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U.S. EPA awards $250,000 to Bay Area organization for wetlands protection

Release Date: 3/30/2004
Contact Information: Laura Gentile, EPA, 415/947-4227 or Dr. Joshua Collins, SFEI, 510/746-7365

Money will be used to assess the health of Bay Area wetlands

SAN FRANCISCO -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded a $250,000 grant to the Association of Bay Area Governments to assess the health of wetlands in northern California.

ABAG will use the money, plus $250,000 of its own, to work with the San Francisco Estuary Institute to assess the condition of wetlands in the Bay Area by taking field measurements and evaluating existing data. Testing is underway at approximately 60 Bay Area sites, including the Point Reyes National Seashore and the 71-acre Martin Luther King Jr. wetlands restoration site in Oakland.

"Wetlands are a crucial resource for our nation, especially in California where over 90 percent have been lost to residential and agricultural development," said Alexis Strauss, director of EPA's water division for the Pacific Southwest region. "This project will help us restore and protect the wetlands we so treasure in this region."

"Wetlands are sensitive to land use, management actions, and climate change," said Dr. Joshua Collins, director of the Wetland Science Program at the San Francisco Estuary Institute. "The condition of our wetlands tells us much about our overall progress toward securing safe and healthy environments."

The information collected will ultimately be used to identify indicators, such as plant, hydrology and landscape conditions,
that can be used to measure the health of wetlands statewide.

More than 90 percent of the wetlands in California have been converted to urban development, agriculture and other uses. More than one third of the nation's threatened and endangered species need wetlands for survival. Wetlands reduce flood risks, recharge water supplies and protect drinking water from pollution.

The EPA also awarded $200,000 to the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project to assess wetlands in Southern California.