We have an opportunity in Hercules to preserve the 12 acre Chelsea wetlands near Chelsea by the Bay and Hercules by the Bay communities. The wetland is a vital part of our ecosystem. Egrets once nested there and it remains the habitat of some endangered species.
The past century took its toll on the Chelsea Wetland. As the area was developed, tons of soil was dumped in the wetland. A similar practice occurred throughout the country. By 1950, an estimated 45 million acres, or 35%, of all wetlands in America had been drained.
Restoring the Chelsea wetland has several benefits. By removing the unnatural soil in Chelsea Wetland, the water storage capacity will increase by four feet, thus helping to reduce flooding in nearby neighborhoods, as happened in Pinole in 2006. This is particularly important to the communities of Chelsea by the Bay and Hercules by the Bay.
A healthy wetland also prevents pollutants from running into the bay. Ecologists call wetlands “the kidney” of the ecosystem because of the natural cleansing functions they perform. They do this by retaining sediments and toxic pollutants attached to the sediments. Wetland plants also reduce algae blooms and fish kills.
Restoring the Chelsea Wetland
Currently, the Chelsea Wetland turns dry and brown in the summer. A healthy wetland and creek would cycle water year round, providing a place for wildlife. Native vegetation would return naturally or be reintroduced. Some of the current goals of the restoration project include:
Restore transition area between the flood plain and Pinole Creek
Restore the wetland aquatic and transitional habitat for wide range of species
Prevent pollutants and sedimentation from entering the bay
Provide an additional 4 feet of water storage capacity to reduce flooding
The City of Hercules has committed to reviewing the county’s work on flood control to make sure that we are protected and that future efforts will not aggravate what is currently in place.
Last year, the City of Hercules finalized grant agreements with the California Natural Resources Agency and the Environmental Protection Agency and Association of Bay Area Governments. In all, the Chelsea Wetlands Project has recieved several grants: $1.83 million from the Proposition 84 is the California River Parkways Program; $145,000 from the Green Infill Clean storm Water Initiative (EPA/ABAG), $56,200 from the Contra Costa County Fish and Wildlife Propagation Fund and $40,000 from the San Francisco Foundation. The City of Hercules has also contributed $128,000, bringing the project total to over $2.1 million.
In Februrary of 2012, the City solicited Request For Proposals for CEQA and Permit Regulatory Compliance for for the project. A Request For Proposals for Final Engineering Design will also be made available in February.
The list of all grant recipients can be found on the Natural Resources Agency Website at: http://www.resources.ca.gov/.
How you can help
The City of Hercules and their consultants have presented plans and answered question on the Chelsea Wetlands Restoration at community workshops sponsored by The Friends of Pinole Creek Watershed. And the Chelsea by the Bay Homeowners Association has been actively involved with the City on this Project. Community involvement is a critical component of success for projects like this.
If you are interested in getting more involved in the wetland restoration, contact Staff for the Chelsea Wetland Restoration Project at (510) 799-8256.