Allison Chan from Save The Bay finds a massive pile of illegally dumped trash near the Coliseum Way on-ramp to Interstate 880 in Oakland. Photo: Jessica Christian / The Chronicle

On February 13, after a seven-hour hearing, the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board voted unanimously for an unprecedented Cease and Desist Order against Caltrans. Now the state’s transportation agency must speed up trash removal from freeways and state roads and stop it from polluting creeks and the Bay, or face $25,000-a-day fines.

This extraordinary victory capped off a two year plus advocacy campaign Save The Bay waged, backed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, more than 75 Bay Area elected officials, partner organizations, and thousands of supporters and action-takers.

Follow along the timeline to victory below.

Save The Bay Campaign Timeline

December 2016: At our urging, and backed by thousands of public petition-signers, the Regional Board issued a Notice of Violation to Caltrans for failing to do its job.

March 2018: Repeated failures to respond to the Notice of Violation led the Regional Board to direct their staff to develop a draft Cease and Desist Order on Caltrans.

April 2018: A hearing was held with Caltrans and the State Senate Budget Subcommittee on Resources, Environmental Protection, Energy and Transportation to address the Notice of Violation. Caltrans failed to present a credible plan to address the issue and clean up the trash.

December 2018: The Regional Board issued a draft Cease and Desist Order to compel Caltrans to comply with trash requirements on a specific multi-year schedule and received public comment through mid-January. Save The Bay drove thousands of public comments to the Board.

February 2019: VICTORY!  

In a seven hour hearing,  Elected officials, Save The Bay staff, and partner organizations spoke in favor of a strong enforcement order to push Caltrans to clean up their trash faster.

Caltrans argued that it cannot afford to increase trash control and screening efforts. Caltrans annual budget is more than $13 billion this year. Thanks to strong leadership from Board Chair Terry Young and Vice-Chair Jim McGrath, Board members rejected this argument.

Caltrans then made last minute appeals to reduce the acreage covered in the Order and give them more time.  Again, Board members stood firm, specifically highlighting Caltrans’ utter failure to make progress in the last five years.

The Board voted 6-0 to adopt a very strong Cease and Desist Order that requires Caltrans to accelerate trash pollution control efforts on freeways, state highways and roads like El Camino Real and San Pablo Avenue. The Board doubled the required area and pace of cleanup Caltrans must complete, beyond what its own staff had recommended in the draft Order.

While this Bay victory is exciting, the work is far from over. We intend to advance this effort with the Legislature and Governor Newsom: integral players in keeping Caltrans funded and accountable to the Order.  

Key Media Links

Caltrans ordered to clean up the roadways or face up to $25,000-a-day fines | San Francisco Chronicle

Caltrans Must Clean Up Trash Along Roads Or Face Steep Fines | KCBS

All that trash on Bay Area highways? Caltrans under threat of fines if it’s not cleaned up | San Francisco Chronicle

Opinion: State must stop Caltrans pollution of San Francisco Bay | Mercury News

Winter Storms Pollute San Francisco Bay Waters With Trash | CBS Local

Caltrans, stop trashing San Francisco Bay | San Francisco Chronicle

San Francisco Bay is a bountiful haven for wildlife. Walking along the bayshore can reveal coverts of coots paddling along lagoons and shallow bays, perhaps joined by a raft or paddling of different duck species. Walk along any of San Francisco Bay’s many marshes, and you could find herds of curlews and flings of dunlin probing through mudflats at low tide in search of a consortium of crabs. You may stumble upon a sedge of bitterns or herons slinking through the rushes, tules (and yes, sedges) of the Bay’s wetlands in search of a hood of snails to eat. You may even pass a charm of finches or a host of sparrows on your walk along the trail. Perhaps a scurry of squirrels will scurry across your path on your wildlife safari? If you’re really lucky, you may even see a congregation of plovers, like the threatened Snowy Plover, amongst the salt flats.

Further out into the Bay, pods of seals, dolphins and whales feast on the schools and shoals of fish lurking under the bays waters. Along the shoreline there may even be a romp of otters chowing down on beds of oysters or herds of sea urchins.

A glance upwards to the sky reveals ever more wildlife. A trip over the San Mateo or Dunbarton Bridge provides a perfect viewing spot for a pod of pelicans, and you can often find flights of cormorants perched on electrical towers.

As the temperature rises in the afternoon you may find a kettle or cast of hawks catching the warm updrafts in search of prey. Or perhaps you’ll stumble upon a wake or committee of vultures feeding on carrion? You’ve likely seen skeins of Canada Geese flying overhead on their migration north; if not a gaggle of them can often be found roaming our parks and soccer fields.

Even the urban bay reveals plentiful wildlife. Our cities are havens for squabbles of seagulls, mischiefs of rats, or kits of pigeons. It’s not uncommon to find an unkindness of ravens or a murder of crows either. Perhaps you’ve even seen a glittering of hummingbirds visiting your bird feeder?

We are thrilled to announce that we have a new website that showcases our work to protect and restore San Francisco Bay for people and wildlife.

What’s changed? A lot. We have re-built from the ground up with bold colors, new content, a mobile-friendly platform, and fun illustrations like this little fella here (we call him Melvin).

You can explore the new site in a fun and interactive way by joining us for a week-long Scavenger Hunt Contest starting February 4 through February 8. We will have daily clues and winners so stay tuned.

Here’s how it works:

  • Each day we will share a question or clue on our blog and via Facebook.
  • Send us the correct answer via email or by posting the answer as a comment on Facebook.
  • The first two people to answer correctly will win a Save The Bay t-shirt (see rules/regulations*).

Visit our new site. Get Inspired. Be a part of our Bay-Saving Community!

Let the Scavenger Hunt Begin!

We couldn’t have accomplished this project without The David and Lucile Packard Foundation and The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. A huge thanks to our incredible Web Development team at Citizen Best. We are forever grateful for their creative vision, support and perseverance.

*Please read official rules and regulations.