Coalition opposes development on salt ponds near Redwood City

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. (KGO) -- Staring across the bleach-white Cargill Salt ponds near Redwood City can be like looking at a blank sheet of paper. You can imagine drawing whatever you want on it. Maybe acres of thriving and diverse wetlands. Or maybe, as in the case of past proposals, thousands of new homes.

"The Cargill Salt Ponds are a poster child for where we should not build," says Megan Fluke of the Committee for Green Foothills.

Fluke joined with a coalition of environmental groups and local lawmakers who came out to oppose development on the Salt Pond site.

They say they became concerned after the Trump administration's EPA recently cleared away clean water act protections for the area which Cargill has proposed for development in past years.

"With the Trump administration taking power, they had a much more receptive audience," claims San Mateo County Supervisor Dave Pine.

Environmental groups say the Salt Ponds are a key asset for the bay, sandwiched between two other tidal marshes. They say restoring them to wetlands would help fight rising tides from climate change and provide critical habitat.

David Lewis of Save the Bay says even recent restorations are already paying dividends.

"And now they're full of fish and birds and the tidal marsh is coming back. It's actually easier to do the restoration than we thought," Lewis explains.

Cargill has proposed developments of as many as 12,000 homes in the past. But a statement released Tuesday titled Reimagine Saltworks says, "Nothing has been proposed for the site" and, "We look forward to engaging with all stakeholders in the region bout the future of this property."

Even in light of the Bay Area's housing crisis, David Lewis believes the public will ultimately support restoration.

"The public has already answered this question. We want the bay restored. We want more housing near transportation. This is not the place for housing, this is the place for wildlife restoration," he argues.

But for now, it is also, possibly, a battle ground for the future of the bay shoreline.
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