The city recently held a meeting to “discuss neighbors’ concerns and indentify solutions to improve the Jessie St. Marsh.” There was a great deal of interest on the part of neighbors and a desire to have some sort of concrete plan implemented in the Marsh. We’ve assembled some background information about the history of the city’s acquisition of the Marsh, and the environmental concerns and regulations which impact any proposal for this sensitive habitat.
The Jessie St. Marsh was acquired by the City of Santa Cruz in 1996 as a required mitigation for the expansion of the Neary Lagoon Wastewater Treatment Plant . In 1998, the city commissioned a Management Plan for the Marsh which was approved by the City Council as part of the San Lorenzo Urban River Plan and adopted by the Coastal Commission. In 2002 the city solicited bids for a project to restore the Marsh habitat, funded by $265,000 from the Sewer Fund as well as a $176,000 grand from the Coastal Conservancy. When the bid received exceeded the budget, staff reported to the City Council that they would pursue modifications to the project and seek other sources of grants to complete the project. However, this was not followed up and the existing grants were allowed to lapse.
In 2005, graduate students in San Jose State University prepared an addendum to the JSM Management plan, suggesting modifications to the project that addressed budgetary concerns and enhancements to address public safety concerns. The report is also an important record of the Marsh habitat in the mid 2000’s.
Instead of following up any of the modifications proposed in the plan addendum, in the mid 2000’s the City began a yearly “maintenance” regime which involved using prison labor to cut all vegetation in the Marsh to the ground. In violation of the federal policy of “no net loss of wetlands,” the city has diverted water flow into the Marsh and continues to pump water out into the overflowing San Lorenzo River Lagoon, even as overflow from the lagoon backs up into city streets surrounding the Marsh.
We look forward to working with the city to ensure that its legal obligations to restore and protect the Marsh are met, while creating a beautiful and vibrant community park in our neighborhood.