With fifty percent, or 1,000 acres, of Elkhorn Slough’s salt marshes being lost over the past 150 years and the ongoing marsh loss and habitat erosion, the Elkhorn Slough Tidal Wetland Project was formed. This unique program is a collaborative effort to develop and implement strategies to conserve and restore estuarine habitats in the Elkhorn Slough watershed. This collaboration, initiated in 2004, involves over 100 coastal resource managers, scientific experts, representatives from key regulatory and jurisdictional entities, leaders of conservation organizations, and community members.
Restoration recommendations for estuarine habitats of Elkhorn Slough
For the past several years, stakeholders and scientists participating in the Elkhorn Slough Tidal Wetland Project (TWP) have evaluated the pros and cons of different restoration alternatives for the estuary. The main channel and tidal creeks in Elkhorn Slough have undergone extensive erosion due to tidal scour following the opening of an artificial mouth to the estuary in 1946 to accommodate Moss Landing Harbor. The larger estuarine mouth also has contributed to dieback of salt marshes. Tidal Wetland Project investigations explored whether a single large fix at the mouth of the estuary, effectively shrinking the mouth size, would benefit overall ecosystem health. In November 2012, the TWP Strategic Planning Team, informed by the Science Panel, approved 10 recommendations for future action. The decision, based on extensive interdisciplinary evaluations, was that no large scale action should currently be undertaken at the mouth of the estuary, because of potential risks to water quality, negative impacts to recreational boating, and uncertainty about benefits to salt marsh habitat. Instead, the Strategic Planning Team recommends a variety of other approaches to restoration be implemented over the coming decade, including a sediment addition project to restore subsided marsh, and enhancement of tidal exchange to selected wetlands behind water control structures. The recommendations highlight the importance of reducing nutrient-loading and eutrophication in the estuary. The recommendations also call for a collaborative approach to further science-based decision-making for the estuary. The complete report summarizing the evaluation of different alternatives and the approved recommendations can be downloaded here (TWP_Recommendations_2012.pdf). In the coming years meetings with the Strategic Planning Team and Science Panel will focus on refining and prioritizing various approaches.
Download the Elkhorn Slough Tidal Wetland Project Strategic Plan! This document describes Elkhorn Slough’s estuarine habitats, characterizes the main impacts causing loss and degradation of those habitats, and provides conservation and restoration recommendations.
The Elkhorn Slough Tidal Wetland Project is a collaborative effort led by the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve. The Elkhorn Slough Reserve is owned and managed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Elkhorn Slough Foundation.
Grant funding for this project has been provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coastal Impact Assistance Program, David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Resources Legacy Fund Foundation, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the California Coastal Conservancy.