South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Efforts Accelerating

South Bay, Menlo Park, Bay Area, Wetlands, Environmental restoration, San Francisco, San Francisco Bay, South Bay Salt Pond, Ravenswood Ponds


By Robert Carlsen

With Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay water levels expected to rise one foot in the next 20 years due to climate change, the threat of rising sea levels and extreme storms that are historically due to occur are pushing California government entities to ramp up their wetlands restoration efforts along the tens of thousands of acres of San Francisco Bay’s shoreline.

The San Francisco Bay has lost an estimated 85 percent of its historic wetlands to fill or alteration, according to the Web site of the California Coastal Conservancy, a state agency that protects and improves natural lands and waterways.

[contextly_sidebar id=”A847ama11U9WGSjai2dxh78G9fufcZUi”]Key among the Bay Area wetlands projects is the South Bay Salt Pond restoration. South Bay is the largest wetland restoration effort on the West Coast with more than 15,000 acres of former commercial salt-evaporation ponds at the south end of the bay being transformed into tidal marsh, mudflat and other wetland habitats for shorebirds, waterfowl, fish and other wildlife and to provide flood protection. Shortly after the property was acquired by the state in 2003, the California Department of Fish and Game, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the state Coastal Conservancy launched a four-year public process to design a restoration plan for the property. The final plan was adopted in 2008 and the first phase of restoration started later that year.

Within the South Bay project is another phase of restoration being planned at the Ravenswood Ponds, located off Highway 84 next to Bedwell Bayfront Park and essentially surrounding Facebook’s new headquarters complex in Menlo Park. The project will restore tidal zones from marsh habitat, according to the Coastal Conservancy, as well as improve the habitat, maintain or improve flood protection and provide recreational opportunities to the public.

The Ravenswood restoration planning is underway and scheduled for completion in February, said Brenda Buxton, Coastal Conservancy’s project manager for the BayArea. She said permitting will then take place in late 2016 or early 2017. Actions at the site could include breaching the levee to connect ponds to the bay and construct upland transition zones (or ecozones) for refuge habitat and sea level rise adaptation. New recreational trails are also being considered as well as a viewing platform.

The South Bay Salt Pond Restoration project team also includes the Santa Clara Valley Water District, Alameda County Flood Control and Water Conservation Council and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Funding for the project is coming from a variety of sources, including state and federal agencies and private foundations. News reports have indicated that a coalition of groups such as the Bay Area Council, Save the Bay and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group is promoting a $12 per parcel annual tax for 20 years to pay for further restoration, tentatively scheduled to appear on the June 2016 state ballot.

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