Historic Agreement Reached to Purchase
San Francisco Bay Salt Ponds

May 29, 2002

San Francisco - A landmark public-private partnership to purchase 16,500 acres of salt ponds along the San Francisco Bay shore and Napa River and turn them into wetlands and tidal marshes was announced today by U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, California Governor Gray Davis and Secretary of Interior Gale Norton.

"This historic Framework Agreement sets in the motion the largest wetlands restoration undertaken in California history," said Senator Feinstein, who worked closely with Federal, State, philanthropic foundations and Cargill officials to reach an agreement.

"This Agreement provides for acquiring 16,500 acres in the San Francisco Bay and Napa County from Cargill for $100 million. Also, when Cargill ceases salt production on 8,000 acres around the Newark plant, this property would revert to the public for wetland restoration."

"This agreement would not have happened unless four deeply committed foundations came together with the State and Federal governments. By forging a public-private partnership, we have found a creative way to put together a project that will benefit generations of Californians to come and may serve as a model for future environmental projects."

"I want to thank Governor Gray Davis and Interior Secretary Gale Norton for showing the leadership for helping make this agreement possible. And a special note of thanks to the Hewlett Foundation and its President Paul Brest, the Moore Foundation and President Lew Coleman and the Packard Foundation and President Richard Schlosberg and the Goldman Fund and its President Richard Goldman for their commitment to the environment."

"The goal is not only to buy the land, but to restore it into tidal and seasonal wetlands. Therefore, this agreement also includes a five year stewardship and restoration planning period. The Hewlett, Moore and Packard Foundations are providing $6.33 million each for land acquisition and $5 million each for the stewardship and restoration planning effort. The Goldman Fund is providing another $1 million for acquisition."

The full funding package includes:

  • $100 million for acquisition
  • $8 million will be provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (exiting funds)
  • $25 million will come from the California Wildlife Conservation Board (existing funds)
  • $47 million will be provided by the State of California
  • $6.33 million from the Hewlett Foundation
  • $6.33 million from the Moore Foundation
  • $6.33 million from the Packard Foundation
  • $1 million from the Goldman Fund
  • $35 million for five years of initial stewardship and restoration planning with $15 million to be provided by the Hewlett, Packard and Moore Foundations ($5 million each) and $10 million each to be provided by Federal and State governments over five years.
  • The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and California Department of Fish and Game will own and manage the properties under agreed upon principles. Initial stewardship includes costs to optimize the available resources while long-term restoration planning is underway. These include the cost to design, install, operate and maintain new water control structures to prevent the future accumulation of salts; levee maintenance; pumping costs; environmental permitting; restoration monitoring and collaboration.
  • The California Coastal Conservancy's San Francisco Bay program will lead a planning and public information effort to craft a widely supported, scientifically sounds restoration plan, estimating the costs of restoration, identifying potential sources of funding, outlining an implementation schedule, preparing environmental documents and obtaining initial federal, state and local permits for restoration.

"Members of the environment community have also helped move this proposal ahead and the project envisions their active participation in the restoration planning process. Their expertise and efforts are essential in completing our restoration objective," Senator Feinstein said.

"I also would like to thank Cargill, a company that has operated salt making operations in the Bay since 1978 and is the latest salt making company in a long line stretching back to the gold rush days 150 years ago. Cargill has agreed to a significantly below market sale; the donation of 8,000 acres of salt making rights in the future; and to do any required clean up as determined by the regulatory agency. By agreeing to this, Cargill is clearly doing a major public good and the company deserve deep appreciation."

Summary of the Framework Agreement

  • The Framework Agreement establishes that Cargill will sell 16,500 acres in the South San Francisco Bay and along the Napa River for $100 million to the Federal and State governments.
  • The $100 million payment includes $53 million payable at closing on December 16, 2002 and $47 million when the ponds achieve the clean-up standard.
  • Of the first $53 million, the State will pay $25 million, the Federal government $8 million and the Foundations $20 million. The State will also provide the remaining $47 million after closing.
  • The Agreement would exclude the Redwood City plant site, Pond A-18, which is being purchased by San Jose and is adjacent to their wastewater treatment plant; and a ditch adjacent to Moffett Field, which was contaminated by the Department of Defense.
  • Title for the property would transfer to the Federal and State governments at closing, but the land would not transfer until Cargill certifies that each pond has met the clean-up standard promulgated by the California Regional Water Quality Control Board.
  • A separate standard will be worked out in the Phase-out Agreement between Cargill and the California Department of Fish and Game with regard to the Napa parcel, because the water on that property will not be discharged into the Napa River.
  • The State and Federal Agencies have agreed to accept Operation and Maintenance costs for most of the ponds, should the standard not be promulgated by March 15, 2004.
  • Cargill has agreed to a future donation of approximately 8,000 acres of salt making rights near the Newark plant beyond the 16,500 acres.
  • The Framework Agreement provides the guidelines for all parties to negotiate a more detailed Purchase Agreement and Phase-Out Agreement implementing the Framework Agreement by September 15, 2002. The purchase is not final until those two Agreements are completed.