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History of the North Richmond Shoreline

The Shoreline’s Tarnished History

North Richmond Shoreline MapDespite its natural beauty, the North Richmond Shoreline has been a dumping ground for East Bay communities for years. Large swaths of marshland have been illegally filled, causing severe environmental damage.

The West County Landfill, a 235-foot-tall “garbage mountain,” has finally been stuffed to capacity after more than 50 years of dumping.

South of the dump, near Wildcat Creek Marsh, are sewage treatment plants.

Chevron expelled contaminated refinery wastewater into Castro Cove (west of Wildcat Creek Marsh) for nearly a century.

Neighbors have been denied access to a healthy shoreline.
Hundreds of years ago, the North Richmond Shoreline consisted of a large, broad mudflat that extended all the way from Point Pinole to Point San Pablo. The area also included a massive tidal marsh that extended for more than 2,000 acres along most of the Shoreline and all the way to Richmond’s south shoreline. Wildcat, San Pablo, Rheem, and Castro Creeks meandered slowly through the broad flat land between the East Bay hills and the San Pablo Bay supplying clean water and clean sediment that helped keep the marshes and mudflats healthy.
Historical Habitats
What has happened to these habitats between 1800 and today is similar to what has happened to tidal marshes and creeks all over the Bay Area where more than 95% of tidal marshes have been filled or dyked. Because of its long and accessible shoreline, Richmond became the home of a major oil refinery, the terminus of the continental railroad, shipyards, and lots of related industry and housing. To make way for much of this development, companies drained and dyked thousands of acres of tidal marsh, moved creeks, and built on top of mudflats. The area in grey on the map above on the right shows all the areas of former natural habitat that were filled to make way for industry or housing.

See the History of Point Pinole courtesy of East Bay Regional Park District >>

Today, the large marsh that once stretched for thousands of acres between the North Richmond Shoreline and Richmond’s south shore has been reduced to approximately 500 acres. What was once one large marsh is now two smaller marshes – the 340 acre Wildcat Creek Marsh and 140 acre San Pablo Marsh – separated by the West County Landfill. Much of Giant Marsh has been filled in, reducing Giant Marsh from approximately 41 acres to 23 acres. The creeks that once meandered slowly from the East Bay Hills to the Bay have been frequently moved, straightened, and depleted of trees and other vegetation to reduce flooding and allow for more industry and housing to be built along their banks (and in some cases on top of them).

Historical and current habitat mapping information provided by San Francisco Bay Area Wetland Ecosystem Goals Project.

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