December 11, 2016

Think before you pump–SF Parks Department needs to do EIR for Sharp Park pumping

Normal winter rains flood many areas of Sharp Park, and the golf course' attempts to drain the water kill California red-legged frogs. Photo courtesy of

Normal winter rains flood many areas of Sharp Park, and the golf course’ attempts to drain the water kill California red-legged frogs. Photo courtesy of

Once more the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department is trying to avoid environmental scrutiny of its actions at Sharp Park (see May 2011, page 9), where it operates a golf course in the Laguna Salada wetland complex. On Tue., March 25, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors will have the opportunity to evaluate an ill-conceived project in the most biologically important area managed by the department.

The golf course was built on a vibrant and rare wetland system in the 1930s, before environmental reviews were required. To maintain the course, the department fights the naturally wet conditions, and has a history of evading environmental review of its activities. In March 2013, the department was caught illegally armoring the sea wall along Sharp Park under the guise of re-grading the walkway along the berm. In July 2013 the department was fined $386,000 for illegally killing wildlife protected by the federal Endangered Species Act.

Now the department is proposing the “Sharp Park Pumphouse Project”, which would dredge nearly 100,000 gallons of sediment and native vegetation from what remains of the Laguna Salada wetland complex to speed the flow of water to its recently installed 10,000-gallon-per-minute pumphouse. The increased flow would be disastrous for the breeding of the California red-legged frog in the complex’s pools and lagoons. The water is also vital to the survival of the San Francisco garter snake and the many other species of this vital wetland ecosystem.

Rather than preparing a full Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the project, the department has prepared an abbreviated environmental review, called a “Mitigated Negative Declaration”. Unlike an EIR, a Negative Declaration does not have to consider any alternative—even though an environmentally superior alternative exists, namely simply to decrease pumping and allow the water to rise. Preeminent herpetologists, coastal ecologists, and hydrologists, as well as the Sierra Club and other environmental organizations, have recommended studying an alternative.


The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has the power to order a full EIR.  Laguna Salada advocates have never lost a vote on this issue at the Board—so far. Come to the Supervisors’ meeting at 3 pm on Tue., March 25, at San Francisco City Hall, Room 250! Speak up for the California red-legged frog, the San Francisco garter snake (which also lives at Sharp Park), this rare wetland complex, and a more environmentally friendly and fiscally responsible Recreation and Park Department.

For more information see

Amy Zehring, community organizer, Wild Equity Institute

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