Cargill Misleads Gov’t Agencies about Salt Pond Wildlife

Video of shorebirds on the Redwood City salt ponds
Click the image above to view a video of shorebirds on the Redwood City salt ponds

One of Cargill’s most consistent efforts in its campaign to pave as many as 1,436 acres of restorable salt ponds in Redwood City has been an attempt to mislead the general public, especially voters in Redwood City, into believing that that the salt ponds have little value to wildlife.

Cargill/DMB representatives have repeatedly denied the significant wildlife use of these salt ponds – saying, for example, that there is “nothing alive” on the salt ponds and that birds would “burn their fannies” if they tried to land on these two square miles of the Bay. Eneas Kane, the CEO of developer DMB Pacific has even gone so far as to describe the salt ponds as “inhospitable to man or beast.”

This is a theme that is repeated in Cargill’s official 370-page submission to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, where the company argues that the Redwood City salt ponds should be declared “exempt” from the Clean Water Act and other federal regulations that protect the Bay.

One of the attachments in their submission to the federal agencies is a 2002 “Significant Nexus Analysis” performed by Cargill’s long-time consultant, Mike Josselyn, that outrageously claims that the Redwood City salt ponds are only used on a “relatively limited basis by birds” and that the salt pond site “does not contribute to the integrity of the surrounding watershed.”

We understand why Cargill would prefer to ignore, downplay and outright deny wildlife use of the Redwood City salt ponds, but the annual presence of thousands of migratory shorebirds on the site is simply indisputable.

PRBO Conservation Science, a leader in studying birds along the Pacific Flyway, notes that San Francisco Bay, including the salt ponds, is a recognized site of hemispheric importance for migratory shorebirds. PRBO’s studies document that the Redwood City salt ponds are home to at least 24,800 shorebirds annually, including several threatened species. They describe the Redwood City ponds as having “among the highest [bird] counts from the West side of the Bay between the Bay and Dumbarton bridges” making up more than a quarter of the total shorebird population of the region. They also believe these numbers are an underestimate.

We could cite additional reports, but it doesn’t take reams of scientific data to prove that Cargill has been misleading state and federal permit agencies about the habitat value of the site. Just take a look at the video in the top right of this blog post, or any of the images in Save The Bay’s photo set of shorebirds on the Redwood City salt ponds to see for yourself. Do you see birds “burning their fannies?”