May 23, 2019

Pair of grants approved for Wildlife Area work

Wednesday’s meeting of the California Wildlife Conservation Board brought more good news for ducks as a pair of California Waterfowl projects were approved for funding. Both projects will work to improve water use on wetland habitat at state wildlife areas.

With $721,000 in funding, the larger of the two grants will help CWA, in conjunction with the California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, clean up and control phragmites at the Grizzly Island Wildlife Area in the Suisun Marsh.

Phragmites, an invasive reed from Europe, currently occupy 1,000-1,500 acres of the 13,000 acres in the GIWA. However, since it prefers shallowly flooded wetlands, it is in a disproportionately high percentage of wetlands preferred by waterfowl, shorebirds and other wildlife.

By growing heavily in the swale systems and ditches, the phragmites are limiting the ability of wildlife managers to manage water delivery, affecting their ability to control mosquito production and salinity fluctuations that are common to the marsh.

CWA will manage existing stands of phragmites with a combination of burning, mowing and herbicide on the Grizzly Island Unit and CDFW's recently acquired Mendoza and Bent Barrell Gun Club properties. Tule and cattail will be transplanted into those areas when possible to expedite the recovery of tall emergent cover. When the large stands have been removed, the water conveyance infrastructure throughout GIWA will be evaluated to identify and remedy any deficiencies.

Assuring an efficient flow of water is at the heart of the second grant approved.

CWA will use the $172,500 in funds for more broad-crested weirs in the Los Banos, Volta and North Grasslands Wildlife Areas, supplementing a previous grant that is enhancing approximately 17,000 acres of wetland habitat.

The weirs are designed to measure water flow in an open ditch and will more accurately measure water use to ensure the wildlife areas are being supplied with the correct amounts. This will help managers with water budgets, conservation and re-allocation plans.

As part of the original grant, CWA installed eight broad-crested weirs, cleaned and extended pipelines, performed earthwork on eroded levees, installed an overshot gate on at the exit of Buttonwillow Lake and installed 205 staff gauges to help staff accurately measure water levels over time.

These grants come on the heels of a $950,000 grant from the WCB for CWA work on the Wister Unit of the Imperial Wildlife Area approved in March and will help continue our mission to improve wetland habitat and hunting opportunities across California.