EPA takes lead over Cargill: Speier, Save the Bay applaud move; developer outraged
San Mateo Daily Journal March 20, 2015
By Bill Silverfarb
The Environmental Protection Agency has taken the lead in deciding whether the Cargill Saltworks site in Redwood City should be protected to the chagrin of developer DMB Pacific Ventures.
The EPA’s move was praised by environmentalists and federal lawmakers but officials with DMB said the decision has stalled a three-year effort by the joint venture to clear key environmental hurdles before it comes back to the city with a new housing proposal for the land east of Highway 101.
“We are highly confused and frankly outraged,” said DMB’s David Smith.
Cargill/DMB requested three years ago from both the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to make a jurisdictional determination over whether the roughly 1,480 acres of land on the Bay was subject to federal laws including the Clean Water and Rivers and Harbors acts.
A corps report released this week indicates that only about 60 acres of the land falls under its jurisdiction through the Rivers and Harbors Act. The corps was presumably ready to make a determination on whether the salt ponds remain waters of the United States under the Clean Water Act as it previously ruled before the EPA stepped in.
But the EPA stepped in at the last minute to derail the process, Smith said.
“They’ve had three years to participate. All this time they’ve had this authority and have chosen to do nothing,” Smith said about the EPA.
Last month, Bay Area lawmakers urged the corps to stick with its previous decision that the salt ponds are protected by the Clean Water Act.
The EPA’s move to take over the jurisdictional determination of the land was praised Thursday by U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo.
San Francisco Bay: Huge development project on Redwood City salt site suffers major setback
San Jose Mercury News, March 20, 2015
by Paul Rogers
REDWOOD CITY -- A developer's long-running plans to build thousands of bayfront homes on Cargill Salt's lands -- the largest proposed development along San Francisco Bay in 50 years -- have hit a significant, and possibly fatal, setback.
After several years of behind-the-scenes battles, this newspaper has learned, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has taken the rare step of wresting control of the most important decision over the project's fate from the Army Corps of Engineers.
The question: whether the 1,478-acre site east of Highway 101 is bound by the Clean Water Act, which could strictly limit development, or whether it is dry land that can be converted to a huge new community.
WATER POLICY: Salt pond saga raises questions about feds’ regulatory reach
Annie Snider and Debra Kahn, E&E reporters
Greenwire: Thursday, March 12, 2015
Article updated at 4:16 p.m. EDT.
FREMONT, Calif. -- The sprawling mud flats, salt ponds, sloughs and marshes at the southern end of San Francisco Bay teem with hundreds of thousands of shorebirds and waterfowl every spring and fall.
The Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge wetlands are a paradise for nature lovers -- but it's not all natural.
Earthen levees tended by a clamshell dredge create a watery maze and serve as a reminder of the bay's historical role as a hub for industrial salt production.
As far back as the 1850s, salt-making operations ruled the edges of the southern bay. Saltworks staked out spots in the marshes and built levees that severed wetlands from the bay, creating networks of industrial ponds.
By the late 1970s, salt production had consolidated from small, scattered operations into one large one ultimately run by international food and commodities goliath Cargill Inc. And conservationists looking to protect dwindling wetlands and revitalize degraded marshes began eyeing old saltworks as restoration opportunities.
Today, former saltworks are home to the West Coast's largest tidal wetlands restoration effort, covering an area the size of Manhattan.
Rep. Speier Introduces Legislation to Restore San Francisco Bay Estuary
February 26, 2015
WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) today introduced the San Francisco Bay Restoration Act to help revive the Bay’s historic wetlands and protect our vibrant coastal community from further erosion.
“We must fight to keep the San Francisco Bay estuary vibrant, healthy, and beautiful,” said Speier. “It is the source of so much happiness and prosperity for all of us. By restoring it, we defend the environment we love, help businesses thrive, and grow more resilient in the face of sea level rise.”
The Bay Area generates more than $370 billion in goods and services annually and is home to more than three and a half million jobs.
“All of us who live by the Bay are uniquely blessed with one of the most beautiful places to live and work in the country, and it is incumbent upon us to protect it,” said Speier.
Congresswoman Speier Sends Letter to the Army Corps About Saltworks Jurisdictional Decision
February 13, 2015
WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco/San Mateo Counties) sent a letter yesterday signed by ten other members of the Bay Area delegation to Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy, expressing concern about the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ upcoming decision as to whether the Redwood City Salt Plant site falls under the Clean Water Act and Rivers and Harbors Act. Speier warned the Army Corps that it should not adopt a novel, unilateral re-interpretation of the Clean Water Act that would be inconsistent with its past rulings and might limit the EPA’s ability to regulate similar post-industrial sites nationwide.
The Army Corps of Engineers is considering whether the Redwood City Salt Plant site falls under the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act and the Rivers and Harbors Act. Previous Corps of Engineers determinations from 2010 and 2008 found that the Redwood City Salt Plant salt ponds are Waters of the United States under the Clean Water Act and Rivers and Harbors Act. Overturning this precedent could have broad consequences for federal protection of waters nationwide.
“One agency should not unilaterally issue a ruling that guts the Clean Water Act’s jurisdiction,” said Speier. “We strongly urge the Corps to review their own precedents, provide due process, and fully consult with the EPA, Congress, and other stakeholders before they decide that certain sites are not worthy of protection.”