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Bay Region entrepreneur envisions new purposes for land, means to preserve planet

James Levine is a civil engineer. He’s also an entrepreneur, environmental guide, a developer and anyone who figures out how to fix numerous complications simultaneously in a way that he hopes advantages all.

Just one day when he was seeking out at the bay from his Emeryville place of work, Levine was struck by the steep unnatural riprap shoreline encompassing most of the bay that discourage wildlife from collecting there. He also imagined about the numerous tons of sediment that necessary to be dredged from the bay so that big ships could go — and what he could do with that fill to really encourage wildlife habitat in other places.

“I recognized that mainly because wildlife seriously want more shallow, variegated areas, and that if I could safely use dredged sediment to build people, I could present an economic alternative for the ports, which are dropping billions of pounds of achievable income because they couldn’t get the big ships in, and make remarkable habitat at the exact time,” he mentioned.

Hence was born the Montezuma Wetlands Undertaking in Solano County, a private initiative begun in the early 2000s that addresses two issues: the historic decline of wetlands and how 1 can responsibly dispose of hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of sediments dredged per year from San Francisco Bay Spot ports, harbors and channels.

Formerly one particular of the most worthwhile habitats in the San Francisco Bay region, the Montezuma Wetlands, upcoming to Suisun Marsh in close proximity to Collinsville, were being diked for agricultural use in the late 1800s. It was not until eventually late 2020 that the levees had been breached as element of Levine’s 15-calendar year undertaking to return the spot to its primary wetlands, making use of dredged fill from the bay to restore habitat.

“Sometimes challenges are so complicated that they’re generally only solved if you can incorporate two or three complications jointly, and discover an integrated answer,” Levine, CEO of Montezuma Drinking water LLC, reported.

Levine’s organization pioneered the use of dredged sediment to restore wetlands, now an ever more widespread system. And the brackish h2o habitat at the newly fashioned Montezuma Wetlands will assist a range of species, including smelt and little salmon, when the adjacent restored marsh will be eye-catching to the salt marsh harvest mouse, Ridgeway’s rail and California black rail, which are outlined as endangered, threatened or in the vicinity of-threatened.

Levine just lately talked about some of his numerous tasks and what one desires to succeed in a accountable way in today’s enterprise environment.

How did you get your start?

For a few several years, I worked for the Condition Water High-quality Manage Board, the Regional Water High-quality Management Board in Oakland, and for two and a half years, I was an incident commander for environmental emergencies. I managed a good deal of factors. Then I worked on some of the initially Superfund web sites in the region. I was a guy they sent down, and so I did a great deal of engineering and figuring out how to clear up troubles.

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Why the focus on generating wetlands?

I considered why just can’t I choose that fill from projects and fill up some of these parts and make them a lot additional precious ecologically? So I started out on a quest to do that. And the way that I did it was I signed an engineering geologist to discover me the greatest web site in the Bay Place. I often like to staff folks up with unique backgrounds. … They arrived again a few weeks later on and there was one web page that was an buy of magnitude superior than each other website of the overall Bay Location.  And that that was the 4,000 acres of land that Santa Fe Southern Pacific Land Corporation owned in Solano County. … We considered if we could restore this by putting the dredged sediment in this article and putting it in a pattern where it would go away a landform, when you are completed it would glimpse like a tidal wetland.

In 2020, we turned our very first 550 acres additionally yet another 100 acres of buffer to the tides. And the achievements of the restoration is unparalleled and how speedy it was. We imagined it would just take 4 years for vegetation to occur again, and it took 9 months.

You also plan to use some dredging fill for your proposed Jersey Island project in East Contra Costa County, way too. How would you do that?

In Contra Costa, there’s genuinely not a wonderful place to go to the beach front and your youngsters could be unsupervised for protection explanations. … With a county with temperatures that are 100, 105 degrees, how useful would it be to the community to have a position like that wherever you can go to, like a major beach front? And, as a organization, we’re genuinely seasoned at relocating big quantities of content like sand and fill and all that. Decker Island is appropriate next doorway we’d almost certainly pump it (the sand) over.

What are some of the other proposals for the 6-acre island at the moment owned by Ironhouse Sanitary District? We imagined it could be a actually great inexperienced power (wind and solar) generation location, which is 1 of Contra Costa County’s ambitions, to generate neighborhood green power.

Then we saw some habitat restoration possible, particularly for the huge garter snake. That is an endangered species that you run into it when you’re performing levee initiatives, which are important initiatives if you want to save these islands … and so to have mitigation currently out there, it would just be a substantial profit.

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We were being just having difficulties to determine out, although, how to exchange the cattle grazing, which the (Ironhouse Sanitary) district was shedding dollars on, functioning their grazing operation. … It keeps the weeds down, so there is a reward to grazing. But cattle grazing, I don’t know. So that’s when we believed what about if we grazed wild animals and gave the folks close to in this article like the most fascinating detail to search at that you know, they at any time seem at on a weekly foundation? I necessarily mean, I would come out in this article as soon as a 7 days to see it, to appear around a massive 500-acre place and see herds of exotic animals.

How are your Jersey Island proposals seen by environmentalists? Very little would thrill us a lot more than to companion with the Sierra Club and Greenbelt Alliance and other teams. That would aid us make it improved … and I feel form of marry local community values and environmental values. It does not have to often be a person or the other. And so, I believe there is methods of carrying out it, but it does involve individuals to arrive out of their corners and people today get out of their bins and be eager to look at things that it’s possible they hadn’t imagined they would in advance of.

What approaching small business tasks do you have that will assistance the setting?  We have released two new enterprises more than the past calendar year, one particular with a objective to sequester several million tons of carbon dioxide every 12 months. And the next is to test to advance the building of a desalination plant for the Bay Spot as an more kind of h2o safety.

What is distinct about how you strategy troubles these days? It’s a unique earth now. You know, the aged solutions are just not functioning. We have to consider a tiny little bit in another way. And I think, centered on matters I’ve performed, that if you did that, you know, perhaps you could do some definitely awesome things. __________________________________________________________________________JIM LEVINE

Position: CEO Montezuma H2o civil and environmental engineer

Training: UC Berkeley master’s degree in engineering

Age: 67

Residence: Berkeley


He plays guitar in a rock band termed Crisis.
He made use of to try to eat ice product every single evening. Now, he’s changed it with tiny doses of darkish chocolate.
He however runs hills in Berkeley reminiscent of his large college track practice times.
He competed in martial arts for 25 a long time.
His initial operate encounter was with a small landscaping small business, which assisted put him by college.

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