Almanac

News - January 19, 2011

Woodside council to slam Cargill project on the record

by David Boyce

Having kept its powder dry since April, the Woodside Town Council is now ready to use it. At its Jan. 11 meeting, the council asked staff to prepare a strongly worded statement expressing opposition to the so-called Cargill project in Redwood City.

The project, proposed by Minneapolis-based Cargill Salt Corp. and an Arizona developer, would convert 1,436 acres of salt flats off Redwood City into dry land for up to 12,000 homes. The development could include 1 million square feet of commercial space and some 800 acres developed as wetlands and outdoor recreational space.

The Portola Valley Town Council, in a unanimous vote on Dec. 8, notified the Redwood City council of its position: the salt flat should be restored to its natural state and included in the nearby Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge.

The Woodside council is taking the same basic position, though council members Sue Boynton and Dave Burow were absent for this discussion. A position statement is set for council review on Jan. 25.

Council comment

The council had discussed a decisive resolution in April, but it failed on a 4-3 vote. Instead, on a 6-1 vote, the council chose to note the town's serious concerns and let the environmental review and comments periods run their course.

Mayor Ron Romines backed a stronger resolution initially and this time. "Our highest calling and obligation as publicly elected officials is to try to act as stewards of the resources and environment that we have," he said on Jan. 11.

Elected officials should not leave natural resources in worse condition than they found them, he said, and ideally should leave them in better shape. "This is a unique opportunity to do the latter," he said.

The project is unacceptable with respect to impacts on fresh water, transportation and population, said Councilman Dave Tanner. "I think we need to proceed ahead here and start to put our foot down about what's going on."

The council, added Councilman Peter Mason, should appoint a liaison to attend "every single meeting" held on this project, "to let them know that we intend to be an active participant in this project and put an end to it."

The Cargill development "is an unbalanced, stupid, thoughtless thing to do," and the camel's nose under the tent, said Councilwoman Anne Kasten. The East Bay salt flats would be next, she added.

Woodside should be willing to offer financial aid for a restoration project, Councilwoman Deborah Gordon suggested. "It's a regional asset and if they want (our help), we should be willing to help," she said.

Public opposition

Woodside residents have spoken out against this project in past meetings.

Stephen Knight, political director of the environmental group Save the Bay, told the council that some 150 Bay Area elected officials formally oppose this project.

Ken Broome of the South Skyline Association suggested that if the project goes ahead and a levee is built around it, the levee do double duty as a road bed for the high-speed rail line.

The extra fresh water to be transferred in — the developer has water rights in Kern County for 70 years — is cause for concern, said Woodside resident Gita Dev. "Seventy years is a very short time," she said. "We need water in perpetuity."

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