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Message to Cargill Inc.: You can't pave our Bay
San Francisco Examiner
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
REDWOOD CITY - Cargill Inc., the Minnesota-based agribusiness giant, is mounting a massive public relations campaign for its plan to pave more than 1,433 acres of restorable tidal wetlands in Redwood City. With its partner, DMB Associates, an Arizona luxury housing developer, Cargill is trying to sacrifice restoration of San Francisco Bay for a hefty profit.
Cargill is barraging Redwood City residents with an avalanche of glossy fliers, full-page ads, TV spots and catered community forums branding the salt ponds an "industrial" site that should be filled in for development.
Take it with a grain of salt.
Bay Area residents stopped the Bay from being filled in 40 years ago, and we have a different vision: Restore these salt ponds to tidal wetlands that provide recreation opportunities for residents and vital habitat for fish and wildlife. Cargill should know that the era of filling and paving the Bay is over.Once restored to wetlands, these former salt ponds will sequester tremendous amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, combating global warming. They will filter pollutants from Bay water and provide natural flood control for parts of Redwood City that are close to sea level.
These ponds, equal in size to the Presidio, were once a thriving tidal marsh, an integral part of the Bay's unique and productive ecosystem. Now that Cargill has retired the site from salt production, Redwood City's general plan, state and federal law, and public opinion all support restoring these salt ponds to the Bay. In fact, Cargill has agreed, offering to sell these Redwood City salt ponds in 2001 to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for restoration, along with 16,500 acres of other South Bay salt ponds. But the government wouldn't pay Cargill's exorbitant asking price. Furthermore, as evidence that these ponds are restorable, former Cargill salt ponds in Hayward and Napa, just like the ones in Redwood City, have been restored or are in the planning stages for restoration.
Today, the Bay is one-third its former size with only 10 percent of its historic wetlands intact. The entire Bay Area scientific community agrees that undeveloped sites on the shoreline should be restored to re-establish 100,000 acres of Bay wetlands and improve the Bay's health.
Our quality of life and economy benefit tremendously from a healthy and vibrant Bay, with open space and wetlands restored where that opportunity still exists. The whole Bay Area is proud that Redwood City residents secured Bair Island for restoration instead of allowing it to be developed. Now Cargill's Redwood City salt ponds represent the Peninsula's largest restorable shoreline site at risk of being paved and lost forever.
Cargill should immediately halt its Redwood City development plans and sell or transfer the property to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to be included in the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge for restoration.
Cargill can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a public relations campaign, but Bay Area residents can't be bought.
David Lewis is executive director of Save The Bay. To take action in support of restoring the Redwood City Salt Ponds visit www.saveSFbay.org/action.