Some of the last remaining undeveloped land on the San Francisco Bay shoreline in Santa Clara County should not be paved and turned over for private development, Baykeeper recently told San Jose city planners. Instead, the land should be preserved and restored to benefit native wildlife and provide recreational opportunities for the community.
Baykeeper made our recommendations in comments on a draft environmental impact report for the San Jose/Santa Clara Water Pollution Control Plant Master Plan. The report is a step in the process for adopting changes proposed for San Jose’s wastewater treatment plant and adjacent undeveloped shoreline land, located at the southern tip of San Francisco Bay.
Historically, much of the more than 900 acres at the site was left undeveloped as a buffer to reduce the treatment plant’s impact on the surrounding community. Now, San Jose is planning to decrease the footprint of the treatment plant, and considering alternatives for use of land along the Bay’s shore.
So far the alternatives proposed for use of the land fail to consider ways the treatment plant can be modified to protect the environment. Baykeeper urged the planners to include plans for upgrading the treatment plant to reduce its energy use and remove more harmful pollutants from wastewater that is discharged into the Bay.
We also pointed out that paving over and developing parts of this site will destroy sensitive shoreline habitat necessary for the survival of endangered or sensitive species, including the burrowing owl and salt marsh harvest mouse.
Moreover, the area is already at risk of flooding and surrounding levees are considered deficient. Locating new development there is unwise, with sea levels forecast to rise up to three feet this century, drastically increasing the flood risk. Baykeeper advised the city to reduce flood risks along the shore by creating a more natural delta where Coyote Creek enters the Bay, in place of the current narrow channel. We also urged bolstering of levees planned along the Bay’s shore.
Many other resource agencies and environmental organizations also expressed grave concerns about San Jose’s plans for the wastewater treatment plant and adjacent shoreline land. Baykeeper will continue to advocate for improvements to the treatment plant and for uses of the land that will protect San Francisco Bay and contribute to a healthier South Bay ecosystem.