Redoubling our efforts after Pruitt’s departure

Scott Pruitt may have left the building, but his legacy of attacks on the environment and climate denial will likely live on. So, Save The Bay’s work to protect the Bay Area and California remains vital and urgent this year.

Pruitt’s resignation as EPA Administrator comes after his many scandals prompted at least 13 federal investigations. Worse for the planet, Pruitt also initiated 31 EPA deregulation efforts to undo long-standing rules that protect public health from pollution. Expect Pruitt’s replacement, EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler, to continue or accelerate this agenda, and offer no relief to the nation’s air and water.

A former coal and uranium lobbyist, Wheeler lobbied for Murray Energy and other major polluters, working against strong protections for clean air, water and public lands. He also worked as an aide to James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the leading climate change denier in the U.S. Senate. Wheeler could actually be more effective than Pruitt was in rolling back environmental protections because he’s a veteran Washington, DC, insider with extensive political contacts.

So, what should we do? Resist and redouble our efforts to ensure state and regional environmental laws and funding compensate for federal disinvestment in San Francisco Bay and California’s resources. Save The Bay will:

  • Lead the fight to reduce pollution of the Bay and accelerate climate adaptation in the Bay Area. Whoever runs the EPA, we have the tools to reduce trash in the Bay, and insist that California regulators enforce the stormwater pollution rules Caltrans has violated for years.
  • Seize the opportunity to secure another $200 million in state matching funds for Bay marsh restoration this fall. We’ve already endorsed Proposition 3, the November state water bond that adds money for the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority’s wetlands grants, beyond what the regional Measure AA parcel tax provides.
  • Encourage our federal elected officials to exercise vigorous oversight of EPA and block rollback of crucial water and air protections. We’ll urge Senators Feinstein and Harris, Nancy Pelosi and the entire Bay Area delegation to be tenacious watchdogs over the EPA’s budget, and the Clean Water Act that guards against pollution and destruction of wetlands.

You can help by supporting Save The Bay generously. And sign up for action alerts and volunteer programs.

The Bay Area and California have already shown we won’t let the Trump Administration take us backwards on environmental protection. Scott Pruitt’s resignation should only strengthen our resolve to make San Francisco Bay better for future generations, starting right here at home.

 

 

Proposition 3 would invest big in Bay wetlands and clean water

California voters this November have a tremendous opportunity to accelerate San Francisco Bay tidal marsh restoration and improve water quality statewide through Proposition 3.  This $8.8 billion bond measure funds projects that provide environmental benefits to people and wildlife, including habitat for endangered fish, safe drinking water for disadvantaged populations, improved resilience against drought, and adaptation to climate change.

Proposition 3 provides $200 million directly to the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority for grants to restore Bay marshes, one of Save The Bay’s top priorities for the last decade. This would expand habitat restoration beyond what Bay Area voters are funding  through the Measure AA parcel tax approved in 2016.

While Measure AA will provide $500 million over 20 years for grants to fund wetlands restoration, that only covers about one-third of the estimated $1.4 billion cost to double the total tidal marsh in the Bay and keep it healthy [Greening the Bay]. Demand for Measure AA funds is higher than annual AA tax receipts can support – twice as much money was requested for restoration projects this spring as was available.

Proposition 3 will add crucial state funds to improve the Bay’s health and resilience to climate change, especially important at a time when the President and Congress are trying to reduce federal investments in the environment. It is vital to commit more funds to the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority while California’s economy is still booming and voters are open to approving bonds.

Save The Bay has endorsed Proposition 3 because it contains important water investments that benefit the Bay and Delta watersheds, including ten times more funding for San Francisco Bay than Proposition 68, the state parks bond that voters approved in June. These bond funds could be spent in the next five years and start revegetating more marshes sooner to stay ahead of sea level rise.

We’ve written more about the statewide benefits of Proposition 3, which you can read here.

Stay tuned for updates about Proposition 3 and other opportunities to Vote for the Bay at www.SFBayActionFund.org.

 

Proposition 3 boosts clean water, wildlife and drought readiness

Photo by Dan Sullivan

The $8.8 billion bond measure before California voters in November provides a huge boost to San Francisco Bay restoration. Read more here.

And Proposition 3 funds projects throughout California that provide environmental benefits to people and wildlife, including habitat for endangered fish, safe drinking water for disadvantaged populations, improved resilience against drought, and adaptation to climate change. Beyond San Francisco Bay, Proposition 3:

  • benefits rivers, streams and fish, with more than $1 billion to improve urban creeks, create and improve river parkways, restore essential fish habitat, acquire water for salmon and steelhead facing extinction, and provide canoe and kayak access to rivers and streams.
  • protects and restores wildlife, with hundreds of millions of dollars to acquire water and improve habitat essential to millions of waterfowl and shorebirds that winter in California, and many other species of wildlife. It also preserves the Habitat Conservation Fund that would otherwise expire in 2020, dedicating it to environmental water purposes.
  • protects and restores watersheds, with more than $3 billion to state conservation agencies for watershed acquisition and restoration, through grants to local land and water conservation groups from the Sierras to the coast, and throughout the Central Valley.
  • promotes environmental justice, with more than half of its funding reserved or prioritized for disadvantaged communities, including $750 million dollars to build safe drinking water supply and sanitary wastewater disposal systems for public health. Hundreds of thousands of Californians live in disadvantaged communities that don’t have clean drinking water or a sanitary place to dispose of wastewater.
  • improves safe, sustainable water supplies, funding productive water technologies that improve supplies for people and wildlife instead of building new dams that cause environmental harm. The bond includes money for wastewater recycling, groundwater recharge, water conservation, groundwater pollution reductions, removal of water-intensive invasive plants, and repairs of existing dams and canals.
  • helps working families throughout California, boosting sustainable water use for cities and farms. Funds to repair existing water delivery facilities and conserve water in agricultural areas help working families who depend on these water supplies for jobs and food, without taking more water from rivers essential for fish and wildlife.

Just as important, Proposition 3 does not fund any new dams or canals that would take more water away from fresh water flows in rivers or further degrade the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Proposition 3 does not fund proposed Delta tunnels. Bond funds would be available for crucial repair and safety of existing facilities, including Oroville Dam and the badly subsided Friant-Kern Canal, on which many people depend for reliable delivery of water, productive agriculture, and recharge of groundwater reserves during wet years.

Proposition 3 is endorsed by conservation leaders statewide (full list at www.waterbond.org). In addition to Save The Bay, National Wildlife Federation,  California Waterfowl Association, Ducks Unlimited, American River Conservancy and more have already endorsed.

You can read the full text of Proposition 3 at www.waterbond.org .  And stay tuned for updates about Proposition 3 and other opportunities to Vote for the Bay at www.SFBayActionFund.org.

 

A vision of Bay Smart Communities for a Sustainable Future

As the Bay Area continues to grow and change, and the Bay faces new threats, we know we need to take an expanded view of how to protect and restore the Bay for people and wildlife. Creating “Bay Smart Communities” is essential for creating a healthy Bay, because pollution and climate change aren’t limited to the shoreline.

Threats to the Bay originate inland and upstream. So how our cities choose to accommodate more people and businesses will have a huge impact on the Bay. We must shape those choices to make the Bay better.

That’s the discussion we’re having this month with forums in Oakland and Mountain View about our vision for how Bay Area cities can become Bay Smart.

Save The Bay was founded in 1961, with what looked like an impossible mission: stop the Bay from being filled in. It was considered impossible then to stop cities building into the Bay — that was the inevitable march of progress, considered essential to create room for commerce and a growing economy. But when we stopped filling the Bay, the opposite happened. The Bay Area has boomed because protecting nature in our midst made this a more desirable urban area to live, work and play.

In all of this work, Save The Bay will ensure the Bay’s voice is heard. We will leverage the power of our membership, resources, and reputation. We will collaborate with partners who share our concerns and goals. We are eager to learn from those who’ve already devoted years of effort to this work, and we will also bring new perspective and energy to the process.

This month we’ve added more details to our vision of Bay Smart Communities, and made recommendations for protecting the Bay by tackling the big challenges facing our region:

  • How do we live, work and move around the Bay Area in ways that are sustainable and resilient in a time of rapid climate change?
  • How do we accommodate growth in the Bay Area in ways that reduce water and air pollution, including greenhouse gases?
  • How do we reduce water and energy consumption, and improve equity and environmental justice?

We can’t save the Bay without addressing these pressing Bay Area challenges. We can promote Bay Area planning and development policies and decisions that help create Bay Smart Communities — where sustainable growth in our cities actually enhances the Bay, reduces pollution, is more resilient to climate change, advances environmental justice, and promotes equity.

Read Bay Smart Communities for a Sustainable Future here

View of the Bay Area, Photo By Jill Zwicky

 

Hacienda Avenue Green Street Improvement Project, Campbell CA

Caltrans, stop trashing San Francisco Bay

Eric Hoover found a tire and places it into the pile collected at India Basin Shoreline Park in San Francisco. Photo by Paul Kuroda

The San Francisco Chronicle originally published this article on February 15, 2018

Litter on California’s freeways and state roads is a disgrace, and it’s also one of the biggest reasons San Francisco Bay is choked with trash.

Every time it rains, trash from freeways and busy state roads, like El Camino Real and San Pablo Avenue, pours through storm drains into creeks and, ultimately, San Francisco Bay. Bottles, wrappers, Styrofoam, straws and cigarettes poison fish and wildlife, smother wetland habitat and deface the shoreline.

It’s time for our state transportation agency, Caltrans, to obey the law and stop polluting our waters. For years, Caltrans has violated the federal Clean Water Act and state storm water permits that prohibit uncontrolled trash flows from its roads.

Who bears the burden of that violation? It’s Bay Area cities, which are already striving to meet their own legal obligation to allow zero trash flow to the bay by 2022.

That’s because trash that drains off state roads becomes the local city’s responsibility.

So Caltrans ignoring road trash means cities from Oakland to Santa Clara face higher cleanup bills, or even fines for polluting the bay. That’s not fair. And when a state agency ignores the law, it becomes tougher to hold private individuals and companies accountable for polluting the bay.

Fortunately, the solutions are clear. Caltrans must remove roadside litter more often, and put trash-capture devices in storm drains on highways and right-of-ways. A few of these devices have been installed in problem locations, but only where cities pressed Caltrans hard for action.

In Richmond, Caltrans paid to install two trash separators in storm drains near I-580 that will screen water draining off 831 acres of urban streets. In San Jose, Caltrans agreed to fund a partnership with the city’s Conservation Corps to increase freeway cleanups.

Trash lines the shores of Damon Slough near the McAfee Coliseum and Highway 880, one of the worst trash hotspots in the Bay Area. Photo by Carlos Avila Gonzalez, The Chronicle

Those efforts stop only a fraction of the trash headed from state roads to the bay. In most of the identified trash hot spots, Caltrans is doing nothing — even where trash separators could be incorporated into needed road maintenance. The agency is years behind in dedicating money and setting a specific timeline to cut trash pollution, claiming funding constraints even though its budget this year is $11.3 billion.

The San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board called Caltrans’ behavior “deficient” more than three years ago, and issued a formal notice of violation over a year ago. But the board has not used its power to mandate actions and penalties for these violations. The victims are seals, pelicans and other wildlife choked and poisoned by trash in the bay.

It’s unacceptable for our state agencies to keep violating the Clean Water Act, especially as Gov. Jerry Brown and the state Legislature proclaim our state will uphold federal environmental laws that the Trump administration is trying to erode.

The regional water board should immediately take enforcement action against Caltrans and require the agency to obey the law by cleaning up road litter and installing full trash-capture devices in the worst areas.

Continued violations deserve penalties and fines, just like a private polluter would face.

Until that reckoning, the state is shirking its duty to protect San Francisco Bay, our fish and wildlife, and public health.

So clean up your roads, Caltrans. Stop making San Francisco Bay wildlife and Bay Area cities pay for your pollution.

David Lewis is the executive director of Save The Bay.