Latest Actions to Protect Redwood City’s Shoreline

Photo Credit: Matt Leddy – Birds on Cargill Salt Ponds in Redwood city

When it comes to sea level rise, Redwood City is both unusually vulnerable and unusually lucky given its unprotected shoreline and opportunity for wetland restoration. Much of our advocacy has been focused here for good reason. Here are some of our most recent efforts to encourage climate adaptation and keep residents out of the path of sea level rise.

Victory Over Trump Administration — But The Fight Continues

Last October, Green Foothills and our co-plaintiffs were victorious in our lawsuit against the Trump administration over its action in abandoning Clean Water Act jurisdiction over the Cargill salt ponds. District Court Judge William Alsup found in our favor, ruling that the Clean Water Act does apply to the Cargill salt ponds because they are connected to the Bay. While this ruling does not prevent development on the salt ponds, it does mean that additional regulatory barriers exist to such development.

But in early December, the Trump administration appealed this ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Now, we are working with our co-plaintiffs to build a coalition of elected officials at every level to request the Biden administration to withdraw this appeal. A joint letter, signed by over 40 current and former elected officials and environmental organizations, will be submitted to the Biden administration, together with a parallel letter signed by 7 Bay Area Congressional Representatives, led by Congresswoman Jackie Speier. This demonstration of broad political support for our lawsuit and for protecting the Cargill salt ponds shows, once again, that our communities do not want to see development on the salt ponds.

Redwood City’s Climate Action Plan Strengthened

Early in 2020, we noticed that the draft update for Redwood City’s Climate Action Plan, while it contained many specific measures for reducing carbon emissions, contained very little concerning how to adapt to climate change. Together with our environmental partners, we advocated with City Councilmembers and staff to include language in the Climate Action Plan that prioritizes creating a Climate Change Adaptation Policy. In November 2020, the City Council voted to adopt our proposed language. We will be working with the City as it moves toward conducting a climate vulnerability assessment and developing a multi-year sea level rise and climate adaptation implementation plan.

No Housing Near Redwood City Port

Discussions about bringing commuter ferry service to Redwood City have been ongoing for some time. Last fall, a feasibility study was conducted to assess whether building a ferry terminal at the Redwood City Port and operating ferry service to San Francisco and Oakland would be economically feasible. 

Although the study concluded that a ferry service would be feasible based on people commuting to Redwood City to work, the study also considered the possibility of people commuting out of Redwood City if they happened to live near the ferry terminal. No housing is currently allowed near the Port due to conflicts with the heavy industries located there now. But housing has been proposed near the Port before — in the 2010 Cargill salt pond development proposal, which would have built 12,000 homes on the salt ponds, just down the road from the Port. 

We joined with our environmental partners to bring this issue to the attention of the Port Commission and the Redwood City Council. We noted that although the feasibility of the ferry doesn’t depend on housing being built near the Port, a developer could nevertheless argue that nearby residential development would bring more ridership to the ferry — and in spite of the obvious hazards to residents from industrial air pollution and sea level rise, this economic argument could be used to build housing near the Port and put residents at risk. We were gratified when both the Port Commission and the Redwood City Council and staff stated decisively that housing is not allowed near the Port and that nobody envisions that fact changing.

A ferry terminal at the Redwood City Port may well bring unacceptable environmental impacts — ferries could cause erosion and damage to the marshlands on nearby Greco Island due to wave action, for instance. These environmental impacts will need to be analyzed when the time comes. 

We will continue to be vigilant in our efforts to protect communities from sea level rise and promote restoration of wetlands, both in Redwood City and elsewhere along our shoreline.

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