DU celebrated its third Bay Area levee breach of 2015 on Thursday in Redwood City,CA where more than 100 attendees watched as tidal water returned to inner Bair Island for the first time since the area was diked off for agriculture in the 1880s. The $7.5 million restoration project, overseen by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, will enable the site to return to marshland over the next several years. The project also features a pedestrian footbridge onto the site, a public trail and interpretive displays.
Bair Island joins Sears Point and Cullinan Ranch on the list of Bay Area projects recently returned to wetlands thanks to the involvement of Ducks Unlimited. Duck hunting is allowed in sections of Bair Island.
“This project is a key piece of the puzzle in restoring the lost wetlands around San Francisco Bay,” said Anne Morkill, manager of the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge Complex and one of the principal speakers at the event.
Bair Island got its name in the 1920s from Fred Bair, who owned a home and raised cattle on the land. In the 1940s, Leslie Salt acquired the property and built levees that divided it into three sections: Outer, Middle and Inner Bair Island. In 1973 the land was again sold to Mobil Oil, which began a large-scale development plan for the area. In response, the Friends of Redwood City, as well as groups like the Citizens Committee to Complete the Refuge, Save the Bay, and the Audubon Society fought the plan and eventually found a buyer for the land: the Peninsula Open Space Trust, who then turned it over to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to become part of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge in 1999.
C/O U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service