The Portuguese State entered into an agreement with the European Union regarding the construction of the Vasco da Gama bridge to safeguard the Samouco Salt Pans Complex and to create conditions for their renovation and future maintenance.
The expropriation of the Samouco Salt Pans Complex and the first renovation phase of the salt pans were to be carried out not by the Portuguese State but by Lusoponte, the concessionaire of the Vasco da Gama bridge. Renovation work was undertaken by Lusoponte in compliance with the terms laid out in the Environment Impact Study.
The expropriation of close to 300 hectares began in 1997. The first renovation phase of the salt pans resulted in the fencing off of the expropriated area, the renovation of 42 sluice gates, the cleaning of the gillnets, ditches, paths and wells, the renovation of a number of buildings, namely the centre of Pinheirinhos. This phase also involved the renovation of the Nossa Senhora da Conceição de Matos chapel She is the local patron saint and object of a centuries-old cult and honoured once a year on December 8th.
With the purpose of promoting the conservation and maintenance of the Samouco salt pans as well as studying, implementing and running the practical application of a socio-economic and sustainable development model for the Salt Pans Complex, Decree-Law nr. 306/2000, November 28 established a foundation known as “Fundação para a Protecção de Gestão Ambiental das Salinas do Samouco” (Foundation for the Environment Management of the Samouco Salt Pans).
The Foundation includes a Board of Auditors and a Board of Directors with a president and a maximum of 4 members, The Foundation's president is Prof. José Manuel Palma.
There is also a Founders' Board which is an advisory body to the Board of Directors where Lusoponte is represented by a permanent member.
The priorities of the Foundation's short term plan of activities are to maintain and to increase the bird fauna communities, to promote the sustainable use of natural resources, to disseminate and raise awareness on the conservation of nature, especially concerning the salt pans and to promote the technical and scientific research of wetlands.