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Bair Island Flow Restoration 2012-2013

Approach with caution
Slack tidal flows through all structures are about 90 minutes past high tide.

Bair Island has had modifications to restore pre-industrial tidal flow to this wetland while not adversely affecting the Port of Redwood City and upper Redwood Creek (with increased silting and flow).  The effort was led by US Fish & Wildlife and contracted out to Ducks Unlimited for the work.  BIAC was involved in 2011 and early 2012 in understanding the plans and ensuring that public aquatic access would remain reasonable during and after construction.

During construction in 2012 and early 2013 access to Corkscrew and Smith Sloughs was interrupted, yet the result is a whole new world of aquatic adventures.  Landings on Bair Island are still be prohibited, but smart attention to tidal patterns will present you with a new adventures and public access to a stunning wetland and wildlife preserve.  The usual paths around Bair Island have many new tidal flows and areas to explore.  Watch for squirrely marine flows in and out of the new levee breaches as well as shifting mud flats.  These new flows will scourge out Steinberger Slough - a process that will continue for decades. 

You can follow the changes starting today or enjoy them anytime. Click on the image below for a detailed plans of the work.  Basically the work involves:

  • Creating 2 Flow Restrictors and
  • Breaching the levees in many places

Two "Flow Restrictors" have been built - one halfway through Corkscrew Slough (FR1) and the other halfway up Smith Slough (FR2) - to prevent additional tidal flow and silting into Redwood Creek and the Port of Redwood City (saving million$ in dredging fees). These micro dams encourage more tidal flow into Bair Island from Steinberger Slough to the north and should scourge out a deeper channel there as more water flows in and out each day. These structures will still allow aquatic access through Corkscrew and Smith at current tide levels (5' and 2' respectively). 

The old salt pond levees inside of Middle and Outer Bair Island are breached in many places to restore former sloughs and to recreate the original tidal wetlands of Bair Island.  See the image below for details.  These breaches are about 50' wide and create new tidal rushes in and out during ebb and flows - so watch for marine flows that could upset your paddling or rowing.

At the time of this writing (February 2013) the Corkscrew (FR1) and Smith (FR2) Restrictors are complete as are the Outer and Middle Bair Island breaches. The dynamic current flows are hazardous.  At peak flows the drop from one side to the other can be as much as 3 feet.

Bair Island Aquatic Center 2013 - "info at GoBair dot org"