FAIRFIELD — Solano County has distributed another $220,000 for various fish and wildlife projects, the last time it will do so using lawsuit settlement money from the 2004 Kinder Morgan Energy Partners fuel spill in Suisun Marsh.
The county received $974,974 in settlement money, with $480,000 having to go to Suisun Marsh and the other $494,974 for projects anywhere in the county. With interest earned, the county has distributed more than $1 million since 2008.
On Tuesday, the county Board of Supervisors awarded the latest round of grants. Among them were:
The Kinder Morgan spill happened April 27, 2004, at a duck club in a remote section of western Suisun Marsh. The underground pipe that carries various types of fuels between Concord and Sacramento leaked an estimated 123,000 gallons of diesel fuel onto wetlands and killed at least 52 birds and mammals.
Solano County officials in 2007 proposed using some of the settlement money to put in rip-rap at the county’s Belden’s Landing boat ramp in Suisun Marsh and to improve fish habitat at the county’s Lake Solano Park far from the marsh near Winters. But Suisun Resource Conservation District Executive Director Steve Chappell maintained that money should be spent on projects in the marsh that restored fish and wildlife habitat.
The county subsequently changed the thrust of how it spent the settlement money. Supervisor John Vasquez on Tuesday thanked Chappell for taking that stand.
“You truly made the argument the spill occurred in the marsh and the majority of the money should go back to the marsh,” Vasquez said.
Vasquez also noted that damage caused by the spill could have been much worse. The 224 acres of managed wetlands owned by the Drake Sprig duck club are enclosed by levees. Chappell that day told state and federal crews how the duck club’s managed wetlands worked and helped close water control structures, keeping the leaked fuel from getting into marsh waterways and spreading to other properties.
“It was unfortunate, but you kept it really contained to the area,” Vasquez said.
Suisun Marsh is about 115,000 acres of state-protected wetlands, sloughs and uplands. Private duck clubs own much of the land. The state Department of Fish and Game operates several wildlife areas on public lands.
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.