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In The News

Salt flats project OK’d to advance to next phase
Source of water for Cargill development revealed for first time

By Shaun Bishop

The Daily News, 2/2/10

Drinking water could flow to a huge proposed housing development on the Redwood City salt flats under a complex series of series of agreements between water agencies stretching from Kern County to the Peninsula, an environmental consultant told the city council.

A more detailed illustration of how Cargill and development firm DMB Associates could provide water to their proposed project — which includes constructing up to 12,000 homes on 1,436 acres near the Bay— emerged Monday as the city council reviewed new preliminary reports about the proposal.

While more specifics must be worked out, the developer’s plan to transfer water it owns in Kern County for credits in other water systems appears to be feasible, said David Smith, a consultant the city hired to analyze water issues.

Two other preliminary reports presented to the council from consultants on transportation and jurisdictional issues found that there are no “insurmountable issues” in those areas that would prevent the city from conducting a full environmental impact report on the project.

The council was expected Monday night to indicate whether it wanted the city to launch the environmental review though council members were still hearing public comment as of press time. If approved, the review could take years to complete. Several people encouraged the council to start the EIR process. "We believe it's important that this dialogue continue with careful attention to the environmental issues," said Jan Lindenthal, vice president of the Mid-Peninsula Housing Coalition.

But Stephen Knight, political director for Save the Bay, said the preliminary reports were "an expensive exercise in avoiding the fact that the Redwood City salt ponds are an unacceptable site for housing." He urged the council to push for the entire site to be restored to wetlands.

Finding enough drinking water is a major hurdle for the project, which also includes 1 million square feet of office space, playing fields and 436 acres of restored wetlands. Anticipating it will need about 817 million gallons of potable water per year to supply the project, DMB in 2007 bought the rights to 2.7 million gallons per year from the Kern River, according to Smith's water report.

Under a scenario described by DMB, the developer would allow the Kern County Water Agency to use a specified amount of its Kern River water, Smith told the council.

In turn, the Kern water agency would reduce by the same amount its consumption of water from the Delta, which provides the district with some of its supply, Smith said.

That Delta water forfeited by the Kern water agency could then be credited to an intermediary agency, possibly another city, that uses both Delta water and Hetch Hetchy water, Smith said.

The intermediary would use the Delta water and reduce its use of Hetch Hetchy water by the same amount, allowing for a surplus of Hetch Hetchy water that could flow to the pipes that already extend to Redwood City, Smith said.

"We're not talking about building any new pipes," said Council Member Ian Bain, summing up the proposal. "We're talking about diverting water from somewhere else."

Smith acknowledged many hurdles for the water plan remained - particularly getting all the various agencies to approve the water transfers - but said it appears to be possible on paper.

 

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