The California Coastal Conservancy is receiving $1 million in much-needed stimulus money through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to fund Pond A8 notch construction, part of the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project. The project will restore roughly 16,000 acres of salt ponds in the South San Francisco Bay, improving the bay's physical, chemical and biological health. The project is also receiving funding from numerous other agencies, including the Santa Clara Valley Water District, which has provided both financial resources and valuable staff time.

The Pond A8 portion of the project, which borders Alviso, will allow researchers to monitor the migration of mercury between the ponds when there is tidal activity. Also, this work will allow for a larger tidal prism through Alviso Slough, which could result in a wider and deeper slough through the natural scouring of vegetation. The slough, which was once regularly maintained and free from vegetation, has become so overgrown that boats are only able to navigate the waterway during high tide. By introducing more salt water from Pond A8, the salinity of the water will increase and result in a decrease of the vegetation.

As a lifelong resident of Alviso, a community that borders the South Bay and is surrounded by these salt ponds, I am extremely excited about this project. The project will restore and enhance a mosaic of wetlands, creating a vibrant ecosystem providing for wildlife-oriented public


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access, recreation, and education opportunities.

As the flood management and environmental stewardship agency for Santa Clara County, the water district's involvement in this project is twofold. By providing both financial resources and expertise of their staff, the water district's goal is to ensure that flood protection is maintained throughout all of the project's phases. To enhance the environment through wetland restoration of the county's watersheds, the water district is also providing funding for the project through its Clean, Safe Creeks and Natural Flood Protection Program, a voter-approved initiative passed in 2000.

The project was spearheaded by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who negotiated the acquisition of the land from Cargill Salt. Together the federal and state government along with private foundations, spent $100 million to transfer ownership of the land to the California Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In order to meet the project's objectives, it is being done in phases, so that its progress can be managed collaboratively by the California Coastal Conservancy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the California Department of Fish and Game.

After several months of frustrating work stoppage due to the state bond freeze imposed last December, the project is now fully up and running again with an infusion of state bond funds from the Department of Water Resources. While construction is already underway in the Ravenswood area, it is set to begin on Pond A8 in the next few months and at Eden Landing by early next year.

As part of the Stakeholder Forum for the project, I regularly join 27 other diverse community members of the South Bay in bringing our various experiences, expertise and input into this environmental planning process. The next meeting of the Stakeholder Forum is scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2 to 5 p.m. at the San JosŽ/Santa Clara Water Pollution Control Plant, 700 Los Esteros Road in Alviso. This will be a great opportunity to come and meet with stakeholders, give input and learn more about this large restoration project.

For all questions pertaining to the forum, please call Ariel Ambruster at (510) 528-5006 or Steve Richie, executive project manager at (510) 384-4105. To learn more about the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project, visit www.southbayrestoration.org.

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Richard Santos is available for questions or comments as the Santa Clara Valley Water District Three representative for Sunnyvale, Alviso, Milpitas, Berryessa/Alum Rock communities, east of Highway 101, to the Evergreen community area,

at 234-7707.