South Bay Salt Works
Salt Works montage
|La Punta Salt Works (1869–1901)
Western Salt Company (1902–1999)
It is the second-longest running business in San Diego, behind the San Diego Union Tribune. In the Chula Vista, it is the city's longest running business. Although in the Chula Vista area, it is not within the Chula Vista city limits; according to the City Attorney of San Diego, the property is in the Nestor neighborhood.
Initially the operation began as the La Punta Salt Company. Records date it back to at least 1871, while another sources state that the area has been used as a salt works as early as the 1860s. It has been in operation since the 1870s, when the city first experienced the effects of the Industrial Revolution. In 1883, the salt works were the only salt producer in the United States, supplying the salt needs of all of Southern California. Around the turn of the 20th century, the salt works were the only industrial employment in the Chula Vista area, other than produce packing plants.
In 1902, La Punta Salt Works was purchased, and renamed to Western Salt Company. In the 1910s, about forty thousand tons of salt were harvested annually from the salt works. In 1915, a narrow-gauge railway was installed, and crossed over standard-gauge rail of the San Diego and Arizona Railway; the narrow-gauge railway was dismantled in the 1970s, except for where it crossed over standard-gauge rail, preserving the only instance of such an occurrence in the United States. In 1916, operations were disrupted due to flooding; the flood destroyed the salt ponds and the salt works built up to that point. In 1918, reconstruction began due to damage caused during the 1916 flooding, finally reaching completion in the 1950s. After the 1910s, other salt producers in San Diego County closed, leaving the salt works the sole salt producer in the county.
In the 1920s another company, California Chemical Corporation, extracted bromine from the waters from the salt ponds. In addition the company also produced magnesium chloride, beginning as early as the 1910s. Production of bromine ended after World War II.
During the majority of the 20th century, amount of salt harvested at the salt works remained relatively constant. Joined by other salt producers in the state, the salt works was the second largest salt producer in California. As late as 1978, the salt works supplied the salt needs of San Diego's tuna fleet. In 1999, the salt ponds were sold to the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority, transferring the salt ponds to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service; both have leased it out for continued salt harvesting. The leasers are a company formed by former employers of Western Salt Company, who changed the name to its present name, maintaining the buildings as private property of the salt works itself. In 2005, right of way of the former Coronado Belt Line in the salt pools, were designated historic by the city of San Diego; later converted into a bike path as part of the "Bayshore Bikeway", despite the historic designation. In 2009, the city of San Diego claimed land use authority over the property.
On the West Coast of the United States, only San Francisco Bay and San Diego Bay have the natural conditions where salt extraction from sea salt is feasible. Water evaporated at the salt works come from the ocean, not the bay. The salt works produces about 75,000 tons of salt every year from salt ponds that cover over a thousand acres of land Since operations began at the salt works, more than a million and a half tons of salt have been harvested. Gypsum can also be sourced from the salt works, as was done in a 2008 study of the mineral. Magnesium chloride, is also produced during the process of the solar salt operation, and is sold for industrial use. In 2005, the salt works employed twenty-two people.
Since 1999, the parcel which the salt works is on has been owned the San Diego Regional Airport Authority, leased to the South Bay Salt Works company. In 2015, the Airport Authority planned to sell the land which the salt works are on to the San Diego Foundation, to mitigate the building of a substation by San Diego Gas & Electric. It is planned that when the lease on the land ends, the buildings will be re-purposed similar to those on Cannery Row. One possible use previously proposed is to convert the salt works into an interpretive center for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service; that usage has been supported by multiple regional politicians and organizations.
The salt ponds of the salt works, fall within the San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The salinity of the salt ponds, creates an environment which breeds brine flies and brine shrimp, which are a food source for the birds. During the winter months, there are monthly tours out into the salt ponds, to observe migratory birds.
94 different species of birds reside in the area of the salt ponds, including migratory species; seven of the species are threatened or endangered. In 2010, over twenty thousand birds were counted at the salt ponds, including the endangered species California least tern and Gull-billed tern.
In 2011, at the cost of almost $8 million, two of the western most ponds were restored to marshland. In 2013, a study of the hypersaline waters of the salt works was published, showing that its microbial make up different substantially from those of a similar salt pond in Santa Pola, Spain. Due to the presence of these threatened and endangered species at the salt ponds, they were included in Port of San Diego's natural resources management plan, which was completed in September 2013.
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P-37-026582 is the historic Western Salt Company Salt Works, which has been in operation since the 1860s.
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Mike Westlake; Patricia Grabski (30 August 2007). "Bayshore Bikeway – Project No. 1901. Process 5" (PDF). Planning Commission. City of San Diego. Retrieved 2 May 2015.
Ed Kravitz (19 December 2014). "I’m going to bury your little railroad.". San Diego Reader. Retrieved 2 May 2015.
- Lou Ann Speulda-Drews; Nicholas Valentine (9 March 2009). "Appendix E: Identification and Evaluation of the South San Francisco Solar Salt Industry Landscape" (PDF). South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project. United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Retrieved 2 May 2015.
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- Andrew D. Aubrey (2008). Amino Acid Biosignatures – Implications for the Detection of Extinct Or Extant Microbial Communities on Mars. ProQuest. pp. 34–35. ISBN 978-0-549-49065-4.
- Pentiss Williams (9 November 2006). "Western Salt Works Site Assessment and South San Diego Bay Trail Linkages" (PDF). Coastal Conservancy. State of California. Retrieved 1 May 2015.
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- "Map". San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge. United States Fish and Wildlife Service. 2015. Retrieved 30 April 2015.
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Joyce, Ed; McVicker, Nicholas (2 November 2011). "Estuary Reborn In South San Diego Bay". KPBS. San Diego. Retrieved 1 May 2015.
"South San Diego Bay Restoration". Project Board. Southern California Wetlands Recovery Project. 2015. Retrieved 1 May 2015.
- Zhaxybayeva, Olga; Stepanauskas, Ramunas; Mohan, Nikhil Ram; Papke, R. Thane (29 January 2013). "Cell sorting analysis of geographically separated hypersaline environments.". Extremophiles. Springer. 17 (2): 265–275. doi:10.1007/s00792-013-0514-z. Retrieved 1 May 2015.
- "Natural Resources & Wildlife". Environment. Unified Port of San Diego. 2015. Retrieved 30 April 2015.
- Bryce Pierce (24 July 2011). Black Skimmer Study Salt Works San Diego. YouTube.
- Larry Booth; Vernon Heger; Joseph Haase; Lee Passmore; Ralph P. Stineman; Jimmy Erickson (2013). "Digital Collections – Western Salt Company". UC San Diego. Regents of University of California.
- Steve Schoenherr (12 December 2014). "La Punta". Sunnycv.com. South Bay Historical Society.
- Carrie J. Gregory (2005). "Sustainability of the Western Salt Company Salt Works, San Diego, California" (PDF). ahlp.org. Alliance for Hist Landscape.
- Vintage San Diego (25 June 2014). South Bay Salt Works – 1967. YouTube.