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Federal Agencies Announce Signing of Record of Decision for Suisun Marsh Habitat Management, Preservation and Restoration Plan

Media Contact: Louis Moore, Reclamation, 916-978-5100,
Sarah Swenty, USFWS, 530-665-3310, 530-665-3310

For Release: April 24, 2014

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today they have signed a Record of Decision for a comprehensive, 30-year plan to restore and enhance Suisun Marsh, a critical part of the San Francisco Bay/Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta estuary ecosystem.

The Suisun Marsh Habitat Management, Preservation and Restoration Plan addresses concerns over use of resources within about 50,000 acres of the ecological treasure, which is the largest contiguous brackish (fresh and salt water) marsh on the West Coast. Operations of the federal Central Valley Project and the State Water Project influence the health of the ecosystem, much of which is privately owned and home to waterfowl hunting clubs.

“The Record of Decision is the final step in a long process of developing and evaluating a plan with our partners to improve the health of this important ecosystem,” said Pablo Arroyave, Reclamation’s Deputy Regional Director for the Mid-Pacific Region. “The plan focuses on achieving an acceptable multi-stakeholder approach to habitat conservation by providing the stakeholder coordination and environmental compliance foundation for tidal marsh restoration and managed wetland enhancements.”

The marsh plan creates a framework for a broad partnership to restore 5,000 to 7,000 acres of the marsh to tidal wetlands and enhance and protect more than 40,000 acres of managed wetlands. The plan’s objectives include improving habitat for multiple special-status species, maintaining the heritage of waterfowl hunting and other recreational opportunities, improving water quality to assist fish migration and spawning, and improving and maintaining the levee system to protect property, infrastructure and wildlife habitats from flooding.

The marsh, which is a critical part of the Bay-Delta estuary ecosystem, encompasses more than ten percent of California’s remaining natural wetlands and serves as a resting and feeding ground for thousands of birds migrating on the Pacific Flyway. It is also an important habitat for many species of mammals, reptiles, amphibians and fish that depend on a careful balancing of fresh and salt water.

“The Suisun Marsh is an important natural resource, and this plan is an excellent example of public-private partnerships, working to save an ecological treasure for both the people and species of California,” said Alexandra Pitts, Deputy Regional Director for the USFWS, Pacific Southwest Region.

Reclamation and the USFWS are joint lead agencies in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act for the marsh plan, while the California Department of Fish and Wildlife is the lead state agency in accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act. Other agencies involved in developing the plan include the Suisun Resource Conservation District, the California Department of Water Resources, the Delta Stewardship Council and the National Marine Fisheries Service.

The Record of Decision implementing elements of the marsh plan culminates more than four decades of debate over the area. In 1974, California lawmakers first began adopting legislation to protect the marsh and assigning responsibilities to existing or new organizations. In 1987, federal agencies joined the effort to protect the marsh. In 2001, government agencies and stakeholders formed a charter group that collaboratively prepared the marsh plan.

The plan was prepared in coordination with other related resource planning efforts such as the Bay Delta Conservation Plan. The BDCP addresses overall Bay-Delta ecosystem and water supply reliability issues while the marsh plan is focused specifically on habitat management, preservation and restoration within the marsh.

The 5,000 to 7,000 acres of tidal marsh restoration included in the plan would contribute to the recovery of listed species and could be implemented under BDCP or any other habitat restoration efforts in the marsh.

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