Dramatic Levee Breach Is Major Milestone in $24.5 Million Restoration of Pacheco Marsh and Lower Walnut Creek

Dramatic Levee Breach Is Major Milestone in $24.5 Million Restoration of Pacheco Marsh and Lower Walnut Creek

Levee break at Pacheco Marsh marks completion of first phase of restoration
October 29, 2021
Salt water returns to Pacheco Marsh, birds will follow
November 11, 2021


October 29, 2021

Martinez, CA — John Muir Land Trust (JMLT) and Contra Costa County Flood Control & Water Conservation District (CCCFCD) accomplished a huge step in the restoration of Pacheco Marsh and the lower Walnut Creek watershed when a temporary levee was skillfully breached before noon on October 29, 2021 to allow the tidal waters of Suisun Bay to flow back into the 232-acre marsh located in Martinez, CA.

About 250 exuberant observers celebrated as the project contractor, 4 M Contracting, used two large excavators to remove the final few scoops of soil plugging the mouth of the tidal channel. Areas that formerly were dry and barren to allow construction to proceed will now benefit from twice daily tidal flows. As the site revegetates over a few months, these barren areas will become green and full of life.

“Restoring Pacheco Marsh is one chapter in the huge story of decades of work to revitalize the San Francisco Bay shoreline,” said Linus Eukel, executive director of JMLT. “Generations ago, abundant freshwater and salt marshes supported a healthy, essential ecosystem. Human activity caused the staggering loss of more than 90% of these historic tidal wetlands. Pacheco Marsh has been deeply scarred by industrial activity. It is now well on the way to recovery. This is great news for marine wildlife and for all of us.”

JMLT and CCCFCD are restoring Pacheco Marsh as a haven for wildlife and as a place where visitors will soon learn firsthand about the salt marsh ecosystem as they enjoy birdwatching and informative walks along the shore of Suisun Bay. The project establishes habitat for threatened bird species, marine invertebrates, and coastal fish. Pacheco Marsh is home to ten special- status plant and animal species, including the salt-marsh harvest mouse and the Black Rail.

“Today’s breach is the final step of a long construction process, and the kick off of the rejuvenation of Pacheco Marsh,” said Paul Detjens, Senior Civil Engineer and Lower Walnut Creek Restoration Project Manager, CCCFCD. “We’ve completed 7 months of heavy construction, done dozens of biological surveys, excavated nearly 35,000 dump truck loads of soil, constructed over 5 miles of new tidal channels, and built 2.6 miles of roads and trails for future public access. Pacheco Marsh is not only back to health, this project vividly demonstrates how we can reverse the effects of adverse human activity on the natural environment.”

The levee breach marks the completion of two decades of work to acquire the property, raise $24.5 million in funding, and complete the first phases of restoration. In June, 2021 JMLT successfully raised $1 million from individual donors for the construction of low-impact features to prepare the site to be opened to the public. Planned are 2.4 miles of walking trails, elevated vistas, bird blinds, interpretive signs, and an educational facility.


Linus Eukel
Executive Director, John Muir Land Trust

Paul Detjens
Senior Civil Engineer, Contra Costa County Flood Control & Water Conservation District

About John Muir Land Trust

John Muir Land Trust (JMLT) protects and cares for open space, ranches, farms, parkland and shoreline in Contra Costa and Alameda Counties. In a generation, John Muir Land Trust has become one of the leading forces for conservation in northern California. With 3,500 acres protected, many beautiful places in the East Bay are permanently preserved for recreation, wildlife habitat, and spectacular scenic views. JMLT believes that the vitality of our open spaces is essential to the health of our earth, air, water, native plants, and animals—and all of us. jmlt.org

About Contra Costa County Flood Control District


The Contra Costa County Flood Control and Water Conservation District works to reduce flood risk, promote stormwater quality, and restore and enhance natural resources in watersheds throughout Contra Costa County. Formed in 1951 in response to rapid urbanization, the District has partnered with state and federal entities to deliver over $1.3B in stormwater infrastructure that protects $34B of community assets from flooding. The District’s portfolio contains nearly 80 miles of streams, 24 detention basins, and 5 dams.

Over the decades, the District’s role has evolved from single-purpose infrastructure delivery to being a leading steward of streams throughout Contra Costa County and delivering multi-benefit projects such as Lower Walnut Creek Restoration. The District manages its own assets and partners with non-profit organizations to broaden its positive reach.

The District is proudly celebrating its 70th Anniversary in 2021.


About Lower Walnut Creek Restoration and the Pacheco Marsh Restoration and Public Access Project

Overall Project Goal: $24.5 million

Restoration: $19.5 million
Public Access: $5 million

The FC District has raised $16.4m from nine grantors to implement restoration grading and revegetation work. In June 2021, JMLT raised $1 million to provide for public access at Pacheco Marsh. Features will include 2.4 miles of trails, elevated vistas, bird blinds, a kayak launch, and an educational facility.

Funding and Support for Pacheco Marsh Restoration provided by:

John Muir Land Trust
Contra Costa County Flood Control & Water Conservation District
California Department of Fish and Wildlife
California Climate Investments
California State Coastal Conservancy
State of California Department of Water Resources
Marathon Petroleum
National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
Resources Legacy Fund
San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority
State of California Wildlife Conservation Board
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
United States Environmental Protection Agency