U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service awards nearly $7 million to help coastal California wetland ecosystems

Press Release
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service awards nearly $7 million to help coastal California wetland ecosystems

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has awarded more than $27 million to support projects across the country to protect, restore or enhance almost 28,000 acres of coastal wetlands and adjacent upland habitats under the National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program. In California, eight National Coastal Wetlands Conservation grants will improve habitat for wildlife, recreation, communities and people.

“The projects funded by the National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program will strengthen partnerships with numerous public, non-profit and private stakeholders while directly conserving and restoring thousands of acres of vital coastal habitat and inland wetlands,” said Service Principal Deputy Director Martha Williams. “These grants will help ensure that coastal resources that are put at risk by pollution, development and the uncertainties of a changing climate are conserved.”

Coastal areas are highly vulnerable to climate change climate change
Climate change includes both global warming driven by human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases and the resulting large-scale shifts in weather patterns. Though there have been previous periods of climatic change, since the mid-20th century humans have had an unprecedented impact on Earth's climate system and caused change on a global scale.

Learn more about climate change
, and many have already been dramatically altered and stressed by storms, sea level rise, human activity and invasive species invasive species
An invasive species is any plant or animal that has spread or been introduced into a new area where they are, or could, cause harm to the environment, economy, or human, animal, or plant health. Their unwelcome presence can destroy ecosystems and cost millions of dollars.

Learn more about invasive species
. Coastal wetland habitat conservation is critical to ensure that important habitat, wildlife and coastal communities continue to thrive for future generations.

The 2021 National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant recipients in California are:

San Diego Bay Oyster Living Shoreline Project – San Diego

The Coastal Conservancy, the Port of San Diego and other partners will receive $960,533 to restore 10 acres of habitat within the San Diego Bay tidal zone to create a biologically rich native Olympia oyster reef.

Restoring this habitat will create a living shoreline – the first of its kind in the area - to provide growing space for the native oyster stock that still exists in the San Diego Bay. The living shoreline will include salt marsh salt marsh
Salt marshes are found in tidal areas near the coast, where freshwater mixes with saltwater.

Learn more about salt marsh
, intertidal mudflats and eelgrass beds to support ecologically and commercially important wildlife and improve water quality.

The project will improve the area’s resilience to changing environmental conditions and protect bay tidelands and adjacent shoreline, while enhancing suitable habitat for the federally protected California least terns and green sea turtles found in neighboring habitats.

Loma Alta Slough Wetlands Enhancement – Oceanside, California

The Coastal Conservancy will receive $1 million to restore and enhance coastal wetlands and uplands at the Loma Alta Slough. When complete, the project will expand upon existing habitat and restore a self-sustaining wetland ecosystem. The project’s design is community driven and includes construction of 1,200 feet of new walking trail, enhancing coastal access for the public. Restoration work will make the coastal wetlands more resilient to changing conditions and help reduce threats from flooding while providing needed habitat to federally protected species like the tidewater goby and other wildlife. This unique project also restores coastal sage scrub habitat which is important to sensitive upland species.

Ormond Beach Wetlands Restoration – Oxnard, California

The Coastal Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy and other partners will receive $1 million to begin restoring the 650-acre Ormond Beach wetlands to improve water quality, resiliency to sea-level rise and reverse degradation of a portion of the wetlands. This year’s grant funds phase two of five of the Ormond Beach Restoration and Public Access Project, which will create sandy beaches and dunes, uplands and wetlands habitat for the benefit of federally protected species like the California least tern and light-footed Ridgway’s rail while also providing access for the local community to enjoy.

Ormond Beach is an important stopover along the Pacific Flyway for more than 200 species of migratory birds and this restoration work will provide habitat and important refuge for migrating and nesting birds of all kinds.

Black Lake Ecological Area Restoration – San Luis Obispo County, California

The Coastal Conservancy will receive $584,909 to restore coastal wetlands in the Black Lake Ecological Area near Nipomo, California. The project will restore and enhance marsh and wetland habitat, and coastal dune scrub habitat for native animal and plant species. It includes work to restore and enhance a freshwater pond which will help improve subsurface groundwater recharge and provides a more diverse wetland habitat for years to come.

The anticipated restoration work at Black Lake Ecological Area will directly benefit several federally protected and sensitive species, like the marsh sandwort, Nipomo Mesa lupine, La Graciosa thistle,  California red-legged frog, western pond turtle, legless lizard, coast horned lizard, and the monarch butterfly.

Elkhorn Slough Tidal Marsh Restoration – Moss Landing, California

The Coastal Conservancy, Elkhorn Slough Foundation, California Department of Fish and Wildlife and other partners will receive $1 million to restore tidal wetlands and establish perennial grasslands at Elkhorn Slough. Previous NCWC grants funded the first two phases of a larger initiative to restore a total of 130 acres of tidal marshes and nearby seasonal grasslands in the slough. Increasing the elevation will reduce tidal erosion throughout larger areas of the marsh. By restoring critical grassland buffers water quality will be enhanced and habitat provided for grassland species. Habitat improvements will benefit the federally protected southern sea otter, California least tern, other birds and wildlife and help protect this diverse landscape for generations to come.

San Francisco Bay Wetlands Revegetation – San Francisco

The Coastal Conservancy will receive $1 million to enhance more than 2,000 acres of degraded tidal marsh in the San Francisco Bay and Estuary. This is the second of this type of project conducted by the Conservancy in the San Francisco Bay. The project will include planting 40,000 native plant seedlings and treatment of non-native plants to protect previous marsh restoration on converted salt ponds. The project will establish native plants in the tidal marsh and adjacent habitat that will provide food and nesting, breeding and high tide refuge habitat for the federally protected California Ridgway’s rail and other tidal-marsh dependent wildlife.

Elk River Estuary Restoration – Humboldt County, California

The Coastal Conservancy and partners will receive $1 million to restore 35 acres of tidal wetland habitat in Elk River Estuary. The project includes dike removal to increase hydrological connectivity in the estuary, helping to restore balance to the ecosystem and increase the tidal wetland’s resiliency to sea level rise. The project will also create suitable eelgrass habitat, which is important to reduce coastal erosion and provides foraging areas and shelter for young fish and invertebrates like Coho and Chinook salmon, Steelhead trout and tidewater goby. Eelgrass also provides food for migratory waterfowl and can improve water quality by filtering runoff.

Mad River Floodplain Estuary Restoration – Humboldt County, California

The Coastal Conservancy will receive $376,754 to restore floodplain habitat and increase Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant access at the Mad River Estuary. The project will re-establish more than four acres as riparian riparian
Definition of riparian habitat or riparian areas.

Learn more about riparian
floodplain habitat, supporting migratory waterfowl, songbirds and the rearing of winter juvenile fish. Educational signs designed in partnership with the local Wiyot Tribe will share the important history and value of this beautiful coastal wetland.

The National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program is administered by the Service’s Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program, and funded in part by taxes or import duties collected from the sale of recreational fishing equipment, boats, electric motors and motorboat and small engine fuels under the authority of the Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Act. The WSFR program provides funding for long-term conservation of coastal wetland ecosystems by helping states and territories to protect, restore and enhance coastal habitats. The billions of dollars generated through recreational angling, boating, waterfowl hunting and birdwatching benefit communities in the vicinity of wetlands restoration projects.

The 2021 grants will also help recover coastal-dependent species, enhance flood protection and water quality, provide economic benefits to coastal communities and tribes, and increase outdoor recreational opportunities.

States receiving funds this year are Alabama, Alaska, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawai‘i, Maine, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. Click here for the complete list of projects funded by the 2021 grant program. State, local and tribal governments, private landowners, conservation groups and other partners will contribute more than $22.2 million in additional funds to these projects. These grants will have wide-reaching benefits for local economies, people and wildlife – boosting coastal resilience, reducing flood risk, stabilizing shorelines and protecting natural ecosystems.

Wetlands in coastal watersheds are diverse and complex ecosystems that are vital to the nation’s economy and an important part of the nation’s natural heritage. Coastal wetlands in the United States include both salt marshes in estuaries and freshwater wetlands that extend inland within the coastal drainages. They provide crucial habitat for fish, birds and other wildlife, including breeding grounds, nurseries, shelter and food.

The Service awards grants of up to $1 million to states based on a national competition, which enables states to determine and address their highest conservation priorities in coastal areas. Since 1992, the Service has awarded more than $400 million in grants under the program.

More information is available online at: http://www.fws.gov/coastal/CoastalGrants/index.html.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information, visit www.fws.gov, or connect with us through any of these social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.