Salt Pond Update: 2013 Year in Review

Don't Pave My Bay

As we enter the new year, two square miles of the Bay remains at risk in Redwood City.

It’s been a year and a half since you helped Save The Bay and a broad coalition of environmental organizations, community groups, elected officials, and others defeat Cargill’s initial proposal to build as many as 12,000 houses atop restorable salt ponds in Redwood City.

Still, Cargill is unwilling to back away from its intent to submit a revised development proposal for the site, let alone sell the salt ponds so they can be restored and included in the Don Edwards SF Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Instead, Cargill has pressured the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to grant an “exemption” from the Clean Water Act, which would make it easier for Cargill to get permits to develop the site. Insider sources tell us that in recent months Cargill has ramped up its lobbying efforts in Washington D.C.

Thousands of you have called on the Army Corps and the EPA to stand up for the Bay and not let Cargill get out of basic environmental regulations that protect the health of our great estuary. The federal agencies have yet to make a decision, but thanks to you, we know they are hearing us.

Overall, there’s hope for the long-term health of the Bay. Every day the Bay Area moves further and further away from Cargill’s archaic plans to pave the Bay:

  • The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently released a long-awaited blueprint to restore the Bay’s wetlands. Called the Tidal Marsh Recovery Plan, this federal report specifically calls for the protection and restoration of Redwood City’s salt ponds.
  • Through the recently adopted Plan Bay Area, the region has chosen to move away from sprawl, focusing future development near transit, in already urbanized areas. Cargill tried to undermine this plan at the last minute, threatening regional agencies with legal action unless the Redwood City ponds were were listed as “urbanized,” but we beat them back before it was too late.
  • As sea levels continue to rise, policymakers throughout the state are beginning to realize that we need to protect the infrastructure we already have – not put more people at risk. San Mateo County’s recent sea level rise summit shows this message is getting through.
  • Finally, the historic restoration of the Bay continues at a rapid pace, as thousands of acres of the shoreline are returned back to Bay wetlands. The restoration of former salt ponds in the North Bay demonstrate what’s possible in Redwood City, if only Cargill is willing to cooperate.

None of this progress could happen without our members and supporters. You’ve signed our petitions, shared our actions with your friends, donated, and helped us continue to lead this campaign that is shaping the future of the Bay. We’ll keep you updated as we continue this important fight in the new year.

Curious to learn more about the nearly 25,000 shorebirds that use the Redwood City salt ponds annually? View our Birds of the Redwood City Salt Ponds slideshow. 

Weekly Roundup | September 27, 2013

San Francisco Chronicle Op-Ed 9/23/13
Redwood City wrong to let developers flout rules
We have trouble, right here in Redwood City. This is not “Music Man” wayward-youth trouble. It is City Council, City Planning Commission and City Planning Department trouble. Our trouble could potentially affect the whole Bay Area.
The trouble comes in various sizes, but it all involves a refusal of Redwood City to play by its own rules and implement its own codes and General Plan. What the city is doing – and citizens, courts and state commissions are attempting to stop – is ripping up the environmental and social fabric of an important part of the Bay Area piece by piece.
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San Francisco Chronicle 9/25/13
Alameda Point studies threat of rising sea level
Plan on moving to Alameda Point someday? You might want to pack a swimsuit and snorkel.
Much of the former Naval Air Station – site of a projected 1,425-home development – will be underwater by the end of the century due to sea level rise brought on by climate change, according to the city’s draft environmental impact report on the project released this month.
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 San Francisco Chronicle 9/27/13
Bechtel Gift to Help Transform Presidio
The largest cash gift in national parks history is intended to be the catalyst to create 10 acres of parkland connecting the heart of the Presidio to Crissy Field and the bay. The $25 million from the S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation will fund more than half the estimated budget for what is being called Tunnel Top Parkland. A new bluff will cover the rebuilt Doyle Drive, allowing for an unbroken landscape from Crissy Field’s marsh inland to the Main Post of the former military base, which now is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
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Cargill threatens regional agencies over SF Bay salt pond map

Redwood City Salt Ponds
Does this site look ‘urbanized’ to you?

You may not have heard about Cargill’s controversial plan to build a new city on restorable salt ponds in San Francisco Bay for a while. But the company recently threatened and misled Bay Area regional planners into incorrectly designating Redwood City salt pond properties as “urbanized” areas. Clearly, Cargill was after yet another way to justify developing this important open space.

Fortunately, Save The Bay beat back this underhanded effort by the largest privately held US company.

Here’s what happened:

For years, Bay Area cities and agencies have been shaping an ambitious project called Plan Bay Area, intended to address growth and transportation at a regional level. The plan included maps of the Bay that correctly showed salt ponds in Redwood City and Newark as open space.

Before the plan was adopted, however, Cargill submitted a letter threatening public agencies with legal action over those maps. Cargill brazenly claimed there are no “significant restrictions [that] exist on the current and future use of these properties.” That isn’t true, but soon a new draft of the plan was released, and it included maps depicting the salt ponds as “urbanized.”

Contrary to Cargill’s claim, there are many significant protections on the Redwood City salt ponds. They are designated as open space in Redwood City’s general plan and in Cargill’s contract with the state of California under the Williamson Act; and many state and federal laws protect the Bay.

Thanks to vigilant Save The Bay supporters like you, we caught wind of Cargill’s sneaky move – and we reached out to our allies and supporters to ensure the maps were fixed, just days before the final plan was approved. It was a close call, but swift action by our Save The Bay policy team prevented this important open space from coming one step closer to development. We know that Cargill will stop at nothing to clear their way to build homes on these below sea level, restorable ponds. And we need all the help we can get to continue to block their moves.

It is astonishing that, after benefiting from dramatically reduced taxes for decades in exchange for preserving the areas as open space, Cargill shamelessly bullied Bay Area public officials with false claims and threats of legal action.

Cargill is demonstrating yet again that they aren’t listening to the community in Redwood City and throughout the Bay Area.

Won’t you please stand with us again today with a special gift to help us block the Cargill threat? With your support we will remain vigilant against Cargill and work to ensure that San Francisco Bay salt ponds are restored—not paved over for development.

Want to learn more about why the Redwood City salt ponds are important to the Bay? See our slideshow profiling some of the more than 24,800 shorebirds that call the ponds home.

A Wonky Year Ahead

Last year included some tremendous wins for Save The Bay and our team of Wonks.  From Cargill pulling their proposal from the Redwood City planning process, to the successful passage and implementation of bag bans in Alameda County, San Francisco, and nearly a dozen other jurisdictions, it’s been a busy year.

As we look toward 2013, there continue to be exciting opportunities to improve the health and sustainability of the Bay, and more than a few fights that we’re gearing up for (and hope you are too).


Don’t Pave My Bay

Our “Don’t Pave My Bay” campaign to stop Cargill’s destructive development in Redwood City. In 2013, we’ll continue to work hard, day after day, to protect this key piece of the Bay from being filled.

  • Cargill’s developer has already announced plans to submit a revised proposal to put thousands of houses on these below-sea-level, restorable salt ponds.  We don’t know when they’ll submit the new plans, so keep your eyes and ears peeled, because this fight is far from over.
  • Meanwhile, the company is busy pressuring federal regulatory agencies to declare the salt ponds “exempt” from the Clean Water Act and other laws that protect the Bay.  The outcome of this ruling could give the project a second life, or throw up a host of new challenges.
  • We will continue to encourage Cargill to sell or donate these ponds so they can be included in the Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge and restored back to much needed tidal marsh.  Last year supporters like you petitioned Cargill to sell the ponds, and we’ll continue to advocate for restoration over development.


Clean Bay Project

The Clean Bay program continues to build momentum and support from cities and counties across the Bay Area.  As of this year, more than half of the Bay Area is covered by either a plastic bag or polystyrene ban – or both.  Here’s what we are looking forward to in the year ahead:

  • Cities in Santa Clara continue to be mostly absent from the growing momentum to eliminate Styrofoam from our food ware stream.  We’re working with the City of San Jose and our local supporters to ensure that that the city passes a Styrofoam food ware ban in February.
  • The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors is taking steps toward banning plastic bags and Styrofoam.  County staff have been asked to develop a set of options for the Board to explore, and Save The Bay is working closely to make sure any proposal underlines the impacts of plastic bags to our local waterways and the Bay.
  • It’s 2013 – that means Bay Area cities have a little more than 1 year to show that they have reduced the amount of trash flowing through their waterways by 40 percent, with a 70% reduction by 2017. How close are our cities to reaching these goals?  We’ll keep you posted.


Restoration Funding Campaign

We haven’t shared very much about our ongoing work to restore 100,000 acres of Bay wetlands, but all of that is about to change.  In the next few weeks, you’ll hear a whole lot more about our efforts in this area.  The entire staff here at Save The Bay is incredibly excited about the work we’re doing, and we can’t wait to share it with you.  Stay tuned…this is an announcement you won’t want to miss!

Weekly roundup 1/4/13

A county-wide plastic bag ban went into effect in all 14 cities and unincorporated areas in Alameda County on January 1. Businesses and consumers alike took it all in stride. Meanwhile, Marin County looks back on its first year under a plastic bag ban and finds that the ban is working, with fewer plastic bags entering landfills and both consumers and businesses adjusting to the change easily. The Palo Alto Daly News posts a year in review and includes the withdrawal of Cargill/DMB’s Saltworks proposal calling it “polarizing.” And right next door, public access to the Bair Island restoration site is a bit closer, with construction of a pedestrian bridge kicking off and scheduled to be completed in March. Meanwhile, worries grow in East Palo Alto as the rainy season continues and the city declares a state of emergency, asking for $2.7 million in state funds to repair storm-damaged levees along San Francisquito Creek. Finally, this week’s cuteness award goes to Sam the River Otter who mysteriously appeared in ruins of the Sutro Baths in San Francisco. We dare you to look at the photos and not say, “Awww.”

weekly roundup

Contra Costa Times 1/2/13
Few Objections in Albany to Plastic Bag Ban
Alameda County’s ban on single-use plastic bags was a long time coming and was enacted, said Albany Councilwoman Joanne Wile, because of the negative effects the bags have on the environment, especially in the water.
“It started by looking at the effect on the environment, on streams, on sea life, the number of deaths that have occurred because sea animals that have ingested plastic bags,” she said. “It seemed like something we could manageably do, and other counties have done it.”

Marin Independent Journal 1/1/13
Marin Plastic Bag Ban Making a Difference after one Year
Kate Robertson hates plastic bags, and she wants you to know it. The Novato resident carries 10 recyclable bags in her car and says plastic is a leading cause of sea turtle mortality. Not surprisingly, she’s happy with the year-old ban on plastic grocery bags in unincorporated Marin — and she’s not alone.

Palo Alto Daily News 12/31/12
2012: A Year in Review with Daily News Photos
After three years of planning, Saltworks developer DMB Pacific Ventures in May withdrew its polarizing proposal to develop 1,400 acres of Cargill’s salt ponds in Redwood City. While opponents hoped the massive residential project had been killed, the company called the move nothing more than a timeout while seeking clarification on whether the project would need federal approvals from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency. A new application would be forthcoming, DMB said, but by the end of 2012, the project was still on hold.

Redwood City Patch 1/2/13
Crews Start Work on Bridge to Inner Bair Island
Construction has started on a new pedestrian bridge that will allow public access to the Inner Bair Island and trail.
In the latest development of the multi-year public access project for Bair Island, the bridge will be installed just before the entrance to Pete’s Harbor and will soon connect Bair Island Road to a newly restored Inner Island trail.

Palo Alto Daily News 1/3/13
East Palo Alto to Seek $2.7 Million from State to Shore up Flood-Damaged Levee
East Palo Alto officials announced Wednesday that the city will seek $2.7 million to repair and shore up a dirt levee that was breached and flooded over during last month’s torrential storms. “I want to reassure all of the residents along San Francisquito Creek that the work that we did … has been paying off and it’s holding up and there’s no immediate danger along the creek,” Mayor Ruben Abrica said at a City Hall news conference. “However … after further and more thorough assessment we have encountered additional damages, serious damages. So we’re concerned about the entire rainy season and we have two or three months left.”

San Francisco Chronicle 1/4/13
SF’s Only River Otter at Sutro Baths
Naturalists and wildlife aficionados are atwitter about the unexplained presence of a river otter at the ruins of Sutro Baths, the first of the furry mammals seen in San Francisco in at least a half century.
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