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Disaster averted: California’s Bolinas Lagoon

Located 15 miles northwest of San Francisco between the communities of Bolinas and Stinson Beach, Bolinas Lagoon and its ecosystem provides a rich habitat for shorebird and waterfowl, fish, and special-status plants and animals. It also provides an important habitat for several endangered species including the steelhead and coho salmon that move through the lagoon on their journey upstream to spawn within the lagoon’s watershed.

In 2006, the US Army Corps of Engineers proposed dredging nearly 1.4 million cubic yards of sediment from the lagoon, claiming the project would preventing the lagoon from silting in.

The subsequent environmental review, conducted under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), told a very different story. It found the Bolinas lagoon was not at risk of silting and that the proposed plan would have actually increased siltation and degraded the lagoon’s water quality. 

As a result, the misguided plan was abandoned, saving taxpayers $133 million.  The non-federal sponsor then worked with scientists, local stakeholders, environmental groups, and state and federal agency representatives to develop a series of community-supported recommendations for the restoration and management of Bolinas Lagoon that were finalized in 2008. 

Thanks to NEPA, a disastrous Army Corps of Engineers project was abandoned and the Bolinas lagoon remains one of the most pristine tidal lagoons in all of California.

The NEPA review process exposed the devastating impacts of the Army Corps of Engineers’ plan to dredge the Bolinas Lagoon, one of the most pristine tidal lagoons in California. While the Army Corps claimed that the dredging project would prevent the lagoon from silting in, the environmental review process found that the lagoon was not at risk of silting in and that the proposed plan would actually increase siltation significantly degrade the lagoon’s water quality. 


[1] “Draft Environmental Impact Statement: Bolinas Lagoon Ecosystem Restoration Project Feasibility Study.” U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. June 2002. Available at:

[2] “Bolinas Lagoon Ecosystem Restoration Project: Recommendations and Restoration Management.” A Working Group of the Sanctuary Advisory Council Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. August 2008. Available at:—recommendations-fo-restoration-and-management.pdf


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