From our bustling ports and harbors to our smooth, sand beaches, our nation's coasts are a testament to the economic vitality and natural beauty of America. Our coasts are also home to fragile ecosystems hosting many rare, threatened and endangered species.
USACE undertakes numerous activities each year that are designed to protect our coasts from storms and development and to restore their valuable ecosystems. These efforts include regional sediment management, beach nourishment and the construction of shore protection structures.
USACE also plays a key role in keeping our ports and harbors running smoothly by dredging to maintain channel depths at more than 900 harbors. In addition, USACE is focused on modernizing and upgrading the nation's ports and harbors to keep pace with growing commercial traffic.
USACE is committed to working with a wide range of community, environmental, business and other groups to ensure that the projects it undertakes not only protect the environment but, whenever possible, enhance it. An excellent example is the dredging of Oakland Harbor. Over the years, USACE has partnered with a number of organizations to ensure that this project, which is so vital to the area's economy, also benefits the environment.
As a major port of call for container ships bringing consumer and other goods in and out of the United States, the Oakland Harbor plays a crucial role in the nation's economy. However, like many other U.S. harbors, its role was in jeopardy because it was not deep enough to accommodate the larger container ships coming into the world's fleet. Some ships calling at the harbor had to carry lighter loads and depend upon tides to enter and exit.
To address this problem, USACE undertook an extensive dredging project that deepened the harbor to 50 feet in order to eliminate shipping restrictions and serve as a boon to the economy of the Bay Area and the nation.
USACE also recognized an opportunity to use the project to benefit the environment by restoring the nearby Sonoma Baylands wetlands. Using dredge material from the harbor project USACE constructed a 338 acre marsh, increasing the acreage of suitable habitat for two endangered species, the salt marsh harvest mouse and the California clapper rail. Dredged material from this project was also used to enhance the Montezuma Wetlands Restoration Project site.
As part of its overall balancing efforts, USACE also is implementing a regional, watershed approach to addressing coasts that takes into consideration nearby, related water resources such as rivers, lakes and wetlands.