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CSPA Supports Hamilton Wetlands Project But Not the Proposed Dredging Plan

By John Beuttler , CSPA Conservation Director
November 11, 2008 -- CSPA supports the Hamilton Bay Wetlands Project in concept but a new method of filling the wetlands has resulted in a significant problem that CSPA cannot endorse. What is an issue is the CORPS plans to dig a huge hole in San Pablo Bay and fill it up with dredge spoil material which they will later re-dredge and use in the wetlands project. This new proposal to handle dredge spoil to fill the wetlands and do the project differently will have a dual set of impacts; one when they dump the mud in the hole that they will dig in San Pablo Bay and the other when they scoop it back up to transport it the wetland restoration project. We are talking about a massive amount of dredge spoils being dumped into San Pablo Bay and re-mobilized in the aquatic habitat twice!

The Corps does not have to dig a hole in the Bay to do the restoration project. If they do, then significant impacts to the aquatic habitat and fish of San Pablo Bay and possibly San Francisco Bay will likely occur. A great deal will depend on how the project is conducted. If it significantly increased the turbidity of the Bay waters this could virtually shut off fishing for striped bass and halibut for days and perhaps weeks depending on the frequency and amount of material to be dumped in San Pablo Bay.

If this project happens during the spring, summer and fall, this could be terminal to sport fishing folks who fish San Pablo and the Northern part of San Francisco Bay. It would also seriously sport fishing businesses that have already been hammered by the a devastating salmon closure and previously hammered by the fishing closure that took place when the oil spill happened last fall.

The Corps argues that doing the project will save several million dollars, but they don't factor the costs to the aquatic habitat, organisms, fish and sport fishing. It seems cruelly ironic that this project, a project to restore a wetlands, could undo much of the progress that has been made over the past several decades to establish a meaningful policy to reduce the impacts from dredge spoil disposal in the Bay.