The Loma Prietan - May/June 2009

Keep it Wet; Keep it Wild

by David Walling

South Bay wetlands like this one help control pollution and flooding, absorb carbon, and provide habitat. Learn about our wetlands and efforts to save them at this May 9 event. Photo: John Gibson, GOT Imaging
South Bay wetlands like this one help control pollution and flooding, absorb carbon, and provide habitat. Learn about our wetlands and efforts to save them at this May 9 event. Photo: John Gibson, GOT Imaging

Scientists estimate less than 10% of the original wetlands in the San Francisco area remain, but the 'Keeping Our Baylands Wet & Wild' event will celebrate what's left and what's being restored. Come learn about the restoration of South Bay wetlands and how you can help ensure that it continues.

The Chapter Wetlands Committee is teaming with the Redwood City Library and other agencies to celebrate South Bay wetlands on May 9th from 10 to 4, open to all, at the newly opened Redwood Shores Community Library with its Wetlands Interpretive Center. Young and old will see at first hand the benefits of wetlands: spotting birds and other wildlife on the Bay Trail along the Belmont Slough.

Documentary films will profile the role of wetlands in the environment. Telly Award- winning The Last Stand: Heroes at the Ballona Wetlands chronicles the effort to save the last significant wetlands in Los Angeles. Two short films from award-winning filmmaker Judy Irving (The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill) will be screened.

Attractions for Everyone

Interactive games for children will teach them about wetlands. The Audubon Society will bring telescopes and shorebird experts to help visitors see and learn more about local wetland birds. Visitors can get their hands wet by touching fish, animals, and invertebrates provided by the Marine Science Institute. A variety of environmental organizations, including Save the Bay and Friends of Redwood City, are participating with educational booths. Beyond the fun and entertainment, attendees can meet wetland experts and learn how to become involved in local wetland issues.

Why wetlands? Wetlands reduce many problems caused by communities and developments near rivers and along shores. A vibrant wetland absorbs carbon, reducing greenhouse gases. It cleans polluted runoff water coming from rivers and streams that empty into the Bay. A wetland traps sediments, recharges ground aquifers, and helps to control flooding.

Why now? May is designated as American Wetlands Month by the US Environmental Protection Agency. In its 16th year, it focuses people and organizations on the benefits tied to healthy wetlands within their community and environment.

Why here? The South Bay is at the beginning of a multi-decade project to restore more than 16,000 acres of salt ponds back to wetlands. Salt ponds are less complicated and costly to restore than agriculture land, or urban and commercial developments. The Redwood City community has the opportunity to reclaim 1430 acres of salt ponds and restore them to wetlands.

Cargill owns those 1430 acres, but it is actively investigating the development of portions for residential and commercial use. This would be a step in the wrong direction. The Bay Area needs those wetlands, and restoring this property to wetlands after development would be more costly, with the additional problems of removing manmade contaminants and materials.

Learn about and show your support for expanding wetlands in the South Bay by attending 'Keeping Our Baylands Wet & Wild.' Help us to raise awareness about why a healthy wetland is good for people and the environment. Together we can help citizens and organizations in Redwood City to make the right choice!

David Walling is a member of the Chapter's Wetlands Committee.