It is two decades now since some 23 square miles of South Bay salt evaporation ponds became public property. Eighty-eight old impoundments were to be remade into habitat for birds and other creatures—and into a superior flood-control buffer for communities beside the rising Bay.
Progress since then has been slow, and fast. Slow, because relatively small swathes of territory have been visibly, obviously changed. Slow, because a whole set of basic questions had to be answered before the work could pick up speed. And fast, because those questions have now been answered, by and large, and the news is pretty good. As sea-level rise makes the project ever more urgent, the way seems open to a rapid transformation in the years to come.