Building a healthy and sustainable global community for people
and the plants and animals that accompany us on Earth
March 24, 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Brent Plater, Wild Equity Institute, (415) 572-6989
Michelle Meyers, Sierra Club San Francisco Bay Chapter, (415) 646-6930
Environmental Groups Will Ask Board of Supervisors to Reject Misleading Environmental Report on Sharp Park
Tuesday, March 25—3 pm San Francisco Board of Supervisors, City Hall, Room 250
SAN FRANCISCO— The San Francisco Recreation and Park Department’s environmental review document for a controversial wetland draining project at Sharp Park’s Laguna Salada wetland complex is under fire for falsely claiming that the project’s proposed mitigations were approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“The Recreation and Park Department has repeatedly stated that this project had the express approval of a federal wildlife agency, and we all presumed this was true,” said Brent Plater, executive director of the Wild Equity Institute. “But last week the Fish and Wildlife Service informed us that it had never seen a crucial and controversial mitigation provision for the project—let alone approved it. For too long the Department has played fast and loose with the facts, and tomorrow we’ll ask the Board of Supervisors to put an end to the department’s duplicity.”
“Sharp Park is home for two species protected under the Environmental Protection Act. These species deserve a careful and complete Environmental Impact Report,” said Michelle Myers, director of the Sierra Club’s San Francisco Bay Chapter.
The Department is proposing to destroy aquatic vegetation in Sharp Park’s Laguna Salada wetland complex—arguably the most ecologically important part of the Department’s most biologically important land—so it can drain the wetland more rapidly during winter rains. To mitigate the environmental impacts of this project, the Department proposed a series of complex mitigation measures that required another agency—the federal Fish and Wildlife Service—to review, approve, and enforce a series of actions contemporaneous with the project’s construction.
But during a March 19 meeting with wetland experts from around the Bay Area, the Fish and Wildlife Service stated that it had not heard about these measures, and further explained that it would not be possible for the agency to implement them: all of its resources are consumed meeting its own mandates under federal endangered species law, and it could not spare resources to help local jurisdictions meet state law environmental requirements. The agency confirmed this sentiment in follow-up emails.
Experts have explained to the Department that the aquatic vegetation it wishes to remove can only grow in shallow water. If it destroys the vegetation while draining the wetland to shallow levels, the vegetation will grow back, creating an ongoing, expensive, and harmful cycle of dredging and draining, if it wishes to maintain open waters in the wetland complex.
These same experts have explained that if the Department simply allowed enough water to remain in the complex during the spring and summer months, the vegetation would die off naturally, and would not grow back: because the water would be too deep for the vegetation to survive. Moreover, this proposal would not increase winter flooding events at Sharp Park Golf Course, because the higher water levels need only be maintained in the spring and summer—and the golf course does not flood during these seasons.
“Before increasing the amount and rate of water drained from our wetlands, we deserve an honest assessment of environmental impacts, as well as a consideration of alternatives,” said Plater. “To date the Department has failed to honestly assess the environmental impacts of this project, and refused to consider any alternatives to it. We expect the Board of Supervisors to right the course tomorrow.”
The Wild Equity Institute is building a healthy and sustainable global community for people
and the plants and animals that accompany us on Earth.