Weekly roundup: January 10, 2014

Check out this week’s Weekly Roundup for breaking news affecting San Francisco Bay

7X7 1/4/14
The ultimate Sunday hike: The Albany bulb
Urban wasteland or artistic expression? Visit the Albany Waterfront Trail (aka the Albany Bulb) and decide for yourself. Whatever you want to call it, it’s a unique and eclectic place for exploration, contemplation and human observation. It’s also a great place to walk your dog and experience some of the most fabulous water-level views to be had in the Bay Area.
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San Francisco Chronicle 1/5/14
Appeals court upholds S.F. plastic bag ban as precedent
In the latest legal setback for plastic-bag makers, a state appeals court has issued a ruling upholding San Francisco’s ban on single-use plastic bags as a precedent for future cases.
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San Jose Mercury News 1/6/14
Made up names doom San Jose ballot measure to overturn Styrofoam ban
The contentious drive to overturn San Jose’s ban on Styrofoam containers has failed after elections officials found more than half the signatures gathered to place the issue before voters were bogus — and many were just made up.
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San Jose Mercury News 1/7/14
Editorial: Polystyrene foam ban stands in San Jose. Yay!
It’s tempting to lose faith in democracy when it seems like money is the only thing that talks. Then something happens — like the failure of the sleazy attempt to repeal San Jose’s ban on polystyrene foam food containers — that restores some faith in the system.
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San Francisco Chronicle 1/9/14
They’re back – the Bay’s herring hordes return
Sea lions, porpoises and tens of thousands of birds are jockeying for position with fishermen this week as the annual herring run splashes into San Francisco Bay, a spectacular marine wildlife showcase that conservationists say is one of the largest in North America.
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The Almanac 1/7/14
Can we rise to the challenge of rising sea levels?
Imagine a darkened bedroom around midnight. You’re lying there in the silence waiting for sleep to come. From the direction of the closet comes a soft scuffling noise. Curious and maybe a bit alarmed, you sit up, but carefully; you don’t want to draw attention to your presence. Holding your breath, you wait, your head at a slight angle, the better to hear whatever it is.
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San Francisco Chronicle 1/9/14
Six Flags mommy dolphin practices baby whistle
Dolphins are known for their exquisite communication skills, but a late-term, pregnant dolphin at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo may be one of the first discovered vocalizing to her unborn baby.
Bella, a 9-year-old bottlenose, caused a double-take among her trainers a few months ago when they discovered her alone in a pool vocalizing her “baby whistle” – an individual sound that every mother dolphin uses to call her calf immediately after birth.
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Weekly Roundup: January 3, 2014

Check out this week’s Weekly Roundup for breaking news affecting San Francisco Bay

San Francisco Chronicle 12/31/13
Group says arena should require S.F. voters’ OK
The political fight over the future of San Francisco’s waterfront has just been ramped up a notch.
A measure proposed for the June ballot just delivered to the city would require that voters approve any development on Port of San Francisco property that exceeds existing height limits. That would include at least three major projects: the Warriors’ proposed arena at Piers 30-32, the Giants’ mixed-use development at a site that is now their main parking lot, and the transformation of the former shipyard at Pier 70 into commercial space, homes and other uses.
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San Jose Mercury News 12/31/13
San Jose won’t increase price of paper bags as ordinance originally required
San Jose’s plastic bag ban is working so well that the city’s environmental services department and council members won’t push paper bag prices to 25 cents each on Jan. 1 as determined when the council ordinance first took affect.
But another ban begins on that day, this one for Styrofoam packaging from multi-state restaurants and fast food outlets. The ban takes place for other restaurants and small food establishments Jan. 1, 2015, which the council hopes will allow prices on other types of packaging to fall, allowing cheaper alternatives for the smaller businesses.
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San Jose Mercury News 12/31/13
King Tides foretell Bay Area’s flood-plagued future
Winston Bumpus stood on the redwood deck of the Sequoia Yacht Club on Tuesday morning, training a careful eye on the murky green water just a couple feet below.
The club’s New Year’s Eve party wouldn’t start until 8 p.m., but he’d arrived about 12 hours early at the Redwood City marina to make sure the morning’s high tide didn’t sneak over the deck and into the club’s carpeted interior. He had sandbags and plastic sheeting ready, but in the end they weren’t needed: The water got within 1.5 feet of the deck before retreating around 10 a.m.
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San Francisco Chronicle 12/20/31
Stop feds’ land grab from state parks
In an audacious display of bureaucratic arrogance, the federal government is threatening to use its eminent domain powers to seize a state-owned street near Alameda’s Crown Beach to accommodate a proposed development of up to 90 homes.
It gets worse. The targeted property is not exactly state surplus. It is a short stretch of McKay Avenue that provides access to the interpretive center at Crab Cove, which sits at the eastern edge of the largest stretch of public beach on the San Francisco Bay. The General Services Administration wants to claim the road to assure utility services for the Roseville (Placer County) developer who outbid the East Bay Regional Park District for the 4-acre site on what is known as Neptune Pointe.
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Sacramento Bee 12/29/13
Drought brings water rationing orders
December is usually not the time of year to discuss water rationing. But this holiday month has been so dry that mandatory water conservation orders are beginning to sweep across the Sacramento region.
The city of Folsom led the pack on Monday, imposing a mandatory 20 percent water conservation order. On Thursday, Sacramento County asked customers in unincorporated areas to voluntarily reduce water consumption by 20 percent. The cities of Sacramento and Roseville are likely to consider their own measures during the first week of January.
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Weekly Roundup: December 20, 2013

Check out this week’s Weekly Roundup for breaking news affecting San Francisco Bay

Sacramento Bee 12/14/13
SF Bay River Otter Sightings Suggest Comeback
Earlier this year, a river otter named Sutro Sam became the first of the whiskered critters to be seen in San Francisco for decades.
The juvenile male otter drew crowds to a brackish pool on a seaside cliff where he swam and ate for a few days, thrilling onlookers before disappearing quietly.
In all, researchers have received 600 reported sightings throughout the San Francisco Bay region over the past two years in the first population study of the weasel-like creatures ever done here. Most of the sightings have been confirmed through photos and video taken by bystanders in an area where the species was nearly wiped out after decades of of hunting, development and pollution.
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Oakland Local 12/12/13
The New Bay Bridge Bike Path: Here’s where to get on in Oaktown and Emeryville
Since its grand opening two weeks ago, the Alexander Zuckermann Bike Path has both enthralled and eluded many visitors. The photos and videos are stunning, but how exactly does one get there? I set out from Lake Merritt on my bike to find out.
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SF Gate 12/13/13
Purchase of Skagg’s Island Farm to Restore SF Bay Marshland
By any measure, it’s a good thing when 1,092 acres along San Francisco Bay become permanently protected open space.
This is even better: Friday’s sale of an oat farm near Highway 37 to the Sonoma Land Trust will allow 4,400 acres of dry land to be restored to a functioning marsh, just like it was before humans put up dikes and walled out San Francisco Bay.
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SF Gate 12/15/13
Bird Count in Oakland Shows Surprisingly Low Tally 
The annual Audubon bird count in Oakland was a breeze this year: There were hardly any birds to count.
“Normally we’d see thousands of scaup and bufflehead and canvasback. This year it’s staggering – we’ve hardly seen any,” said Ruth Tobey, one of more than 200 volunteers who scoured the East Bay on Sunday with binoculars and clipboards, counting birds.
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CBS Bay Area 12/12/13
Appeals Court Upholds San Francisco’s Plastic Bag Ban
A state appeals court has upheld a San Francisco law banning the use of non-compostable plastic bags at checkout stands in retail stores and grocery markets.
The 2012 law, an expansion of an earlier measure, prohibits most single-use plastic checkout bags and requires stores to charge 10 cents for paper or compostable plastic bags.
The ordinance was upheld Tuesday by a three-judge panel of the state Court of Appeal in San Francisco. The court ruled on a challenge by the Los-Angeles-based Save the Plastic Bag Coalition, a manufacturers’ association that has been battling plastic bag laws around the state.
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Bay Nature 12/13/13
Capturing King Tides Through Citizen Science
You’re driving through Mill Valley along Highway 102, the sky is blue, the drought persists, and it’s still not raining—yet, the water laps at your tires and the asphalt road resembles a shallow creek. It’s the winter king tides in action and that, organizers at the California King Tides Initiative say, is what the future looks like.
King tides are extreme, high tide events that occur biannually, normally around the summer and winter solstices, when the gravitational pull of the sun and moon are in alignment. While the tides are not affected by climate change, they act as an indicator of the way in which sea level rise will affect coastal communities. Hayley Zamel, an organizing partner for the California King Tides Initiative, said winter king tides, particularly when paired with a storm—as was the case in Pacifica last year—offer a realistic look into the climate-changed future.
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SF Gate 12/20/13
NYC Expands Smoking Ban to Include E-Cigarettes
Years after being exiled to New York City’s sidewalks by a ban on smoking in indoor public places, some smokers relished electronic cigarettes as a way to come in from the cold. Now they’re down to their last few puffs after the City Council voted 43-8 Thursday to expand the ban to include the devices. Mayor Michael Bloomberg is expected to sign the measure before leaving office in a few days. The ban would take effect in four months.
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Weekly Round-up: December 13, 2013

Check out this week’s Weekly Roundup for breaking news affecting San Francisco Bay

San Mateo Daily Journal 12/7/13
Sea level rise focus of conference: Federal, state, local officials to highlight potential impact on San Mateo County
San Mateo County Supervisor Dave Pine, U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, and Assemblyman Rich Gordon, D-Menlo Park, are hosting a conference to address how San Mateo County can begin to prepare for the effects of sea level rise.
About 300 people have registered for Meeting the Challenge of Sea Level Rise in San Mateo County on Monday morning at the College of San Mateo. National, state and local officials and environmental experts will speak about the magnitude of the reported effects the county faces.
“San Mateo County is uniquely positioned to be impacted on two fronts by sea level rise; both along the coastal zone and along the Bayfront. So we need to be planning now for what will happen when our seas rise,” Gordon said.
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San Jose Mercury News 12/9/13
Is Jerry Brown’s Delta tunnels plan repeating the errors of high-speed rail?
Ever since he took office three years ago, Gov. Jerry Brown has been trying to build two landmark public works projects to reshape California: a $68 billion high-speed rail system and a $25 billion overhaul of the state’s water system, including two massive tunnels under the Delta.
Both have been debated separately so far, with most public attention going to the bullet train plan.
But on Monday, as state officials released a 25,000-page environmental study of the water tunnels plan, critics began to make comparisons between the two, noting that the administration is steaming ahead with both projects, even though neither has anywhere near the funding in place to complete the job.
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KCET 12/9/13
Salmon come back to Marin County as lawsuit proceeds
Bay Area wildlife fans have long known that Marin County’s Lagunitas Creek is a great place to watch wild coho salmon. The creek, which runs from Tomales Bay to the slopes of Mount Tamalpais through undeveloped West Marin, has been home to one of California’s healthiest coho runs despite a century and a half of regional development in the Bay Area. The little Lagunitas Creek watershed held between 10 and 20 percent of all remaining coastal California coho.
That was until a few years back, when the Lagunitas Creek watershed’s coho numbers cratered. The fish have been steadily regaining ground since, but their protectors fear that sprawling residential development may undo the rebound. Three weeks ago, two environmental groups filed suit against Marin County to block a development plan they say threatens the county’s salmon habitat.
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SF Gate 12/11/13
Tidal extremes help put on a wildlife show
The lunar forces will take hold this weekend. The moon cycle will phase into a full moon Tuesday, and in the process, launch a series of high tides and minus low tides.
The time has arrived, Friday through Tuesday, to beachcomb, tide-pool hop on the coast, bird-watch at bay wetlands and go fishing in the bay and off the coast.
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Yubanet.com 12/10/13
In latest victory court of appeal upholds San Francisco plastic bag ban
A unanimous California Court of Appeal upheld San Francisco’s expanded plastic bag ban, marking the latest in a string of victories for local laws phasing out single-use plastic bags. The lawsuit, brought by the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition, had disputed the procedures San Francisco used to expand its plastic bag ban in 2012 and the legality of banning plastic bags in restaurants. This is the first appellate court to consider the restaurant issue. Today’s ruling sets the stage for more cities to adopt and strengthen local laws phasing out plastic bags.
“This is a great victory for our oceans,” said Nathan Weaver with Environment California. “The court’s decision makes clear once again that our communities have the right to keep plastic out of the Pacific by banning plastic bags and encouraging reusable bag use. Phasing out plastic bags is the right policy to protect our beaches, our rivers, and the amazing animals that live in the Pacific Ocean.”
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WUTC 12/13/13
How plastic in the ocean is contaminating your seafood
We’ve long known that the fish we eat are exposed to toxic chemicals in the rivers, bays and oceans they inhabit. The substance that’s gotten the most attention — because it has shown up at disturbingly high levels in some fish — is mercury.
But mercury is just one of a slew of synthetic and organic pollutants that fish can ingest and absorb into their tissue. Sometimes it’s because we’re dumping chemicals right into the ocean. But as a study published recently in Nature, Scientific Reports helps illuminate, sometimes fish get chemicals from the plastic debris they ingest.
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Weekly Round-up: December 6, 2013

Check out this week’s Weekly Roundup for breaking news affecting San Francisco Bay

San Jose Mercury News 11/30/13
San Francisco Bay waters are becoming clearer, but that may mean threats from algae growth
San Francisco Bay is becoming clearer.
Decades of tidal action have finally washed away most of the mess created 150 years ago by Gold Rush miners who blasted apart hillsides in the Sierra Nevada. The result was millions of tons of mud, gravel and sand that made its way downriver and ended up in the bay, clouding its waters and coating the bottom with a level of silt up to 3 feet thick.
Most of the silt, scientists say, has now moved out to the ocean.
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San Jose Mercury News 12/02/13
Cosco Busan’s ship’s pilot won’t get license back
Capt. John Cota, who crashed the Cosco Busan cargo ship into the Bay Bridge in 2007, causing the worst oil spill in San Francisco Bay in two decades, has lost his battle to restart his sailing career.
On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey White dismissed Cota’s lawsuit against the Coast Guard, rejecting his attempt to force the Coast Guard to return his mariner’s license so he can sail again.
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SF Gate 12/02/13
River otter spotted in Richmond marina
Leo Rice, a 57-year-old flight attendant for Virgin America, was on his daily constitutional Monday in Richmond’s Marina Bay when he spotted an eager river otter munching a fish in the clear bay water.
“I was just out there doing a walk and this little guy popped up and I was like WHAT?!,” Rice said. “He was not very shy at all and it was like he was not even bothered I was there.”
Rice snapped about 30 photos and took a video of the otter paddling and trying to gulp down a fish. Rice said he’s been walking Marina Bay since 2009 and has never before spotted an otter.
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Contra Costa Times 12/01/13
Bay Bridge park would offer a new gateway to the East Bay shoreline
Forget about a giant Ferris wheel or gondola car ride in the emerging plan for a big new park by the Bay Bridge — a new gateway to the East Bay and its shoreline.
Those ride suggestions have been cut out, but still in the running for the park are a fishing pier, concert meadow, a zip line, rock climbing wall, tide pool viewing areas, kayak and sail board launch sites, a boardwalk, sandy beaches and picnic tables.
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Petaluma 360 11/29/13
Plastic bag ban debate continues
Petaluma is on the verge of throwing out the use of plastic carryout bags by grocers and retailers for good.
City Manager John Brown said the City Council will have two options before them at Monday’s meeting: join the county’s plastic ban or draft legislation specific to Petaluma that outlaws plastic bags.
“There are some cities that have said they want to do it themselves, and other cities that said they want the county to handle it for them,” said Brown. “Now it’s the council’s time to decide.”
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San Jose Mercury News 12/02/13
Birding adventures in northern California
If December’s constant diet of shopping, eating, shopping, football and shopping puts you in a Scroogey kind of mood, maybe it’s time for a breath of fresh air.
In Northern California, December is the season not just for consumer frenzy, but for epic wildlife shows. The midwinter phenomenon of winged migration is in full feather at refuges around the region, and by all accounts, the avian action is some of the most impressive in the nation.
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Marin Independent Journal 12/03/13
Marin gets state cash to look at sea level rise
Marin County will use a $200,000 grant to look at how it can prevent businesses, homes and highways from being inundated by a rising sea over the next several decades.
The California Ocean Protection Council is providing the money to Collaborating on Sea-Level: Marin Adaptation Response Team, known as C-SMART. The program, overseen by the Marin County Community Development Agency, is trying to get ahead of sea level rise.
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