Introducing Bay Day: PG&E Supports Inaugural Event to Celebrate Region’s Natural Beauty

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.

PG&E’s Vanessa Vergara, a gas mapping technician, and fellow employees helped kick off Bay Day by working in a nursery at the Oakland Shoreline. (Photos by David Kligman.)

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.

Nance Donati, a 10-year PG&E employee, provides a perch for a small frog that jumped on her hand.

Protecting the environment is a core company value for PG&E. Earlier this year, volunteers helped repair a meadow in Santa Clara County. And PG&E annually works with bird experts to protect peregrine falcons that nest at the company’s headquarters in San Francisco.

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.

On Bay Day, Some 23 cities are taking part and 40 events are planned, most free of charge or discounted.

Earlier this year, PG&E backed Measure AA to fund critical conservation and flood protection projects. In June, the measure passed with approval from more than 70 percent of Bay Area voters.

In addition, PG&E this year committed $1 million over five years to help California cities and counties prepare for, withstand and recover from events caused by climate change.

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.

Email David Kligman at David.Kligman@pge.com

 

100,000 plants and counting

IMG_9957_BM 100k.
It’s hard to visualize what over 100,000 California native plants looks like. But it’s exciting to think of the habitat they will create when fully established at our restoration sites around the San Francisco Bay.

Save The Bay’s Habitat Restoration team is very proud of the accomplishments made this past planting season, reaching our most ambitious goals to date with a grand total of 103,770 plants installed from October 2015 to April 2016.

A bulk of these plants were propagated and planted for the Oro Loma Horizontal Levee, a project totaling 70,000 plants in itself. This innovative project is a multi-pronged approach to filtering waste water, mitigating floods due to sea level rise, and creating native habitat along the Bay’s edge. But it was no easy job installing 70,000 plants by hand. With long days in the field, rain or shine, hands and knees in the mud, the restoration team worked tirelessly to complete this project, and that we did. I’m happy to say the site is developing well and the native plants installed this winter are starting to spread over the horizontal levee’s surface.

Additionally, over 30,000 plants were also planted at our ongoing restoration sites around the Bay including the MLK Shoreline in Oakland, the Palo Alto Baylands, and Eden Landing Ecological Reserve in Hayward.

But regardless of however many native plants were propagated and planted at our sites, what’s truly inspiring is the community that joins together to make this possible. From our own staff, to 3rd grade students, to company employees, to families and college students, more than 6,000 volunteers each year help physically improve the shoreline of the San Francisco Bay, restoring vital habitat lost over time.

With the plethora of environmental problems we face, it gives me hope to see not all damage is irreversible; that with motivation, dedication, and getting your hands in the dirt, we can make real change.

Join us in the field this summer to help these native plants thrive! Sign up to volunteer.

News Roundup: The Future of Restoring SF Bay

 

Point of contact: Tides rush in at Sears Point on October 25, 2015. (Photo Credit: Marc Holmes/The Bay Institute)

After over 100 years, the Sonoma Land Trust achieved a major success in wetland restoration this past weekend: breaching the levee at Sears Point to reconnect 1,000 acres of wetlands to San Francisco Bay. This timely event comes within a week of the recently released update to the 1999 Baylands Ecosystem Habitat Goals Report, in which scientists urge accelerated restoration efforts over the next few decades in order to save over 80% of wetlands in the next 100 years.

We can only achieve this goal by acting now: if we continue to waver, the reality of climate change and rising sea levels would not only drive up the cost of restoration, but also place the ecosystem and communities of San Francisco Bay in a more vulnerable state. Projects like Sears Point are a crucial reminder to what we can do to improve health of the Bay; with over 30,000 acres of public land awaiting restoration, the major barrier is funding. That’s why we are supporting the Clean and Healthy Bay ballot measure in 2016, which will provide the resources needed to restore more of our Bay.

Here are some of the articles we think are integral to the conversation about the Bay’s future:

Ceremony near San Pablo Bay marks planned rebirth of wetlands
After 10 years of planning and three years of site preparation, it took less than a minute Sunday for workers to scrape a hole in a levee and begin the renewal of 1,000 acres of former North Bay marshlands. The mechanical excavator scooped aside a few buckets of dirt. Muddy water spurted and then flowed into the waiting basin. Now all that’s needed is time.

San Francisco Bay: Bird populations doubled since 2003 in vast salt pond restoration area
In a clear sign that the largest wetlands restoration project on the West Coast is already improving the health of San Francisco Bay, bird populations have doubled over the past 13 years on thousands acres of former industrial salt-evaporation ponds that ring the bay’s southern shoreline, scientists reported Thursday.

San Francisco Bay: Race to build wetlands is needed to stave off sea-level rise, scientists say
San Francisco Bay is in a race against time, with billions of dollars of highways, airports, homes and office buildings at risk from rising seas, surging tides and extreme storms driven by climate change. And to knock down the waves and reduce flooding, 54,000 acres of wetlands — an area twice the size of the city of San Francisco — need to be restored around the bay in the next 15 years.

Mercury News editorial: San Francisco Bay wetlands need to be restored
At stake are billions of dollars worth of highways, airports, businesses and homes on land immediately adjacent to the Bay. Water levels have already risen 8 inches since 1900, and they are expected to rise another foot in the next 20 years and two feet by 2050. It may not sound like much, but it could be disastrous.

Restoring wetlands is a green defense against rising bay
Editorial by California Assemblyman Tony Thurmond (D-Richmond) — Climate change will harm people from all nations. But one segment of humanity is on the front lines: the poor. From the increased frequency of mega-storms like the one that devastated the Philippines in 2013 to rising seas displacing people of low-lying nations such as Bangladesh, it is the poor who will lose their homes first and suffer the gravest misfortunes.

What can you do to help wetland restoration in San Francisco Bay? Support an upcoming ballot measure that will fund over $500 million dollars to protect the Bay’s shoreline.

Creative Ecology

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When I arrived at the at the Creative Ecology program at Cooley Landing, I was greeted by Bay Area textile artist Linda Gass and handed an artist sketchbook and field guide. I was about to engage in a range of science and art activities that would have me seeing near and far.

The activities were intended to make connections between art and science, pointing out that both artists and scientists ask questions, make observations, learn from their senses and record what they see.

A closer look

I started at the science station, where I got the chance to look at water samples that were taken directly from the Bay. A member of the Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo explained that in every drop of Bay water there are hundreds of microorganisms. When I looked at the water samples with a naked eye, all I could see were chunks of mud. Looking under the microscope, I was surprised to see amphipods, nematode worms and diatoms. It was so cool to see these mud creatures up close and to think that they live all over the Bay.

Next I went to the art station where I was handed a magnifying glass to look closely at the mud and rocks that neighbored the shoreline and sketch what I saw. A member of the Palo Alto Art Center told us to look for patterns and to consider lightness and darkness, using lines, dots and crosshatching to create a value scale in our sketches. Using my magnifying glass, I was able to get a better look at the mussels, crabs and pickleweed that lived in the mud at the Bay’s edge.

While we were sketching, we were told to identify what was “manmade” and what was “nature made”. Often that distinction was easy to make. For example I could see that the rocks along the shoreline were nature made, while the bricks intermingled between the rocks were manmade. There were other instances where the line between manmade and nature made was a bit fuzzy. For instance, barnacles covered large pieces of wire that lay over some of the rocks.

Art meets science

When we arrived at the third station, we were each given a viewfinder and were told to identify the horizon through our viewfinder. We were instructed to use our viewfinders to pick out a certain section of the landscape that we wanted to draw and begin sketching. Looking far, we strived to clearly outline the foreground, middle ground and background in our drawings.

I saw a fin peaking up above the water. I soon realized that this was a leopard shark and that there were tons of leopard sharks swimming around the Bay waters that surrounded us. I probably saw at least 6 leopard sharks that day, many of which came right to the edge of the water, giving us a view of all three of their fins.

As I looked out on the Bay and began sketching, I was struck by the intricate patterns that the ripples made in the water. I often found myself straying away from my drawing and observing the nearby leopard sharks instead. As I looked around at the landscape, I was able to see the Palo Alto Baylands to the South, one of the many sites along the Bay where we engage in restoration.

Cooley Landing

As I took in my surroundings, looking near and far, I tried to imagine what Cooley Landing used to look like before it was cleaned up and restored. The site was originally home to the Muwekma Ohlone tribe, who utilized the space for fishing. It was later transformed into a pier for ships to transport building materials to San Francisco. Between the 1930’s and 1960, Cooley Landing was used as a garbage dump where toxic trash was dumped directly into Bay.

In 2012, EPA and the Regional Water Quality Control Board partnered up to design and fund the site’s cleanup, filling in the Bay and sealing off soil contaminated with mercury, arsenic, PCB’s, lead, and other toxic chemicals.  Additional partners such as the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District contributed land and biological expertise to plant native vegetation to enhance the wildlife habitat for the nearby endangered Ridgeway’s rail and salt marsh harvest mouse.

The former garbage dump is now home to thriving native vegetation. Cooley Landing is now part of the Bay Trail, adding nine acres of public open space in East Palo Alto.

The Creative Ecology program brings people of all ages out to open space preserves like Cooley Landing and gets them interacting directly with the Bay. While out on the program, I watched kids become immersed in the art and science activities they were doing, using their imaginations to picture what the space may have looked like years ago and asking questions about the mud creatures that they saw. I watched longtime Bay residents enjoying the space for the first time, seeking more information about the site’s history and restoration.

Save The Bay’s own educational materials were used to answer questions and provide context. I was proud to tell program participants that I was a part of the Save The Bay team. As we looked at historical Bay maps, we identified parts of the Bay that had been converted to salt ponds, filled, or developed.  When Linda asked which parts of the Bay were still neighbored by wetlands, I responded “not enough”. She smiled and informed the group that I was a part of Save The Bay.

Marking Historic Shoreline

Linda showed us historical maps of Cooley Landing overlaid on top of Google maps. Looking at historic maps of the site from 1857 and comparing those to current maps, it was evident that a lot of the Bay had been filled and a significant portion of the marsh was gone. Linda explained that she was working on a land art installation project in order to illustrate how the landscape has changed overtime and what we have lost.

Linda invited us to help her with the project, explaining that it was a community-based effort. She told us that we would be using blue survey whiskers to mark the historic shoreline of Cooley Landing, explaining that the space in front of the blue whiskers represented historic Bay water and the space behind the blue whiskers represented historic wetlands. Linda said that with each program, the art installation grows in size, further documenting the historic shoreline.

We were each given a handful of blue whiskers and were instructed to place them however we wished, using the orange tape that was already in place as a guideline. As I began sticking the whiskers into the ground I started chatting with the couple next to me. They explained that they were avid readers of the Bay Monthly, Save The Bay’s monthly newsletter, and asked more about my work as an office volunteer. I was happy to share my experiences with them and hear that they were curious about the work we are doing.

After attending Linda’s field program, I got a better idea of how other groups and organizations are working with the San Francisco Bay and how art and science can be applied to inspire and educate Bay stewards of all ages. Read more about the art and activism Linda Gass here.

 

Painting Photos with Light

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Many artists work closely with the San Francisco Bay and draw inspiration directly from the Bay. Stefanie Atkinson is a professional photographer and creative designer. Stefanie’s Birds in Flight series captures light and movement along the Bay. She creates unique visual imagery for cross platform use in print, mobile, web, television, and video. Her fine art work has been in many group and solo shows and is available for purchase.

How long have you lived in the Bay Area and when did you starting photographing the Bay?

I’ve lived in the Bay Area since 1998. I started photographing around the Bay and estuaries when I moved out to Mill Valley in 2006.

What inspires you and why are you so drawn to the San Francisco Bay?

We are very lucky to be surrounded by water and protected open space here in the Bay area. I have always loved being around, on or in the water. Water and light inspire me and are an integral part of my work.

How would you describe your style of photography?

I would describe my style as naturalistic impressionism. It really stems from my curiosity about the way I see and the way other species and people see. For me it’s really about sharing how we all see differently.

My interest is in capturing in camera — I don’t manipulate the image afterwards. To me, I am painting with light. When I’m capturing the birds I’m playing with time, depth and movement. My finger is not on the button like it’s a trigger.  I’m moving with it. It’s more like the stroke of a brush. It’s like a dance to me. I love having an idea of what I am going to get and then the great mystery that comes with it.

Walk me through a day of shooting out on the Bay. What is your approach and how do you capture images for you Birds in Flight series?

I love waking up very early in the morning so I have time to be out before the sun and people rise. I like to see and hear the birds and animals when they are not affected by us.

I enjoy walking by the Bay. I also sit still, listen and just watch. There is so much going on when I sit quietly with it. Being by the water brings such a sense of peace. I just love seeing how every day is so completely different on the surface of the water. To me, the water is like a mirror – it’s easy to see how everything is constantly moving and changing. I photograph along the way.

Do you have any upcoming projects that you are working on?

Yes, I have a few projects that I am working on right now. They all involve my interest in Biomimicry and Biofeedback. Looking through the lens of how nature solves some of our human challenges is fascinating and offers much to learn, teach and share. There is much to do and I enjoy doing my part in it.

Another one of my projects involves UV light and water. I am photographing around the Bay. It’s very illuminating how much more there is to see and I love learning to see differently as it opens up whole new worlds of possibility and wonder.