Thursday, September 15, 2011

Newest Wetland in Salt Pond Restoration Project

Oldest Bay Area salt flat turned into wetland
Caroline Jones, SF Chronicle, September 14, 2011

A construction crew ripped through an old levee just south of the San Mateo Bridge, allowing water from Old Alameda Creek to flow into the Eden Landing salt flat for the first time since the 1850s. Eventually a levee to the west of that flat will be breached to reconnect the 630 acres to San Francisco Bay.

Tuesday's levee breach was the first salt-flat restoration in the East Bay. It is part of the 15,000-acre South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project, the largest wetland restoration program on the Pacific Coast, which has so far been concentrated on the salt ponds around Alviso.

"These salt ponds took away the lungs of the Bay. Today we're giving them back," said Carl Wilcox, manager of the Bay-Delta region for the California Department of Fish and Game.

Salt flats have been a fixture of the shoreline at least since the Gold Rush. Ohlone Indians harvested salt along the waterfront, but then commercial outfits such as Leslie and later Cargill took over. In the late 1990s Cargill sold most of its Bay Area salt ponds to the state and federal governments for wetland restoration.

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