This Wetland Is My Wetland
California is on the verge of unveiling two of the biggest wetland-rehabilitation projects in the history of the Western United States. By the end of the year, officials in Northern California will sign a $135 million agreement to buy and begin restoring salt ponds along the South San Francisco Bay from Cargill, Inc., whose salt-production practices have led to severe environmental degradation in the area. Meanwhile, in Southern California’s Bolsa Chica wetlands, environmentalists are nearing a $100 million agreement with an oil company to return an oil field to its natural state. Hundreds of similar efforts are underway throughout the state, which is said to have lost over 85 percent of its wetlands — the largest percentage loss of any state in the nation. The passage of the federal Clean Water Act and the California Coastal Act in the 1970s curbed wetlands destruction — but not before nearly all coastal marshes had been drained or junked by developers. “We’re at one of those historic moments when people’s thinking has evolved to the point that … if you can really restore functioning wetlands, you can achieve a whole range of different … goals,” said Mary Nichols, resources secretary to Gov. Gray Davis (D).