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SFO proposes wetlands restoration for new runways

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  • 12/31 SJ Mercury
    Published Monday, December 31, 2001, in the San Jose Mercury News S.F. airport proposes wetlands swap Officials would restore island in exchange for new
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 31, 2001
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      Published Monday, December 31, 2001, in the San Jose Mercury News

      S.F. airport proposes wetlands swap
      Officials would restore island in exchange for new runways

      Associated Press

      Commissioners at San Francisco International Airport agreed this
      month to restore wetlands in Sonoma County if they get permission to
      fill part of San Francisco Bay for new runways.

      The proposal comes as airport officials look for an environmentally
      friendly way to expand the airport's runway system to accommodate
      increased flight traffic. Airport officials say their expansion
      efforts have not kept up with population growth.

      The proposed conversion of a hay farm on Skaggs Island, a former Navy
      spy base between Sonoma and Vallejo, into a wildlife habitat would go
      some distance to restore wetlands lost to runway development.

      "It's a major opportunity to put back some of the more than 80
      percent of Bay Area wetlands lost over the last 150 years," said
      airport spokeswoman Kandace Bender.

      Not all environmentalists are backing the airport's plan.

      "The only restoration would occur by destroying another part of the
      bay," said David Madland, project director of the Save San Francisco
      Bay Association.

      The Navy took over most of Skaggs Island in 1940. During the Cold
      War, spies based there monitored Soviet naval activity throughout the
      North Pacific.

      The Navy finally left the island in 1993, and now what remains is
      mostly the native wildlife, which includes an endangered bird, the
      California clapper rail, and the endangered salt marsh harvest mouse.

      The airport has already set aside $2 million toward the $9.4 million
      that the project is expected to cost. The runways at the airport are
      50 years old and just 750 feet apart -- less than a fifth of the
      distance required by current safety regulations.

      While there is no official airport expansion plan, proposals include
      extending the runways by filling in between 500 and 800 acres of the
      bay. Neighbors, environmentalists and even windsurfers have said that
      approach would hurt the bay's ecosystem.

      Under federal law, the airport could restore wetlands in one area to
      offset the loss of habitat in another. Under new San Francisco law,
      city voters could approve or scrap any city-sponsored construction
      plans that would fill in more than 100 acres of the bay.
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