Marin wetlands in critical condition

Marin County Parks is spearheading a project that has volunteers donating their weekends to reviving 110 acres of Kent Island and Bolinas Lagoon.

The next phase is to strip nonnative plants — which have largely displaced native vegetation — and restore the natural habitat that has been disrupted.

The goal is to remove invasive plants that have been thriving there for years which have impaired the natural hydrology and sediment flow in the ecosystem.

The project will focus on improving sediment flow and stopping siltation — polluting water with silt, which has put the lagoon at risk of drying out — as well as protect nesting birds.

A major dredging plan was initially proposed but then dropped in exchange of several agencies agreeing to restore the estuary back to health.

The lagoon serves as a home to 23 threatened and endangered animal and plant species and 50,000 migratory birds that visit annually, earning it a designation as Wetlands of International Importance.

Bolinas Lagoon is the only wetland to receive the designation in the Western United States, and is one of 17 in the entire country.

Some of the nonnative plants include European beachgrass, iceplant and Monterey pine and Cypress trees.

However, it isn’t just the plants that are to blame for the damage that has impacted the lagoon and the island, Marin County Supervisor Steve Kinsey told the Marin IJ:

“This project will help to undo some of the damage that humans have caused to the lagoon.”

In 2011, Highway 1 had two miles of road reworked to reduce the amount of sediment that washes from the hillside to the lagoon.

Further steps in renovating the area include restoring eelgrass where viable habitat is available and preparing for a rise in sea level.

Kent Island offers volunteer work days on the first Friday and third Saturday of each month through September.