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Suisun Bay

The National Defense Reserve Fleet (NRDF), under the custody of MARAD, is an inactive reserve source of basic Merchant design type ships that could be activated within 20 - 120 days to meet the shipping requirements of the United States during national emergencies. These merchant vessels are available for use in both military and non-military emergencies, such as commercial shipping crises. Ships in the NDRF are regionally located at three fleet sites - James River, VA (East Coast), Beaumont, TX (Gulf Coast), and Suisun Bay, CA (West Coast). Naval auxiliaries are maintained at the fleet by MARAD on a retention basis for the Navy.

Suisun Bay Channel is dredged annually, and New York Slough every 4th year. Next scheduled New York Slough dredging is FY04. Suisun Bay Channel disposal will be at Sherman Island, pending permit approvals and adequate funding. The project provides for maintenance dredging of a channel 300 feet wide and -35 feet deep from the Carquinez Strait at Martinez to Pittsburg, called Suisun Bay Channel, and New York Slough Channel further upstream to Antioch, a distance of almost 17 miles; and for a channel 250 feet wide and -20 feet deep south of Seal Islands from the main channel at Point Edith to the main channel again at Port Chicago, at mile 6. Maintenance dredging of Suisun Bay Channel, including New York Slough was last completed in January 2000. Disposal was upland at Winter Island, in partnership with Reclamation District 2122. Winter Island needs to be protected from Delta flood conditions. The O&M material dredged from the Suisun Bay Channel and New York Slough Channels was transported and off-loaded at Winter Island in FY98 and FY99 for beneficial reuse for levee repairs.

In FY98 the US Army Corps of Engineers completed a report on potential channel deepening project. The US Army Corps of Engineers will be administering the design and construction of a channel deepening project and flood control project for the Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet. The reconnaissance level workshop was also completed in FY98.

The authorized San Francisco Bay to Stockton improvements (Phase 3) consist of deepening the main internal bay channels, from Richmond upstream to Point Edith in Suisun Bay, to -45 feet Mean Lower Low Water (MLLW); deepening maneuvering areas adjacent to major petroleum cargo terminals to -45 feet; and creating a turning basin to a depth of -45 feet at Avon. Implementation of this phase, however, has been delayed because of the potential for environmental impact to the Sacramento Delta as a result of the proposed channel deepening. The San Francisco District of the US Army Corps of Engineers prepared a final General Reevaluation Report (GRR) and Final Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report (EIS/EIR) in April 1998. The EIS/EIR included a new alternative, involving a petroleum off loading terminal located just north of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. The off loading terminal, when connected to existing pipelines, may fulfill the current and foreseen future function of the authorized channel deepening alternative. However, the local non-Federal sponsor, Contra Costa County, requested and was granted a suspension of the project in February 1999.

In 1963, local landowners in the Suisun Marsh formed the Suisun Resource Conservation District (SRCD) to protect the environmental quality of the marsh. SRCD performs both administrative and technical functions that include representing the interests of the landowners. The District includes 116,000 acres, consisting of approximately 52,000 acres of managed wetlands, 6,300 acres of unmanaged tidal wetlands, 30,000 acres of bays and sloughs, and 27,700 acres of upland grasslands.

In 1977, the California Legislature enacted the Suisun Marsh Preservation Act which declared the Marsh a fragile ecosystem with extensive wetlands that provide critical habitat for a variety of rare and endangered plants and wildlife. It is in fact the largest contiguous brackish water marsh in the United States and contains 12 percent of the remaining natural wetlands in California. The State Water Resources Control Board issued Water Right Decision 1485 in 1978, which set channel water salinity standards, ordered the development of a water quality monitoring program, and required a Plan of Protection be implemented by October 1, 1984. In 1984, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) published the Plan of Protection for the Suisun Marsh including an Environmental Impact Report, prepared in cooperation with the Department of Fish and Game, the Suisun Resource Conservation District, and the US Bureau of Reclamation (BOR). The US Fish and Wildlife Service also provided helpful information. The Plan of Protection is a proposal for staged implementation. Components for Phases I and II of the Plan are complete, including the Morrow Island Distribution System, Roaring River Distribution System, Goodyear Slough Outfall, and the Suisun Marsh Salinity Control Structure (also referred to as Montezuma Slough Control Structure).

The El Nino Storms of February 1998 brought high tides and winds that caused significant levee breaches, overtopping, and erosion on Montezuma Slough and the northern shore of Honker, Suisun and Grizzly bays. Floodwaters completely inundated public and private lands on Van Sickle, Wheeler, Simmons, and Hammond islands; and partially inundated Grizzly, Joice and Lower Joice islands.

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