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

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


President Trump is threatening to rob $2.5 billion from California flood and habitat restoration programs to build his border wall, including shoreline projects right here in the Bay Area. This direct attack on San Francisco Bay would put our shoreline communities and wildlife habitats at risk. We can’t let that happen.

There’s a lot at stake and as I told the San Francisco Chronicle, this is unacceptable.

Please take action NOW to stop President Trump and protect people and wildlife in the Bay.

Call Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. (suggested comments below)
Washington D.C. Office: (202) 225-4965
San Francisco Office: (415) 556-4862
Reach out to Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Twitter @SpeakerPelosi or Facebook @NancyPelosi
Share the news on your social channels to rally friends and family.

We must tell our leaders in Washington, D.C. to protect our Bay.

Suggested comments for Speaker Nancy Pelosi: 

President Trump is attacking San Francisco Bay, threatening to steal vital flood protection and habitat restoration money to build his border wall. Congress must defend these projects to keep floods from devastating San Jose and other California cities and restore wetlands the Bay needs. Please continue to oppose this illegal seizure of funds Congress approved to ensure public safety in shoreline communities and make the Bay cleaner and healthier for people and wildlife.


We have just learned that the Environmental Protection Agency is preparing to give away its power to protect clean water and wetlands in San Francisco Bay and make it easier for Cargill Salt Co. to pave Redwood City salt ponds for luxury homes.

President Trump’s Acting EPA Administrator, Andrew Wheeler, is preparing to declare that Redwood City salt ponds are not “Waters of the U.S.” protected by the Clean Water Act or Rivers and Harbors Act. This action surrenders federal government jurisdiction to regulate or permit development on that site, overturns decades of legal precedent and overrules previous protections supported by Bay Area EPA officials.

In 2012, Redwood City refused to consider Cargill’s massive housing development project on the salt ponds site. The company and its developer partner, DMB Pacific Ventures then pressed federal agencies to waive their legal authority to regulate filling or developing the salt ponds. (see timeline below). Six years later, U.S. EPA Region 9 officials in San Francisco refused to grant the Cargill/DMB request, after conducting extensive research on the Redwood City ponds and reviewing legal precedents.

But Andrew Wheeler has taken control of the company’s request and could complete the federal giveaway to Cargill and DMB with the stroke of a pen this week.

Cargill should withdraw its request now, before the EPA waives federal jurisdiction over the site.

  • A Trump EPA finding of “no jurisdiction” will threaten San Francisco Bay water quality and wetlands and weaken the Clean Water Act.
  • A Trump EPA finding of “no jurisdiction” rewards a private developer’s political intervention to override environmental protection and public interest, setting a terrible precedent that others will repeat.

Colluding with the Trump Administration’s anti-environment agenda and attacking protections for San Francisco Bay will hurt Cargill and DMB’s Bay Area business – not help:

  • Cargill and DMB are alienating Redwood City and Bay Area residents, and elected officials, who would need to approve any development on the ponds.
  • Cargill and DMB are embracing and abetting the Trump Administration’s agenda to weaken the Clean Water Act and gut pollution regulations; that agenda is especially unpopular in the Bay Area and California.

If the EPA does waive federal authority to regulate these Bay salt ponds as Waters of the U.S., Cargill and DMB will still face many barriers to developing in the Bay:

  • California state laws protect water, wetlands, and the wildlife that currently use those ponds as critical habitat.
  • Redwood City zoning and land use designations prohibit development on those ponds.
  • Any development on the ponds would require significant changes in state and local laws and policies.

Hundreds of local, regional, state and federal leaders are on record over the last decade opposing development on Bay salt ponds, and California’s Governor and Legislature are on record opposing Trump Administration efforts to weaken the Clean Water Act.

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein told a Senate hearing on this topic in 2015, “I’m very concerned about this.  What makes our whole area is the bay, and we do not want it filled in.”

At the same time, U.S. Representative Jackie Speier and 10 Members of Congress said, “Any novel, unilateral re-interpretation of the Clean Water Act must not be created in secret, without opportunity for public input, formal consultation with the EPA or Congressional approval.”

Bay Area residents and all of our region’s federal, state and local leaders must demand that Cargill withdraw its request, and that the EPA continue to uphold the Clean Water Act’s legal protections for San Francisco Bay, including Redwood City salt ponds.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________

Timeline

Cargill and its developer partner DMB Associates have been pressing federal agencies for this finding of “no jurisdiction” since 2012.

  • May 7, 2012 – Cargill/DMB withdraws Saltworks project from the Redwood City after city council committee recommends denying further consideration of the development application that had been pending for 3 years and was still incomplete. Cargill announces it will submit a revised project soon.
  • May 30, 2012 – Cargill/DMB asks the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. EPA for a final jurisdictional determination (JD) for the Redwood City salt ponds site, and asserts that the property should not be subject to either the Clean Water Act or Rivers and Harbors Act. The company’s novel legal theory asserts that water in the ponds is not wet.
  • February 2015 — 11 Bay Area Members of Congress, led by U.S. Representative Jackie Speier, wrote to the Army Corps of Engineers opposing relinquishing federal jurisdiction over the Redwood City salt ponds. Their letter noted that the ponds had previously been determined to be Waters of the United States, and warned that “any novel, unilateral re-interpretation of the Clean Water Act must not be created in secret, without opportunity for public input, formal consultation with the EPA or Congressional approval.”
  • March 18, 2015 – U.S. EPA Region 9 takes over the review of the Clean Water Act JD from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as a “Special Case.” Region 9 proceeds to conduct legal, scientific, and site-specific research on the Redwood City ponds and prepare a JD.
  • September 13, 2016 – DMB requests a six-month pause by Region 9 in preparing the JD.
  • January 2017 – EPA Region 9 sends completed work and recommendation to adopt a final JD to EPA HQ Office of Legal Counsel, but JD is not processed before Trump Administration starts on January 20, 2017.
  • February 22, 2017 – DMB Pacific Ventures requests an additional six-month pause in its request for a JD.
  • March 30, 2018 — Before resigning in disgrace from the Trump cabinet, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt takes away authority for Clean Water Act Special Case JDs from EPA regional offices and assigns it instead to the EPA Administrator himself.
  • December 19, 2018 — Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler is preparing this week to waive federal regulations over Cargill’s Redwood City ponds, adopting the company’s unprecedented legal theory extinguishing Clean Water Act jurisdiction over its Redwood City ponds.

Learn more about Save The Bay’s historic battle with Cargill:

Cargill’s 370-page attack on the Bay

Cargill’s 370-page attack on the Bay-Part 2

 


Bay Area voters showed again this week that we understand climate change is upon us, and we will invest to keep our communities and San Francisco Bay safe and healthy. In fact, we are ahead of voters in other parts of California – and that meant some mixed results on priority ballot measures endorsed by Save The Bay Action Fund.

Your votes made a big impact in this election, producing victories on most ballot measures in our Bay Smart Voter Guide, which benefit San Francisco Bay’s people and wildlife in a time of rapid climate change. Together, we passed measures to protect against sea level rise, reduce pollution, improve transit, and enhance open space. This is huge progress, as you can see in the detailed results below.

Unfortunately, Proposition 3, the state water bond, did not secure enough votes for passage statewide despite winning majorities in most of the Bay Area. In a noisy campaign year with a crowded ballot, we and our Prop. 3 partners needed to communicate the facts to more voters around the state.

Too many state voters did not know that Prop. 3 would help the 1 million Californians who lack safe drinking water, restore thousands of acres of wetlands for wildlife, and advance water recycling. Too many forgot about recent severe droughts and floods Prop. 3 would prepare us to survive.

Nevertheless, we know these threats will keep increasing and sea levels will keep rising. Save The Bay is more committed than ever to educating voters and elected officials that we need to invest in San Francisco Bay, the Bay Area, and beyond. With your support, we will

  • Advocate even harder for Bay Smart Communities, adapting cities and the Bay to survive climate change, pollute less, and prepare more. We will unite partners to win clean water, better transit, affordable housing, and healthier communities for all.
  • Accelerate marsh restoration on the Bay shoreline, to boost wildlife and protect against flooding.
  • Keep educating the next generation and all residents to support the Bay as volunteers, voters, and donors.

Thank you for voting for the Bay! Don’t wait until the next election to stay involved:

  • Volunteer with us to plant wetlands this fall
  • Advocate against trash flowing into the Bay
  • And, please donate generously to support all that Save The Bay does.

Photo credit: Yes on Measure V

As San Jose grows and becomes more expensive, too many hardworking families are being forced out of the city they love. San Jose needs housing to reduce the hours and hours of time workers spend commuting. Affordable housing can reduce commute times and help decrease emissions that lead to pollution and contribute to climate change.

Measure V authorizes $450 million of general obligation bonds to acquire, construct and complete affordable housing in San Jose. Alleviating the critical shortage of affordable housing is essential to creating Bay Smart Communities that improve Bay Area sustainability. Measure V will produce and preserve housing with access to transit so more low-income and middle-income residents aren’t displaced, and can live close to work without long drives that emit pollution and greenhouse gasses that worsen climate change.


Streets in downtown San Jose

Decades of neglect and lack of investment in San Jose’s urban infrastructure have left neighborhoods highly vulnerable to natural disasters and drought, leaving disadvantaged communities shouldering too much of that vulnerability. The February 2017 Coyote Creek flood forced 14,000 people to evacuate and caused $100 million in property damage. San Jose also struggles to comply with regulations to reduce trash and other pollutants from the city’s stormwater that flows into San Francisco Bay.

Measure T authorizes $650 million of general obligation bonds to protect vital infrastructure and people from earthquakes, floods and other disasters, and preserves natural open space. Bond funds will repair deteriorating streets, bridges and stormwater systems, and upgrade emergency preparedness.


Photo credit: Bill Clark

The East Bay Regional Park District provides Bay Area residents with access to public parks and trails along the San Francisco Bay Shoreline, an oasis destination that goes beyond the bustling urban development.

Measure FF funds protection and enhancement of urban parks by extending the current annual parcel tax on property owners in parts of western Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. It extends the tax of $12/year per single-family parcel and $8.28/year for multi-family units, raising approximately $3.3 million annually for the parks.


Photo courtesy of Strengthen Our Seawall for Earthquakes and Disasters, Yes on Prop. A

Proposition A authorizes $425 million in general obligation bonds to repair the 100-year old seawall along San Francisco’s waterfront, whose failure in a major earthquake could flood $100 billion in property and crucial infrastructure.

The Embarcadero already experiences flooding several times each year during King Tides. Floods will occur more often from severe storms, and up to five feet of additional sea level rise is expected this century. Even without a major earthquake, this flooding threatens vital roads along the waterfront, in the financial district, and nearby residential neighborhoods.

Flooding also could inundate BART and Muni tunnels, utility and water systems and historic buildings, such as the Ferry Building and along Fisherman’s Wharf. The Bay is too deep along the San Francisco waterfront to construct marshes for shoreline protection – this is one area where strengthening and raising the seawall is essential.


Eric Hoover found a tire and places it into the pile collected at India Basin Shoreline Park in San Francisco. Photo by Paul Kuroda

The San Francisco Chronicle originally published this article on February 15, 2018

Litter on California’s freeways and state roads is a disgrace, and it’s also one of the biggest reasons San Francisco Bay is choked with trash.

Every time it rains, trash from freeways and busy state roads, like El Camino Real and San Pablo Avenue, pours through storm drains into creeks and, ultimately, San Francisco Bay. Bottles, wrappers, Styrofoam, straws and cigarettes poison fish and wildlife, smother wetland habitat and deface the shoreline.

It’s time for our state transportation agency, Caltrans, to obey the law and stop polluting our waters. For years, Caltrans has violated the federal Clean Water Act and state storm water permits that prohibit uncontrolled trash flows from its roads.

Who bears the burden of that violation? It’s Bay Area cities, which are already striving to meet their own legal obligation to allow zero trash flow to the bay by 2022.

That’s because trash that drains off state roads becomes the local city’s responsibility.

So Caltrans ignoring road trash means cities from Oakland to Santa Clara face higher cleanup bills, or even fines for polluting the bay. That’s not fair. And when a state agency ignores the law, it becomes tougher to hold private individuals and companies accountable for polluting the bay.

Fortunately, the solutions are clear. Caltrans must remove roadside litter more often, and put trash-capture devices in storm drains on highways and right-of-ways. A few of these devices have been installed in problem locations, but only where cities pressed Caltrans hard for action.

In Richmond, Caltrans paid to install two trash separators in storm drains near I-580 that will screen water draining off 831 acres of urban streets. In San Jose, Caltrans agreed to fund a partnership with the city’s Conservation Corps to increase freeway cleanups.

Trash lines the shores of Damon Slough near the McAfee Coliseum and Highway 880, one of the worst trash hotspots in the Bay Area. Photo by Carlos Avila Gonzalez, The Chronicle

Those efforts stop only a fraction of the trash headed from state roads to the bay. In most of the identified trash hot spots, Caltrans is doing nothing — even where trash separators could be incorporated into needed road maintenance. The agency is years behind in dedicating money and setting a specific timeline to cut trash pollution, claiming funding constraints even though its budget this year is $11.3 billion.

The San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board called Caltrans’ behavior “deficient” more than three years ago, and issued a formal notice of violation over a year ago. But the board has not used its power to mandate actions and penalties for these violations. The victims are seals, pelicans and other wildlife choked and poisoned by trash in the bay.

It’s unacceptable for our state agencies to keep violating the Clean Water Act, especially as Gov. Jerry Brown and the state Legislature proclaim our state will uphold federal environmental laws that the Trump administration is trying to erode.

The regional water board should immediately take enforcement action against Caltrans and require the agency to obey the law by cleaning up road litter and installing full trash-capture devices in the worst areas.

Continued violations deserve penalties and fines, just like a private polluter would face.

Until that reckoning, the state is shirking its duty to protect San Francisco Bay, our fish and wildlife, and public health.

So clean up your roads, Caltrans. Stop making San Francisco Bay wildlife and Bay Area cities pay for your pollution.

David Lewis is the executive director of Save The Bay.


Facebook Interns Restoring Wetlands
Facebook Interns Service Day at Bair Island

San Francisco Bay is home to more than 7 million people and is the largest, most valuable estuary on the West Coast. Facebook’s headquarters is located right on the Bay’s beautiful shoreline, and the company has shown its commitment to protecting local habitat and ecosystems —from the innovative 9-acre green roof at its Menlo Park campus to its broader efforts in the Bay Area.

By sponsoring Bay Day 2017, Facebook is helping people all around the Bay celebrate its iconic role in our community, and inspiring us all to better protect this shared natural wonder. Bay Day is San Francisco Bay’s new regional Earth Day. This Bay Day – Saturday, October 7th – is an opportunity to inspire positive environmental actions by connecting communities with immersive, Bay-themed educational and recreational activities.

This is not the first time Facebook and Save The Bay have partnered to protect the Bay. This June, 350 enthusiastic Facebook volunteers came out for a massive Intern Service Day at Bair Island, bringing their incredible work ethic to our three-acre Inner Bair Island restoration site. Facebook’s volunteers completed 100 days of restoration work in just one day.

At Save The Bay, Facebook’s platforms are vital to everything we do, from spreading the word about the Bay-spanning events this Bay Day to engaging citizens with our vision of a clean and healthy Bay.

This Saturday, October 7th, Facebook’s sponsorship is supporting volunteer restoration events in Redwood City and Palo Alto, and a total of 70 community events around the Bay. And for people and families who can’t make it to one of these public celebrations – Facebook helped us launch My Bay Day Adventure Guide, an interactive, online guide to experience Bay Day from your mobile device. I love how the My Bay Day experience helps people to discover the Bay in a new way, through each of our senses, and hope you and your family enjoy it too.

Save The Bay is proud of our partnership with Facebook, and we are grateful for all the company does to protect San Francisco Bay and the communities that call the area home.  Together, we can ensure a healthy and resilient Bay for generations to come.