Ten Bay Area lawmakers today sent a letter urging President Joe Biden to reverse an effort by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Trump administration to remove federal environmental protections from the Redwood City Salt Ponds.
The letter — signed by Congresswoman Jackie Speier, Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla and Bay Area Reps. Jared Huffman, John Garamendi, Mark DeSaulnier, Barbara Lee, Ro Khanna, Anna Eshoo, and Zoe Lofgren — states the Trump administration “hijacked the jurisdictional determination process, putting politics ahead of science and the law to encourage a private landowner’s development of these wetlands.”
They’re referring to the 1,365-acre Cargill salt ponds. At one time, Cargill proposed to build up to 12,000 housing units on the site, but the project was withdrawn after it faced opposition in the community and from environmental groups, which want the area fully restored into wetlands.
In March 2019, the EPA under the Trump administration ruled the salt ponds should not fall under the jurisdiction of the federal Clean Water Act, which regulates pollution in U.S. surface waters and requires development proposals to obtain special permits. The EPA determined that the salt ponds had been converted to fast land long before the Clean Water Act’s passage in 1972, and thus they no longer qualify as “waters of the United States.”
A coalition of environmental groups — San Francisco Baykeeper, Save the Bay, Committee for Green Foothills and Citizens’ Committee to Complete the Refuge — and the State of California sued the EPA over that ruling. They argued in part that the ruling was at odds with an EPA investigation and legal review in 2016 that concluded the majority of the Redwood City Salt Ponds constitute jurisdictional wetlands under the Clean Water Act. In October, the coalition scored a legal victory when U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup determined the EPA wrongly decided to remove the Clean Water Act as a regulatory hurdle to development of the salt ponds.
In December, the Trump administration appealed Judge Alsup’s decision. Now, Bay Area lawmakers are calling upon the Biden administration to withdraw that appeal and implement the court’s order.
“The Trump Administration’s actions threaten the health and stability of our ecosystems and water resources,” their letter states. “We urge you to uphold federal environmental laws and protect clean water and wetlands by withdrawing the appeal and implementing the court’s order to conduct a legally sound jurisdictional determination.”
A copy of the letter can be viewed here.
Photo credit: Getty images