Cullinan Ranch Restoration Project
The Cullinan Ranch Restoration Project will restore approximately 1,500 acres in the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge.
Historically, Cullinan Ranch was diked and drained for agricultural operations, in the late 1800’s. It is believed that it was one of the first areas converted to agriculture in the North Bay, labeled by historic maps as Island number 1. The area was farmed for oats and hay until the 1980’s then sat fallow for 10 years.
In 1991, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service purchased the property under the authority of the Endangered Species Act, with an intent to restore the area to tidal marsh for the benefit of federally listed species such as the salt marsh harvest mouse and Ridgway’s Rail (formerly known as the California Clapper Rail).
After over a decade of planning, restoration activity at Cullinan Ranch is now nearing completion.
In August 2014, Ducks Unlimited along with other partners initiated the third phase of construction. This is the last phase of work required before perimeter levees can be breached and tidal action reintroduced to the project area. During Phase III, a deceleration and acceleration lane was built off Hwy 37 to allow for safe access to the parking lot for Ca Dept of Fish & Wildlife Pond 1. In addition, a 2.3-mile, 10:1 slope transition levee was constructed to protect Hwy 37. This element of the project involved inserting large geofoam blocks in the transition levee to reduce the weight and pressure exerted onto the highway. The geofoam blocks were wrapped in a protected fabric prior to being buried under the levee.
Like much of the land adjacent to the Bay and cut off from tidal action, Cullinan Ranch is subsided. The years of agriculture have resulted in the land being 5 to 6 feet below sea level. It is expected that the process of allowing sediment to accumulate naturally would take 60 years before the site would be able to support tidal marsh vegetation.
In order to accelerate the accretion rate and habitat development, project partners plan to import up to 2.8 million cubic yards of material to the project site. This material will create another 290 acres of tidal marsh habitat, in the near term. So far, 80,000 cubic yards of material have been imported to the site and were delivered via barge which traveled up Dutchman slough, moored adjacent to the project site, and lifted the material over the perimeter levee, to deposit it in the 290-acre dredge material containment area.
There are 3 anticipated breaches in 2015, the first expected to take place in early January.
For more information and updates on the project, please visit the project website www.restorecullinan.info