EPA Abandons Trump-Era Appeal to Overturn South Bay Salt Ponds Ruling

Feb 26, 2021

Victory for Salt Ponds, San Francisco Bay—and for Common Sense

The EPA today abandoned a Trump-era attempt to remove federal Clean Water Act protections from the South Bay salt ponds, which would have facilitated property owner Cargill selling off the wetlands to be paved over and developed.

Trump's EPA had determined that the ponds were land and not protected under the Clean Water Act. Baykeeper sued the EPA, and in October, U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup ruled the EPA had wrongly decided the matter and vacated the agency's decision. Both EPA and Cargill appealed the District Court ruling; it is unclear at this time whether Cargill will also drop its appeal, or whether the appeal could move forward without EPA.

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 separately and the cases were later combined.

San Francisco Baykeeper executive director Sejal Choksi-Chugh issued the following statement:

"EPA's decision to abandon the Trump administration’s nonsensical appeal is a victory for the Bay and a win for common sense. The appeal would have been a waste of taxpayer dollars attempting to maintain the fiction that the South Bay salt ponds are land. This is especially the case in light of Judge William Alsup's clear ruling: The ponds are wet, they're connected to the Bay, and therefore require Clean Water Act protection.

"The only thing more misguided than pretending that water is really land is to build on land that's really water. This decision could prevent the Bay Area future heartache when climate change causes sea levels to rise and flood such low-lying areas and anything that could be built upon it.

"If the salt ponds are returned to their original condition as functioning wetlands, they will help protect the South Bay’s shorelines and communities from sea level rise."

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