Bair Island restoration work under way

Restoration work is finally beginning at Bair Island, the 3,000-acre Bayfront site of the city’s first referendum to protect open space from corporate developers.

Residents successfully fought to protect Bair Island from a 1982 Mobil Oil plan to build a new waterfront city there. Now the site has received its first shipments of dirt to shore up surrounding levees, according to John Bradley, deputy project leader for the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay Wildlife Refuge.

Silt is next slated to be dredged from the Port of Redwood City to fill in a sinking portion of inner Bair Island where waterfowl, which occasionally tangle with planes from nearby San Carlos Airport, congregate.

But it all comes down to timing. The silt must be dredged by Dec. 1, or workers risk disturbing the spawning season for salmon and steelhead, Port Director Michael Giari said.

“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers still has to prepare contracts and go out to bid; they’re not sure they can make it by Dec. 1,” Giari said. The corps is requesting an extension on what’s called the “fish window.”

Bair Island’s existing trails will be closed weekdays, beginning this week, to make way for crews to haul dirt to different parts of Bair Island. Trails will be open during early mornings, evenings and weekends, Redwood City spokesman Malcolm Smith said.

Restoration is expected to cost $6 million to $10 million, according to refuge manager Clyde Morris.

The referendum to protect the area was Redwood City’s first — but not its last.

The Friends of Redwood City launched a second successful ballot measure in 2004 to overturn approval of the high-rise Marina Shores Village Project at Pete’s Harbor, and is poised to fight potential development on 1,433 acres of Bayfront land currently owned by Cargill Salt.

“We can’t do anything until they make a move,” said resident and Bayfront advocate Ralph Nobles. “But we hope we won’t have another fight on our hands.”

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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