Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit has acquired more than 56 acres of property in Marin and Sonoma counties, land that will be preserved, enhanced and restored as part of the agency’s environmental mitigation program.
The land is commonly known as Mira Monte Marina and is located where SMART railroad tracks and the Petaluma River starting in northern Novato adjacent to the Burdell Ranch conservation area and just south of the Redwood Landfill.
The purchase cost the agency $2.5 million.
“This is a win-win-win that we’ve been pursuing for quite some time,” stated SMART board chair and Marin County Board of Supervisors president Judy Arnold in a prepared statement.
“It delivers substantial savings for SMART’s taxpayers compared to typical “mitigation bank” purchases, it protects and restores an incredibly important and sensitive environmental habitat to create a continuous wildlife corridor and it does it all locally – local dollars are being invested to do environmental enhancement 100 percent within the project area.”
SMART will restore approximately 5 acres of tidal wetlands and wildlife habitat and enhance an additional 10 acres. The work will protect the tidal marsh and transitional wetlands home to the clapper rail, black rail and the salt marsh harvest mouse as well as native plants such as pickleweed, cordgrass and alkali bulrush.
The area is also used by migratory waterfowl and shorebirds, especially during fall and winter months. The upland habitat adjacent to wetlands also allows for buffering against sea level rise.
The purchase also permanently preserves 38 additional acres of tidal wetlands and habitat that is home to a variety of protected species, including rare upland habitat that was once a bay island and is critical in protecting native species in the event of sea level rise.
“I can’t overstate how excited I am about this and about how SMART has prioritized local environmental restoration,” said Barbara Salzman, president of the Marin Audubon Society.
“The environmental community has been trying for years to preserve the Mira Monte property and protect it from development. The project will restore tidal wetlands in a very critical area, and also connects to and expands the largest and least disturbed remaining tidal marsh in the state.”
Positioned where the San Antonio Creek and the Petaluma River meet, the property consists of 32.23 acres in Marin County and 24.55 acres in Sonoma County.
“This is a key piece of the Petaluma watershed,” noted SMART director and Sonoma County Board of Supervisors chair David Rabbitt. “I am especially pleased by the size and quality of this single property, since opportunities for wetland mitigation are very scarce within the North Bay and competition for mitigation bank purchases can drive costs to as high as $1 million per acre. Many projects end up fulfilling their offset needs far outside the project area and in a piecemeal fashion.”
Bill Kortum, founder and current board member of Sonoma County Conservation Action noted the broader context of adding the Mira Monte Marina parcel to the 2000-acre protected tidal marsh system. “The historic Petaluma Marsh is the largest intact upland marsh remaining in San Francisco Bay, which has never been diked. The Mira Monte wetlands are an important piece of the whole system.”