Estuary News

March 2021

Refreshing the Estuary Blueprint

The San Francisco Estuary Partnership’s next update to its 2016 Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan for the Estuary—or Estuary Blueprint—will bring a new focus on equity and environmental justice to ongoing efforts to restore and protect the Bay and Delta.

“We really want to do more to engage communities of color and indigenous communities as partners in our work,” says Partnership Director Caitlin Sweeney. “So we are looking at all our actions and initiatives through the lens of environmental justice and racial equity inclusion, as we do with climate change.”

Sweeney says the update’s steering committee is taking a multi-pronged approach to integrating equity and environmental justice into the Partnership’s work. “We are looking at every single one of the Blueprint’s listed actions and asking a series of questions about it,” she says, including questions about the unintended consequences of actions, and where there are opportunities to include equity considerations.

The Blueprint occupies a unique niche in environmental planning, in that it is “the only plan that covers all aspects of environmental protection for both the Bay and the Delta,” says Implementation Committee Chair Tom Mumley of the SF Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board. The Blueprint, which is updated every five years, is the product of a collaborative process that involves more than 70 agencies and organizations. The 2016 update—which reflected a major overhaul of previous versions of the plan—included 32 specific actions tied to both urgent priorities and long-term goals.

This time around, “we’re not talking about a comprehensive rewrite, we’re looking for strategic improvements,” says Mumley. “It will give us the opportunity, though, to look at better integration of the existing actions and tasks.”

Another new focus is to invite the social sciences into the Bay-Delta management conversation. According to IC Vice Chair Amanda Bohl of the Delta Stewardship Council, “The social sciences add value to the natural science research that’s already going on, and there are a lot of areas where the two can be interacting and connecting better.”

Sweeney adds that a related topic being explored is the overall area of human dimensions. “We understand that the health and vibrancy of our communities is very much tied to the health and vibrancy of our natural systems,” she says, citing proximity to open space and its impact on community health. “We’ve seen great examples of that during the pandemic, how important it is to get out to open spaces.” Sweeney expects the updated Blueprint to be released in early 2022.

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Don’t miss the new Estuary Voices Podcast embedded above where Caitlin Sweeney and Amanda Bohl discuss how to humanize and connect Estuary Management.

About the author

Cariad Hayes Thronson covers legal and political issues for Estuary News. She has served on the staffs of several national publications, including The American Lawyer. She is a long-time contributor to Estuary News, and some years ago served as its assistant editor. She lives in San Mateo with her husband and two children.

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