The long-anticipated use of the Port of Redwood City maintenance dredge material to help restore wetlands on adjacent Bair Island is scheduled to begin in early December.

The US Army Corps of Engineers has issued a notice to proceed for the $3.6 million project to DDM Crane. The contractor will mobilize dredging equipment at the Port, lay the floating pipeline to Inner Bair Island near Pete’s Harbor, and set up pumps to decant the water from dredge material settlement pond to Middle Bair Island. Dredging is scheduled to be completed by early January 2009, restoring the Port’s navigation channels to 28 feet depth.

A public event commemorated the historic partnership that helps the port and the Bair Island Restoration Project. Participants included keynote speaker Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, Redwood City Mayor Rosanne Foust, Port Commissioners, and representatives from the Corps of Engineers and US Fish & Wildlife Service.

Since the 1980’s dredge materials from the Redwood City channel have been deposited in San Francisco Bay at a site near Alcatraz Island, 20 nautical miles away.

The new maintenance dredging project will be unique in that the dredged materials will be used as part of the Bair Island Salt Marsh Restoration Project less than one mile from the Port’s channel.

Bair Island is a 3,000-acre portion of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is undertaking the restoration of about 1,400 acres of Bair Island, to return it to its natural condition as tidal wetlands – a recovery from its historic human use as grazing lands and salt evaporation ponds.

Part of the restoration includes raising the level of the island so that when tidal action is re-introduced, the area will quickly become a more natural vegetated marsh. To raise the island’s elevation, the restoration plan requires the placement of an estimated one million cubic yards of dredge material and dirt fill.

Re-using dredge materials on Bair Island helps to meet regional goals to reduce the dumping of dredged material into the bay near Alcatraz. It is expected that the restoration project will receive 200,000 cubic yards of material dredged from the Port of Redwood City Shipping Channel during the maintenance project.

In fact, the beneficial use of dredged material is a primary goal of the Bay Area’s Long Term Management Strategy for Dredging and Dredged Material Disposal. These “beneficial re-use” projects are called a win-win as they fulfill the goals of maritime commerce providing economic benefits to the local and regional economies; environmental benefits for improved wildlife habitat; and recreational public access and social benefits for the local community and region at large.

The Port of Redwood City Dredging-Bair Island Restoration Project is yet another model project offering a blueprint for similar beneficial re-use projects in the San Francisco Bay Area.