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Save the Spartina!

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The recent Coastal Commission hearing in Eureka was indeed fascinating ("Ground Zero," Aug. 15). As part of the Caltrans approval, the Coastal Commission demanded Caltrans study sea level rise and report to the commission every year on how it plans to address it.

 What I found particularly ironic was the construction project included the filling of wetlands, which was to be mitigated by digging up a plant called Spartina on Indian Island. Spartina only recently (2005) was "speculated" to be non-native. Up until then, Bureau of Land Management documents considered it a native plant.

 A recent research paper stated Spartina is better suited than the "native" plants to adapt to sea level rise and listed multiple reasons. 

 The irony continues in the fact that Indian Island is in the process of being given back to the local Wiyot Tribe and is home to the largest egret rookery in the country. The side irony there is the splendid rookery is also dependent on a "non-native" tree, the Monterey Cypress.

 Other information not provided to the commission is that the targeted Spartina actually helps build coastal topography by collecting water borne sediment. The giant rototiller and/or herbicides used to kill the Spartina will dislodge collected sediment and ultimately lower the island. 

 Much of the dislodged sediments will be carried away with the changing tides and likely end up clogging nearby marinas, which the Harbor District is having tremendous angst in trying to keep dredged.

 When Caltrans presents its annual report on how it is addressing sea level rise, it will need to report on the impacts the wetland mitigation measures are having on an island recently given back to the native people that suffered a horrible massacre, which is now being eroded away because a plant was only recently "speculated" to be non-native. 

You cannot make this stuff up.

Uri Driscoll, Arcata


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