FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
June 9, 2023
RICHARDSON BAY REGIONAL AGENCY AND PARTNERS SECURE $2.8 MILLION FROM US EPA FOR EELGRASS RESTORATION
Funding support from the Environmental Protection Agency will support efforts to restore and protect critical part of Richardson Bay ecosystem
Sausalito, CA—The Richardson Bay Regional Agency (RBRA) and its partners at Audubon California and San Francisco State University have secured a $2.8 million federal grant to support eelgrass restoration and protection efforts.
“Eelgrass is the foundation of the ecosystem in Richardson Bay, and all that we love about the bay,” said Marin County Supervisor and RBRA Board Chair Stephanie Moulton-Peters. “It supports fisheries, provides protection from climate change and stabilizes our shoreline. This transformational funding will help us continue our efforts to protect this critical natural resource.”
The grant, provided by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) San Francisco Bay Water Quality Improvement Fund, is aimed at restoring at least 15 acres of eelgrass over four years through an innovative public-private partnership. The funding will bolster the continued implementation of the RBRA’s Eelgrass Protection and Management Plan while also supporting the creation of a new 10-year Restoration and Adaptive Management Plan.By partnering with San Francisco State University and Audubon CA, the grant will also fund community support and engagement programs, as well as ongoing eelgrass research, monitoring, and management initiatives.
“West Coast eelgrass beds are the lynchpins of ecosystems that support everything from terns to whales,” said Richardson Bay Audubon Center Director Casey Arndt. “Richardson Bay provides a vital spawning ground for herring that permit the survival of a network of animals across the food chain. Their success depends on the health of the Bay’s eelgrass beds. This funding will help ensure that eelgrass is resilient to climate change and healthy for generations to come.”
Eelgrass is a critical component of a healthy and vibrant Richardson Bay. It supports herring runs, reduces erosion, sequesters a surprising amount of carbon and is a crucial ecological resource for harbor porpoises and sea lions. However, when anchors, chains, and other ground tackle scrape along the Bay bottom, they essentially act as a lawn mower for all living plants. This creates “crop circles” or barren areas where no eelgrass can grow. In Richardson Bay, there is an area four times the size of Alcatraz where eelgrass has been destroyed by anchor scour in Richardson Bay.
To combat those impacts and provide an opportunity for eelgrass to recover, the RBRA created an “Eelgrass Protection Zone” (EPZ) in Richardson Bay where no anchoring is allowed. While there are still vessels and floating homes anchored in the EPZ, the RBRA and its partners are working on initiatives such as a vessel buyback and temporary supporting housing programs to help encourage residents to move off the waters and into safe, secure housing on land.
The implementation of the EPZ has created new opportunities for eelgrass restoration, which is particularly urgent in the face of sea level rise, increasing ocean temperatures, and other threats from a changing climate.
Eelgrass is a nature-based solution to those threats. Eelgrass beds improve water quality, sequester carbon, lessen ocean acidification, and provide nursery habitat for commercially, recreationally, and ecologically important marine life.
By partnering with San Francisco State University’s Estuary & Ocean Science Center (EOS Center), the project will benefit from cutting edge restoration research and provide training for early career scientists.
“Richardson Bay is a living laboratory where our students can see the benefits of their research firsthand and contribute to on-the-ground conservation of one of our state’s most crucial natural resources,” said Dr. Katharyn Boyer, Interim Executive Director & Professor of Biology at the EOS Center.
While the RBRA has made significant progress to reduce the number of vessels anchored in the EPZ, there are still more than 50 boats illegally anchored there. As part of an agreement with the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC), the RBRA has a mandate to relocate all those vessels out of the EPZ by October 15, 2024, and off the anchorage by October 15, 2026.
“Everyone knows how important eelgrass is to the wellbeing and vitality of Richardson Bay,” said RBRA Executive Director Brad Gross. “This grant will literally help bring new life back to Richardson Bay, while we continue to work on collaborative, thoughtful solutions to create a safe, welcoming environment for everyone on Richardson Bay.
The Richardson Bay Regional Agency (RBRA) is a local government agency serving Belvedere, Mill Valley, Tiburon, and unincorporated Southern Marin County. RBRA is dedicated to maintaining and improving the navigational waterways, open waters, and shoreline of Richardson Bay.