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Judge Rules Against EPA Saying San Francisco Bay Salt Ponds Are Protected Waters

By Flickr user Andrew Nash / used under CC / resized and cropped
San Francisco Bay Salt Ponds

A federal judge on Monday blocked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from allowing the dredging and filling of salt ponds in the South Bay.

The salt company Cargill has been trying to develop its former salt ponds near Redwood City for years. In 2009, it proposed building 12,000 new homes there. The project was ultimately withdrawn a few years later due to public opposition.

But then, the company found new hope after Trump was elected. Under the Trump administration, the EPA ruled that the ponds didn't qualify for protection under the Clean Water Act. This meant that the stretch of San Francisco Bay shoreline could once again be open to development. So the state of California and environmental groups sued the EPA. And on Monday, a judge ruled in their favor, saying the salt ponds are protected by the Clean Water Act. This blocks the EPA from allowing the salt-ponds to be filled and fast-tracked for development.

Attorney General Xavier Becerra called the ruling an important victory and said the EPA shouldn't ignore its own scientists to make way for development.

The Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed adding the salt ponds to the national wildlife refuge that’s nearby, calling the ponds important habitat for wildlife.

Carla Esteves is a 2020-2021 Audio Academy Fellow with KALW. Her reporting interests include environmental justice, housing insecurity, climate change, business and economy.