Plantings are laid out like patchwork quilts, with each color of flag calling for a different species of plant. An elaborate experiment, scientists have clustered species to test their survival rates and effectiveness at removing contaminants from the wastewater.
Volunteers pull tiny plants from 5 gallon buckets. Each bucket contains one species of plant, and volunteer planters seek out flags of their assigned color.
Those tiny plants are actually rhizomes, stems that store the energy necessary to sprout new roots and shoots.
The rhizomes and other plantings are harvested from a nursery housed at the Oro Loma sewage treatment facility. Spearheaded by Donna Ball (pictured here) and now managed by Jessie Olson, the nursery housed 70,000+ native plants, each waiting to be transplanted to the levee.
[Update :: how many plants are left now that this work is almost complete?]
The Oro Loma ecotone slope will feature 20+ different species, including creeping wild rye, Baltic rush, spikerush, basket sedge and field sedge, western ragweed, California blackberry, and alkali bulrush.
Seep lines will deliver wastewater to the beds. In its current installation, this is a controlled scientific experiment. Scientists will measure the water that goes in and test the water that comes out, monitoring levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, and other trace organic contaminants.
[Fact check: is this an actual seep line or simply an irrigation line?]
Unfortunately the planted rhizomes aren’t nearly as photogenic as the flags they replace. But oh, the promise they hold!
Science can be fun too! Muddy knees and wet boots abounded the day I visited Oro Loma. Families of Save the Bay and Oro Loma staff planted and toured the facilities.