A Bay Area environmentalist group assailed developers seeking approval for a bayside project they say would imperil wetlands that play a critical role in protecting the San Francisco Bay from pollution.
"Save the Bay" spokesman Stephen Knight in a statement on Tuesday pointed to a filing Arizona-based DMB Associates made with two federal agencies earlier this year requesting regulatory clarification that he says illustrates the companies disregard for basic environmental protections.
DMB in May scrapped a controversial proposal to build 12,000 homes on the 1,400-acre Cargil Sand Ponds parcel.
The proposal had been in the works for three years.
A DMB spokesman said his group is seeking clarification from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency before proposing a scaled-back plan.
DMB's 370-page public filing, Knight says, argues that the salt ponds sit on unregulated land and that "all the Bay water Cargill uses to evaporate and make salt – it’s not water at all."
Knight described the developer's assertion as attempt to circumvent environmental law.
"These key environmental laws are critical tools in limiting the pollution of our waterways and preventing unnecessary fill that destroys our wetlands, so important to the Bay," Knight said.
"Those protections could jeopardize Cargill’s ability to fill and destroy these baylands. And so the (developer's) new strategy is to get federal agencies to declare the ponds “exempt,” because Cargill is convinced it is above the law."
DMB spokesman David Smith said Knight's statement mischaracterized his group's arguments.
"It is completely wrong," he said.
"We do not argue that no salt ponds are jurisdictional. We make the case that the industrial facility - industrial portions of one particular site - are not subject to the Clean Water Act or the Rivers and Harbors Act.
"It's narrowly focused to one particular industrial facility that was permitted by the federal government in 1940."
Smith said he had no estimate for how long it would take the federal agencies to complete their reviews, saying his only expectation was that the review be comprehensive.
Asked if he thought the expected timeframe was closer to two months or two years, he said "hopefully, it's closer to two months."
"We'll bring (a revised proposal) forward to the city once we complete the process of getting clarity from the federal agencies," Smith said.
DMB in a statement posted on its website says the revised development will provide the community affordable housing and recreational amenities including parks, sports fields and miles of hiking and bicycling trails.
But a coalition of environmentalist groups have joined "Save the Bay" in their fight to stop DMB from ever breaking ground on the Redwood City project. Earlier this year, "Occupy Saltworks" formed as an offshoot of "Occupy Redwood City."
Smith insists his group won't cave to pressure from environmentalist groups to walk away from the project.
"We're very committed" to pursuing the development project, Smith said. "We wouldn't have taken all that time and expense to prepare that filing if we weren't, and believe me, a lot effort went into that."
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