SAN FRANCISCO – A former power plant site is not usually thought of as a premier location for wildlife habitat, but that is exactly what is taking shape at PG&E’s Hunters Point site in San Francisco.
PG&E recently received Wildlife at Work certification from the Wildlife Habitat Council for efforts associated with the restoration of native serpentine and for creating a pollinator habitat in three areas at the site. The Council is a nonprofit organization dedicated to restoring and enhancing wildlife habitat by promoting partnerships with corporations and community members to conserve and restore wildlife habitats on corporate lands.
The Wildlife Habitat Council certification is a coveted designation. There are strict criteria and it’s only awarded to sites that meet certain requirements and to programs that have been active at least one year.
PG&E operated the Hunters Point Power Plant for 75 years until it was shut down in 2006. Since then, PG&E has been cleaning up the site under the direction of regulators and fulfilling its commitment to work in partnership with the community and to provide local job opportunities. Much of the cleanup work has been completed.
“The restoration of the land after the remediation created an opportunity to enhance habitat value in certain areas of the property,” said David Harnish, a PG&E manager who has been overseeing the decommissioning and cleanup. “We saw the opportunity to partner with local environmental organizations, and it was a terrific experience for our team. We are pleased to have our restoration efforts at Hunters Point receive national recognition by the Wildlife Habitat Council.”
In addition to the certification of the site, about 50 PG&E volunteers recently helped plant about 500 native plants and seeds on the site adjacent to a public shoreline path. The landscape architect firm Royston Hanamoto Alley & Abey provided the landscape design of the planting area.
“The unique geology of the Hunters Point area presented a special opportunity,” said Rob Saur, a PG&E environmental remediation project manager who spearheaded the effort and accepted the certification on behalf of PG&E.
Serpentinite geology, such as that found at the site, creates unique soils where special plant species have evolved and thrived. Over the years, naturally occurring serpentine plant communities in the area have declined. At the PG&E site, two areas contained a pocket of these vanishing ecosystems, so after environmental clean-up efforts were performed, PG&E’s project team restored the cleanup area while also planting the native and serpentine plant species in those areas. This was accomplished with assistance from a local non-profit organization, the Literacy for Environmental Justice and their Candlestick Point Native Plant Nursery, and in consultation with the California Native Plant Society. PG&E seeded the entire area, planted thousands of seedlings and established temporary irrigation while the new plants were established as part of this effort.
In addition, the restoration activities included planting native plants that will provide a natural habitat for pollinators and other wildlife at the site. Animal and insect pollinators are essential to pollination in more than 75 percent of the world’s flowering plants.
The effort was made possible with assistance from local non-profit organization the Pollinator Partnership.
“Pollinators support and sustain all terrestrial ecosystems. You can’t protect and restore plants without making space for their pollinators”, says Vicki Wojcik, research director at the Pollinator Partnership, the world’s largest organization dedicated exclusively to plant-pollinator issues.
Last month, the Council held its 25th Annual Symposium in Baltimore, where it recognized PG&E for creating important wildlife habitat for rare plant species. In addition to Hunters Point, three other PG&E projects — Tulare Hill in San Jose, Antioch Dunes in Contra Costa County and Pleasant Creek Underground Gas Storage facility in Yolo County – have been recertified as Wildlife at Work projects.