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Enviro Group Slams Saltworks Developer

DMB spokesman says environmentalist group's assertions are factually inaccurate.

A Bay Area environmentalist group assailed developers seeking approval for a bayside project they say would imperil wetlands that play a critical role in protecting the San Francisco Bay from pollution.

"Save the Bay" spokesman Stephen Knight in a statement on Tuesday pointed to a filing Arizona-based DMB Associates made with two federal agencies earlier this year requesting regulatory clarification that he says illustrates the companies disregard for basic environmental protections.

DMB in May scrapped a controversial proposal to build 12,000 homes on the 1,400-acre Cargil Sand Ponds parcel.

The proposal had been in the works for three years.

A DMB spokesman said his group is seeking clarification from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency before proposing a scaled-back plan.

DMB's 370-page public filing, Knight says, argues that the salt ponds sit on unregulated land and that "all the Bay water Cargill uses to evaporate and make salt – it’s not water at all."

Knight described the developer's assertion as attempt to circumvent environmental law.

"These key environmental laws are critical tools in limiting the pollution of our waterways and preventing unnecessary fill that destroys our wetlands, so important to the Bay," Knight said.

"Those protections could jeopardize Cargill’s ability to fill and destroy these baylands. And so the (developer's) new strategy is to get federal agencies to declare the ponds “exempt,” because Cargill is convinced it is above the law."

DMB spokesman David Smith said Knight's statement mischaracterized his group's arguments.

"It is completely wrong," he said.

"We do not argue that no salt ponds are jurisdictional. We make the case that the industrial facility - industrial portions of one particular site - are not subject to the Clean Water Act or the Rivers and Harbors Act.

"It's narrowly focused to one particular industrial facility that was permitted by the federal government in 1940."

Smith said he had no estimate for how long it would take the federal agencies to complete their reviews, saying his only expectation was that the review be comprehensive.

Asked if he thought the expected timeframe was closer to two months or two years, he said "hopefully, it's closer to two months."

"We'll bring (a revised proposal) forward to the city once we complete the process of getting clarity from the federal agencies," Smith said.

DMB in a statement posted on its website says the revised development will provide the community affordable housing and recreational amenities including parks, sports fields and miles of hiking and bicycling trails.  

But a coalition of environmentalist groups have joined "Save the Bay" in their fight to stop DMB from ever breaking ground on the Redwood City project. Earlier this year, "Occupy Saltworks" formed as an offshoot of "Occupy Redwood City."

Smith insists his group won't cave to pressure from environmentalist groups to walk away from the project.

"We're very committed" to pursuing the development project, Smith said. "We wouldn't have taken all that time and expense to prepare that filing if we weren't, and believe me, a lot effort went into that."

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Lori Go October 01, 2012 at 01:17 PM
1) I don't want the saltworks to turn into another Foster City. 2) The saltworks should be converted to parkland. The Bayland parks in Palo Alto should be the model for this. 3) The citizens of Redwood City already voted against any housing development in this area. Signifying they want a park area instead of housing too.
Enquiring Mind October 02, 2012 at 05:12 AM
Talk is cheap. Let's see some evidence to support your claims.
Enquiring Mind October 02, 2012 at 05:14 AM
When exactly did "The citizens of Redwood City already voted against any housing development in this area. Signifying they want a park area instead of housing too"?
What are you thinking January 03, 2013 at 02:22 AM
With that logic, you dont mind if I take your house you and your parents have and where you grew up in and turn in over to public use, like a basketball court...Its 70 years old and should be back in the "public hands"
Occupy Cargill January 09, 2013 at 03:40 AM
lol ... you been to Chip's house? Looks to me like it's wide open for public use. Unlike Chip's house where just about anyone is welcomed, salt ponds are not property; "Cargill's" salt ponds are a portion of wetland buffer which have been damned up, flooded and drained constantly for a century and polluted to the point that operation is no longer economically viable. Cargill has risen to become one of the largest privately held corporations in the world. The money it would cost would be a fraction of 1% of last year's earnings alone. Their claim to the salt ponds is as preposterous as me saying "I own the bay because my grandfather has been fishing in it since before leslie salt came along" Doesn't matter anyway. There won't be any Development on the salt ponds any time soon XD rcnu.org, save the bay, occupy saltworks, and occupy cargill will be tested again with this issue, but meanwhile cargill and DMB are waiting for it to blow over a little bit.

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