Coastal Habitats: Case Studies
Below are few examples of habitat enhancement and protection projects states have supported through coastal zone management funding.
- South San Francisco Bay Salt Ponds Restoration
- Ecological Corridors Protect Wildlife Movement and Water Quality in Michigan
- North Carolina Coastal Habitat Protection Plan
- Wisconsin's Restoration Planning Projects
San Francisco Bay once supported 190,000 acres of tidal salt marsh, but today only 16,000 acres remain. In 2003, the State of California acquired 15,100 acres of salt ponds in south San Francisco Bay to restore the historic marshes.
The Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) has been collaborating with the California State Coastal Conservancy, other state agencies, NOAA Fisheries Service, non-profits, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Regional Water Quality Boards, local governments, neighbors, and many others in a five-year process to develop a long-term restoration plan for the South Bay salt ponds. The project is the largest tidal marsh restoration project attempted on the West Coast. The long-term plan for the salt ponds will outline the mix of habitats to be restored or enhanced and the phasing for implementation of the restoration. The interested parties are working together to determine the mix of different habitat types, from tidal marshes that provide habitat for the endangered California clapper rail and salt marsh harvest mouse to managed ponds which provide feeding and roosting areas for migrating ducks and shorebirds, that will be restored or enhanced. The South Bay Salt Pond Restoration project will also balance the goals of habitat and wildlife protection, public access, and flood control. The South Bay Restoration Plan is scheduled to begin phased implementation in 2009.
The San Francisco Bay Plan contains policies that guide BCDC's management of development, recreation, and restoration activities in the coastal zone. The salt pond policies had not been comprehensively updated in over 30 years. To better plan for this unique opportunity, BCDC revised and developed new salt pond and managed wetland policies for incorporation into the San Francisco Bay Plan. The new policies were adopted in 2005.
Michigan's Coastal Management Program continues its long-standing support of Wild Link, a project to counter the impacts of habitat fragmentation in the northwestern Lower Peninsula. The forests, clear lakes, and trout streams of the five-county Grand Traverse Bay watershed are home to black bear, bobcat, otter, deer, and other wildlife. Increasingly, they are also the setting of housing developments, including second homes for retirees and vacationers seeking to be close to nature. Cleared lands and new developments block or complicate the movements of wildlife as they search for food, mates, and shelter. Through the Wild Link project, the Conservation Resource Alliance (CRA) helps private property owners establish, manage, and protect corridors of wildlife habitat that join large expanses of forests and wetlands under public ownership. Landowners participate in Wild Link because they view the presence of wildlife as a tangible benefit to owning property "up north." Corridors suitable for black bear and other widely-roaming species are hundreds of feet in width. Consequently, many participating landowners set aside and maintain and/or revegetate considerable amounts of acreage for wildlife.
Most of the private lands mapped and targeted by the CRA for landowner contact and ecological corridor establishment are riparian lands or wetlands. Protecting wide bands of natural vegetation along rivers, streams, and adjacent uplands helps protect water quality. Though wildlife protection is the main "hook" for drawing landowners to participate in Wild Link, CRA biologists consider water quality objectives when developing property-specific management plans. In 2005, the Michigan Coastal Management Program awarded the CRA a grant to complete habitat restoration plans for approximately 750 acres of priority ecological corridors.
Under the Fisheries Reform Act of 1997, the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) was instructed to prepare a Coastal Habitat Protection Plan (CHPP). The plan identifies six habitats (water column, shell bottom, submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV), wetlands, soft bottom, and hard bottom) that are important to the long-term enhancement of coastal fisheries. For each of the habitats, the plan includes: information on the habitat's description, distribution, ecological role and functions for finfish and shellfish species; status and trends of the habitats; threats to the habitats; and recommended management actions to address the threats. The 19 management recommendations include a variety of regulatory, enforcement, research, monitoring, and restoration activities affecting coastal fish habitat. Moreover, the plan summarizes the institutional structures for management of fisheries resources, fisheries habitat, and water quality in eastern North Carolina.
To ensure a coordinated management approach, the North Carolina Environmental Management Commission, Coastal Resources Commission, and Marine Fisheries Commission were required to adopt the CHPP. When the plan was adopted in December 2004, the three regulatory commissions agreed to work to accomplish the following goals:
GOAL 1 - Improve effectiveness of existing rules and programs protecting coastal fish habitats;
GOAL 2 - Identify, designate, and protect strategic habitat areas;
GOAL 3 - Enhance habitat and protect it from physical impacts; and
GOAL 4 - Enhance and protect water quality.
The Commissions also selected the 19 recommended management actions to reach these goals. Further, in 2005, the Commissions and the DENR prepared Coastal Habitat Protection Implementation Plans to implement the recommendations found in the CHPP and to ensure consistent actions among the Commissions and DENR. Through the development of the CHPP and the CHPP implementation plans, North Carolina has established a mechanism for the cooperative management of habitats to ensure the long-term viability of the coastal fisheries resources.
The Wisconsin Coastal Management Program recently undertook several collaborative initiatives to develop restoration plans and a regional plan to address education needs including:
The River Restoration Plan. This project involved the compilation of existing natural resource and small dams data into a Geographic Information System (GIS). In coordination with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the River Alliance of Wisconsin used the GIS as a tool to develop criteria for prioritizing removal of small dams on tributaries to Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. The DNR uses the prioritization tool for a variety of activities, including:
- Prioritizing dam inspection schedules;
- Prioritizing watersheds for restoration efforts; and
- Potentially evaluating water quality in impoundments behind the highest impact dams in the basins for 303(d) listing.
Testing of Coastal Wetland Integrity Indicators. The University of Wisconsin-Madison developed a vegetation "dominance index," that shows how dominate plant species change and behave under different environmental conditions. This new dominance index can be used to track changes in vegetation. Changes in dominant plant species can be used as an indicator for how land use changes or other environmental changes are affecting the wetland. The Wisconsin Coastal Management Program may incorporate a form of the dominance index as part of their coastal habitat indicators for the Coastal Zone Management Performance Measurement System.