My name is Ian McKernan and I am a 7th grader at Shorecliffs Middle School in Orange County. Although I live in Southern California, I have visited the Bay Area many times and am always impressed with how clean and good the Bay looks. It’s always fun for me to see how many people enjoy it too. Personally, I like to sail around Dana Point Harbor, so I always look for people sailing on the water.
National History Day (NHD) is a year-long school program where students do research on historical topics that they choose and develop projects about them. The projects are then entered into contests at the local and state levels and the top projects from each state advance to the national contest in Washington D.C. at the end of the school year. More than half a million middle and high school students participate in NHD annually.
While researching the story of saving the Bay, I was most surprised to learn that San Francisco Bay was not protected by environmental laws in the 1960s like it is today. At that time, landowners, cities, and factories could build on the Bay and dump their toxic trash directly into the Bay. And they did just that! I was also surprised to learn that the laws that we have today resulted from the efforts of Save The Bay’s founders, not from the existing environmental groups or politicians at that time.
I was also impressed by how enthusiastic the people I interviewed for my project (Save The Bay’s Executive Director David Lewis, former Chief Engineer of the Bay Model William Angeloni, Sylvia McLaughlin’s daughter Jeanie Shaterian, and Senator McAteer’s son Dr. Terry McAteer) were when talking about an event that happened over 50 years ago. Their enthusiasm showed me how the women’s fight had a huge impact on the San Francisco Bay we enjoy today, and the importance of continuing their legacy of conservation into the future.
A deluge of trash is flowing through Oakland’s storm drains and depositing so much litter in San Francisco Bay that regulators are threatening to levy fines if the city doesn’t do something to tidy up.
WASHINGTON — A Trump administration budget proposal released Tuesday that even some Republicans dismissed as too draconian would slash hundreds of billions of dollars from programs that provide health coverage to low-income people in California and the rest of the country.
I wonder at first why David Lewis has chosen to meet at Point Isabel, a somewhat nondescript stretch of filled Bay shoreline at the south edge of Richmond.
“What we’re standing on shouldn’t be here,” Lewis admits. “But look around!” He gestures toward the hills. “Up there is where Kay Kerr lived.” Kerr, one of the three founders of Save The Bay, the organization Lewis now heads, looked down on this shore when it was a row of active landfills pushing into the Bay—and knew she must take a stand. At home in Kensington, Lewis enjoys a similar but now less alarming view.
He gestures toward the Golden Gate. Under a streaky gray December sky is the glimmering reach of the Central Bay, bounded by its three big bridges, cradling its four big islands. In the campaign for Measure AA, the wetland restoration measure, “we learned what people see in their minds when they hear the word ‘Bay’.” It’s this: the bridges, the islands, the cities next to the water. Other stretches of bayshore are wider, wilder than Point Isabel. There are better places, north and south of here, for marshland restoration; there are better places to be alone with a big sky. Lewis is especially fond of China Camp in Marin and the vast expanses near Alviso. “But people like nature with people. That’s what we learned.”
Lewis grew up on an urbanized bayshore not unlike this one, in Palo Alto. The waterfront the family liked to visit had everything proper to such a shore: a duck pond, a sewage treatment plant, an airport where they went “to watch planes land,” and a dump. “Of course we went to the dump. The dump was a destination.”
His parents “sent in their dollar a year to Save The Bay,” the organization’s original and symbolic membership fee, but Lewis’s activism came home with him from school. During the 1976-77 drought, “I was the water police,” the monitor of running taps and lengthy showers. A summer class in natural history also planted some seeds.
These would not sprout, however, for 20 years. After high school, instead of following in his parents’ footsteps to Berkeley, Lewis chose the other coast, winding up at Princeton. He majored in politics and American studies, writing his senior thesis on the evolving nuclear freeze movement in the early 1980s. This interest led him to the arms control field and to Washington, D.C., where he worked successively for Friends of the Earth, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Senator Carl Levin (D-Michigan), and the League of Conservation Voters. But the Bay kept pulling him back. He and his family had already decided on the move when, in 1998, Save The Bay tapped him as its second executive director.
It didn’t take long for lobbying skills honed in Washington to come into use in California. In 1998, San Francisco International Airport released a plan to add runways on Bay fill, the first big Bay encroachment proposed since the 1980s. The powers that be lined up in unanimous favor. “It looked unwinnable,” Lewis recalls. Some conservationists toyed with the thought of a grand bargain: SFO would get its expansion but fund the purchase of all the restorable former wetlands around the Bay rim. Lewis wasn’t tempted. “If there was going to be any accommodation, it should be at the end of the environmental review process, not the beginning. Even if we lost, we would have represented the Bay well.” The ensuing campaign followed the classic Save The Bay model—factual, science-based, polite, equipped with reasonable alternatives, implacable—arguing that the airport could clear up its rainy-day delays with gentler, cheaper, more sophisticated means. That would prove to be the case. “Later,” says Lewis, “SFO Director John Martin thanked me.”
Lewis would gladly declare victory in the generation-long battle against Bay fill, but “an old-style fight” continues at Redwood City, where Cargill hopes to develop 1,400 acres of crystallizer beds once used for salt production with 12,000 homes. Opposition has slowed down this new juggernaut, and the public is increasingly skeptical of the plan. “Meanwhile, the sea level keeps rising and the traffic gets worse.”
The restoration of the wetland rim, more urgent than ever as sea level rise gains speed, is proceeding without Faustian bargains. Lewis threw himself into the campaign to pass Regional Measure AA. Now the citizens of nine Bay counties are taxing themselves to plow ahead with the restoration job.
Save The Bay has recently raised and widened its sights, from the here and now to the long-term future and from the immediate shoreline to the wider Bay watershed. The streams that feed the Bay are carrying too much pollution, too many plastic bags, and often too little sediment to help rebuild marshes, Lewis says. “We need to look upland and upstream and influence what’s happening there—the way cities develop and adapt and conserve.”
The watershed vision leads to these bold words in the organization’s year-old 2020 Strategic Plan: “We must help save the Bay Area as a sustainable community with a healthy Bay at its heart.”
How do you do that? “You build more and deeper relationships where the [land] development is happening, with elected officials and agency staff. You look for community organizations and businesses to ally with. And you go after the money! It doesn’t work otherwise.” Acknowledging that Save The Bay is one of many partners, Lewis notes with pride, “We are more active than others in getting more money. We endorsed ten local ballot measures in November, and nine of them passed.”
Walking back to the Bay Trail trailhead, next to the joyful dogs of the Point Isabel off-leash area, we pause at the channel that nourishes remnant Hoffman Marsh. Lewis eyes the waters for bat rays, points out the mud banks where endangered Ridgway’s rails loaf at low tide. Across the marsh is a culvert where an urban creek pours into the tide. This one, it turns out, lacks even a name: It is mapped as Fluvius Innominata. Several neighboring streams, however, have been “daylighted” here and there, reopened to the sky. It’s symbolic of what Lewis is looking for. “Daylighting helps the creeks and builds interest, awareness, stewardship.”
He speaks of the tension sometimes felt between access and preservation. “I have no patience with excluding people too much from nature.” He corrects himself: “I have patience with a lot of things, actually. But it’s not necessary to wall off all of the wildlife from all of the people. We have a big enough canvas to have strict nature preserves and recreational access areas, too.”
The San Francisco Bay is emerging as a huge target for the Trump Administration as it plans to slash spending at the Environmental Protection Agency: A preliminary budget this week shows President Donald Trump plans to eliminate a $4.8 million federal program to protect the bay.
The document, obtained by the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, outlines major cuts to estuaries around the country, as the administration aims to carve 3,000 jobs and $2 billion, or 25 percent of the current budget, from the EPA’s 2018 budget.
Environmentalists across the country have been bracing for Trump’s long-promised budget ax, and the president has threatened to cut federal funding in California as the state aggressively opposes many of the White House’s immigration and other policies.
The $4.8 million for the EPA’s San Francisco Bay Program — established by California Sen. Dianne Feinstein in 2008 — helps fund a variety of projects, including restoring wetlands and watersheds, reducing polluted runoff, and improving shoreline protection in San Francisco Bay.
“We need more money from the federal government, not less,” said David Lewis, executive director of Save the Bay, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting, restoring and celebrating San Francisco Bay.
Michele Huitric, an EPA spokeswoman in San Francisco, said the agency wasn’t commenting on the proposed cuts. Gov. Jerry Brown’s office also had no comment.
The Bay Area’s budget is already far below that of other estuary regions like the Chesapeake Bay and Puget Sound — $73 million and $28 million respectively. “The bay starts off at a big disadvantage in federal funding even though we have the highest demonstrated need,” Lewis said.
Rufus Jeffris, vice president of communications for the Bay Area Council, said in an email that this would be “a huge hit for our region, given that the proposed cuts are coming (less than a year) after local Measure AA won 70 percent approval.”
Measure AA is a $12-per-year parcel tax in all nine Bay Area counties that aims to generate $500 million over 20 years for critical tidal marsh restoration projects around San Francisco Bay.
“The Bay Area is the only region in the U.S. that has raised its own dollars to match federal investments in these programs, and now they’ve just walked away from the table,” Jeffris wrote.
Other estuaries may also suffer from these proposed budget cuts — the plan calls for Puget Sound funding to be cut from $28 million to $2 million; the Great Lakes, $300 million to $10 million; and Chesapeake Bay, $73 million to $5 million.
Environmental policy experts at the Heartland Institute — a free-market think tank in Arlington Heights, Illinois — are pleased with the proposed budget, which might rein in an agency that “costs the nation’s taxpayers and consumers billions of dollars a year,” according to the institute’s president, Joseph Bast.
“EPA’s budget was much too big in 1991, when it was $6 billion, the same as is now proposed by the Trump administration,” Bast said in a news release. “EPA was much too large in 1984, when it had 11,420 staff members, approximately the same number as the Trump administration now wants it to have.”
H. Sterling Burnett, an environment and energy policy research fellow at the institute, said, “The budget doesn’t target California per se, rather the EPA as a whole.”
“It’s long overdue – maybe if they have significantly reduced budgets, they might focus on their core mission,” said Burnett. He characterized this mission as being focused solely on laws like the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts.
The proposed cuts would also eliminate funding for a wide range of air and water programs, and cut spending for programs that control water pollution and protect low-income communities from environmental and health hazards.
Lewis said it’s important to remember that this is “essentially a leaked draft that only might be a part of a Trump budget. We don’t know if it will actually be proposed or what might happen.” Approving new budgets requires congressional approval, and with 46 Democrats and two independents in the Senate, it might be expected that some of the proposed cuts would lessen in severity.
In all, Save The Bay’s Lewis wasn’t surprised at the developments. “These deep budget cuts don’t make sense for public health or the environment, but are exactly what we expected.”
“It’s exactly the outrageous attack on the environment that we expected from the president and the people he’s surrounded himself with,” Lewis said.
Norman LaForce, legal chair for the San Francisco Bay Chapter of the Sierra Club, agreed with Lewis’ assessment of President Trump. “He has no interest in helping California in any way. The next four years are just going to be an environmental hell in the United States.
As a documentary filmmaker, conservationist, and proud Bay Area resident, experience has taught me that when we focus on hope and solutions, our society is capable of great things. You and the Save The Bay community are proof of that.
Measure AA passed earlier this year because more than 70 percent of us here in the Bay Area stood up to restore our wetlands, and to make it better and healthier for everyone. And just weeks ago, Californians stood together to ban the plastic bag in our state once and for all by passing Prop. 67. Save The Bay and supporters like you are making climate change and other environmental issues personal — by talking about what’s happening in your backyards, by meeting people where they are, and by bringing people together to protect this magical place. And that’s inspiring to see.
As we travel to see our loved ones for the holidays and with #GivingTuesday right around the corner, I put this video together to share why I believe our Bay community is so important. The inspiring work of Save The Bay, and the hope and optimism of supporters like you, is more critical now than ever.
OAKLAND — Part of what people love about the San Francisco Bay is its beauty. For many, it’s what drew them to the area and keeps them from leaving.
But it’s more than the Golden Gate Bridge, city skylines and other manmade creations. It’s also a region literally alive with plants, animals and natural resources, as well as the largest and most ecologically important estuary on the West Coast.
On Saturday (Oct. 1), PG&E joins the environmental nonprofit Save the Bay organization for the first Bay Day. The day is an opportunity for everyone to celebrate the San Francisco Bay with the reminder that it be preserved and protected for future generations.
“A lot of people drive to work every day and we see the Bay as the backdrop of our lives,” said Save the Bay’s Kristina Watson. “It gives the region our identity. Why wouldn’t we celebrate something we already love?”
Organizers say the day is intended to be like Earth Day but for the San Francisco Bay. Beginning this year, Bay Day will occur every year on the first Saturday of October.
Some 23 cities are taking part and 40 events are planned, most free of charge or discounted, in San Francisco, the East Bay, the North Bay and the Peninsula and South Bay.
There will be a coastal cleanup in San Francisco; an opportunity to meet wild animals from the Bay at the Lindsay Wildlife Experience in Walnut Creek; free tours of the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito; and a docent-led family hike at an open preserve near East Palo Alto that will show the possible impacts of climate change to the Bay.
To kick off Bay Day, about 25 PG&E employees volunteered their time today (Sept. 28) at a nursery helping to restore wetland habitat to its natural state at the Martin Luther King Jr. Shoreline in Oakland. They spent several hours trimming native salt grass that will eventually be planted in Hayward.
“It shows that we’re honoring our commitment to environmental stewardship,” said Nance Donati, a 10-year PG&E employee who helps ensure the company complies with environmental regulations. “The Bay is everything.”
PG&E’s partnership with Save the Bay is mutually important, with both organizations working to make Bay Area communities clean, sustainable and resilient to climate change.
For PG&E, the project was just one of the many ways the company works every day to improve the communities where its employees work and live.
PG&E also has provided financial support to Save the Bay — begun in 1961 — whose missions include preventing pollution, restoring wetlands and stopping reckless shoreline development.
Jessie Olson, the nursery manager for Save the Bay, said she and her team greatly appreciate PG&E’s commitment to volunteer.
“It’s everything for our staff that local organizations care about the environment and are willing to show their support,” she said.
PG&E’s Kathrine Long, who works in Oakland and helps colleges save energy, said she decided to volunteer in part because of the location. The shoreline is proof that you can find nature anywhere — even amid a bustling city.
“It’s a chance to see the beauty of Oakland,” Long said. “You don’t always hear about it but it’s here.”
This blog was written by David Kligman and originally published by PG&E Currents on September 28, 2016.
San Pablo Bay borders just a few square miles of Sonoma County, but its significance to locals is far greater than the area it covers.
It is part of our identity — after all, don’t we in Sonoma County refer to ourselves as the North Bay?
We rely on the Bay for recreation and the health of our economy. Its tidal wetlands sequester carbon, provide habitat for endangered and threatened species, filter bay waters, and protect us from sea level rise. The Bay is an extension of our open space — and as such, we at Sonoma Land Trust aim to protect it for future generations.
That is the motivation behind our Sears Point Restoration Project. After purchasing the property in 2005, Sonoma Land Trust began planning and fundraising to bring the tides back to 1,000 acres of former wetland at Sears Point, which neighbors the Sonoma Raceway and overlooks the Bay.
We immediately saw the effects of the returning tides. Within a few days, shorebirds and waterfowl had already flocked to the restoration site. After the levee breach, the site was closed to the public for a few months while construction — which included a new 2.5-mile section of Bay Trail — was completed and finishing touches were put in place.
The Bay Trail was opened to the public on May 15, 2016, and the land was transferred to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, becoming part of the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The site will take 20 to 30 years to shift from open water to a fully vegetated marsh — but, thanks to that new section of Bay Trail, it is a process that Bay Area residents can now bear witness to as they walk, hike or cycle for fun or to work.
Sonoma Land Trust formed a docent program for those who love and want to learn more about the Bay. Every Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., docents are stationed at the site with birding scopes, ready to impart their wisdom, dispense knowledge, or simply walk with visitors along the trail.
Afterwards, we will join the docents for a walk along the marsh. Whether you show up early for the talk or drop in for the marsh hike, it is a great way to celebrate Bay Day — and show how much you love the Bay.
This blog was written by Nicole Na, Sonoma Land Trust Communications Coordinator.
Corinne C. DeBra of Palo Alto has walked around the Bay twice, taking pictures along the way. Her exhibit “Walking the Bay” opens at Keeble & Shuchat Photography in Palo Alto opens Sept. 15 to Oct. 12. Read more on her blog.
“What possessed you to take a 1,000-mile walk around San Francisco Bay?” someone once asked me.
It’s difficult to explain why I took this long walk, and am now on a more leisurely second circumnavigation around the Bay, to people who haven’t enjoyed a good hike or a beautiful sunset along the Bay Shore.
To those who watch the evening news and may be hesitant about going outdoors in general, I wish you the courage to explore and experience something truly wonderful in your own backyard. This same person who asked about my 1,000-mile walk also asked if I’d seen any bears. The bears that once lived in the Bay Area may be long gone, but fears of the unknown often linger and lead to a less adventurous life.
Contrary to popular belief, it was in fact possible and enjoyable to take this 1,000-mile journey.
Through the use of the Bay Trail and a few stretches of the Ridge Trail and the new Water Trail I was able to walk the Bay and capture this wonderful journey through nature.
Fortunately, many birds and smaller animals still manage to survive, often in the margins around urban areas near the Bay Trail, where there are many wonderful places to observe wildlife. The remaining baylands and marshes provide a narrow strip of refuge between land and sea—thanks to the preservation efforts of many individuals, agencies and organizations, such as Save The Bay.
Bay Area walkers and bicyclists owe a debt of gratitude to all those who continue to balance environmental protection with recreational access for the millions of individuals who live in the nine counties that touch San Francisco Bay. The Bay Trail offers some of the best views and vantage points for those interested not just in nature, but also history, culture, art and exercise. The Bay Trail takes you across the Golden Gate Bridge and other bridges; and through over 47 diverse areas that range from big and bustling cities to quiet and serene parks and open spaces.
Free Bay Day Bay Trail walk in the Palo Alto Baylands that will depart at 9:30 a.m. at the Lucy Evans Baylands Nature Interpretive Center located at 2775 Embarcadero Way in Palo Alto (Distance: 1.6 miles/2.57 km)
Free Bay Day drop-in event from Noon to 4 p.m. at Keeble & Shuchat Photography (upstairs gallery) in conjunction with “Walking the Bay 2” photo exhibit.
I’ve met interesting people and continue to discover many new places on my Bay Trail walks. San Francisco Bay has something for everyone. I’ve tried to condense thousands of small stories from over 100,000 photos into a small collection of 47 images as part of my “Walking the Bay 2” show at Keeble & Shuchat Photography in Palo Alto that will be held from Sept. 15 to Oct. 12. I hope that my 1,000 mile walk and photos will inspire others to check out the Bay Trail and come to appreciate the Bay as much as I do.
So, no amount of legalese can change the fact that Cargill’s salt is made from San Francisco Bay water brought into its salt ponds, where it is held and evaporated behind levees. Right?
In fact, Cargill’s remarkable filing to the Environmental Protection Agency and US Army Corps of Engineers also includes other manipulative, incredible claims, such as that the pond levees do not exist for the sake of “impounding” water:
The Salt Plant is not “impounding” (i.e., “collecting” or “confining”) anything. …. It is more akin to an “expoundment” because it excludes or keeps “out” (as opposed to confining “in”) waters of the United States…. It does not retain or impound such waters and their containment behind the levees would be entirely contrary to the function and purpose of the Salt Plant.” (pg 50-51)
It would be interesting to hear Cargill’s lawyers explain how their position is strengthened by putting quotation marks around simple words like “in” and “out.” But Cargill is convinced it is above the law, so don’t expect an answer any time soon. These transparently self-serving arguments are almost funny. But not quite. Because this matter is deadly serious for the Bay.