Pacifica water tank infuriates activists 

The approval of a 400,000-gallon, 30-foot high recycled water tank in Pacifica’s Sharp Park has been met with fury by environmental activists who say it will destroy the area’s natural habitat. Although activists are concerned that the project will ruin the aesthetics of the area, they are more concerned with the effect the tank will have on two protected species.

The water tank, which will use recycled sewage water from the nearby Calera Creek Wastewater Treatment Plantto irrigate the park’s golf course, is a partnership between the North Coast County Water District and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. Located in the Pacifica, the park is owned and managed by the city of San Francisco.

Brent Plater, visiting assistant professor and staff attorney at Golden Gate University’s Environmental Law and Justice Clinic, said the park is a "hidden jewel," and the environmental report hasn’t given enough consideration to the environment.

Of particular concern are impacts on the threatened California red-legged frog and the endangered San Francisco garter snake.

Stan Kaufman, a volunteer who works with three of The City’s natural area program sites, agreed.

"Waste water (for irrigation) is good idea. The problem is the three miles of pipeline and tank in the middle of a significant natural resource area," Kaufman said, adding that the location of the tank, in the park’s archery range, would have a considerably negative impact on the watershed.

Kevin O’Connell, general manager of the North Coast County Water District, said the permits for the project, which will include three miles of piping, were obtained through the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department last August.

"Our motivation is to offset use of potable water, something we need to consider as the population increase," O’Connell said.

O’Connell saida biological survey conducted in 2004 found no species in the archery range area would be harmed, mainly because the range is already considered a "disturbed" area.

The $10 million project is in the process of being contracted out, and if all goes as planned the tank pipeline construction should begin in mid-June, O’Connell said. The funds for it will come from a Proposition 50 state grant.

THE CALIFORNIA RED-LEGGED FROG

Status: Listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act since June 1996

Description: Thought to have inspired Mark Twain’s tale of "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County," the frog is between 1 and 1.5 inches in length and has a brown, gray, red or olive green background and pink or red hind legs and belly.

Diet: Insects, arachnids and mollusks

Habitat: The frogs inhabit 238 streams in 23 counties, but are primarily found in wetlands and streams in coastal drainages of central California.

THE SAN FRANCISCO GARTER SNAKE

Status: Listed as a threatened species by the Endangered Species Act since March 1967

Description: With adults reaching up to three feet in length, the snake has a burnt orange head, greenish-yellow dorsal stripe edged in black that is bordered by a red stripe. Its belly color varies from greenish-blue to blue.

Diet: Mainly frogs, small fish.

Habitat: Near water, ponds, streams, marshes and ditches. The San Francisco watershed in San Mateo County has the largest wild population of the snake.

For more local eco-news, go to the San Francisco Environment page.

eeconomides@examiner.com

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