Creek Daylighting and Salt Marsh Restoration Proposals

As early as 1984, there has been interest in the idea of re-routing the Strawberry Creek outflow into the cove between the Brickyard Peninsula and Frontage Road. These early proposals were motivated in part by the desire to develop a recreational Berkeley Beach at the current outflow location, and in part by the desire to enhance the development of a salt marsh and take advantage of the natural cleansing, filtering, and ecosystem support capabilities of a marsh.

The plan for the Eastshore State Park is likely to involve at least a small amount of creek daylighting. City of Berkeley staff have also shown increased interest in using wetlands to improve the water quality at creek outflows.

Here are a couple of sketches showing possible reconfiguration of creek outflows. Schoolhouse Creek (which now empties into the south-east corner of the North Sailing Basin) and Strawberry Creek (which now empties into the South Sailing Basin just west of Seabreeze Market) are affected. The light gray lines on the maps indicate approximate mean low water (MLW) and mean lower low water (MLLW) limits of exposed mud.

Note that in these proposals, none of the Meadow is used as water quality wetland, except to the extent that water quality may improve as it flows along the open creek bed. This creek bed can be configured so as not to affect other elements of the Meadow's drainage, and would leave most of the seasonal ponds as they are now. Some capping would presumably be required to create a stable and predictable creek configuration - although it might be possible to route the creek around toxic-bearing areas and minimize capping.

Creek daylighting and salt marsh restoration would also represent a return to the original hydrology of the Berkeley shoreline. The chart reproduced below is from 1883, and shows the extensive salt marsh at creek outflows.

The sketch to the right shows a fairly extensive daylighting proposal, involving about 3/4 mile of open creek in upland areas, and probably an even greater length of watercourses in the salt marsh.

The area between the Brickyard Peninsula and Frontage Road, currently a tidal flat, is the most likely candidate for transition to a viable salt marsh because it has both the highest bottom elevation and the best protection from wave action. It appears to be a lot further along in the slow process of natural evolution to a salt marsh than any of the other subtidal areas in the North or South Sailing Basins. Also, the high ground of the Brickyard Peninsula itself (originally built to be a railroad spur) might offer a good place from which to view wildlife in the marsh, while keeping humans at a safe distance.

Depending on funding and technical feasibility, the transition to salt marsh could be accelerated by adding clean dredge spoils, or it could be left to develop on its own over the next several decades.

The next sketch shows a lower-impact alternative, involving no use of the Meadow at all. Strawberry and Schoolhouse Creeks remain isolated. The prospects for creating a viable salt marsh at the Schoolhouse outflow might be more limited, but with some intervention it would probably be possible to accelerate the process somewhat.

Another undetermined technical issue is whether daylighted portions of the creeks would be salt or fresh. In order to avoid high tide salt water incursion, the water level in a fresh water creek would have to be about eight feet above MLLW or five feet above MSL. This is probably not feasible due to limited pressure head capabiity of the existing upstream culverts, but the freshwater creek habitat might offer much greater diversity in the context of a shoreline park, and some effort should be made to see if this is a possibility.

A more detailed site plan

Tje creek and marsh restoration plan by Nabil Al-Hadithy, PhD

CESP's reaction to the plan, and a continuing dialogue.

The Brickyard tidal flat, at a tide level 1.0 ft above MLLW. Most of the bottom is exposed and the water still has another foot to drop. With the peninsula to the west offering excellent wave protection, this is an ideal location for marsh restoration.