A New Beginning
Once tidal marsh, then converted to farmland, and now a restored multi-benefit wetland, the Tottino property shows how we can conserve the environment in a highly productive agricultural landscape. As part of ESF’s landholdings in Moro Cojo Slough, just south of Elkhorn Slough between Castroville and Moss Landing, this experimental wetland restoration is a testament to the partnership between the Central Coast Wetlands Group at Moss Landing Marine Labs, the Tottino Family, and the state Ocean Protection Council.
With support from the Ocean Protection Council.
grassland, freshwater wetland
Black-necked stilt, American avocet, Great blue heron
Before: Neither Birds Nor Brussels Sprouts
Prior to acquisition by ESF, the Tottino property had become too wet too often to farm, and instead was disced (plowed) every year to control weeds. Due to its proximity to the main stem of Moro Cojo Slough, as well as being adjacent to ESF’s Sea Mist property, Tottino was identified as a priority acquisition target.
Like in Elkhorn Slough, one of the main threats to Moro Cojo Slough is poor water quality—especially from the influx of nutrients such as those contained in farm runoff. Our partners at the Central Coast Wetlands Group (CCWG) worked with the landowners, state funders, and engineers to finalize an acquisition and restoration plan with a unique design: the property would be used to construct a series of connected treatment wetlands that would capture water from Moro Cojo Slough as well as surrounding farm fields and remove nutrients while also providing critical fresh and brackish water habitat.
- Not much habitat
- Issues with runoff
- Extra work for landowners
After: Clean Water & Wildlife
After the acquisition, habitat restoration began. A construction team with specialized equipment was brought in to carefully grade the property and create the right mix of wetland pools and dry islands for birds to rest and nest. The inlet and outlet pipes were set perfectly so that water flows into the property and winds along a nearly one mile course through the wetland complex before exiting back into Moro Cojo Slough.
After construction, tens of thousands of native plants were planted throughout the site. Now, as water passes through the property, the biological action of plants, algae, and microorganisms removes nutrients and other contaminants, and the water becomes cleaner. The mix of shallow and deep water and dry land also provides habitat for many species of birds and other wildlife, and a flourishing ecosystem has developed.
- Mix of rich habitat types
- Water quality improvement
- Limited weed burden for neighboring farms
Photo by Mike Kelly