Today, Redwood City Salt Plant, LLC, an affiliate of Cargill Incorporated, the largest privately held company in the United States, abandoned its latest attempt to facilitate selling off its South Bay salt ponds for development. By dropping its appeal of the 2020 Federal District Court's ruling, the legal decision stands that the Redwood City salt ponds are protected under the Clean Water Act.
In 2019, Cargill and the Trump-era EPA colluded to remove federal Clean Water Act protections from the South Bay salt ponds by issuing a determination that the ponds are land, not water, and thus not subject to clean water protections. After local environmental groups challenged the agency determination in court, Judge William Alsup's ruling was definitive: The ponds are wet, they're connected to the Bay, and therefore require Clean Water Act protection. Both Trump’s EPA and Cargill appealed the ruling. In February, the EPA walked away from its appeal of the court's decision, which was filed in the last days of the Trump administration, leaving Cargill to mount its legal objections on its own.
The litigation, San Francisco Baykeeper vs US EPA, includes plaintiff partners San Francisco Baykeeper, Save The Bay, Committee for Green Foothills, and Citizens’ Committee to Complete the Refuge. The State of California sued the EPA separately, and the cases were later combined.
San Francisco Baykeeper executive director Sejal Choksi-Chugh issued the following statement:
"Cargill has been scheming for years to develop the area, and most recently, it conspired with Trump's EPA to claim the salt ponds are land, not water. Biden's EPA saw through the nonsensical argument and cut and run from this meritless appeal earlier this year.
“Cargill's decision to drop the appeal today is an unexpected victory for the Bay and for common sense. Baykeeper will continue to watchdog Cargill, as well as Biden’s EPA, to make sure the ponds are afforded Clean Water Act protections. And we’ll keep advocating for the ponds to be restored to functioning tidal wetlands, creating habitat for hundreds of species of plants and animals, and providing a natural buffer that will help protect Bay Area shorelines and communities from climate-driven flooding."