Preservation project ready after 10 years

A decadelong project to protect endangered species in a 180-acre region adjacent to U.S. Highway 101 is finally set to begin, although planners are optimistic that construction will not introduce many new problems to the traffic-plagued region.

The dredging project is scheduled to begin this fall on the area across Highway 101 from San Francisco International Airport, known as the West of Bayshore region, and last until 2018. BART trains run through the region on the way to and from SFO.

An endangered species called the San Francisco garter snake and the threatened California red-legged frog, which is one step from the endangered classification, call the area home. The region is home to hundreds of San Francisco garter snakes, more than anywhere else, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman Al Donner said. The area’s waterways have become too shallow and silted, however, for the species’ survival, he said.

The area is owned by SFO, which will carry out the project in collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Department of Fish and Game.

During the next few months, officials from the San Francisco Planning Department will determine what effects, if any, the construction will have on the adjacent portion of Highway 101 between Burlingame and San Bruno. The area was named the third busiest stretch of freeway in San Mateo County and No. 33 in the Bay Area in the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s recently released annual traffic congestion report.

San Francisco environmental planner Jessica Range said it does not yet appear the project will have a significant effect on traffic because much of the work will be done far enough away from the roads.

The project will include expanding open-water habitats, deepening existing shallow wetlands, managing the area’s silt and removing nonnative plants, SFO senior environmental planner Nixon Lam said. In addition to restoring the habitat, the work also will decrease the potential that the two canals in the area, called South Lomita and Cupid Row, will flood, Range said.

mrosenberg@sfexaminer.com

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