Compromise could conserve drinking water at Sharp Park 

Even as a multitude of complications continues to delay restoration of the troubled Sharp Park Golf Course in Pacifica, golfers, environmentalists and officials finally agree on one thing: Instead of using pristine Hetch Hetchy Reservoir snowmelt to sprinkle the course, The City should irrigate it with recycled water.

The project could save up to 50 million gallons of potable water a year, but it has been highly controversial because of animal-welfare issues.

The 18-hole course is said to be an unhealthy habitat for the endangered San Francisco garter snake and the threatened red-legged frog, a situation that has troubled local, state and federal officials for years.

So in 2009, officials with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission put the recycling project on hold to wait for the Recreation and Park Department, which oversees the golf course, to come up with a restoration plan. The department ultimately adopted a plan that officials say will accommodate the animals.

But the plan could take up to a decade to be finalized, and The City needs to spend its $400,000 federal stimulus grant by the end of 2011 or it will expire. So utility and park officials are anxious to separate the recycling project from the restoration plans.

“A year with recycled water is better than a year without it,” said Steve Richie, assistant general manager of water enterprise for the SFPUC. “The sooner the better. We’re in the last stages of this and it really needs to move forward.”

Six environmental groups recently told the department they intend to sue because the plan is insufficient. However, they say they have nothing against the department proceeding with its recycling project; they want park officials to be wary of wasting time and money.

“We just need to make sure that they invest the resources in a way that is flexible instead of wasting our money on setting up a recycled-water project which could fail in the future,” said Brent Plater, the executive director of the Wild Equity Institute, one of the groups that has threatened to sue the department.

Neal Desai of the National Parks Conservation Association has the same fears. “We need to keep a close eye on it,” Desai said.

The Recreation and Park Commission is scheduled to vote on whether to move forward with the project at its regular meeting Thursday.


Sharp Park Golf Course is at the center of a years-long debate about habitat restoration for the endangered San Francisco garter snake and the threatened red-legged frog.

May 2009: Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi requires Rec and Park to come up with plan to restore course

November 2009: Rec and Park decides on restoration plan to alter 18-hole course — 34.1 acres preserved; $5.9 million to $11.3 million cost

November 2010: Six environmental groups announce intent to sue

Thursday: Rec and Park commissioners to consider moving forward with $400,000 recycled-water project

Source: Recreation and Park Department

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