The 850-acre Hill Slough Habitat Restoration Project on the Hill Slough Wildlife Area is finally underway! In Spring 2019, several hundred goats were hard at work eating vegetation on either side of Grizzly Island Road where road construction will begin next month. The overall goal of the project is to provide more habitat for plant and animal species that rely on tidal marsh to survive, including several that are endangered. Before the levees can be breached, however, the county road, which even now often floods, must be raised. The salt marsh harvest mouse is the only endangered species currently on the site. And that is the reason for the goats. Federal guidelines require clearing the vegetation in salt marsh harvest mouse habitat by hand or “other approved method”. The US Fish and Wildlife Service authorized the use of goats to accomplish this at Hill Slough.
Once the goats have done their jobs, a temporary two-way road will be constructed. When completed, traffic will be moved to the temporary road for the one-mile stretch to the bridge and construction on Grizzly Island Road will begin. The new section of road will be higher, include bike lanes, and have a gentler shoulder and curve. Because of the nature of the soil, long settlement periods may be required, so the temporary road will be in place through the winter.
Other features of the project include a two-mile long pedestrian trail that connects the City of Suisun’s Grizzly Island Trail to a loop trail around one the ponds on the east side that will not be breached. Levees on six ponds on the site will be breached next fall.
In addition to providing fish with more water during drought conditions and tidal marsh dependent species more habitat, the project will greatly reduce levee maintenance and repair, reduce mosquitoes, and increase Suisun Marsh’s ability to adapt to sea level rise.