Wetlands Restoration in Napa County, by Chris Benz

One hundred and fifty years ago the Bay was surrounded by tidal marshes, but today only about 10% of those remain. Marshes were diked and drained for use for agriculture, salt production, and landfills. Fortunately, the North Bay has had many of its tidal marshes restored. 

The American Canyon Wetlands were restored in two phases. In the 1990s, approximately 178 acres of land were restored to tidal action around the landfill. Located beside the river and in the wetlands, the landfill has been closed, capped and landscaped. It has been transformed into a major recreation opportunity for the region with a multi-use trail, known as Congressman Mike Thompson's Hike and Bike, around its base. In 2006, the City restored the low-lying floodplains north of the landfill site to tidal and seasonal wetlands. These baylands provide habitat for many fish, waterfowl, shorebirds, and wildlife species.

Another major site of restoration is just to the north. The Napa Plant Site Restoration Project is across the Napa River from the Napa River Salt Marsh Restoration Project. In 2003, the State of California purchased 1,460 acres of land in the North Bay as part of the Cargill Salt Ponds acquisition. The Napa Plant Site was the processing facility for Cargill’s North Bay solar salt production operation. The northern part of it is flanked by Green Island Road.

Managed by the California Department Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), the project involved the acquisition, restoration, and enhancement of nine former commercial salt ponds and nine crystallizers (salt harvesting ponds) to tidal marsh and ecotone habitat for a variety of waterfowl, shorebirds, and other wildlife. Today you can visit this site at the end of Green Island Road or reach it via the Napa River Bay Trail.

In 2020 the City of American Canyon received a grant from the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority to develop the American Canyon Wetlands Restoration Plan. This plan is currently doing feasibility studies which will address strategies for flood protection and habitat restoration; opportunities for education, community engagement, and public access; strategies for managing wastewater overflow; and potential impacts of sea level rise to the project area. The Plan hopes to integrate habitat enhancements and public access with the proposed Napa River Ecology Center at the end of West American Canyon Road.

Napa Group shared this information by talking with those we met at the June 25 “Wetlands Restoration” pop-up event hosted by the American Canyon Community and Parks Foundation. (Photo Caption: Bird life at the American Canyon Wetlands-Napa-Sonoma Marshes Wildlife Area. Photo Credit: Ridechronicles.com)

How You Can Help Our Wetlands:

  • Don’t dump garbage and oil in the wetlands-restoration crews waste time hauling out trash.
  • Take out your lawn--High levels of nitrogen and phosphorus can cause eutrophication of water bodies. Eutrophication can lead to hypoxia (“dead zones”), causing fish kills and a decrease in aquatic life. Source: US EPA
  • Share your experience and enjoyment of the wetlands and build support for restoration and migration inland.

We encourage community members to learn more about current restoration efforts and to support the vital resources our tidal wetlands provide.