East Bay Regional Parks Lead Naturalist Mike Moran speaks to the Delta Conservancy at Big Break Regional Shoreline and Visitor Center in Oakley.
The first East Bay Regional Parks visitor’s center built in 39 years, Big Break Regional Shoreline and Visitors Center plays host to a current display of Delta photos and history outlining the diverse and rich living practices within the region for the last 10,000 years.
While there are attempts to tell the Delta’s history (Discover the Delta) – Big Break Visitors Center offers the most extensive and inclusive educational experience about the Delta in the region.
On Thursday the Delta Conservancy took a tour of the main trail out to the pier, a beautiful walk that showcases the area’s rich wildlife habitat. East Bay Regional Parks Supervising Naturalist Mike Moran took the board on a guided tour – explaining the basics about the Delta and how Big Break got its name.
In 1928, a break in the levees separated an asparagus farm from the San Joaquin River and Dutch Slough, thus flooding out the area and creating “Big Break.” The vast acreage of water can be seen from the Antioch Bridge, and covers over two miles of shoreline in the City of Oakley. It is sometimes referred to as the “Inland Coast”. While saltwater is not very prevalent in the area according to Moran, just up the road at Bay Point Regional Shoreline is where the bay literally meets freshwater flows from the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers.
“The Delta is very important to wildlife and all of California,” said Moran. “When you’re here, you want to learn something new. The center gives kids a chance to be hands on scientists.”
With programs studying plankton and wildlife in the area, programs are offered to kids to learn about the Delta and what a complex ecosystem it truly is. Moran pointed out that on a clear day, one can see Donner Summit, giving an idea to visitors of California’s vast landscape and its watershed.
“We have water quality testing in three different areas,” said Moran. “6.6 miles downstream is where saltwater hits. We are near the edge here.”
The “edge effect”, increases habitat and species diversity – making Big Break a prime spot for a large array of species of birds and fish. Of those species, frequent visitors to the area include river otters, muskrat and mink.
One of the most interesting and must see aspects of Big Break is the 1,200 square foot Delta map. Taken from Google maps with topography to show mountains like Mt. Diablo, the map gives a bird’s eye view of the Delta and some it’s most important locations – specifically Clifton Court Forebay and the Tracy pumps.
What is odd is that places like Clarksburg, Hood, Locke, Walnut Grove and Ryde are not shown on the map. Coincidence? Moran noted that the map is planned to be updated, as the maps used were not updated to have Liberty and Prospect Island flooded out. The map was constructed in 2011 by Scientific Art Studio, a company based in Richmond.
“The trail is shaped like the rivers,” said Moran. “This gives people an idea of just how important the Delta is.”
Moran alluded to the fact that flow patterns are constantly changing in the Delta, changing the habitat for many species. Later on at the meeting, the Dutch Slough project was discussed – as the Department of Water Resources purchased the land about 10 years ago.
The Delta Conservancy is working on several projects – including the Delta Restoration Network. The purpose of this network is to understand the functionality needed of a habitat restoration project tracking database. Channel margin habitat enhancement is also being discussed of how to develop a framework to guide how channel margin habitat enhancement could occur in the Delta.
On Wednesday morning from 9 – 12 p.m. at Peter’s Steakhouse in Isleton the second installment of Delta Branding will be held. The Delta Conservancy has partnered with the Delta Protection Commission to hire a marketing consultant to begin the branding process. This includes a market analysis that will be conducted to identify who is coming to the Delta, along with the people Delta businesses want to attract to the region. Community participation is encouraged in this process. The overall goal is to promote the Delta as a destination.
The Conservancy’s Delta Waterway Cleanup collaborative was a huge success for its inaugural April 13 date. Between upriver at Beach Lake and Sherman Island, the cleanup rounded up 6,800 pounds of trash and featured 140 participants. The Conservancy is currently seeking the USDA Farm-to-School Grant, which would create a farm to school program in the River Delta Unified School District. This would include an afterschool nutrition program and school gardens. The grant would be for $100,000.
The Conservancy has also applied for a USDA Conservation Initiative Grant for $900,000. This would create a high quality quantitative methodology for greenhouse gas benefits from land use conversion to wetlands in peat soils; and demonstrate the potential for farm-scale conversion to managed wetlands to earn carbon credits while producing the environmental benefits of reduced greenhouse gas emission; carbon sequestration; soil accretion; water quality improvements; increased wildlife habitat; and levee stabilization.
While this sounds good – it goes hand in hand with the current Bay Delta Conservation Plan’s goal to convert over 100,000 acres of agricultural lands into tidal habitat and wetlands. To learn more about the Delta Conservancy and its many functions and projects, visit www.deltaconservancy.ca.gov.