Cargill’s 370-page attack on the Bay-Part 2

The Redwood City salt ponds, full of water. Credit: Stephen Knight

Back in September, I wrote about the 370-page attack on San Francisco Bay by Cargill and its Arizona-based luxury housing developer DMB Associates. These powerful companies are currently maneuvering to avoid key federal environmental rules like the Clean Water Act from applying in any way to salt ponds in San Francisco Bay.

That post was focused on Cargill’s incredible argument that the Bay water that evaporates in these ponds to make salt (see photo) is not “water” at all. Instead, their lawyers call it “brine” or use other euphemisms. A lawyer for the developer told a reporter that my post was “completely wrong” but then confirmed the opposite, stating that Cargill/DMB seek to make the case that the site is “not subject to the Clean Water Act or the Rivers and Harbors Act.”

So, no amount of legalese can change the fact that Cargill’s salt is made from San Francisco Bay water brought into its salt ponds, where it is held and evaporated behind levees. Right?

In fact, Cargill’s remarkable filing to the Environmental Protection Agency and US Army Corps of Engineers also includes other manipulative, incredible claims, such as that the pond levees do not exist for the sake of “impounding” water:

The Salt Plant is not “impounding” (i.e., “collecting” or “confining”) anything. …. It is more akin to an “expoundment” because it excludes or keeps “out” (as opposed to confining “in”) waters of the United States…. It does not retain or impound such waters and their containment behind the levees would be entirely contrary to the function and purpose of the Salt Plant.” (pg 50-51)

It would be interesting to hear Cargill’s lawyers explain how their position is strengthened by putting quotation marks around simple words like “in” and “out.” But Cargill is convinced it is above the law, so don’t expect an answer any time soon.  These transparently self-serving arguments are almost funny. But not quite. Because this matter is deadly serious for the Bay.

Cargill’s partner DMB continues to insist that they will soon be back with their massively controversial projectPlease don’t let Cargill get away with it - spread the word.


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Stephen Knight, Political Director

About Stephen Knight, Political Director

Stephen oversees Save The Bay's policy initiatives focusing on Bay fill, pollution prevention and securing funding for the restoration of 100,000 acres of healthy Bay wetlands. An honors graduate of Yale University and U.C. Hastings College of the Law, Stephen has extensive experience in legislative, media, and grassroots advocacy and campaign work. His favorite thing about the San Francisco Bay Area is the fog. Follow him on Twitter @sk_sfbay .

2 Responses to “Cargill’s 370-page attack on the Bay-Part 2”

  1. How do I sign the petition opposing Cargill’s desire to fill the bay??