Month

September 2018

Spring-run Salmon Need More Than Simple Answers

Salmon once flourished in California despite huge swings in climate that were far more extreme than those today. But then people re-engineered the state’s waterways to meet their own needs. “Complexity is what salmon thrive on, and we’ve been making their habitat simpler and simpler,” says biologist Bruce Herbold.  “We haven’t been playing to their strengths.”
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Recent Milestones for the Twin Tunnels and WaterFix

Spring and summer 2018 saw frenzied activity around California WaterFix, the latest iteration of a decades-long, on-again-of-again effort to convey fresh water from the Sacramento River to the South Delta while bypassing the Delta itself. Governor Jerry Brown has made WaterFix a top priority, but the project – including twin tunnels comprising the largest infrastructure project in state history – still faces a raft of uncertainties.
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26
Sep

Cigarette Butts Still the Number One Item in Coastal Trash

The number one item still found in California’s beach and coast clean ups is cigarette butts, according to Surfrider’s San Francisco chapter director Shelley Ericksen. Surfrider’s “Hold-on-to-your-Butt” campaign, launched in 1992, and local law enforcement have failed to make a dent in the habit of smokers tossing their butts anywhere they please, and this isn’t good for the environment. A 2011 study in the journal Tobacco Control showed that a single butt in a liter of water can lethally poison fish; on a more local level, San Francisco Estuary Institute studies have found that estuary waters contain anywhere from two to ten times as many microplastic particles (cigarette filters are made of plastic) as samples from Chesapeake Bay on the...
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26
Sep

San Joaquin Communities Access Cleaner Water Due to New Legislation

The only water easily available to many low-income inhabitants of the San Joaquin Valley’s smaller, non-incorporated settlements is well water tainted with arsenic and nitrates from surrounding activities. But two state bills ensure that these communities – and everyone else in California – not only have the right to safe, clean, and affordable drinking water, but also get access to public water infrastructure and services as needed. Assembly Bill 2501, approved this fall, “makes sure the state’s consolidation authority can order a city or special district to extend clean drinking water services to people in domestic dwellings,” says Phoebe Seaton of the Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability. Advocacy on the part of affected communities, with help from organizations like...
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26
Sep

Dioxins Are Sticking Around Nearshore and in Fish, RMP Reports

As the “Fish-SMART” signs on local piers warn, the tissues of fish reeled in from San Francisco Bay waters can contain mercury or PCBs, but a new RMP report reminds us of a third contaminant of concern to human health: dioxins. The report, due out in October 2018 and prepared by staff of the San Francisco Estuary Institute and the SF Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board, confirms that while levels of this toxic contaminant in sediments nearshore have declined somewhat in the last few decades, dioxins persist in the food chain in fish such as white croaker.
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26
Sep

Following the Water: Bobcats in Coyote Valley

By Ashleigh Papp From a bird’s eye view, the area between the Santa Cruz and Diablo mountain ranges looks like any typical valley. But the work being done by Tanya Diamond, a wildlife biologist with Pathways for Wildlife, shows that the Coyote Valley offers much more to native wildlife and conservationists than mere open space. With satellite tracking collars and footage captured by hidden cameras, Diamond’s team has confirmed just how much water – Coyote and Fisher Creeks in particular — influences wildlife movement. Wildlife including big cats and small mammals use the creeks to navigate the landscape and raise young, taking advantage of riparian resources and cover. The Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority and the Santa Clara Valley...
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26
Sep

Big Restoration Experiment for the Delta’s Dutch Slough

Development agreements were already in place for three parcels of land around Dutch Slough when John Cain first took a hike in this West Delta area in the spring of 1999. “It was clear as day to me that removing the levee would be a great way to restore freshwater wetlands at the mouth of Marsh Creek,” says Cain. Almost two decades later, earthmoving equipment is now preparing 1,178 acres for conversion to marsh habitat.
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26
Sep

Constellation of Climate Events Lifts State Spirits

“We are seeing events we have never seen before,” said California Natural Resources Secretary John Laird to the over 750 attendees of the California Adaptation Forum on August 28th. Inside the cavernous ballroom of the Sheraton Grand in downtown Sacramento, Laird ticked off to the audience the evidence that climate change is present in California: wildfires burning faster and hotter, rainfall five hundred percent above normal, and longer lasting Central Valley heatwaves. “[Climate change] is happening, we’re experiencing it, and we’re in the middle of it right now,” concluded Laird. “What we’ve seen is frightening, but we can’t allow ourselves to be paralyzed.”
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Kitchen Sink Update on Every Last Invader

On multiple fronts, with multiple forces and weapons, California’s battle against invasive aquatic organisms continues. Notoriously, San Francisco Bay is the world’s most invaded estuary. The state’s lakes, rivers, and other freshwater wetlands have their own problematic exotics. Keeping them out, and preventing their spread once established, requires coordination among agencies and levels of government.
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26
Sep

The State’s Biggest Landlord Reconsiders Its Neighbors

When Mari Rose Taruc approached California environmental justice (EJ) leaders about advising the California State Lands Commission on its EJ policy, they didn’t know what she was talking about. “They were like, what does the State Lands Commission do?” recalls Taruc with a chuckle. Over the past six months, a two-way discovery has since taken place between the agency and the resulting EJ working group. Overlapping interests emerged, revealing a surprising abundance of opportunities for collaboration. The discovery is significant because State Lands wields bureaucratic power often out of reach of small EJ groups. As Taruc quips, it is “the state’s biggest landlord.”
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