SUISUN MARSH — A proposal to restore tidal wetlands within 950 acres adjacent to Suisun City could return to the public eye this summer.
The land is in the state’s Hill Slough Wildlife Area of Suisun Marsh that touches the southern border of Suisun City. A new city biking and walking trail along Highway 12 overlooks it.
A draft environmental impact report for the Hill Slough Restoration Project could be released this summer, said Sarah Estrella, an environmental scientist for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
This comes after the project has had a low profile for two years. The state in 2011 conducted a local workshop to get comments on issues people would like to see addressed in a draft environmental impact report.
Hill Slough Wildlife Area is a local recreation draw, with the state estimating that 10,000 anglers visit there annually. Solano County a few years ago converted a bridge over Hill Slough next to Grizzly Island Road into a fishing pier.
The land is also habitat for waterfowl and other creatures. But it is behind levees, which means the tides cannot flood it twice a day, providing habitat for fish such as juvenile salmon and the rare Delta smelt.
Under the proposed restoration plan, the state would breach levees and restore tidal wetlands. Parts of the preserve would remain as seasonal wetlands.
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife faces challenges. Grizzly Island Road, the main road leading into Suisun Marsh and its hunting, hiking and fishing areas, divides the Hill Slough Wildlife Area. It would have to be raised above the 100-year flood level if the levees were breached or be at risk for flooding.
Solano County owns Grizzly Island Road. County Engineering Manager Matt Tuggle said the Department of Fish and Wildlife would have to pay to raise the road.
Estrella agreed, adding that after the work is done, the raised road would be the county’s to maintain. Finding free fill for raising Grizzly Island Road would dramatically reduce costs, she said.
“We’re trying to time this right to pick up the fill from another project that’s trying to get rid of the fill,” she said.
Another challenge is the presence of a Pacific Gas & Electric Co. tower in an area to be flooded. A 2011 state report said a boardwalk would be built to the tower and the tower footings improved.
The Hill Slough Restoration Project could cost $7 million to $10 million, Estrella said. Money would probably come different sources, she said.
People will be able to comment on the draft environmental impact report when it gets released. When the actual project might begin remains a question mark.
Estrella said PG&E in 2015 is to be working on a line of towers that passes through the Hill Slough Wildlife Area. The project would probably start after that, with the work on Grizzly Island Road being an initial step.
The idea for restoring tidal wetlands in the Hill Slough Wildlife Area has been around since at least 1998. Another version of the project called for restoring 220 acres of tidal wetlands, far less than the present, proposed 950 acres.
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.