Wetlands: FAQs

Why do wetlands matter?

The marine birds depend upon the wetlands for food and for nesting. Examples are shore birds like the American Avocet, the Great and Snowy Egrets, the Black Oyster Catcher, the Clover and Sandpiper, and even the occasional Great Blue Heron. Waterbirds such as the Bufflehead, the Canvasback, the Coot, the Cormorant, as well as numerous variations of geese, gulls and ducks also rely on the wetlands. These birds all add to the beauty and charm of our neighborhood.

Why don’t we let nature take its course and allow the wetlands to change?

The changes in the wetlands are man-made. Some of the wetlands themselves have been brought about by human intervention. Until recently, building roads and filling in areas for construction was the norm and allowed with little consideration for the well being of the natural population. For example, under present regulations neither the Loch Lomond Marina and nor Beach Drive would likely have been permitted. The building of homes and roads and other impermeable construction on the hillsides results in run-off carrying sediment and hydrocarbons into the water. We need to stop and try to reverse as much of this process as we can in order to maintain our marine bird life around us. In the real world in which we live, we cannot tear down the Marina or rip out Beach Drive, so we need to do what we can to mitigate the damage.

Don’t wetlands bring disease?

Now that mosquito control operates efficiently, there is no substantial health risk in living near a wetland.

Where are all the wetlands in our neighborhoods?

There are two wetlands and one inlet that are at immediate risk and that are receiving our attention at this time. In addition there are some small wetlands on private property that do not appear to need out attention for now. If anyone knows of the deterioration of any wetland in our community please let us know. Those that we have identified to be at risk are:

  • The inlet between the Loch Lomond Marina and Beach Drive. This is not strictly a “wetland” but it “feeds” the neighboring wetland and is deteriorating rapidly, so it is of concern to our neighborhood.
  • The wetland across Beach Drive on the east side of the inlet.
  • The wetland between the quarry/brickyard and Pt. San Pedro Road.

Who is responsible for each of the wetlands?

The Inlet has several jurisdictions (City, County, Marina owners). The Beach Drive wetlands also seems to have several jurisdictions, including a private owner. The Quarry wetlands are on private property owned by the Dutra Corp. In all cases, the issue of “responsibility” for wetlands preservation and maintenance is murky at best in the law. In addition, other entities such as the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) and the Army Corps of Engineers may have some jurisdiction. Again, the situation is rather murky and these entities have not asserted their authority, if they have any. The committee and the Coalition Board continues to contact and work with all of these entities to attempt to resolve these issues.

What can be done to restore the wetlands?

In the case of a true tidal wetland (Beach Drive and Quarry wetlands), a full flow of water in and out with the tides will maintain the health of the system. In the case of the inlet next to the Marina, repair of the breakwater/levee protecting the boat harbor and dredging of the inlet will be necessary.

Why is the inlet between Beach Drive (Bayside Acres) and the Loch Lomond Marina silting up?

There are several reasons, among them:

  • A subsidence of a section of the levee has interrupted the tidal flow.
  • Silt is being washed down of the hillside into the inlet.
  • Silt is brought down by the Sacramento River into the Bay and under some circumstances can be carried into the inlet.

We need expert engineering advice to proportion these factors and determine the best remedial action.

Won’t wetlands and inlet restoration be costly? Who will pay for it?

Yes, the inlet restoration will be costly. We are initially consulting with the Marin County attorneys to find out who has the legal responsibilities to repair the damage.

What are Marin County and San Rafael’s positions on restoration and maintenance of the wetlands?

We have received both support and financial aid from Supervisor Susan Adams in fixing the Beach Drive wetland. The position of the County and the City regarding the other areas is not yet clear.

What has the Coalition done so far?

We raised funds and coordinated the project to repair the flap-gate into the Beach Drive wetland. This included obtaining $5,000 from the discretionary fund of our Marin County supervisor, Susan Adams. The total cost was approximately $25,000. This will help reduce sediment entering the wetland during the next winter storm.

We have encouraged the Quarry to be concerned about their wetland. They appointed a consultant to review the health of their wetland although, as yet, we have not seen this report.

We are currrently investigating what is the cause of the silting of the Inlet and how to repair and restore it. As part of this effort, we are soliciting the assistance of the County as well as others.

What are the next steps the Coalition is planning to take?

The Coalition Board is seeking legal and technical advice on how to restore the inlet. We are starting by soliciting advice from the County. We are also awaiting input from the Quarry regarding their wetlands.

How can I help?

After the Coalition Board has decided on the direction we should take, we will need to employ attorneys and engineers to implement our program. At that stage, we will need to raise money and to have resources to assist and supervise this effort.