More good news for the birds and other wildlife on Sonoma County's San Pablo Bay front.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service plans to add about three-quarters of the 4,300-acre Skaggs Island to its 16,590 acre San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge stretching from Mare Island near Vallejo to the Petaluma River. The USFWS would breach levees and let tidal action restore the natural wetlands on most of the creek-bound "island" north of Highway 37.
The refuge's shallows, mudflats, salt marshes, lagoons and adjoining privately held agricultural lands provide a major wintering habitat and a migration staging area for shorebirds and waterfowl, most notably diving ducks, sandpipers, dowitchers, and godwits. Three endangered species, the Brown Pelican, the California Clapper Rail and the Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse are found on the refuge.
Skaggs Island, a former naval communications center from 1942 to 1993, relayed messages worldwide to Navy ships. The USFWS acquired about 3,240 acres of relatively undeveloped land and the center's 68 building on an additional 60 acres. Still at issue is finding a government agency to tear down the buildings and restore the area to a more natural setting. The long-range plan for the island is to develop access trails and an interpretive center, according to Marge Kolar, manager of the seven federal refuges in the Bay Area.
At present, there is no public access to Skaggs Island. However, nearby Tubbs Island, a part of San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge, can be reached via a trailhead at Tolay Creek, across Highway 37 from Sears Point Raceway. Turn toward the bay on the road just east (toward Vallejo) of the Highway 121 junction. A three-mile trail to the bay starts at the dirt parking lot.