4.1B – Marina Siting and Design – Habitat Assessment

Management Measure

Site and design new and expanding marinas to protect against adverse effects on shellfish resources, wetlands, submerged aquatic vegetation, or other important riparian and aquatic habitat areas as designated by local, State, or federal governments.

Management Practices

  • Conduct habitat surveys and characterize the marina site prior to construction. Critical and unique areas should be inventoried, such as shellfish beds and submerged aquatic vegetation. Areas that provide critical habitat functions, such as riparian areas, spawning areas, nursery areas and feeding areas should be identified so that appropriate measures can be taken to minimize their disturbance. Rapid bioassessment techniques provide a cost-effective way to inventory aquatic resources. Established bioassessment protocols use sampled invertebrate and fish communities as indicators of ecosystem health.
  • Select alternative sites that minimize disturbance to sensitive areas. For example, waterfront areas that are already developed could be used for new marinas, or existing marinas could be expanded. If this is not a viable alternative, consider dry stack storage, in which boats are stored on vertical stands, minimizing disturbance, leakage, and pollution from maintenance operations. In addition, a good way to compensate for potential habitat loss is to create or expand habitats within the marina. Rough surfaces such as docks, piers, piles, and floats provide a good substrate for attachment of bivalves and other aquatic organisms.


  • California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) Marine Region, is responsible for protecting and managing California’s marine resources. It was created to improve marine resource management through law enforcement, fisheries and habitat programs, environmental review, and water quality monitoring. The Marine Region has adopted an ecosystem approach that incorporates the values of biological communities and habitats as well as the public, while protecting the health of the marine environment.
  • The Marine Life Inventory, by the California Coastal Commission, Department of Fish and Game, is a program for high school students and teachers to participate in ocean sampling while monitoring water quality (Telephone: 949-640-9956).

Information Resources

  • USEPA, Estuaries and Near Coastal Areas Bioassessment and Biocriteria Guidance describes protocols for conducting bioassessments in estuarine and coastal marine waters. Case studies illustrate the bioassessment process and biocriteria derivation procedures. The document discusses sampling methods and candidate metrics for benthic macroinvertebrates, fish, aquatic macrophytes, and phytoplankton.


USEPA. 2001. National Management Measures Guidance to Control Nonpoint Source Pollution from Marinas and Recreational Boating. EPA 841-B-01-005. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC. Retrieved on March 16, 2008.

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