News of the Bay: March 28, 2014

Check out this edition of News of the Bay for breaking news affecting San Francisco Bay

3/20/2014
San Jose Mercury News
Photos of 30-day trek on San Francisco Bay Trail capture its many wonders
Kurt Schwabe had just been laid off from a dead-end job when he decided to start walking.
Not just any kind of walking — purposeful walking.
“What I really wanted to do was expand the tools that I feel I’m best at, writing and photography, and I love to be outdoors. I wanted to help make a difference about something,” he says.
And that’s how he found himself spending the entire month of June walking the 330 miles of the San Francisco Bay Trail, a still-uncompleted project that began in 1997 and that runs through 47 cities in all nine Bay Area counties.
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3/20/2014
San Francisco Magazine
History Written in Water
San Francisco Bay is clearer than it has been since the gold rush. Its waters are less muddy, and much of the befouling sediment that formerly covered the bay floor has washed away into the Pacific.
Good news, right? Wrong. Actually, the fact that the bay’s water is more transparent than it has been in 150 years is causing some serious problems, a development that is both unexpected and deeply ironic. The silt that until recently muddied the bay was created by what has always, and rightly, been considered California’s first and worst environmental disaster: hydraulic mining. By 1853, panning for gold was no longer profitable, so miners began using water cannons to blast away riverbanks and entire mountains. The amount of sand and dirt blown loose was inconceivable: One geologist estimated it at one and a half billion cubic yards, or eight times more than the material removed to build the 48-mile-long Panama Canal. So vast was the quantity of sediment that the mighty Sacramento River’s bed was raised 13 feet at the capital.|
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3/24/2014
New York Times
Selling a Poison by the Barrel: Liquid Nicotine for E-Cigarettes
A dangerous new form of a powerful stimulant is hitting markets nationwide, for sale by the vial, the gallon and even the barrel.
The drug is nicotine, in its potent, liquid form — extracted from tobacco and tinctured with a cocktail of flavorings, colorings and assorted chemicals to feed the fast-growing electronic cigarette industry.
These “e-liquids,” the key ingredients in e-cigarettes, are powerful neurotoxins. Tiny amounts, whether ingested or absorbed through the skin, can cause vomiting and seizures and even be lethal. A teaspoon of even highly diluted e-liquid can kill a small child.
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3/25/2014
San Jose Mercury News
South Bay Passenger Rail Corridor Proposed for Moving Crude Oil
The tracks that carry Amtrak Capitol Corridor trains through about a dozen heavily populated East Bay and South Bay communities could become a rail superhighway for potentially explosive crude oil transports to Central California under a plan by the Phillips 66 oil company, Berkeley officials warn.
A project at Phillips 66’s Santa Maria refinery would enable it to receive crude oil from North American sources that are served by rail, according to a draft environmental report under review by San Luis Obispo County.
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3/27/2014
CBS Local
California Drought Creating Toxic Clams in San Francisco Bay
California’s ongoing drought is affecting much more than just drinking water supplies as scientists are looking into how declining rainfall may be increasing the toxicity of the San Francisco Bay.
With less water flowing into the bay during the drought, there is an increase in naturally occurring toxins—materials which are then ingested by all kinds of creatures, including the overbite clams, which are non-native to the ecosystem, and then move up the food chain.
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News of the Bay: March 14, 2014

Check out this edition of News of the Bay for breaking news affecting San Francisco Bay

National Wildlife 1/27/14

Harbor Porpoises’ Remarkable Return
On a blustery California August day, researchers are studying some of San Francisco’s least-known residents from an unlikely laboratory: the Golden Gate Bridge. Below in the bay glides a parade of boats—fishing vessels, a tall ship, a slow container barge packed with colorful boxes like giant Legos. Behind the scientists, tourists pause to snap pictures, unaware of the ongoing hunt. Through binoculars, Bill Keener suddenly spots his quarry: a harbor porpoise, its dark gray dorsal fin appearing briefly before resubmerging. Keener predicts the porpoise’s course and, just as it surfaces again, photographs the animal before it disappears. “Got it,” he declares triumphantly.
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News of the Bay

Daily Camera 3/8/14
Boulder: Disposable bag use down 68 percent in wake of 10-cent fee
Six months after Boulder instituted a 10-cent fee on disposable grocery bags, use of plastic and paper bags has fallen 68 percent, city officials said.
That figure is based on a comparison of estimated bag use before the fee was implemented in July and the number of bags paid for by shoppers in the last six months, said Jamie Harkins, business sustainability specialist for the city.
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Sacramento Bee 3/10/14
E-cigarettes face restrictions as cities update smoking ordinances
The electronic cigarettes flooding the U.S. market don’t technically emit smoke, but many cities have decided they’re not much different from ordinary cigarettes.
Last week, Rancho Cordova became the latest local government to pursue restrictions on e-cigarettes; the City Council directed staff members to treat them like regular smokes when they draft amendments to city code sections governing smoking. The Los Angeles City Council also voted last week to restrict e-cigarette use where tobacco smoking is restricted, including restaurants, parks, bars, nightclubs, beaches and workplaces. Similar measures have been approved in a number of Bay Area cities, along with New York and Chicago.
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Reuters 3/13/14
In drought-stricken California court rules smelt fish get water
A California appeals court sided with environmentalists over growers on Thursday and upheld federal guidelines that limit water diversions to protect Delta smelt, in a battle over how the state will cope with its worst drought in a century.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a lower court should not have overturned recommendations that the state reduce exports of water from north to south California. The plan leaves more water in the Sacramento Delta for the finger-sized fish and have been blamed for exacerbating the effects of drought for humans.
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News of the Bay: January 31, 2014

Check out this edition of News of the Bay for breaking news affecting San Francisco Bay

San Francisco Chronicle 1/28/14
Kicking cigarette butts out of California is aim of bill
Walk along any beach or through any park and chances are they’ll be there by the dozens: the tan, discarded remains of a cigarette.
Cigarettes aren’t healthy for people. But when the butts, also known as filters, are thrown on the ground, they too are harmful – to humans, wildlife and the environment. Studies show that their non-biodegradable nature and toxic chemical makeup can contaminate waterways, poison fish and birds, and be a health danger to children who try to eat them.
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News of the Bay
San Francisco Chronicle 1/28/14
Snowy plovers a welcome surprise at Alameda beach
It’s not just joggers, dogs and kite-flyers who love the new sand at Crown Beach in Alameda.
A few surprise guests – of the nearly endangered variety – apparently love the new beach as well.
To the shock of naturalists and bird watchers, a flock of threatened western snowy plovers has taken up residence on one of the Bay Area’s busiest beaches. For the past few months, since the East Bay Regional Park District dumped 82,000 cubic yards of new sand on the beach, the fist-size shorebirds have been skittering across the dunes and pecking at bugs, oblivious to the frolicking hordes around them.
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Environmental Health News 1/30/14
Banned Scotchguard chemical still contaminating San Francisco seals
In a shallow arm of the bay, where Pacific tides cause hardly a ripple, hundreds of harbor seals lounge, mate and bear young. With placid expressions on bewhiskered faces and bulky bodies reclining on shorelines, the seals belie a disturbing burden they carry.
Living on the edge of a metropolitan hub, these seals are under scrutiny by scientists. There’s a mystery afoot in San Francisco Bay: A manmade chemical, pulled from production 12 years ago, is still turning up at high levels in the seals. Once the prime ingredient in Scotchgard, a chemical known as PFOS has remained elevated in these harbor seals even though it has declined in sea birds that share their fish diet.
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KCET 1/23/14
Fish and Wildlife Service drops $3 million on California wetlands
Four coastal wetlands in California will benefit from $3 million in grants from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that will go toward preserving and restoring wildlife habitat, the agency announced Thursday. The grants will be added to another $2.3 million in matching funds from state and local governments, private land owners, and conservation groups.
The money will be used to buy unprotected wetlands and adjoining uplands, as well as working to heal damage to already protected land. Two of the wetland areas are in the southern end of San Francisco Bay, with the others in San Luis Obispo and Humboldt counties.
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