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In The News

Army Corps asked to review Cargill plan

By Michelle Durand

The Daily Journal, 11/13/09

Developers of the former Cargill Saltworks say they are asking the U.S. Army Corps to look at its plans for the site but Bay advocates call the announcement nothing more than an attempt to look busy.

“They’re just trying to show momentum in a period of time when they’ve lost momentum,” said David Lewis, executive director of Save the Bay which opposes development of the Redwood City land.

Lewis believes DMB is trying to gain ground after seeing the Menlo Park City Council and Palo Alto Councilwoman Yoriko Kishimoto publicly knock the plan.

But DMB representatives say they are acting, taking the first steps toward a federal regulatory review of its so-named 50/50 Balanced Plan.

The plan calls for 50 percent of the 1,436-acre site to be preserved for permanent open space, public recreation and tidal marsh restoration and the remaining half be developed into housing, schools, parks and retail and transit facilities.

Whether the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has jurisdiction over the land and must issue a permit for a use change is in question, according to both Lewis and David Smith, vice president of regulatory affairs for DMB.

Rather than fight for months for an answer, Smith said DMB opted to go ahead with the review, parallel to other environmental analyses by the state and Redwood City.

“Our base position is that it is not required to satisfy the legal requirements but we decided to move forward and let the corps evaluate the impacts to the site,” Smith said.

The Saltworks site was issued a permit in 1940 for salt harvesting and it has stood since. The permit is no longer necessary because DMB is looking at development and also restoration of 400 acres of new tidal marsh habitat, according to Smith.

Smith said DMB is starting the process now so that if the city makes changes to the 50-50 Balanced Plan as part of its public process, amendments can similarly be made in the federal review.

But Lewis said DMB isn’t asking for a formal review at all, instead asking the corps what it thinks while maintaining an ability to claim it has no jurisdiction.

In its notice of the federal assessment, DMB officials focused on the environmental aspects of the planned tidal marsh habitats.

“We believe that this would be the largest private marsh creation effort ever mounted on the San Francisco Bay,” Bruno said in a prepared statement. “While government and taxpayer-funded restoration efforts continue to struggle for funding, we are prepared to privately fund this program and to commence restoration as soon as the 50-50 Balanced Plan is approved.”

Approval of the plan is far from a given, however.

The City Council — and candidates recently running in the November election — all agreed the final outcome could likely stray from the current proposal.

The city recently opted against including the Cargill property in the revamp of its general plan, deciding to visit zoning and land use issues later.

The city also hired a consultant to coordinate the review of the 50-50 Balanced Plan to make sure it is a complete proposal before moving to an Environmental Impact Report.


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