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Dianne Feinstein remembered as tireless advocate for California conservation

Dianne Feinstein was tireless advocate for environment, California conservation
Dianne Feinstein was tireless advocate for environment, California conservation 03:11

HAYWARD -- Throughout her career in the U.S. Senate, Dianne Feinstein was a champion for the environment and conservation of California's wild places.

In 2003, Feinstein helped negotiate the purchase of thousands of acres of salt ponds from Cargill on the San Francisco Bay with the goal of restoring them to tidal wetland.

On the edge of Eden Landing in Hayward, restored areas teem with wildlife and provide a place for people to go canoeing -- another part of the Bay Area that has Feinstein's legacy stamped on it.

"This wouldn't have happened without her. She was the primary driving force behind the acquisition of the 15,000 acres of salt ponds from Cargill," said Dave Halsing, executive project manager of the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project.

Halsing said they're almost halfway done with the restoration.

It's the largest tidal wetland restoration project on the West Coast, according to the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project's website.

Halsing said he often gives presentations on the history of the project, adding that they always include Feinstein's name.

Areas of Eden Landing were some of the first to be restored.

"This is one of the earliest bits of tidal marsh restoration that was in the restoration project. These ponds were open to tidal flows in 2008," Halsing said.

The first completed part of the project came in September 2010 in East Palo Alto. Feinstein was there celebrating the accomplishment.

KCBS radio in San Francisco recorded Feinstein's words from that day.

"This is a remarkable beginning. It is perhaps the most costly of all because of various things that had to be accomplished here and were accomplished," Feinstein said.

Feinstein advocated for the environment throughout her career.

In 1997, Feinstein helped inaugurate the annual Lake Tahoe Summit, a partnership between Nevada and California to keep the lake healthy and forests maintained.

Back at the Eden Landing Ecological Reserve, there's a trail and an area for families to spend time together and observe the abundant avian life on display in the marshlands.

"One of the features was to build this non-motorized boat launch area here. You can drive in, drop off your boat, park your car back in that lot, walk down here, paddle right out to the bay," Halsing said.

Feinstein once said she wanted to see the restoration project done in her lifetime.

In 2010, she urged people to work together.

"We must find the most cost-effective way to complete this job and you must get it done in the next 20 or so years," she said. The audience laughed.

Halsing is one of the people hoping to make that happen.

"To get to do something like this, in the place I grew up and be part of connecting people back to the bay and wildlife around it and make the habitats around everyone healthier, it's a privilege. I'm standing on the shoulders of giants, like Dianne Feinstein," he said.

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