Sometimes the best way to keep the water out is to let it back in It’s hard to imagine it now, given the stranglehold of Silicon Valley’s tech industry on the region, but 100 years ago the predominant south Bay Area business was salt. When Spanish missionaries sailed into the San Francisco Bay in 1776, they saw Ohlone tribe members scraping natural salt off of rocks and dipping willow branches into briny pools to collect the precious mineral. As gold fever swept across northern California in the 1850s, immigrant settlers had already begun to carve the species-rich wetlands into large commercial salt evaporation ponds. By the 1930s, the Leslie Salt Company had consolidated over a dozen small producers into the world’s largest industrial salt production company, and half of the South Bay’s extensive marshes, whose ducks and salmon once far outnumbered humans, were gone. Now, the south San Francisco bay shoreline’s next mammoth transformation is well underway: a 50-year project to return the salt ponds back to the bay, restoring them once again into tidal marsh for the first time in 150 years. At about half the size of San Francisco, the 15,000-plus-acre wetland restoration effort is the largest […]

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