By Matt Nauman
BAY POINT – Work has begun on an environmental project that will turn a former waste water pond into one of the largest wetlands in Contra Costa County.
PG&E officials joined community members and local, state and federal officials on Monday (Nov. 28) to celebrate the start of the Shell Pond Wetland Restoration Project. About 50 people attended the event, which included tours of the site.
The effort not only will benefit wildlife and the environment, but it also will provide jobs to the local community.
“PG&E is committed to the community. PG&E is committed to the environment. This project typifies both those things,” said Tom Wilson, PG&E’s director of environmental remediation.
From 1950 to 1973, Shell Oil Products discharged water from its chemical plant into a 73-acre pond and a nearby 22-acre parcel. In 1973, PG&E purchased a 292-acre parcel of land from Shell Oil Products with plans to expand a nearby power plant. The expansion never happened, but PG&E retains the responsibility to clean up the waste water pond known as Shell Pond and the nearby discharge area.
Under a plan approved by California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), PG&E will remove and dispose of about 240,000 cubic yards of impacted soil to an approved landfill. Then, the levee system around the pond will be breeched and it will return the area to a natural tidal wetland habitat and open space.
Debbie Raphael, the director of the state DTSC, praised the partnership that led to the approved cleanup plan.
“PG&E is committed to not only restore the habitat but to restore the community as well,” she said.
That includes providing jobs during the project to local residents of Bay Point and Pittsburg. It also means using the site as a place where school groups can learn about nature along Suisun Bay.
“This is really a partnership,” said Federal Glover, a Contra Costa County supervisor who represents the Bay Point area. “PG&E has really proven itself, over and over again, to be a good neighbor and a part of the community.
The project also will benefit the Keller Canyon mitigation fund, which will get $400,000 to help fund projects in Bay Point. PG&E will use the nearby Keller Canyon landfill, and a portion of the fees that PG&E pays will be redirected to the community through the mitigation fund.
Debra Mason, who chairs the Bay Point Municipal Advisory Council, sees the potential of a restored Shell Pond. As someone who was born and raised in the area, Mason said she’s particularly excited about young people getting a chance to reconnect with the land and water here.
“We have the potential to really change lives out here,” she said.
She told the Contra Costa Times that the community has been well-informed and involved in the process.
The project will take about 18 months to two years to complete. Already earth-movers and bulldozers are building a basin that will be used to capture the excavated soil from the pond in special holders that allows it to dry out. A temporary access road that has been constructed as part of the project will become part of the Great California Delta Trail.
During the project, PG&E will monitor the air quality around the perimeter of the site and spray truck tires and use other means to suppress dust at the site.
The area is a critical habitat – for birds and other wildlife as well as fisheries, Wilson said. Creating 850 acres of wetland will have a huge impact, he said.