The ambitious South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project, the largest tidal wetland restoration project on the West Coast, is already seeing some impressive results, according to biologists who have surveyed the area.
The populations of ducks and shorebirds in the area have doubled over 12 years, from 100,000 in 2002 to 200,000 in 2014, according to a report issued in October by researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey and other agencies.
“It shows that what’s been done so far appears to be working. It’s really great,” said Susan De La Cruz, a wildlife biologist with the USGS who did much of the research told the Mercury News.
“The success of the California Coastal Conservancy’s South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project is an example of how wetland restoration can improve habitat for wildlife such as birds, fish, seals, and sharks, in addition to reducing the risk of flooding due to sea level rise associated with climate change,” says Donna Ball, Habitat Restoration Director for Save The Bay.
Historically, diking off wetlands along the bay’s shore for production of salt was a major factor in losing much of the bay’s tidal marshland. Starting in the 1850s, salt production became a major industry, covering some 16,500 acres, most of which was owned by Cargill Inc. In 2003, Cargill sold 15,000 acres to state and federal agencies and private foundations, which drew up plans to restore the salt ponds to a more natural condition.
Already the South Bay restoration project has reconnected about 3,000 acres of salt ponds to the bay with the goal of revitalizing them as tidal marshes. When complete, the project will have restored 15,000 acres of former salt ponds to wetlands and other vital habitats.
The South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project is scheduled to be completed over the next 50 years if funding is available. Measure AA on the June 7 ballot is designed to generate $500 million over the next 20 years to provide funds for this project and many others throughout the Bay Area.
All around San Francisco Bay, there are more than 30,000 acres awaiting restoration. Your YES vote for Measure AA will help provide the funding needed for many of these much-needed projects.