Contact: Mendel Stewart 510-792-0222 ext. 23
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released its Record of Decision (ROD) on the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project at Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The Service will implement the preferred Tidal Emphasis Alternative, (Alternative C) as described in the Final Environmental Impact Statement / Environmental Impact Report (FEIS/R) issued in December 2007.
The project area comprises 9,600 acres of former commercial salt ponds and adjacent habitats on the refuge in South San Francisco Bay. Under the Tidal Emphasis Alternative, approximately 90 percent of the ponds on the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge would be restored to tidal wetlands benefiting a wide array of fish and wildlife species and 10 percent would be converted to ponds managed as bird habitat.
The decision to select the preferred alternative is based on review and careful consideration of the analysis and impacts identified in the FEIS/R, the results of studies and hydrological modeling efforts, and public comments received throughout the process.
"This decision completes a comprehensive four-year effort involving the public, State, federal and local agencies that will guide us in the restoration of the salt ponds and neighboring habitats," said Mendel Stewart, manager of the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge Complex. "Tidal habitats will be restored to a condition more closely resembling the processes that were in place before the lands were developed for salt production. Non-tidal habitats and ponds will be managed for existing resident and migratory species."
Other benefits of the restoration project include increased flood protection along the perimeter of the project area, and public recreation opportunities, including trails for hiking, cycling and jogging, Stewart said.
The Service also considered two other alternatives in the FEIS/R, Alternative A: "No Project/No Action" and Alternative B: (Managed Pond Emphasis (50:50) Tidal Habitat Managed Ponds by Area).
Alternative A was not selected because it did not meet the purposes for which the refuge was established or the objectives of the SBSP restoration project. Alternative B would have provided approximately 3,900 acres of tidal habitat and 4,900 acres of managed pond habitat on the refuge. While this alternative would have met objectives of the SBSP restoration project, it would be more dependent on active management of ponds than the preferred alternative which relies on restoration of natural tidal processes.
The SBRP will be implemented in phases over many years. While the goal of the project may be to restore 90 percent of the ponds to tidal marsh, we realize this may not be possible or desirable for a variety of reasons. That is why adaptive management is an integral part of the preferred alternative, Stewart said. "Lessons learned from one phase of the project will be applied to future actions. Good science will lead us," he said.
The ROD and additional information about the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project is available on the Internet at http://www.fws.gov/desfbay. The ROD itself can be downloaded at http://www.fws.gov/desfbay/pdf/SBSP_ROD.pdf
Don Edwards San Francisco Bay NWR is headquartered in Newark, California, and is one of seven refuges managed as part of the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge Complex.
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work in California, Nevada and the Klamath Basin, and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov/cno .