Weekly Roundup October 25, 2013

Contra Costa Times 10/17/13
San Joaquin River dredging may benefit endangered Antioch butterflies
A flurry of activity just off this city’s shore this week may not only clear the way for Northern California commerce, but also could boost the population of a near-extinct native butterfly species nearby.
Workers with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Oakland-based Vortex Marine Construction were dredging part of the San Joaquin River just east of Antioch’s downtown Thursday — annual maintenance done to clear the path for larger ships to bring cargo into the Central Valley.
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weekly roundup

Media Matters 10/22/13
EPA Moves to Clarify Clean Water Act, Fox Cries “Power Grab”
Fox is accusing the Environmental Protection Agency of a “power grab” for proposing a rule to clarify the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. In fact, the new classification is based on sound science and intended to address years’ worth of confusion surrounding the proper protection of the nation’s waterways.
Newly-proposed guidelines would allow “greater consistency, certainty, and predictability nationwide by providing clarity in determining where the Clean Water Act (CWA) applies,” per the EPA, specifically by incorporating recent research on the extend to which small streams and wetlands connect to larger bodies of water downstream. That research, which is under review by the EPA’s Science Advisory Board, found that small streams, even those that only flow at certain times, “are connected to and have important effects on downstream waters,” and that wetlands are similarly integrated, making them subject to CWA protection.
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Alameda Sun 10/25/13
Estuary Cleanup in Full Swing
The Alameda Police Department (APD) is among 15 agencies involved in the multimillion dollar cleanup of the Oakland Estuary currently underway. Agencies that include the Coast Guard, the State Lands Commission and San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission are using Francis Collins’ property at Clement Avenue and Oak Street to stage their operation.
The tug boats Respect and Captain Al, a pair of barges and a large amount of debris lay at the waterway’s bottom just off the property that Collins hopes to develop into the Boatworks housing project. A team from the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) will soon raise all these hazards from the estuary’s bottom.
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Contra Costa Times 10/24/13
Unwanted Pharmaceuticals Can be Dropped off this Weekend
Those looking to get rid of unwanted medication will have an opportunity from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, when National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day events will be held around the area.
Medication, whether prescription or over-the-counter drugs, has proliferated in modern society, and that creates a danger to humans and the environment.
The East Bay Municipal Utilities District notes in its latest customer newsletter that flushing expired or unwanted pills, capsules and syrups was once the recommended method of disposal.
But studies now show that this practice creates a pharmaceutical stew in the Bay because the substances cannot be handled by conventional wastewater treatment.
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From a Creek to the Bay: Restoring Local Waterways

Strawberry Creek on the UC Berkeley campus. Credit: flickr.com/queenkv/

While studying in Berkeley for the past four years, I was far enough removed from the shoreline that the Bay seemed to be nothing but a distant thought: what lay under the Bay Bridge when I occasionally headed into the City in my Tina Turner gold sequined dress. It turns out there was a little piece of the Bay right under my nose, quite literally.

Strawberry Canyon Creek runs right through the UC campus, as well as under many Berkeley neighborhoods. As an Environmental Science student I participated in numerous creek clean-ups, removing invasive ivy. The creek winds its way down through Berkeley and enters the Bay at the Berkeley Marina where it becomes part of the larger Bay estuary.

The Strawberry Creek Restoration Program began in 1987 with the goal of reintroducing native fish species after decades of sewage pollution. Within three years the goal was met, yet efforts to improve the creek quality continue today. There are several public restoration events each season devoted to tearing out the invasive ivy, which quickly dominates the landscape if left unattended.

Restoring this little water way sufficed as my connection to the Bay for 4 years, although I didn’t realize it. Many of us picture the Bay as the large body of water that we ride under or drive over. But the entire Bay area is full of little waterways that serve as reminders that we are never very far from San Francisco Bay.

The work done at Strawberry Creek mirrors the work done at Save The Bay restoration sites. Removing invasive species and trash, and helping the return of native flora and fauna are at the heart of both efforts. Whether removing English Ivy near the Eucalyptus Grove on the UC campus or Wild Mustard along the MLK shoreline, the Bay is slowly being returned to the way it once was.

Do you want to reconnect with the Bay? Volunteer with us.

Notes from the Field: Celebrating National River Cleanup Day

Volunteers spent National River Cleanup Day picking up trash at Damon Slough in Oakland.

On May 19, 2012 over 30 volunteers converged to Damon Slough, a designated Save The Bay trash hotspot, in the Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline in Oakland to get out in the marsh and help out our beloved San Francisco Bay.  Many hands make light work and STB Volunteers proved it again by removing approximately 400lbs of trash in just under 3 hours.  Click the photo to watch a video of the event.

Every day, runoff pollution from our streets and neighborhoods, such as plastic bags, Styrofoam containers, cigarette butts and chip bags, blow into storm drains and flow through creeks, where it discharges into the Bay untreated. This is the single largest source of Bay pollution, and there are many consequences:

  • Twenty-four waterways that flow into the Bay are so filled with trash that they violate the federal Clean Water Act standards
  • Trash kills wildlife, smothers wetlands and spoils water quality
  • Up to 70% of the toxics in the San Francisco Bay like oil, sewage, mercury, pharmaceuticals and e-waste come from polluted runoff
  • Save The Bay estimates that one million bags end up in the Bay every year

Despite all these daunting facts and numbers, there is hope!

Our dynamic wetlands can sequester a lot of these pollutants, break down some over time and physically capture litter allowing inspired volunteers a chance to right our wrongs and clean up our mess.  The immediate impact is profound after volunteer efforts like those at Damon Slough.  Where plastic trash once glistened in the sun, the water and Pickleweed are clearly visible after the hard work of our volunteers.  It’s not the most glamorous work, but STB volunteers come and leave with smiles, knowing we can make a positive difference one slough at a time.

Click here to learn more about preventing trash from entering our waterways in the first place.

Marc Siedel, Restoration Projects Team Leader

Prevention is the true solution

Prevention is critical for keeping plastic out of our waterways.

Creek and shoreline cleanups are important, there’s no denying that.  In fact, Save The Bay participates in or plans several cleanups each year, including Coastal Cleanup Day and National Rivers Day.  Cleanups enhance the efforts by state and regional agencies to keep these areas clean for recreational users and help to protect delicate habitats from being smothered by trash.  Placing too much emphasis on cleaning up litter, however, ignores one very important point – this trash has already impacted our waterways and wildlife.

A recent study released by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography showed that ocean trash has increased hundredfold in the last forty years.  Has it become a floating island of water bottles and plastic bags that we can land helicopters on?  No, but it has become a giant confetti soup of plastic fragments that are being consumed by a wide variety of marine life – including those that end up on our plates.  In addition to directly threatening wildlife, marine litter may also lead to imbalances in the entire oceanic food chain; prey and predator relationships could change drastically, leading to unknown and unpredictable consequences for the viability of the oceans and the seafood industry.

There is no way to remove all the plastic and other litter once it is in our oceans.  And that trash is having an impact.  Fish are consuming it.  Chemicals are leaching out of it.  The real solution is to never let that trash get into our creeks in the first place.  That way, we don’t have to trample through delicate marsh areas and spend hours plucking plastic bags out of the pickleweed that they’re smothering.

As noted by Miriam Goldstein, the lead author of the Scripps study, prevention is the critical step.  That’s why Save The Bay is working so hard to encourage cities to prevent trash at the source by eliminating plastic bags and Styrofoam, which end up as creek and shoreline litter every day, all over the Bay.  Because once it’s out there, we’re no longer in control.

Allison Chan, Policy Associate

Wonky Wednesday: Spring Cleaning at Damon Slough

Help clean up Damon Slough on May 19th.

May 19th is National Rivers Day, and this year Save The Bay is celebrating by hosting a clean-up at Damon Slough. This marsh along Oakland’s Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline won our 2011 Adopt-A-Hot-Spot contest thanks to all your votes, and Save The Bay has committed to hosting two clean-ups at this location in 2012. Please join us at our first event on May 19th!

Due to its highly urbanized surroundings, Damon Slough is a consistent presence on our annual Bay Trash Hot Spots list. The Coliseum is a huge source of trash, which blows directly into the Slough after games and other events. Chemicals, heavy metals, and trash from inland streets and storm drains flow into Damon Slough during rain storms. Plastics are a large portion of the trash polluting this area, a good portion of which is plastic bags. Hopefully, this will soon change – Oakland, along with every Alameda County city, is banning plastic bags from large grocers and pharmacies starting January 1st, 2013.

Despite the ongoing challenge of trash in Damon Slough, these wetlands still support a wide variety of native wildlife, including brown pelicans, lined shore crabs, and California bee plant. The important role that Damon Slough plays in protecting Bay wildlife makes it even more important to prevent trash and other pollutants from threatening this area. Learn more about Damon Slough and Save The Bay’s restoration work there by exploring our Virtual Marsh.

And don’t forget to sign up for the May 19th clean-up – see you there!