First Measure AA Funds Start Flowing

Funds from measure AA will help accelerate Bay marsh restoration

Measure AA is 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 voted 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 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.

The Authority received a lot of proposals to fund restoration projects. “There was twice as much money requested as was available. There’s a lot of demand,” Save The Bay Executive Director Lewis told The Mercury News.

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. Read more about this project in The San Francisco Chronicle.

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 seeing this important work progress in the coming years.

Dedicated Teacher Takes Flight with Save The Bay: Introducing Jeff Sandler

Jeff Sandler: local teacher and Alaska Airlines tickets prize-winner!

“Is this legit? Really? Is this all… kosher?”

Like any gifted scientist, Jeff Sandler views great results with even greater skepticism.

He’d won our Alaska Airlines prize after making his first-ever $250 donation to Save The Bay? A local teacher who regularly brings students to our SEED programs?

Jeff worried it was all a fix – too good a story to be true. Two round-trip airline tickets to anywhere they fly with no restrictions – a dream prize!

Students gathering mulch to protect new transplants

My team stressed: he’d won it fair and square.

A computer pulled Jeff’s name at random, but we at Save The Bay must admit: we’re happy for him.

Jeff, after all, has taken students from The Berkeley School to our restoration sites for the last five years.

Through generous gifts, Save The Bay makes outdoor education a reality for thousands of young people every year.

Jeff loves the sense of purpose Save The Bay programs provides his classes as they connect with local wetlands. “There’s always a goal for each day – mulch this section, remove this invasive plant.” Jeff says the hands-on activities truly stick. “I’m always thrilled at how much they remember trip to trip – details about estuaries and watersheds.”

Save The Bay programs help connect students to local wetlands

Trash is just one topic his students mull over long after they’ve helped clean up the shoreline. “When they see that a lot of that is food wrappers from sewers – it stays with them. Plus, I can take that and go off on a tangent about harmful plastic!”

By donating today, you can help Save The Bay address San Francisco Bay’s most pressing environmental issues in memorable ways for students.

Jeff, meanwhile, is planning a trip somewhere tropical. “My wife just got her scuba diving certification, so I want to take her somewhere warm for her first dive!”

We’re wishing Jeff, his wife, and our caring community a safe and happy New Year.

P.S. Save The Bay and Alaska Airlines have teamed up to make your vacation dreams a reality this holiday season. When you donate at least $250*, you’ll be automatically entered into a drawing to win four round-trip airline tickets to anywhere they fly! Your generous support will help us meet our $100,000 goal and protect the Bay we love. Thank you.

(*Terms and conditions apply, see details.)

 

Solstice on the Shoreline

From the ancient Egyptians to the Ohlone living here in the Bay Area, many cultures experience winter as a powerful time of ritual, reflection, and renewal. The season officially begins Thursday, December 21st – with a solstice! The term translates to “sun stands still,” as the sun appears to pause in its incremental journey across the sky.
All smiles for Solstice on the Shoreline!
Our dedicated volunteer group was all smiles for Solstice on the Shoreline!
Save The Bay decided to mark this changing of the seasons by planting seedlings with some of our most dedicated volunteers and donors. Through their labor and their generosity, this diverse community had already given richly to support our programs. But on last Saturday’s Solstice on the Shoreline event, they dug right into soil to help out even more. Former board members joined avid gardeners and corporate partners to put on gloves, pick up trowels, and protect our Bay.

 

Along the way, Donna Ball and Kenneth Rangel of our Restoration team explained how our staff cleans seeds and sanitizes soil using somewhat simple tools. They made clear these tasks can be both intricate and time-consuming without advanced technology. However, as we build the support necessary to cover this equipment, Save The Bay staffers remain plenty resourceful in their push to create habitat. 
 
Meanwhile, high winds and incredibly hard ground never phased our passionate participants last weekend. Our restoration staff used an auger – a drill bit that can create holes in the ground – to start each of our planting spots. Then, our lively group got to work (sometimes wielding pickaxes!). In the end, we carved a warm bed to lay the young seedlings.
 
Building community to share Save The Bay’s story is a key part of my role as Events & Outreach Manager. I’m thrilled that the events I design and host can genuinely boost the health of San Francisco Bay. Witnessing that “A-ha” moment on a volunteer’s face as they begin to understand their own role in protecting our Bay is incredibly rewarding. After all, my own positive experiences as a student and educator are a major source of inspiration as I work to connect – and expand – Save The Bay’s community.
 
Save The Bay is a resource for learning, scientific exploration, rejuvenation, and above all, making memories.  With the hustle and bustle of the holidays, I encourage you to take a moment to breathe in the Bay air, take a calming walk along its shores and rejuvenate your soul.  We are ready to start building a year’s worth of amazing events and gatherings for 2018. I look forward to seeing you at Blue, our Bay Brunch Cruise on Earth Day (April 22, 2018), and Bay Day, our region-wide celebration for San Francisco Bay, on October 6, 2018.

 

You and your family can also join one of our public programs for free throughout the year. Save The Bay relies on thousands of volunteers annually to make progress on our many wetland restoration projects. Check our calendar often as spaces fill quickly. We can also create dedicated private restoration events for your group or company. Contact Jack Wolfink at jwolflink@savesfbay.org to learn more.

 

State of the San Francisco Estuary Conference 2017

The 2017 State of the San Francisco Estuary Conference, held recently in Oakland, gave scientists, land managers, policy makers, community leaders, as well as writers and artists from across the Bay-Delta region an opportunity to connect with one another, and to build connections between their various fields. Throughout the conference, attendees were welcomed to “get out of their silos,” and explore the interrelatedness of their fields. The conference also provided a venue to look back at the past 20 years of tidal marsh restoration; to celebrate successes, evaluate where we fell short, and anticipate future challenges and opportunities for restoring San Francisco Bay.

Looking Back, Looking Forward

This years State of the Estuary coincided with a number of milestones for many tidal marsh restoration projects in the Bay Area. Michelle Orr of ESA and Eric Joliffe of USACE presented on their decades long monitoring of the Sonoma Baylands Restoration project, which recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. Initiated in 1996, the Sonoma Baylands constitutes 300 acres of deeply subsided agricultural baylands, and is one of the first tidal marsh restoration projects in the Bay Area to utilize beneficial reuse of dredged material to help bring the baylands up to marsh plane to re-establish pickleweed, the dominant marsh plant in our area. In 2014, the project finally met their success criteria of 65% native plant cover, mostly due to the successful establishment of native pickleweed and cordgrass. The project is already providing value for the endangered species that call San Francisco Bay home. In 2016, scientists detected 19 Ridgeways Rails utilizing the newly formed marshes of Sonoma Baylands, showing that this endangered species has the capacity to recover so long as we are able to restore their habitat.

Another project that has reached an important milestone is the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project. The largest tidal restoration project on the West Coast, this ambitious project aims to restore over 15,000 acres of former industrial salt ponds in the South Bay back to historic tidal wetlands. The project recently celebrated the end of Phase 1 of the project, which aimed to restore 10% of the project area to tidal wetlands while experimenting with novel restoration and management practices.

Since the first levees were breached in 2006, scientists have found that a number of wildlife species, such as Salt Marsh Harvest Mice, Ridgeways Rails, and Harbor Seals have greatly benefited from the increased availability of marsh habitat. In addition, the number of migratory waterbirds visiting these areas has doubled between 2002 and 2014! They are also finding that these salt ponds are returning to tidal marshes at a faster than anticipated rate, even though the amount of suspended sediment in the South Bay has declined in recent years. This sediment is vitally important to marsh growth, as the build up of mud over time allows marsh plants to establish in newly restored areas. These lessons learned will be invaluable as the project advances to Phase 2, where work to restore tidal marsh will accelerate to cover 50% of the project area.

Challenges Ahead

While celebrating the successes of the past, many speakers also brought up the challenges that our tidal wetlands will face in the future. Accelerating sea level rise, decreased sediment entering into the bay, and changing levels of salinity will all impact the health of the bay and jeopardize our capacity to successfully restore 100,000 acres of tidal marshes as necessitated in the Baylands Ecosystem Habitat Goals.

The Delta and our local creeks have historically supplied the Bay with much needed sediment to replenish our marshes with changing sea levels. This supply of sediment has dwindled in the past century as water policy shifted towards the large scale damming of upstream rivers, trapping sediment upstream and starving the Bay of much needed mud and clay. Scientists estimate that without changes in how we manage this valuable but often overlooked resource, our baylands just won’t be able to keep up with sea level rise.

Although our marshes have been resilient to sea level rise historically, the rate of sea level rise is expected to accelerate in the coming decades: by 2100, scientists predict that the worlds oceans will rise by 3.5 feet! Almost all of our highways, ports, and airports will need to be upgraded to adapt to this drastic rise in sea level.

Sea level rise in particular has the potential to disproportionately impact low-income communities of color. Many Bay Area communities, from West Oakland and Richmond, to East Palo Alto, are situated close to the shoreline and are most at risk to displacement and gentrification due to sea level rise. Doria Robinson of Urban Tilth spoke for the need to involve these fenceline communities in every step of the wetland restoration process: from leading the design process, to employing members of the community to implement these projects. Equity for communities of color needs to be the foundation of all of our work.

Working Together

A major theme of this years conference was partnerships. Without the expertise and collaboration of multiple partners, the projects that we need to complete in order to protect our wetlands could never get off the ground. One such project is the Oro Loma Sanitary District Experimental Horizontal Levee, an innovative, multi-partner project that aims to protect our bayside infrastructure from the threat of rising seas.

Unlike a conventional, steeply sloped levee, a horizontal levee is built with a gentle slope and planted with native vegetation, giving marshes space to migrate upward and escape the rising seas. These levees are designed to protect coastal communities and bayside infrastructure from storm surges by absorbing floodwaters. They also have the added benefit of providing wildlife habitat, especially in urbanized areas where marshes lack the space to migrate without running into infrastructure such as roads and highways. The Oro Loma project will protect the aging Oro Loma wastewater treatment and purification plant from extreme storms, provide wildlife habitat and provide a model for adapting critical infrastructure to sea level rise. In addition, scientists are also studying how this project will reduce harmful bacteria, excess nutrients, heavy metals, and pharmaceuticals from entering into the Bay!

The Oro Loma project was one of six groundbreaking projects from across the Bay and Delta to be awarded the 2017 Outstanding Environmental Project Award. This award was granted to Save The Bay along with our partners at the Oro Loma Sanitary District, UC Berkeley, Environmental Science Associates, Coastal Ecologist Peter Baye, The San Francisco Estuary Partnership and The Bay Institute. We are incredibly proud of the work our staff and partners have done on this forward-thinking project.

Protecting San Francisco Bay from the twin threats of Climate Change and Sea Level Rise are daunting, existential challenges. The path towards a healthy San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary is murky, uncertain, and full of challenges. With so many different agencies, organizations, scientists, planners, economists, and policymakers gathered together united in their mission to protect our estuary, that path forward is becoming more and more clear.

 

Spooky Creature Features

It’s almost Halloween! What better way to get into the holiday spirit than to discuss those critters that seek to disturb and horrify us. These are four species that can be found around San Francisco Bay that are noteworthy either due to their appalling eating habitats, by their grotesque appearance, or a combination thereof:

Red-Backed Jumping Spiders

Just as one does not simply walk into Mordor, one does not simply talk about the creepy crawlies without mentioning spiders. When most people think of Halloween spiders, black widows and tarantulas typically come to mind. Even though both can be found in the Bay Area, we instead will be talking about the red-backed jumping spider, or Phidippus johnsoni. This is a small jumping spider that is about a centimeter long. Its most notable feature is its bright red abdomen. Though the red-backed jumping spider may look terrifying, it is harmless to humans. The coloration acts as a disguise. The spiders mimic wasps called velvet ants in order to deter potential predators.

Saltmarsh Dodder

Saltmarsh dodders (Cuscuta  spp.) are a genus of native herbaceous plants. However, unlike most other plants, they aren’t green, don’t have leaves and don’t photosynthesize. Instead, dodder is a holometabolous parasite, meaning that it must rely on a host plant from which to obtain all of its nutrients. Dodders are easily identifiable by their orange coloration and threadlike stems that cover the surfaces of host species. They produce white flowers in the summer months.

Oyster Drill

The Atlantic Oyster Drill (Urosalpinx  cinerea) is a small predatory marine snail measuring only 20-35 mm long. A snail you say? How bad can that be? However, these little guys make up for their small stature with a voracious appetite. As the name suggests, they primarily prey on other mollusks and do so in a gruesome fashion. They use a specialized appendage called a radula to bore a hole in the shell of an unsuspecting mussel or clam. Once they finish, they then proceed to slurp the soft insides out through the hole, leaving only the shell behind!

Turkey Vulture 

Image: Arthur Morris/VIREO

Vultures are another Halloween staple.  A common species found throughout much the United States is the ever-present turkey vulture (Cathartes aura).  Chances are good you’ve seen a few circling overhead while driving on the freeway. Turkey vultures are scavengers and feed on carrion, or decaying flesh. Adult turkey vultures have an excellent sense of smell, allowing them to hone in on fresh roadkill, which they then regurgitate for their hungry brood. Still want that Halloween candy? I didn’t think so.