With many partners collaborating to save a vital natural resource in a highly urbanized area, restoring the Bay Salt Ponds was much more than a simple land transaction.

Shaping the Restoration of the San Francisco Bay Salt Ponds


The Hewlett, Moore, and Packard Foundations sought our help in facilitating the acquisition of lands from Cargill to protect more than 16,500 acres of commercial salt ponds. The goal was to transform this large area from industrial salt making into a haven for birds, fish, and people. We knew that acquiring these lands was only the first step to providing unprecedented public access to San Francisco Bay, creating a significant habitat for fish and wildlife and flood protection for surrounding communities, and ensuring the Bay’s health.

Resources Law Group’s successful strategy included:

Public Funding: While the foundations provided $20 million of the $100 million purchase price and contributed $15 million to the restoration planning and stewardship, we helped build a magnet for public funding so government sources could cover the rest.

Planning: We created a scientifically based plan for management and restoration, maintaining and enhancing habitat values, piloting large-scale restoration, and expanding flood protection capabilities.

Restoration: We implemented restoration to allow a return of natural processes and functions and provide flood protection for nearby communities.

The salt pond restoration project is the largest tidal wetlands restoration on the West Coast. A mosaic of tidal marshes and ponds provides critical habitat for resident and migratory waterfowl and shorebirds, and for plants and animals in their food chain. Restoration will provide opportunities for biking and hiking trails and fishing. It will also provide opportunities for flood protection, as communities face growing risks of flooding from warming waters, storm surges, and king tides.

Initial studies of the tidal marsh indicate that it will keep pace with slowly rising sea levels, adding sediment as the sea rises. The marshes will also mute the impact of storm surges, absorbing floodwaters and buffering levees that protect Silicon Valley and San Jose. All this work is taking place in full view of millions of people who pass by these lands each year. Although restoration is still in the early stages, the landscape is returning to a natural state much faster than expected.