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South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project & South San Francisco Bay Shoreline Study: Early Implementation Activities

Project URL link
Sponsoring Agency California State Coastal Conservancy
Subregions ('South Bay',)
Counties Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara
Watershed Tributary
Public or private land? ('Public',)
Location (lat/lon)
Start Date 2014
End Date 2020
Location Description South San Francisco Bay. Three pond complexes: The Alviso Complex in Santa Clara County, the Eden Landing Complex in Alameda COunty, and the Ravenswood COmplex in San Mateo County.
South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project & South San Francisco Bay Shoreline Study: Early Implementation Activities

Project includes habitat restoration, public access improvements, and flood protection measures in the Eden Landing, Alviso, and Ravenswood pond complexes of the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project.

Approximately 15,100 acres of former industrial salt ponds in three pond complexes in the South Bay (Ravenswood, Eden Landing, and Alviso) were acquired by the California Department of Fish and Game and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The 2009 programmatic plan for the entire project area includes tidal restoration for endangered and aquatic species, enhancement of ponds for migratory shorebirds and waterfowl, tidal and fluvial flood management measures including construction of a perimeter levee and removal of levees alongside sloughs and creeks to increase conveyance, and public access improvements, such as Bay Trail segments.  Phase I will be complete in 2013.  Planning for Phase II projects and a major flood protection project in the Alviso area are currently underway. 

Drinking Water Supply
Water Quality Improvement
Water Reuse/Recycling
Stormwater Improvements
Groundwater Benefits
Habitat Protection and Restoration
Flood Protection
Restoration of wetland habitats improves water quality, infiltration, and protects habitat. The flood protection project element in Alviso would protect a Disadvantaged Community from tidal flooding.
This project is a multi-agency collaboration between federal and state wildlife managers (FWS & DFG), local flood protection agencies (Alameda and Santa Clara Co.s), the Coastal Conservancy as lead coordinator, and many funding agencies including NOAA, USEPA, DWR, WCB, and private foundations.
Yes, the Conservancy has been the lead coordinator and planner for this project.
Ecosystem Restoration, Environmental and habitat protection and improvement, Flood management, Recreation and public access, Storm water capture and management, Water quality protection and improvement, Watershed planning, Wetlands enhancement and creation
Flood Protection & Stormwater Management

Part 2 - Detail

In 2003, the California Department of Fish and Game and the US Fish and Wildlife Service acquired 15,100 acres of salt ponds in three pond complexes (Ravenswood, Eden Landing, and Alviso) in South San Francisco Bay.  Restoration, flood management, and public access planning and implementation are being facilitated by the State Coastal Conservancy in cooperation with the landowners (California Department of Fish and Game and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), flood management agencies (Santa Clara Valley Water District, Alameda County Flood Control and Water Conservation District, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers), regulatory agencies, scientists, and stakeholders.  The programmatic plan for the entire project area was completed in 2009 and will include tidal restoration for endangered and aquatic species, enhancement of ponds for migratory shorebirds and waterfowl, tidal and fluvial flood management measures including construction of flood protection levees and removal of salt pond berms alongside sloughs and creeks to increase conveyance, and public access improvements, such as Bay Trail segments.  Phase I implementation is nearly complete and planning for Phase II is underway. Phase II SBSP Restoration projects will consist of tidal wetland restoration projects and creation of enhanced managed ponds at the 3 pond complexes as well as trail linkages. Following quickly on the heels of these Phase II actions will be implementation of flood management and additional ecosystem restoration measures identified in the Congressionally-authorized South San Francisco Bay Shoreline Study. The Corps of Engineers, Santa Clara Valley Water District, and the California State Coastal Conservancy expect to complete the Shoreline Study in 2014 and construct a flood protection levee in the Alviso area which will allow the restoration of the Ponds A9-A15 in Alviso Pond complex.  

Purpose: The South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project and South San Francisco Bay Shoreline Study represent an unprecedented opportunity to restore the health of San Francisco Bay. The goals of these projects are to: 
1. Create the largest restored wetland on the West Coast of the United States, providing extensive habitat for federally endangered species and migratory birds; 
2. Provide tidal and fluvial flood protection in South San Francisco Bay, including approximately 42,800 acres, 7,400 homes and businesses, and significant urban development such as roads and highways, parks, airports and wastewater treatment plants in Santa Clara County alone; and 
3. Improve wildlife-oriented public access and recreational opportunities, including hiking, fishing, hunting, environmental education, and birdwatching. 

The objectives for the projects are to: 

1. Create, restore, or enhance habitats of sufficient size, function, and appropriate structure to: 

• Promote restoration of native special-status plants and animals that depend on South San Francisco Bay habitat for all or part of their life cycles. 

• Maintain current migratory bird species that utilize existing salt ponds and associated structures such as levees. 

• Support increased abundance and diversity of native species in various South San Francisco Bay aquatic and terrestrial ecosystem components, including plants, invertebrates, fish, mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians. 

2. Maintain or improve existing levels of flood protection in the South Bay area. 

3. Provide public access and recreational opportunities compatible with wildlife and habitat goals. 

4. Protect or improve existing levels of water and sediment quality in the South Bay, and take into account ecological risks caused by restoration. 

5. Implement design and management measures to maintain or improve current levels of vector management, control predation on special status species, and manage the spread of non-native invasive species. 

6. Protect the services provided by existing infrastructure (e.g., power lines, railroads). The partner agencies are undertaking these two closely linked efforts, the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project and the South San Francisco Bay Shoreline Study, to plan and implement habitat restoration, flood management, and public access for the 15,100 acres of salt ponds and adjacent lands, in order to improve the South Bay for wildlife and people.

South Bay Salt Ponds Restoration Project

Programmatic EIS/EIR:

Regulatory permits, including programmatic Biological Opinions:


San Francisco Bay, Coyote Creek, Guadalupe River, Alameda Creek

The San Francisco Bay has lost an estimated 80 to 90 percent of its historic wetlands to fill or alteration, and very little high-quality tidal salt marsh habitat remains in the South Bay. A large proportion of the remaining undeveloped land is comprised of salt production ponds, which have been a dominant component of the South Bay landscape for over a century and support a suite of waterbirds that has become adapted to their presence. The 2003 acquisition of the SBSP restoration project area provided land managers with an opportunity to reverse the dramatic decline in populations of marsh-dependent fish and wildlife by restoring significant amounts of tidal wetlands.  In addition, many Bay-side communities are at risk from tidal and fluvial flooding.  Restoration of tidal marshes in conjunction with new flood protection infrastructure can provide a more sustainable approach to protecting these communities in the face of sea-level rise.  A third goal of South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project is to provide public access to restored areas, which are centrally located to the majority of the Bay Area’s 7.5 million inhabitants.  

Possible without project consequences include increased vulnerability to tidal flooding of South Bay communities and continued decline of endangered species dependent upon tidal marsh habitat.

i. Water Supply (conservation, recycled water, groundwater recharge, surface storage, etc.)

Tidal marsh restoration will increase the residence time of outgoing fluvial waters, thereby increasing the residence time of stormwater in the marshes.  This helps contribute to both surface storage and groundwater recharge.

ii. Water Quality

Increased mash habitat enhancing the ability of the baylands habitats to filter pollutants from point and non-point sources, thus improving the overall water quality of the Bay.

iii. Flood and Stormwater Management

Removal of levees resulting from tidal marsh restoration allows for outgoing flood waters to enter the baylands habitats sooner.  This helps alleviate upstream flood risks.  In addition, restored marshes act as a buffer against tidal flooding, increasing the efficacy of existing flood protection levees.  

iv. Resource Stewardship (watershed management, habitat protection and restoration, recreation, open space, etc.)

Habitat improvements for a variety of fish and wildlife species, including the endangered salt marsh harvest mouse, California clapper rail, and Central Valley spring-run chinook, as well as the threatened Central California Coast steelhead (Distinct Population Segment) and the North American green sturgeon.


In addition to habitat restoration goals, the project is also including several public access features including new Bay Trail segments and interpretive features adjacent to San Francisco Bay.




Increases Water Supply Reliability
Advances/ Expands Conjunctive Management of Multiple Water Supply Sources
Increases Water Use and/or Reuse Efficiency
Provides Additional Water Supply
Promotes Water Quality Protection
Reduces Water Demand
Advances/Expands Water Recycling
Promotes Urban Runoff Reuse
Addresses Sea Level Rise
Addresses other Anticipated Climate Change Impact (e.g. through water management system modifications)
Improves Flood Control (e.g. through wetlands restoration, management, protection)
Promotes Habitat Protection
Establishes Migration Corridors
Re-establishes River-Floodplain Hydrologic Continuity
Re-introduces Anadromous Fish Populations to Upper Watersheds
Enhances and Protects Upper Watershed Forests and Meadow Systems
Other (Please Describe)
Increases Water Use Efficiency or Promotes Energy-Efficient Water Demand Reduction
Improves Water System Energy Efficiency
Advances/Expands Water Recycling
Promotes Urban Runoff Reuse
Promotes Use of Renewable Energy Sources
Contributes to Carbon Sequestration (e.g. through vegetation growth)
Other (Please Describe)
$30 million(low) - $60 million(high)
Already acquired
Drought Preparedness
Use and Reuse Water More Efficiently
Climate Change Response Actions (Adaptation to Climate Change, Reduction of Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Reduce Energy Consumption)
Expand Environmental Stewardship
Practice Integrated Flood Management
Protect Surface and Groundwater Quality
Improve Tribal Water and Natural Resources
Ensure Equitable Distribution of Benefits
Reduce Reliance on the Bay-Delta
Reduce Water Demand
Improved Operational Efficiency and Transfers
Increase Water Supply
Improve Water Quality
Improve Flood Management
Practice Resources Stewardship
Other Strategies (Please Describe)
Groundwater Management Plan
Urban Water Management Plan
Water Meter Requirements
Groundwater Monitoring Requirements
AB 1420 Compliance
BMP Compliance
CEQA Compliance
Water supply reliability, water conservation and water use efficiency
Stormwater capture, storage, clean-up, treatment, and management
Removal of invasive non-native species, the creation and enhancement of wetlands, and the acquisition, protection, and restoration of open space and watershed lands
Non-point source pollution reduction, management and monitoring
Groundwater recharge and management projects
Contaminant and salt removal through reclamation, desalting, and other treatment technologies and conveyance of reclaimed water for distribution to users
Water banking, exchange, reclamation and improvement of water quality
Planning and implementation of multipurpose flood management programs
Watershed protection and management
Drinking water treatment and distribution
Ecosystem and fisheries restoration and protection
Reduced Reliance on the Bay-Delta
Projects that directly address a critical water quality or supply issue in a DAC
Urban water suppliers implementing certain BMPs as on page 17 of Guidelines
Be designed to manage stormwater runoff to reduce flood damage (PRC §5096.827)
Be consistent with the applicable Regional Water Quality Control Plans (Basin Plans) (PRC §5096.827)
Not be a part of the State Plan of Flood Control (SPFC) (PRC §5096.827)

The South Bay Salt Pond Restoration project is moving forward under an adaptive management framework.  One of the primary goals of moving forward in this iterative fashion is to avoid any unintended impacts to non-target species, cultural resources, flood management features, and public access components. 

The primary result of the project will be to restore and greatly improve the hydrologic function of South San Francisco Bay.  By eliminating levees and restoring natural tidal wetlands, floodplains will be reconnected to the stream s and creeks, natural sedimentation patterns will be restored, and flood protection will be enhanced from the buffering effects of wetlands.

In addition, the restoration of of tidal marshes will increase the baylands ability to filter pollutants, capture sediments, and recharge groundwater.  For those areas that will remain as managed ponds, new structures are being designed and management regimes being revised to maximize water quality in these more controlled systems.


Habitat improvements include new tidal marshes for threatened and endangered species, nursery grounds for protected fisheries, and new habitat features designed specifically for migratory waterbirds.


Project team

Part 3 - Benefits

BAIRWMP_proj_template_section3_SBSPv1.0.xlsx — ZIP archive, 177Kb