Levee break at Pacheco Marsh marks completion of first phase of restoration

The East Bay is getting a new environmental playground as a project, decades in the making, by completing the last major task to turn it from a pile of bay and creek dredgings into a real tidal marsh. 

As giant backhoes tore into an earthen levee in Martinez, it was a very good Friday to restore a tiny part of the more than 90% of the Bay’s historic tidal wetlands, which were lost to human activity.

Before breaching the last levee preventing sea water from rushing into Pacheco Marsh for the first time in generations, workers scrambled this week to make sure water wouldn’t flow the wrong way.

Last weekend’s record-setting storms brought more than 7 inches of rain to the marsh southeast of the Benicia-Martinez Bridge, forcing workers to pump out more than a million gallons of rainwater this week to get the desired effect at Friday’s ceremonial flooding.

“The storm we had Sunday was off the charts,” said Paul Detjens, the project manager and senior civil engineer from the Contra Costa County Flood Control District. “Locally, it created some problems for us out here. A week ago, this channel was bone dry. And now it’s filled with rainwater, and in an hour, it’s going to be full of tidal water.

“Bring it on. We’re ready,” he said.

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