OP-ED: What Should Be Done with the Cargill Salt Ponds?

Redwood City resident and Sierra Club member advocates restoring the land to tidal marsh to keep the San Francisco Bay self-sustaining.

In March of 2008, the Sierra Club’s Loma Prieta chapter adopted a resolution advocating full restoration of the Cargill salt ponds. We did so in hopes of protecting this 1433- acre parcel of eminently restorable baylands from being paved over in an ill-conceived plan to build what would essentially be a new city on the Bay. 

In the intervening years, as details of  Cargill/DMB’s project have emerged and the Notice of Preparation has been submitted, we have been made even more keenly aware of its numerous negative impacts on our Bay and our quality of life.

We have become even more .

We fully acknowledge , but we think development within existing infrastructure, convenient to transportation and supportive of our wonderful downtown businesses is far preferable to paving over one of the Bay’s last pieces of restorable wetlands. The is moving in the right direction!

San Francisco Bay is the second largest estuary in North America. To Californians, it is our crown jewel. It provides beauty, recreational activities, and is a vital habitat for numerous wildlife species. Not only is it home to numerous species of birds, such as the endangered California clapper rail and the snowy plover, but it is part of the Pacific Flyway, a global system used by tens of thousands of birds every year.

Decades ago, the importance of marshes was little understood. They were called swamps, and considered useless wastelands, places to dump garbage. This ignorance resulted in the loss of an estimated 85% of the Bay’s historic marshes, which once were teeming with rich and varied life. Today, we know better and take seriously their value, not only to wildlife, but to humans as well. To quote from the Sierra Club’s position paper:

Scientists estimate that a minimum of 100,000 acres must be restored to tidal marsh to keep the San Francisco Estuary vital and self-sustaining…Wetlands protect downstream waters by filtering out or transforming naturally occurring and man made pollutants such as the fertilizers, pesticides, automobile pollutants and sediment found in treated wastewater effluent and storm water runoff. Wetlands reduce the effects of flooding and prevent shoreline erosion by providing water storage within the floodplain area, slowing water velocities, reducing peak flows, and increasing flow duration.

The vast majority of scientists are in agreement in projecting a sea level rise of 55 inches over the next several decades. It would be wrong to put an increased number of people and property at risk, when restored wetlands could actually help to mitigate the effects of flooding.

The Cargill salt ponds are currently zoned open space. Since salt production has ceased, it is time for Cargill to sell the land at an appropriate price. Be assured that a willing coalition of buyers—Federal and state agencies along with private foundations—will step forward to purchase and restore the land as part of the Don Edwards Wildlife Refuge.

Reality Check May 27, 2011 at 05:08 PM
That functional fill locations exist in this world is hardly a good argument for filling in more wetlands and waterways -- especially those on the periphery of Redwood City cut off from the rest of the community. Redwood City urgently needs to focus on true sustainable infill development (and re-development), especially housing, which contributes to the vitality and success of its huge ongoing investment in a revitalized downtown core. The recent plans for housing on the site of the defunct Dodge dealership (on Veterans) and Mel's Bowl (on ECR) are examples of this. Along with the "Depot Circle" area along the tracks between Middlefield and Safeway, these are all sites that have excellent potential for adding walkable, transit-accessible vitality and housing to the city's core.
Corrin Trowbridge May 27, 2011 at 06:17 PM
The more smart growth, the better for the community! To dismiss some growth out of hand, using an ecological straight jacket, is short sighted. I guess we will have to agree to disagree and hope that the decision makers come down on our side, and the expressed will of the majority of the residents of Redwood City.
Philippe May 27, 2011 at 06:57 PM
To exacerbate: to make worse. Demise: the end or failure of an enterprise or institution Community: all the people living in a particular area or place Wow! I had no idea the situation was this bad for the people of Redwood City. Just by not considering the plans to build up on the Cargill salt ponds we're making the failure of the people living in Redwood City worse. Note that the fact that we're going to fail as a community is not an option, it's going to happen faster. Let's flip this around starting at the end: ..., using an economical straight jacket only promotes ecological stagnation ...
Marianna Raymond May 27, 2011 at 07:40 PM
Mr. Trowbridge, at a time when being "green" appears to be very trendy, the term "smart growth" is used indiscriminately (often by developers, realtors and insurance brokers who might profit from the new buildings) to make all sorts of projects sound good. While it is true that the Cargill/DMB proposal has may fine features, such as being bike and pedestrian friendly, its location and need for new infrastructure such as miles of roads, power lines, and a new (and rather suspect) water delivery system, make it the very antithesis of genuine smart growth. True smart growth is that which maximizes existing infrastructure, and, concomitantly, avoids harmful impacts on significant natural resources. Regardless of how attractive the buildings look or how compact the design, a development located in a flood plain, in an environmentally sensitive area, and far removed from a City's downtown and supporting services is simply not smart.
Jonelle Preisser July 03, 2011 at 09:02 AM
Economic straightjackets are what brought us to this environmental mess we're in--global warming, loss of topsoil, air and water pollution, loss of coral reefs, depletion of fish, and accelerated loss of plant and animal species, to name part of the mess. Talk about being short sighted.


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