The red and green colors of the salt ponds in South San Francisco Bay are
brilliant visual markers for astronauts. The STS-111 crew photographed the bay
south of the San Mateo bridge in June, 2002. This photograph is timely because
a large number of the salt ponds (more than 16,500 acres) that are owned by
Cargill, Inc. will be sold in September for wetlands restoration—a restoration
project second in size only to the Florida Everglades project. Rough
boundaries of the areas to be restored are outlined on the image.
Over the past century, more than 80% of San Francisco Bay’s wetlands have
been filled and developed or diked off for salt mining. San Francisco Bay has
supported salt mining since 1854. Cargill has operated most of the bay’s
commercial salt ponds since 1978, and had already sold thousands of acres to the
State of California and the Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge. This new
transaction will increase San Francisco Bay’s existing tidal wetlands by 50%.
The new wetlands, to be managed by the California Department of Fish and Game
and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, will join the Don Edwards National
Wildlife Refuge, and provide valuable habitat for birds, fish and other
wildlife. The wetlands will contribute to better water quality and flood control
in the bay, and open up more coastline for public enjoyment.