First Measure AA Funds to Start Flowing

This week, Measure AA goes to work accelerating Bay marsh restoration – realizing a vision Save The Bay first had more than a decade ago.

On April 11, the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority will vote on how to spend the first tax receipts from the nine-county ballot measure Bay Area voters overwhelmingly approved in June 2016. The first nine recommended project grants would invest $23.5 million to restore tidal marsh habitat for wildlife around the Bay. Many of these projects also will provide trails and other public recreation, and help protect shoreline communities against flooding.

Scientists have told us for decades that the Bay needs at least 100,000 acres of restored tidal marsh to be healthy, after development reduced tidal marsh to only 40,000 acres. Many diked salt ponds and hay fields were acquired and protected for restoration over the last 20 years, bringing that goal within reach, and we identified the missing ingredient is sufficient public funding.

Recognizing how much local residents love the Bay, Save The Bay and other key stakeholders worked for years to create a way all of us who live here can help invest in a healthier Bay. We convinced the state legislature to create the Restoration Authority, a regional special district that could propose new funding mechanisms for the Bay. Eight years later, the Restoration Authority finally put Measure AA on the ballot, and voters agreed to pay a modest $12 annually for 20 years.

To maximize the impact of these funds, this first round of AA grants supports large and smaller restoration projects all around the Bay, including several in economically disadvantaged communities. (see the full list at www.SFBayRestore.org )

One of the most visible recommended projects is Phase 2 of the Ravenswood Pond restoration from East Palo Alto to Menlo Park. Part of the huge South Bay Salt Ponds complex, this project will convert more of the former commercial salt production ponds back into tidal wetlands. Drivers on the Dumbarton Bridge and California highway 84 have seen these huge brown areas for years, and soon that brown will begin turning green. Save The Bay worked to restore other Ravenswood sites in the past, and we will be creating transition zone habitat there with volunteers at the edge of Bedwell Bayfront Park.

These grants are a major milestone in the effort to accelerate Bay restoration, but it is only the beginning. The Bay needs more funding to address the serious strain that growth and climate change are having on the Bay and Bay Area communities. There was more demand for the first AA funds than supply; matching funds will be needed from the state and federal governments to create all the wetlands needed. Proposition 68 on the June statewide ballot is the next opportunity to boost resources for the Bay, as it includes another $20 million in matching Measure AA funds.

Through Measure AA, Bay Area residents are funding the largest urban climate adaptation effort in the country, using green infrastructure to make our region more sustainable and resilient to the expected impacts from more extreme storms and rising seas. We look forward to watching the progress of this important work in the coming years.

The Next Leap Forward for San Francisco Bay: Restoration Funding and Other 2018 State Legislative Priorities

With the 2018 state legislative session now underway in Sacramento, we are working hard to advance our top priorities for protecting and restoring San Francisco Bay. Our ambitious agenda is focused to achieve meaningful progress on our most important issues – from wetlands restoration funding to reducing stormwater pollution and greenhouse gas emissions – so that our Bay and Bay Area communities remain clean and healthy for future generations.

Bay Restoration Funding

Two years ago, we did what no one thought possible – we led an overwhelming majority of Bay Area voters to pass Measure AA, a $500 million investment in restoring the health of San Francisco Bay. Despite this momentous victory, Measure AA will cover only a third of the estimated cost to restore the tidal wetlands awaiting action around the Bay. It is now the state’s turn to step up and invest in San Francisco Bay restoration, ensuring that this natural treasure remains clean and healthy for future generations. Securing a significant investment in Bay restoration from the state is our top legislative priority.

Funding the full cost of restoration has long been a priority of Save The Bay, and there is more urgency than ever to get it done. As prospects for winning federal funding are currently poor, state matching funds are crucial to accelerating the pace of restoration so that the wetlands have adequate time to accrete ahead of rising sea levels that threaten to swamp them and make restoration impossible. Restoration projects can take years, and the pace of our changing climate compels us to act now.

We have a tremendous opportunity to win significant funding in 2018, working closely with our state elected officials to put together a financing package of $50 million in dedicated funding for Bay restoration projects. With a strong groundswell from you, our supporters, we are confident we can make real progress this year.

At a glance, here are our other major legislative priorities:

Bay Smart Communities: Restore Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF) Funding

The Governor’s 2018-2019 Budget proposes zeroing out GGRF funding for key programs that support the establishment of Bay Smart Communities – environmentally just communities with housing and infrastructure that is ecologically sound, climate resilient, and improves access to the Bay. Urban greening, urban forestry, and climate adaptation programs play a vital role in advancing Bay Smart projects around the Bay, which produce multiple benefits like pollution reduction, water conservation, and urban open space for public recreation and public health improvement. We will work to ensure that the Legislature fully restores these funds in this year’s budget.

Keeping Trash Out of the Bay: Holding Caltrans Accountable

As cities across the region do their part to reduce the amount of trash that flows into the Bay, Caltrans is shirking its responsibility to keep litter out of our waterways. This state agency, which is responsible for maintaining California’s state roads and highways, has failed to address the trash problem in its jurisdiction, placing the burden of compliance on cities. Save The Bay is demanding the Regional Water Quality Control Board force Caltrans to comply with the Clean Water Act and clean up littered roads and install trash capture devices before the garbage piled up on its thoroughfares pollutes our Bay.

Reducing Plastic Pollution in Our Waterways

Each year during beach and river cleanups around the state, the biggest sources of trash are plastic items like cigarette butts and plastic beverage caps. If we can target the problem at its source, whether by discouraging smoking in places where cigarette butts can end up in our waterways or reducing the amount of single-use plastic straws we use, we can reduce this plastic trash that pollutes the Bay and threatens wildlife. For this reason, Save The Bay supports a package of plastics bills that would reduce source pollution keep it out of our waterways.

Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Committing to Renewable Energy

California has led the nation in passing aggressive climate change mitigation and clean energy policies, and we’re looking to make big progress once again in 2018. The Legislature will consider two groundbreaking bills to reduce harmful greenhouse gases and particulate emissions that pollute our Bay and threaten the health and quality of life of Bay Area residents:

  • Senate Bill 100 (de León), which would commit California to 100% renewable energy by 2045.
  • Assembly Bill 1745 (Ting), which would ban all new gas-powered cars in California after 2040.

November 2018 State Water Bond Ballot Measure

Save The Bay strongly supports the Water Supply and Water Quality Act of 2018, a citizens’ initiative expected to be on the statewide ballot in November. The proposed bond measure includes nearly $200 million in funding for the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority to accelerate regional wetland restoration projects, in addition to funding for projects that improve water infrastructure, ensure reliable delivery of drinking water to underserved areas of the state, and restore critical fish and wildlife habitat. This bond would be the state’s largest investment in water infrastructure and wildlife habitat restoration projects since Proposition 1 passed in 2014. We are seeking legislative endorsements for its passage.

To read our full 2018 State Legislative Agenda, click here.

 

 

 

 

State Legislature Wraps Up 2017 Session with Wins for the Bay


The California State Legislature wrapped up its 2017 session last month with the passage of some significant environmental bills that will provide important benefits to San Francisco Bay and Bay Area residents. Below are some of the notable achievements that will help keep our Bay – and Bay Area air – clean and healthy. With the exception of the bill extending the cap-and-trade system for reducing California’s greenhouse gas emissions, which has already been signed into law, all the bills mentioned below await the Governor’s signature.

Bay Restoration Funding in the State Parks and Water Bond

In one of the final votes of the 2017 session, the Legislature passed a Parks and Water Bond measure, Senate Bill 5 (de León), that voters will likely see on the June 2018 statewide ballot. The proposed bond contains $4 billion for parks, green space, and water projects statewide.

Notably, the bill contains a one-time investment of $20 million for San Francisco Bay restoration, something we worked hard to include. With support from key allies and thousands of our supporters throughout the region, we made a strong case for Bay restoration funding among competing environmental priorities throughout California. While we are disappointed that the final bond does not include a higher level of funding, this $20 million would add to the $25 million annually for 20 years provided by 2016’s regional Measure AA. If the Governor signs the bill as anticipated, the bond will be subject to voter approval on the June 2018 statewide ballot.

Stormwater Financing

Stormwater is both an important freshwater resource and a major source of pollution in our waterways. Yet, unlike drinking water and wastewater projects, critical stormwater projects have failed to move forward due to an interpretation of state law that limited the ability of local governments to fund them. Failure to repair and upgrade our stormwater infrastructure over many years has led to increased local flooding during storms and the continued flow of trash and toxic heavy metals into the Bay, polluting the water and threatening wildlife habitat. Given chronic water shortages in California, it is imperative that local governments fund projects that capture and recycle stormwater in order to reduce the strain on our freshwater resources.

Fortunately, the Legislature passed new measures to help municipalities do just that. To help facilitate local financing and implementation of stormwater projects, Senate Bill 231 (Hertzberg) will give municipalities and local water agencies the necessary authority to finance stormwater projects while maintaining strict requirements for transparency and accountability. To prioritize these projects, Senate Bill 5 contains $100 million in competitive grants for statewide investment in water reuse and recycling, including stormwater projects. The bill also contains $100 million statewide for stormwater and other flood protection and repair projects that will help reduce the flow of trash into our waterways.

Smoking Ban in State Parks and Beaches

Complementing the numerous local and regional smoking bans already in effect throughout the Bay Area, the Legislature passed two bills to prohibit smoking in state parks and beaches. Smoking in these areas exposes visitors to second hand smoke, and cigarette butts threaten the health of wildlife and local waterways. An activity that mars the quality of our air, landscape, and water has no place in areas where Californians go to enjoy the outdoors with their families.

Cigarette litter is toxic, plastic trash that plagues California’s beaches and shoreline. Cigarette filters are made from non-biodegradable cellulose acetate, and will persist in the environment indefinitely. Cigarette butts have been the most common type of litter collected on Coastal Cleanup Day for the last 20+ years. At state parks in the Bay Area, including China Camp State Park, McLaughlin East Shore State Park, Crown Beach State Park, and Angel Island State Park, thousands of cigarette butts are found each year during Coastal Cleanup Day events.

The two bills, Senate Bill 386 (Glazer), which is stronger and more prescriptive, and Assembly Bill 725 (Levine), which leaves state officials greater flexibility for purposes of implementation, would ban smoking in state parks and beaches and impose fines on those who violate the ban.

Cap-and-Trade Extension

Finally, in one of the more contentious and momentous votes of the year, the Legislature voted to extend the state’s cap-and-trade system through 2030. California’s cap-and-trade is the strongest greenhouse gas emission reduction mechanism in the nation, and one that has yielded billions of dollars in funding for key climate mitigation programs. In order to continue funding these important initiatives, retaining some type of carbon pricing scheme was essential.

Earlier this year, cap-and-trade’s future was uncertain. The program was set to expire in 2020, and a pending lawsuit challenged the constitutionality of its simple-majority passage back in 2006. In order to overcome that legal challenge and extend the policy beyond 2020, legislative leaders needed to craft an extension that would achieve passage by a two-thirds majority.

In order to reach that threshold, cap-and-trade supporters in the Legislature accepted significant compromises. The final deal gave away billions of dollars in allowances to oil companies and other big polluters; it reduced the ability of local air regulators to control carbon dioxide emissions; and it allowed polluters to increase their use of carbon offsets rather than reduce their emissions, among other problems. Therefore, the bill was opposed by environmental justice groups and some others in the environmental community who believed it did more harm than good, and that its passage came at the continued expense of low-income communities and communities of color who suffer disproportionately from the negative impacts of climate change.

Fighting Climate Change Deniers at the Local, State, and Federal Level

Together, we made a lot of progress on addressing climate change in the Bay in 2016, and Save The Bay is committed to intensifying the fight in 2017 and beyond.
Together, we made a lot of progress on addressing climate change in the Bay in 2016, and Save The Bay is committed to intensifying the fight in 2017 and beyond. Photo by Dan Sullivan.

It’s a new year, which in the case of 2017 means a new Congress and a new administration in Washington, D.C. Many of us in the Bay Area have a palpable sense of unease about what the impending changes in the federal government mean for the Bay and the environment more broadly. And on no issue is this concern felt more deeply than the fight to address climate change and its impacts.

Environmental advocates in the Bay Area – and California as a whole –  are determined and prepared to advance this fight, and we at Save The Bay are doing everything we can to ensure that climate change remains front and center in regional, state, and federal agendas over the coming years.

Here is what we are doing to make this happen:

On the local level

As the Bay Area rapidly grows in the coming years, we can help ensure that the growth happens in a way that minimizes the impact on the Bay and adapts to climate change. This is the aim of our new Bay Smart Communities Program, which promotes investment in green infrastructure, low-impact development, transit-oriented development, and increased affordable housing along the Bay. These “smart growth” components have a number of significant climate change-related benefits, including:

  • Reducing vehicle emissions and harmful pollutant runoff into the Bay by building higher density housing – particularly affordable housing – and commercial developments near public transit, allowing people to work in the same communities in which they live, thereby facilitating decreased vehicle use;
  • Conserving fresh water and slowing the flow of rain water by building “green streets” and plumbing systems that filter pollution from rain water and provide opportunities for its capture and local reuse; and,
  • Increasing urban green space, which enhances recreational space, encourages people to walk or bike instead of drive, and reduces urban heat islands that lead to higher local energy consumption.

On the state Level

We are fortunate to live in a state that has led the nation in the fight against climate change. Gov. Jerry Brown and our state legislature have already committed to pursuing continued aggressive action regardless of what happens in Washington, D.C. In 2017 and beyond, Save The Bay will:

  • Build on the success of Measure AA by advocating for additional state funding to match our regional investment, allowing for more Bay restoration that will protect the ecosystem while also safeguarding shoreline communities against climate change-induced threats like flooding due to sea level rise;
  • Build on the success of landmark 2016 climate mitigation legislation by advocating additional policies that further reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and provide communities – particularly low-income communities and communities of color, who suffer disproportionately from the impacts of climate change – with the resources to minimize these emissions and improve public health, safety, and quality of life; and,
  • Support other climate resiliency legislation to benefit the Bay, including bills dealing with stormwater management, green infrastructure investment, allocation of the state’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund monies, and water allocation and storage.

On the federal level

Despite what we expect to be a more climate-change skeptical and anti-environment leadership in Washington, D.C., over the next few years we will be more aggressive than ever in asserting the importance of federal environmental protection laws, regulations, and strong action on climate change. Already, we have:

  • Opposed the nomination of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to be administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), citing his record of fighting EPA action on climate change and opposing enforcement of the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Protection Act – all vital laws that we rely on to help protect the Bay and its ecosystem, particularly in the face of climate change;
  • Urged our state’s newest U.S. Senator, Kamala Harris, to actively oppose Pruitt’s nomination in her capacity as a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee; and,
  • Discussed with our congressional partners the importance of creating a new federal program for San Francisco Bay restoration, including robust funding to match regional and state investments, both to ensure that the Bay ecosystem is protected into the future and to create a framework for addressing the growing threat of sea level rise and other climate-induced changes.

Together, we made a lot of progress on addressing climate change in the Bay in 2016, and Save The Bay is committed to intensifying the fight in 2017 and beyond.

Vote Bay Smart: transportation investments we need

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Since 2000, the population of the Bay Area has grown by 870,000. Just 500,000 of that growth has occurred in the last six years.

We Need Investment in Our Transportation Infrastructure: Our Bay Depends On It. 

We all know that the Bay Area is an incomparable place to live. There are world-class cities, rich history and culture, a thriving economy, and ample recreational opportunities, featuring majestic expanses of nearby open space. At the heart of it all is our region’s greatest natural treasure: San Francisco Bay.

Unfortunately, we all also know that Bay Area traffic is incomparable. If you’ve spent any time traveling at rush hour, whether on the roads or public transit, you know the frustration this causes firsthand.

Since 2000, the population of the Bay Area has grown by 870,000. Just 500,000 of that growth has occurred in the last six years.

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A boom in population growth has outpaced the expansion and upgrading of our transportation infrastructure.

Between 2010 and 2040, our population is expected to grow 30 percent. This growth has outpaced the expansion and upgrading of our transportation infrastructure, putting enormous strain on the entire system. It is also a major driver of our region’s skyrocketing housing costs that are forcing many residents to move farther away from their jobs and take on longer commutes.

This time lapse video shows a map of central Bay Area traffic throughout the course of a typical weekday, illustrating the gridlock that drivers face on virtually every major freeway. And the congestion isn’t limited to the morning or evening commutes. In fact, the “evening” commute begins at 2:30 p.m. By 5 p.m., there is a sea of red surrounding the Bay that doesn’t clear up fully until well past 9 p.m.

This map of course doesn’t show ridership on buses or BART, which get extremely crowded and inaccessible at pressure points during the day, leading to delays and increasingly frequent breakdowns.

All of this causes serious negative impacts on the quality of our air and the health of our Bay. When people spend more time in traffic, they emit more greenhouse gases that pollute our air and contribute to global warming, and more toxic airborne particulates that wind up in Baywater. They also leave behind more trash and PCBs on our roadways to contaminate stormwater runoff that flows into the Bay.

As our over-stressed public transit systems become less reliable and accessible, and the region continues to grow, more and more commuters take to their cars, exacerbating these problems.

Our transportation infrastructure throughout the region needs significant expansion and upgrades to accommodate growth and relieve congestion. Fortunately, we have a chance to make real progress this November.

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More time in traffic causes serious negative impacts on the quality of our air and the health of our Bay.

There are three key ballot measures that will make particularly critical improvements to our transportation system, helping to reduce road congestion and encouraging expanded use of public transit: BART District Measure RR, AC Transit District Measure C1, and Santa Clara County Measure B.

You can get detailed information on each of these measures at our Bay Smart Ballot Measure page.

Real benefits for the Bay from these ballot measures will include: fewer cars on the road, less particulate matter to pollute our air and water, and less trash and toxins on our roadways to wash into the Bay with every storm.

As our region continues to grow in the coming years, we have a responsibility to protect the health of the Bay – and the health of all Bay Area residents – as much as possible. Improving our transportation infrastructure is one of the most effective ways we can do that, so let’s vote Bay Smart on Tuesday, Nov. 8.

Paid for by Save The Bay.