December 13, 2018

Reflowing the Sierra to the Sea

A fall flight over the Mexican coast where the Colorado River meets the Sea of Cortez offered me a gut-punching, eye-screwing, visual on the results of impaired flow. The semantics of ‘unimpaired’ and ‘impaired’ flow have laced the language of California water management debates since some engineer invented these politically ‘neutral’ terms long ago. The terms refer to our alteration of freshwater flows from snowmelt and runoff by dams and diversions. But whatever the labels, or whichever estuary you’re referring...
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Green Cement Blues

For the last three years, an environmental storm has been brewing in the North Bay city of Vallejo. Some elements of the story are familiar: grassroots activists pitted against a multinational corporate developer, environmental justice versus the lure of new jobs. Add historical preservation, iconic wildlife, political shenanigans, and the unexpected involvement of the California Attorney General’s office, and the mix becomes more complex. An Irish cement company and its local partners want to build a processing plant and a...
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Greening Dickson’s Heights

Looking east from the levee-top trail, a silvery swath of bay is dotted with low islands -- some tufted with plants, others mere muddy humps that barely break the surface. This is low tide at the nearly 1,000-acre Sears Point wetland restoration project on the western side of San Pablo Bay. The islands, 500 in all, are actually man-made mounds, scattered across the mudflat as an integral part of the restoration design. Each is roughly 60 feet across and was...
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Estuary Partners Choose their Battles Coast to Coast

A boatload of estuary experts from around the country gathered on an early October day to tour the prettiest part of San Francisco Bay. They paid rather less attention to Alcatraz and the Golden Gate than to each other. In town for the National Estuary Program’s annual Tech Transfer Conference, they had come to compare notes and strategies from the 28 varied bays, bights, bayous, and river mouths that benefit from one of the nation’s most durable, and efficient, environmental...
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Saltwater Revival

“Swimming sustains me,” says Fran Hegeler of the South End Rowing Club. That’s the kind of enthusiastic language some Bay swimmers express, but sharing the water means sharing it in sickness and in health. Right now, Sausalito’s Marine Mammal Center is dealing with a large outbreak of leptospirosis, a bacterial infection that can cause fatal kidney damage in California sea lions. But it isn’t likely to affect swimmers, as the bacteria is not known to survive long in saltwater.
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Toxic Soup Strains Silos

Headlines about falsified tests are just the latest development in a long history of frustrations for Hunters Point in San Francisco. Recently, the neighborhood has been in the news due to fraud in the cleanup of the former Navy shipyard, contaminated with radioactive waste from nuclear research. In what is now called by some the biggest case of eco-fraud in U.S. history, 97 percent of the cleanup results are in question and two supervisors have been sentenced to prison.
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Sleuthing Sturgeon Snags

Local green sturgeon are struggling. The population that spawns in the Sacramento –San Joaquin River Delta was declared federally threatened in 2006. Researchers at UC Davis, which hosts the world’s only green sturgeon rearing program, are now trying to figure out why the fish is in trouble. “If we knew how large they are when they’re moving through each portion of the system, we’d know a lot more about the threats they face at each life state, and where we...
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State Could Step Up

Despite an official California policy in place since 1992 that calls for “no net loss” of wetlands, the lack of a specific wetlands definition has led to the loss of many thousands of acres of ecologically important lands. That could change soon, thanks to an update from the State Water Resources Control Board expected out soon after more than a decade of work. California environmentalists are optimistic that the updated policy, titled “State Wetland Definition and Procedures for Discharges of...
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Calculating the Cost of Adaptation

What makes a bond green? When the debt is issued specifically to bankroll projects with tangible environmental benefits. So when the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission faced a hefty price tag for major infrastructure overhauls, they chose to go green. “The goal is to get to $1 trillion in annual green bond issuances by 2020,” says Mike Brown, the SFPUC environmental manager who oversees the $1.4 billion in green bonds that the commission has issued since 2015. To Brown, the...
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Hauling Out on Higher Ground

Harbor Seals “have this dual existence,” says Sarah Allen, National Park Service ecologist. “They’re tied to the land physiologically and tied to the bay waters for food and travel.” From rocky islets to tidal marshes, the Bay shoreline offers respite to these native marine mammals. Rocky islets like the Castro Rocks, located near the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, are particularly important refuges -- but more than half the islets that exist throughout the Bay are likely to be erased by sea-level...
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Shark Hunt Stand Off

In the spring and summer months, anglers armed with heavy line and large hooks drop anchor in the murky, current-torn waters between Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge seeking the elusive, and occasionally gigantic, broadnose sevengill shark. As social-media hype stokes excitement among trophy seekers, some other fisherfolk and conservationists want to see the pursuit ended before it depletes shark numbers. While interest in catching large, breeding-age sevelgills has risen in recent years, it remains unclear whether the population can...
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Medicating the Bay

“If you went to the doctor and told them you were taking 69 different pharmaceuticals,” says Emma Rosi of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, “they would be very concerned with your well-being.” When a study she co-authored detected that number of pharmaceutical compounds in caddisfly larvae along an Australian creek downstream of a treatment plant, it was further evidence that excreted drugs are escaping wastewater facilities and entering food webs. The Bay is no exception. A survey conducted by...
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River Flows on the Brink

It was a rare decisive moment in California water. On December 12, the State Water Resources Control Board resolved, at the close of a marathon meeting, to require more water to be left in the Tuolumne, Merced, Stanislaus, and lower San Joaquin Rivers. In the first of three planned amendments to the Bay-Delta Water Quality Plan, the board set early season flows in the three mountain streams at 40 percent of “unimpaired” levels (actually a range of 30-50 percent). These...
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About Us

The San Francisco Bay-Delta is named in the federal Clean Water Act as one of 28 “estuaries of national significance." For over 20 years, the San Francisco Estuary Partnership has worked together with local communities and federal and state agencies to improve the health of California’s most urbanized estuary.

San Francisco Estuary Partnership 1515 Clay Street, Suite 1400 Oakland, CA 94612 (510) 622-2304

Association of Bay Area Governments