Weekly Roundup January 25, 2013

weekly roundupThough scientists are saying that storms like Sandy are the “new normal” the public has not lost its appetite for shoreline living. As rebuilding continues apace, some are asking how long we can afford to subsidize and protect developments along our nation’s shoreline. The San Francisco Waterfront is not as immune to this threat as development plans in the city might indicate. Sutro Sam, the river otter living in the ruins of Sutro Baths is indeed cute, but the public should know that otters are wild animals that may bite. So don’t get too close! The abundant herring run in San Francisco this year is not only great for hungry birds, but it’s also a sign of improved water quality in the Bay after the fishery collapsed following the Cosco Busan spill. However, fisheries managers are concerned about the lack of older fish in this year’s run. Save The Bay hosted an epic group of volunteers at MLK Shoreline on Martin Luther King Day. Nearly 800 plants were put in the ground—a great effort toward our goal of 30,000 plants for the season.

San Francisco Chronicle 1/18/2013
Is Rebuilding in Hurricane Zones Wise?
Denise Tortorello, a real estate agent at Riviera Realty in Point Pleasant, N.J., said she can’t tell yet where property values are headed since Hurricane Sandy demolished a string of beach towns built on a slender strip of barrier islands in the Atlantic. “I’m sitting in my office, and I’m looking at the National Guard right outside out my window,” she said. On a December day, the temperature outside was 65 degrees.
Read more>>

San Francisco Bay Guardian 1/22/2013
Sea Level Rise and Development in SF
Naval bases, power plants, ports, highways – trillions of dollars of investment – sit on U.S. coasts because it once made sense to put them there. As people flocked to the shores, tiny beach towns became cities. Congress is hardly maintaining roads and bridges; its appetite for giant new sea walls around New York Harbor has yet to be tested.
Read more>>

One Earth Blog 1/21/2013
California’s Newest Star is Otterly Adorable—And a Biter
Does it sound like bragging when I say that I knew San Francisco’s celebrity otter before he was famous? A video posted on Bay Nature last fall led me to the Sutro Baths — a 19th-century swimming complex built on the coast and abandoned in the 1960s — in search of a male river otter who had been spotted hanging around the ruins. I headed out one day in early November, when the place was nearly deserted.
Read More >>

San Francisco Chronicle 1/24/2013
Lots of Herring Hit Bay Area
Great swirling schools of herring converged in San Francisco Bay this month, drawing fishermen, sea lions, harbor seals and thousands upon thousands of birds looking to fatten up for the winter.
Read more>>

Bay Nature 1/23/2013
Planting in Memory of MLK
Save the Bay rounded up 100 or so volunteers on Monday to help out with planting high transition zone plants, the drought tolerant varieties that are considered “ecosystem engineers.” Not only do they can outcompete the nasty invasives and flourish in disturbed soil close to trails, they provide habitat during high tide events and filter pollutants and trash before they reach the San Francisco Bay.
Read more>>

King Tides Foreshadow Rising Seas

A man rides his bike slowly along the flooded bike path at Bothin Marsh, Marin, CA. The flooding is the result of the King Tides this past week.

Due to the slow but steady nature of ocean expansion, sea level rise has a tendency to be dismissed as a far-off predicament, not as an immediate threat. But with seas expected to rise 16 inches in the Bay Area by 2050, flooding 180,000 acres of coastline, the issue is now at our doorstep. Literally.

Last Thursday, sea levels peaked at over 10 feet in some places in the Bay Area during the highest King Tides event of 2012. The tides last week offered us a glimpse into the future of the California coastline: closing roads, flooding parking lots, and threatening to overwhelm levees from Marin to Santa Clara Counties.

A quarterly occurrence that reaches far back in history, the ultra-high King Tides are the result of a strong gravitational pull exerted by the Sun and the Moon – not climate change. But scientists say they offer important insight of how rising sea levels will impact coastal regions in years to come.

The combination of rapidly melting ice sheets and the thermal expansion of the ocean as it absorbs atmospheric and land-generated heat places sea level rise on an unstoppable trajectory that could raise the sea 16 feet in 300 years. Since experts agree that the reversal of rising seas is not possible, the risk for low-lying coastal areas will only increase. In the Bay Area, 81 schools, 11 fire stations, 9 police stations, and 42 healthcare facilities will be underwater or exposed to high flood events by 2100, when seas are expected to rise by 55-inches. Additionally, an estimated 270,000 people in the Bay will be at risk if no adaptive measures are taken – a 98 percent increase of those who are currently at risk.

Our approach to sea level rise must not mimic our approach to one-time natural disasters, such as hurricanes or earthquakes, in which we can recover and rebuild. Instead, the permanence of sea rise calls for a focus on adaption. It is more important than ever to propose plans to avoid the potential disaster of rising waters. One of the best solutions? Tidal marshland.

Tidal marsh and wetland habitat act as sponges during high tides, storm surges, and river flooding. They work to attenuate wave action that contributes to erosion. Since 40 percent of California’s land drains to the San Francisco Bay – contributing to longer-lasting flood events – wetlands have the substantial and crucial task of soaking up water from both land and sea.

Action now to protect and restore the Bay’s wetlands is essential and will help mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Many Bay Area residents are becoming part of the solution by volunteering their time to restore these protective marshes. Sign-up to volunteer with Save The Bay’s winter planting season!