Saturday, August 27, 2011

a nice, big step backward

A big - very big - neighborhood improvement launched last Wednesday with the breaching of a levee and opening of nearly 500 acres to tidal inundation. The new wetlands replicate old wetlands that were eliminated 100+ years ago to make room for agriculture. Just a couple of miles from Kingbird, the new private preserve replaces a vineyard at the confluence of the Cosumnes and Mokelumme Rivers. Above, the excavator removes the last thin wall of soil holding back water from the Cosumnes River, creating a permanent breach in the levee that will allow the entry and exit of tidally driven flows. The event was timed to coincide with one of the lowest tides of the year, making the process a bit less mucky than it could have been.

The agent for this transformation is Westerveldt Ecological Services, a private mitigation banking and biological consulting firm that is a subsidiary to the Westerveldt Company, a 140-year old private timber and paper company with a strong record of natural resource stewardship. Westerveldt has developed the project as a mitigation bank and has regulatory approval to sell credits from the project that will mitigate for losses of ecological values elsewhere.

During my years at the adjoining Cosumnes River Preserve, we considered acquisition and restoration of this property to be of the highest property, but we could never reach a mutually satisfactory purchase agreement with the landowner. About five years ago, we folded our cards and encouraged Westerveldt to step in. That they have succeeded in bringing this project to fruition is a reflection of their professionalism and intense commitment. It's a big additional increment of conservation for the lower Cosumnes basin, with particular benefit for fish, waterfowl, and flood control.

Kudos and congratulations to the Westerveldt team!
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