WatchSonoma Watch

SMART rail district buys 56 acres of wetlands near tracks


Passengers riding the new rail line between Sonoma and Marin counties may one day be able to spot a black-tailed deer or a night heron on wetlands owned by the Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit system.

SMART has announced the purchase of 56 acres of wetlands along the Petaluma River that will be preserved as part of its environmental mitigation program.

A dock at the Mira Monte Marina in Novato that SMART will convert to wetlands is seen Friday. (Kent Porter / PD)

A dock at the Mira Monte Marina in Novato that SMART will convert to wetlands is seen Friday. (Kent Porter / PD)

The land straddling the Sonoma-Marin county line was bought for $2.55 million, SMART officials said. Pieces of the property will be restored as required to offset the project’s environmental impacts.

Six to eight acres of the land initially will be restored to offset the loss of 2.2 acres of wetlands as a result of track construction between Petaluma and San Rafael, SMART general manager Farhad Mansourian said

“It makes a lot of economic sense and it’s huge environmentally,” he said. “Our passengers will have a beautiful site to look at.”

The property, currently known as Mira Monte Marina just south of Redwood Landfill, is where San Antonio Creek meets the Petaluma River.

Environmentalists welcomed the purchase and noted that it will add to the 2,000-acre protected Petaluma Marsh system that supports an array of bird, plant and animal species, including the endangered salt marsh harvest mouse and California clapper rail.

“That marsh is so valuable,” said Bill Kortum, founder of Sonoma County Conservation Action. “It’s a big asset to Sonoma County.”

The rail agency is required by regulators to offset environmental damage done during construction on the line by restoring a comparable wildlife area.

Agencies typically pay up to $1 million per acre to a mitigation bank to restore wildlife areas that are usually outside the North Bay.

The purchase gives the agency an alternative to the mitigation banking system, Mansourian said. SMART can restore wetlands on the property as needed.

SMART officials said it is rare to find land for preservation within a project’s area.

“This is a key piece of the Petaluma Watershed,” said David Rabbitt, a SMART director and Sonoma County supervisor. “I am especially pleased by the size and quality of this single property, since opportunities for wetland mitigation are very scarce within the North Bay.”

SMART commuter trains are expected to run between Santa Rosa and San Rafael starting in 2016. Trains eventually will run between Cloverdale and Larkspur.

You can reach Staff Writer Matt Brown at 521-5206 or matt.brown@pressdemocrat.com.

8 Responses to “SMART rail district buys 56 acres of wetlands near tracks”

  1. Paul says:

    COMPENSATION is always GENEROUS when it is OPM! (other people’s money)

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  2. Follower says:

    Really….?!!! Then I guess all the waste in Government must just be a big lie created the vast right wing conspiracy.

    SURELY the “auditors” would catch any waste & fiscal abuse.

    I guess the reality is that it just costs $17 TRILLION more than we have to run our Government.

    Clearly the solution to this problem is to grow the Government.

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  3. Steveguy says:

    @Unreasonable– Ere you kidding ? Post every audit you have then, I would love to see.

    The Agencies REFUSE audits. Who is spiking your drink ?

    I want FULL disclosure from Every Agency, Department, whoever !

    We are being fleeced.

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  4. Lets be Reasonable says:

    @SG – public agencies are regularly audited, and they are available for public viewing. Maybe you should look at a few before complaining.

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  5. James Bennett says:

    A million dollars an acre?

    Then Smart should have no problem compensating private property owners generously.

    Thumb up 16 Thumb down 4

  6. James Bennett says:

    Steveguy; agreed.

    It’s not about the environment.
    It’s not about the environment.
    It’s not about the environment.

    The ‘Smart Train’ is about a few things,
    transportation ‘aint one of ‘em.

    It’s a LAND USE PLAN.
    It’s crash cofferes/steal money plan.

    Not to confuse things with common sense but…
    the County would never approve, nor is there much use for swamp/wetland anyway.

    Wetlands are important eco-systems, agreed.

    How come we would never get a permit for a barn a 100 feet away…but…
    a ground shaking, diesel emitting particulate passes an EIR?

    Talk about upsetting the mating habits of critters.

    It should upset us.

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  7. Steveguy says:

    The marsh (swamp) would be there whether the millions were spent anyway.

    We just spent millions for no change. No roads fixed, no park maintenance, nothing.

    Congratulations for ‘saving’ a useless property to the tune of millions, open the champagne bottles on our dime.

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  8. Steveguy says:

    Wait a minute ! ” Agencies typically pay up to $1million per acre to a mitigation bank to restore wildlife areas that are usually outside the North Bay. ”

    They pay $1 Million and acre for swampland ? What is this, Florida ?

    Outside the North Bay ? Where do these extravagant dollars go to then? Where ?

    This goes on all of the time, $1 million here, $5 million everywhere, $20 MILLION for the Airport expansion. Where is the $20 MILLION mitigation fees for the airport going ? Where ?

    Seriously, I should shed all of my morals and go for that plum pie of endless money that is called ‘environmental mitigation’. Their scam stinks, but they seem to get used to the smell.

    Government Agency to Government Agency to Government Agency has it rigged to pay each other, thereby getting big money support for any endeavor, as long as it enriches them.

    $20 MILLION for the Airport expansion ? Really ? Show me where the money goes, I want some.

    We never get audits or oversight.

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