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In The News

San Francisco Bay Named Top 10 Vulnerable Spots for Wildlife
So how did DMB Inc. and the Sequoia Audubon Society respond to this information in relation to the Cargill Saltworks project?

By Stacie Chan, Redwood City Patch

The San Francisco Bay-Delta was named in a report Wednesday as one of the nation's most vulnerable habitats for endangered wildlife. The Endangered Species Coalition listed the delta-- the West Coast's largest estuary making up about 1,000 square miles--among the top 10 places where endangered wildlife need protection.

The Cargill Salt Production Facility in Redwood City occupies just 2.2 square miles of the Bay, but much debate has raged over exactly what restoration efforts should take place there. As it currently stands, 95 percent of the Saltworks land is for salt production. Wildlife do not build habitats there because of the high salinity, according to a Cargill site analysis.

However, the SF Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board sent a letter to Redwood City that these salt ponds are "an important biological resource" that provide "foraging and nesting habitat for a variety of birds." Over 24,000 migratory shorebirds have been counted on the site, along with endangered terns, the Pt. Reyes Bird Observatory wrote in a letter to Redwood City.

But developer DMB Inc. has partnered with Cargill to implement a "50/50" plan, with approximately 50 percent of the land used for housing and other buildings, and 50 percent for open space and restoration to wetlands and other wildlife habitat.

“The Saltworks proposes the single largest privately funded restoration plan in the history of the Bay,” said Jay Reed, spokesperson for DMB Inc. “Our restoration plan would include all habitat types from open water to marshes to upland habitats.”

But many environmental groups, like Save the Bay, say it is one of the last completely restorable wetland spaces in the Bay that face potential development and they want the entirety restored for habitats.

"This report is just confirmation of what we've been saying all along," said Nancy Arbuckle, Conservation Chair of the Sequoia Audubon Society, an environmental and wildlife conservation group in San Mateo County. "Any development [on the Cargill site] would destroy restorable wetland habitats.

According to the report, "It's Getting Hot Out There: Top 10 Places to Save for Endangered Species in a Warming World," 12 of the delta's original 29 indigenous fish are either extinct or endangered. The Delta smelt, a fish whose numbers were once abundant, is now considered endangered.

"These 10 places are key homes for endangered species and are under significant danger because of climate change," said Dr. Mark Rockwell, the California representative of the Endangered Species Coalition. Rockwell said the delta has been seeing less snowfall and rainfall in recent years, which could be why "we've had record low fish numbers in the delta," he said.

Arbuckle added, "We also can't afford to develop when species like the clapper rail are endangered. This is critical wetland habitat for 70 percent of the birds that migrate along the bay."

Reed said that DMB’s restoration plan expected species like the clapper rail, salt marsh harvest mouse and western snowy plover among others to “flourish in the new ecosystem.”

But Rockwell expressed concerns about the use of more water for humans because the delta already supplies water to about 23 million Californians. Wildlife could become endangered if more water is drained, he said.

"There has been more demand for water than we've had in the past," Rockwell said.

Also on the list of vulnerable habitats are California's Sierra-Nevada mountains, the Hawaiian Islands and the Southwest deserts.

The Endangered Species Coalition is a national network of science and conservation specialists who aim to protect wildlife and wild land. The organization collected about 400 submissions for the list of places to save endangered life, and a team of scientists chose the top 10 places from the submissions, Rockwell said.

Bay City News contributed to this report.


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