San Francisco State University -- October 3, 2003

San Francisco Bay designated National Estuarine Research Reserve

More than 3,700 acres on San Francisco Bay will be dedicated as California’s third National Estuarine Research Reserve by the federal government and the state of California on Friday, Oct. 10, at San Francisco State University’s Romberg Tiburon Center for Environmental Studies. The new San Francisco Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (SF Bay NERR) will be headquartered at the Romberg Tiburon Center (RTC) and is the largest of the three NERR sites in California.

The SF Bay NERR, established to restore tidal marshes and protect estuarine habitat through research, monitoring and educational programs, includes coastal habitats in two sites: China Camp State Park in San Rafael (1,640 acres in Marin County) and the Rush Ranch Open Space Preserve (2,070 acres in Solano County). The Reserve is the 26th in the national federal-state partnership and the first addition since 1999. California’s other two reserve sites are the Elkhorn Slough Reserve near Monterey and the Tijuana River Reserve in San Diego County.

The SF Bay NERR is a partnership between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), San Francisco State University’s RTC, California Department of Parks and Recreation, Solano Land Trust and San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission that operates in conjunction with local communities and regional groups. The NERR designation does not affect state laws governing recreation or commercial use of these lands.

“Expanding the National Estuarine Research Reserve System to include the San Francisco Bay area is a terrific opportunity both for NOAA and California,” said Eldon Hout, director of NOAA’s Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management. “We look forward to supporting important and long-needed tidal marsh restoration in the San Francisco Bay.”

San Francisco Bay—the west coast’s largest estuary—once supported 190,000 acres of highly productive tidal marsh. Only 16,000 acres of the historic marshes remain, with some of the highest quality at the China Camp and Rush Ranch sites.

“The University is honored to serve as Reserve headquarters and to take the lead in this cooperative effort,” said Robert A. Corrigan, San Francisco State University president. “It will help substantially to further understand and protect San Francisco Bay, which is such an important environmental, economic and recreational asset.”

Estuarine habitats—the areas where fresh water rivers, streams and creeks meet salt water seas—are rich with plant and animal life that is essential to both land- and marine-based ecosystems. Tidal wetlands play an important role in flood prevention and sediment management, and are home to small mammals, migratory birds and fish species, many of which are threatened or endangered.

The SF Bay NERR is home to more than 71 bird species, 58 fish species, 21 mammal species and 9 reptile species. Those on the threatened or endangered list include the California black rail, California clapper rail, Chinook salmon, steelhead, Delta smelt, salt marsh harvest mouse, giant garter snake and southwestern pond turtle.

Three of the 194 plant species in the NERR are on the federal endangered list: the Suisun thistle, Contra Costa goldfields and soft bird’s beak.

“The designation of the Reserve is a tremendous opportunity for both the resources and residents of San Francisco Bay. It's an exciting time to be working on tidal marsh restoration science and promoting stewardship of the San Francisco estuary,” said Jaime Kooser, who was named SF Bay NERR manager in May. “We are starting with two sites on San Francisco Bay and hope to add more in the years to come as our partnerships develop.”

Operating funds for the NERR will come from a $357,750 grant from NOAA, matched by $153,321 from San Francisco State University. An additional $2,993,000 construction grant from NOAA will be used for renovations at Rush Ranch and to renovate space at the Romberg Tiburon Center for teaching, research and computer labs, and a classroom. The formal federal-state agreement for SF Bay NERR was signed Aug. 27.

The designation ceremony for the San Francisco Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve is 1:30-3:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 10, at the Romberg Tiburon Center for Environmental Studies, 3150 Paradise Dr., Tiburon, Calif. Invited speakers include: Congressman George Miller, Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey, NOAA Director of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management Eldon Hout, Director of State Parks Ruth Coleman, Solano Land Trust Executive Director Jim Ball, San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission Executive Director Will Travis and Robert A. Corrigan, San Francisco State University President.

SF Bay NERR Partners

San Francisco State University’s Romberg Tiburon Center for Environmental Studies, located in the heart of the West coast’s largest estuary, is the only academic research facility situated on San Francisco Bay. For 25 years, RTC scientists have pursued active research in such areas as biodiversity, community ecology, toxicology, wetland ecology and restoration, and the distribution, productivity and abundance of marine life. The Center serves as the site of the San Francisco Bay Estuarine Research Reserve headquarters. http://www.rtc.sfsu.edu

The National Estuarine Research Reserve System is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Ocean Service which is dedicated to exploring, understanding, conserving and restoring the nation’s coasts and oceans. The National Ocean Service balances environmental protection with economic prosperity in fulfilling its mission of promoting safe navigation, supporting coastal communities, sustaining coastal habitats and mitigating coastal hazards. http://nerrs.noaa.gov

The California Department of Parks and Recreation, administrator of China Camp State Park, manages almost one-third of California’s scenic coastline, including the state's finest coastal wetlands, estuaries, beaches and dune systems. http://www.parks.ca.gov/

The Solano Land Trust is a nonprofit, public benefit land trust that seeks to preserve and protect farmlands and open spaces throughout Solano County. It manages more than 6,200 acres of farmlands, ranchlands, wetlands and open spaces countywide, including Rush Ranch. http://www.solanolandtrust.org

The San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission is the California state commission charged with the protection and enhancement of San Francisco Bay. It aims to prevent the unnecessary filling of San Francisco Bay and to increase public access to the Bay and its shoreline. http://www.bcdc.ca.gov

Contact: (415) 338-1665
Ellen Griffin (415) 338-6990, elleng@sfsu.edu
Susan Arthur (415) 338-6747, sarthur@sfsu.edu


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