public hearing from 6:30 until 8:00 p.m., Wednesday, March 22, 
2000, at the Martin Luther King Community Center, 360 Harbor Way South, 
Richmond, California. The purpose of the hearing is to receive comments 
on the decision by the United Heckathorn Trustee Council to fund the 
restoration of Lower Tubbs, Island, San Pablo Bay, California, to 
compensate the public for impairment of fish and wildlife habitat 
resulting from releases of DDT at the United Heckathorn Superfund Site 
in Richmond, California. Anyone wishing to make an oral statement for 
the record is encouraged to provide a written copy of their statement 
to be presented to the Service at the start of the hearing. In the 
event there is a large attendance, the time allocated for oral 
statements may have to be limited. Oral and written statements receive 
equal consideration. There are no limits to the length of written 
comments presented at the hearing or mailed to the Service. Legal 
notices announcing the date, time, and location of the hearing are 
being published in newspapers concurrently with this Federal Register 
    Written comments may be submitted until March 30, 2000, to the 
Service office in the ADDRESSES section.

National Environmental Policy Act

    The Fish and Wildlife Service and any other agencies that may 
receive funds from the Trustees must agree to obtain and comply with 
any applicable permits or authorizations from environmental regulatory 
agencies. In addition, recipients of funds must complete all 
environmental documentation and public review requirements under the 
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and/or California 
Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). NEPA compliance has been documented 
in the form of an Environmental Assessment and Finding of No 
Significant Impact, completed in August 1998. NEPA documentation is 
included in the Restoration Plan.

References Cited

    Lee II, H.; A. Lincoff; B.L. Boese; F.A. Cole; S.F. Ferraro; J.O. 
Lamberson; R.J. Ozretich; R.C. Randall; K.R. Rukavina; D.W. Schults; 
K.A. Sercu; D.T. Specht; R.C. Swartz; and D.R. Young. 1994. Ecological 
risk assessment of the marine sediments at the United Heckathorn 
Superfund Site. Final Report to Region IX; Pacific Ecosystems Branch, 
ERL-Narragansett, U.S. EPA, Newport, Oregon; 391 p. Available from: 
Superfund Records Center, EPA Region IX, San Francisco, CA; ERL-N-269.
    White, P.J.; N.P. Kohn; W.W. Gardner; and J.Q. Word. 1994. The 

[[Page 10819]]

investigation of marine sediment at the United Heckathorn Superfund 
Site. Pacific Northwest Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy, 
Richland, Washington; 466 p. Available from: NTIS, Springfield, VA; 


    The primary authors of this notice are Daniel Welsh and James Haas 
(see ADDRESSES section).


    The authority for this action is the Comprehensive Environmental 
Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980, as amended (42 
U.S.C. 9601 et seq.).

    Dated: February 18, 2000.
Elizabeth H. Stevens,
Deputy Manager, California-Nevada Operations Office, Sacramento, 
[FR Doc. 00-4432 Filed 2-28-00; 8:45 am]