A coalition of public and private entities will acquire more than 26 miles of South San Francisco Bay from Cargill Inc. The $243 million transaction ($14,727 per acre), includes $100 million in cash and $143 million in tax write-offs for the privately owned agribusiness. The sale and transfer of 16,500 acres of salt ponds marks a critical step forward for the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project, the largest wetlands restoration project in the state’s history.
“This is more than just a purchase,” Governor Gray Davis said in a statement. “We’re taking the first step toward restoring the San Francisco Bay.”
The majority of the acreage is expected to be incorporated into the adjacent Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The remainder will become part of a state-run wildlife preserve. The ultimate goal of the purchase will be to return the saltwater evaporation ponds, which were used by the native Ohlone people for centuries and then diked for salt production during the California Gold Rush in the 1850s, to tidal marshes.
In the 1970s, federal officials acquired 13,000 acres from Leslie Salt Co. to establish the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, the first urban wildlife refuge in the nation. Additional acreage was subsequently acquired from Leslie Salt Co. and its successor, Cargill Inc. The 2002 legislation was championed by California Senator Dianne Feinstein and funded by $72 million from the State of California, $8 million from US Fish & Wildlife Service, and four Bay Area nonprofits: the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund.
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