Bay Alert! Urgent Action Needed: Give Today!

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Trump’s EPA budget was leaked to the press. It’s bad news for public health and the environment, especially our Bay. Trump’s budget totally eliminates EPA’s San Francisco Bay program. While other bays around the country face reductions in EPA funding, our Bay funding has been slashed to zero.

This is a slap in the face to you and every Bay Area resident who wants healthy communities and natural resources. The EPA is supposed to ensure clean water and healthy wetlands. But the federal government is turning its back on us by cutting EPA’s San Francisco Bay funding entirely.

We have to step up and protect our Bay from the White House. I hope you’ll make an emergency contribution to Save The Bay now so we can scale up our efforts at the state and local level to defend our Bay and the wildlife and communities that depend on it.

With Trump proposing these deep funding cuts, you and I will have to do more to protect the Bay. Save The Bay’s strategy is basic: act locally to make the Bay healthier. We’re working with Bay Area cities to reduce toxic pollution, restore wetlands, and lower climate change risks to people and wildlife. We’ve proven we can take on tough challenges and win. But we can’t do this without you. Please give today so we can preserve this amazing place we call home.

Trump’s planned EPA cuts: Zero dollars for Bay Area program

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The San Francisco Bay is emerging as a huge target for the Trump Administration as it plans to slash spending at the Environmental Protection Agency: A preliminary budget this week shows President Donald Trump plans to eliminate a $4.8 million federal program to protect the bay.

The document, obtained by the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, outlines major cuts to estuaries around the country, as the administration aims to carve 3,000 jobs and $2 billion, or 25 percent of the current budget, from the EPA’s 2018 budget.

Environmentalists across the country have been bracing for Trump’s long-promised budget ax, and the president has threatened to cut federal funding in California as the state aggressively opposes many of the White House’s immigration and other policies.

The $4.8 million for the EPA’s San Francisco Bay Program — established by California Sen. Dianne Feinstein in 2008 — helps fund a variety of projects, including restoring wetlands and watersheds, reducing polluted runoff, and improving shoreline protection in San Francisco Bay.

“We need more money from the federal government, not less,” said David Lewis, executive director of Save the Bay, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting, restoring and celebrating San Francisco Bay.

Michele Huitric, an EPA spokeswoman in San Francisco, said the agency wasn’t commenting on the proposed cuts. Gov. Jerry Brown’s office also had no comment.

The Bay Area’s budget is already far below that of other estuary regions like the Chesapeake Bay and Puget Sound — $73 million and $28 million respectively. “The bay starts off at a big disadvantage in federal funding even though we have the highest demonstrated need,” Lewis said.

Rufus Jeffris, vice president of communications for the Bay Area Council, said in an email that this would be “a huge hit for our region, given that the proposed cuts are coming (less than a year) after local Measure AA won 70 percent approval.”

Measure AA is a $12-per-year parcel tax in all nine Bay Area counties that aims to generate $500 million over 20 years for critical tidal marsh restoration projects around San Francisco Bay.

“The Bay Area is the only region in the U.S. that has raised its own dollars to match federal investments in these programs, and now they’ve just walked away from the table,” Jeffris wrote.

Other estuaries may also suffer from these proposed budget cuts — the plan calls for Puget Sound funding to be cut from $28 million to $2 million; the Great Lakes, $300 million to $10 million; and Chesapeake Bay, $73 million to $5 million.

Environmental policy experts at the Heartland Institute — a free-market think tank in Arlington Heights, Illinois — are pleased with the proposed budget, which might rein in an agency that “costs the nation’s taxpayers and consumers billions of dollars a year,” according to the institute’s president, Joseph Bast.

“EPA’s budget was much too big in 1991, when it was $6 billion, the same as is now proposed by the Trump administration,” Bast said in a news release. “EPA was much too large in 1984, when it had 11,420 staff members, approximately the same number as the Trump administration now wants it to have.”

H. Sterling Burnett, an environment and energy policy research fellow at the institute, said, “The budget doesn’t target California per se, rather the EPA as a whole.”

“It’s long overdue – maybe if they have significantly reduced budgets, they might focus on their core mission,” said Burnett. He characterized this mission as being focused solely on laws like the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts.

The proposed cuts would also eliminate funding for a wide range of air and water programs, and cut spending for programs that control water pollution and protect low-income communities from environmental and health hazards.

Lewis said it’s important to remember that this is “essentially a leaked draft that only might be a part of a Trump budget. We don’t know if it will actually be proposed or what might happen.” Approving new budgets requires congressional approval, and with 46 Democrats and two independents in the Senate, it might be expected that some of the proposed cuts would lessen in severity.

In all, Save The Bay’s Lewis wasn’t surprised at the developments. “These deep budget cuts don’t make sense for public health or the environment, but are exactly what we expected.”

“It’s exactly the outrageous attack on the environment that we expected from the president and the people he’s surrounded himself with,” Lewis said.

Norman LaForce, legal chair for the San Francisco Bay Chapter of the Sierra Club, agreed with Lewis’ assessment of President Trump. “He has no interest in helping California in any way. The next four years are just going to be an environmental hell in the United States.

This article featuring David Lewis was originally published in the San Jose Mercury News on 3/3/2017. 

Remaining Hopeful Amid Environmental Despair

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Zia found hope by joining 300,000 other activists for the People’s Climate March in 2014.

Sometimes it’s hard to imagine that any effort we might muster as a society to protect ourselves against the onslaught of climate change could really make a difference. 2015 was the hottest year on record and 2016 is already shaping up to be hotter. We are told that individual lifestyle changes don’t do much to help and that the world is everyday plunging further and further into environmental gridlock and turmoil.

When I hear facts like these, it’s easy for me to feel overwhelmed by the future of our environment. How many of us have ever felt overwhelmed, in denial, or apathetic about the future of the environment? This common feeling of helplessness is a documented phenomenon and something Joanna Macy, an environmental activist and scholar, calls “environmental despair.” She writes that our fear of environmental disaster keeps us from changing our behaviors because it’s all just too much to cope with. Instead of inspiring us into action, environmental despair ends up making us avoid the reality of the problem all together. This is understandable when nearly everything we do has a negative impact on the Earth. It’s hard to imagine how we might “…function in our society without reinforcing the very conditions we decry, and the sense of guilt that ensues makes those conditions – and our outrage over them – harder to face.”

Still, we can’t accept our environmental despair so easily. Climate change is happening and visible on both the personal and global scale. We need to find and cultivate hope in ourselves in order to keep our communities and our minds resilient to the effects of climate change.

A history of hope

The environmentalist history of the Bay is an excellent example of hope realized. When Save the Bay was founded in 1961, the Bay was treated like a dumping ground and the Army Corps of Engineers had plans to fill the Bay to such an extent that it would no longer be a bay but a narrow shipping channel.

It was the work of Save the Bay and the creation of the Bay Conservation and Development Commission in 1965 that regulated development of the shoreline and helped preserve and protect the integrity of the Bay. With careful political organizing, Bay Area citizens came together to bring the Bay back from the brink of destruction. Since then, the Bay “has shrunk no further and has had hundreds of acres of wetlands restored. Its waters are no longer rank, and aquatic life is abundant, with shorebirds in large number feeding along the mudflats and marshes.”

Simple action, big results

In June, Bay Area voters will have the opportunity to protect our home once again by voting yes on Measure AA for a Clean & Healthy Bay.

Measure AA represents a decade of hard work from Save the Bay and our partners. This modest, $12 parcel tax will generate badly needed funding for restoration of San Francisco Bay wetlands, benefitting people, wildlife, and the Bay Area economy. Wetlands restoration is a crucial step in maintaining a thriving Bay – habitat for wildlife, carbon sequestration, defense against sea level rise – all powerful efforts that could mean long-lasting protection for the Bay and its inhabitants.

The time to act is now. The Bay Area, as a longtime leader in environmentalism around the world, needs to become climate adaptive and prepared for the threat of rising seas. We don’t want to wait for a disaster and wish we had done more to protect our shorelines.

Activating hope

For me, it’s the experience of acting with others that makes me feel hopeful. In the fall of 2014, I traveled to New York City with some friends to attend the People’s Climate March with 300,000 of our peers. In that moment, I didn’t feel like my actions and ideals were insignificant. I didn’t feel hopeless. My concerns and beliefs were real, they were powerful, and they were echoed and seen in the voices and faces of the strangers around me.

The climate march was an opportunity to cultivate hope in my otherwise climate-disparaged heart. I feel hope when I come in to work at Save the Bay, and I am hopeful when I think of the Bay Area coming together to vote for protection and restoration. Instead of feeling helpless, I try to feel lucky to live in this moment when advocating for the environment is so important and has the potential for real solutions and benefits.

In June, the Bay Area will have the chance to look climate change in the face and act to restore both our wetlands and our hope in environmental action.

Pledge to vote Yes on Measure AA on June 7.

Saving the Bay: From Rescue to Restoration

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What’s that stinky creek out there,
Down behind the slum’s back stair,
Sludgy puddle, sad and gray?
Why man, that’s San Francisco Bay!
– “Seventy Miles” by Malvina Reynolds and Pete Seeger, 1965

Take Action Now
Looking out on the majestic beauty of San Francisco Bay in 2015, it’s hard for many younger and newer residents of the Bay Area to believe that just fifty years ago, Malvina Reynolds and Pete Seeger were shocked enough by its condition that they memorialized it in song as a “Sludgy puddle, sad and gray.”

Yet, it’s true – half a century ago, the Bay was choked with raw sewage and industrial pollution, and plans were to fill in 60 percent of its remaining area, leaving only a narrow shipping channel in its place.

Fortunately, in 1961, Save The Bay’s founders set out to rescue the Bay from destruction, and helped give birth to our nation’s grassroots environmental movement. Mobilizing thousands of Bay Area residents into action over the course of the decade, these three remarkable women led landmark victories including a moratorium on Bay fill, the closure of more than 30 shoreline garbage dumps, an end to the release of raw sewage, and establishment of the Bay Conservation and Development Commission to regulate shoreline development and increase public access to the Bay.

For 55 years, Save The Bay has been occupied primarily with successive versions of our founders’ initial mission to protect the Bay from damaging shoreline development. Along with dedicated local groups, we’ve defeated numerous, hugely destructive plans including: the Santa Fe Railroad Company’s Bay fill scheme to build Berkeley three miles out into the water; David Rockefeller’s surreal fantasy of building a new Manhattan in the Bay with fill from chopping off the top of San Bruno mountain; Mobil Oil’s blueprint for massive development on Bair Island; and SFO’s ill-conceived effort to pave the Bay for runway expansions.

Now, with Cargill’s Redwood City Saltworks proposal on the ropes, and plans to develop Newark Area 4 likely to be rejected by BCDC and the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board, these last threats to the largest remaining tracts of unprotected, restorable Bay wetlands may soon be overcome.

The next phase of saving the Bay

The first phase of our organization’s history, focused on rescuing the Bay, is now drawing to a close; the next phase of our history, focused on restoring the Bay to full health, is beginning in earnest; and the scale of our challenges and the importance of our work are as enormous as they have ever been.

While Bay restoration has always been integral to Save The Bay’s mission, only now, after many years’ effort, do we have a real opportunity to achieve it on scale and realize our founders’ ultimate vision.

In 1999, a consortium of estuary scientists published the Baylands Ecosystem Habitat Goals, which established that San Francisco Bay needed 100,000 acres of wetlands to restore and sustain its health. At the time, less than 40,000 acres of Bay wetlands remained, but thanks to the efforts of Save The Bay’s many partners, a similar number of restorable acres had been protected from any further development. Local efforts have managed to restore 5,000 acres of wetlands since then, but the vast majority of protected Bay wetlands are still awaiting restoration.

The biggest challenge has been the lack of sufficient, reliable funding to pursue large scale restoration. With scant annual federal funding – on the order of $5 million per year – and state support limited to one-time injections of bond funds, the price tag of $1.43 billion to restore the acres under protection has been too steep, and efforts to secure additional funding from existing sources have yielded little.

Faced with the quandary of having thousands of acres of restorable wetlands under public ownership without an appropriate source of funds to restore them, Save The Bay moved to change the equation.

Funding Bay restoration on scale

In 2007, we published Greening the Bay, a strategy for financing Bay restoration by establishing a regional special district that would allow the Bay Area to raise the local share of wetlands restoration costs, which could be used to leverage increased state and federal funding to cover the remainder.

That publication and the organizing around it led directly to creation of the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority, a regional public agency charged with raising the local funds and managing the grants necessary to implement the many restoration projects in the pipeline and begin the long overdue work of restoring the Bay’s wetlands.

Unfortunately, at its very start, the Authority was stalled out by the stark reality of the Great Recession. In the grips of that extraordinary economic downturn, the same Bay Area voters who had consistently and overwhelmingly supported the goal of improving the Bay for both people and wildlife proved unwilling to pay even a small amount in additional taxes to fund the local share of restoration efforts.

Today, the Authority is preparing to propose a small parcel tax to voters in all nine Bay Area counties, to enhance our environment and strengthen our economy at the same time.

  • The June 2016 ballot measure would generate $500 million in new funding for projects to restore thousands of acres of tidal marsh, making the Bay healthier for fish, birds, seals and other threatened marine life. Parcels would be assessed $12 each year for 20 years.
  • The funding would accelerate projects that prevent flooding of residential communities and economic infrastructure, reduce pollution in the Bay, and improve trails for public
  • An April 2015 survey found that a supermajority of Bay Area voters will make an investment to ensure the Bay is clean and healthy. After hearing arguments for and against, 70% would vote in favor of a $12 parcel tax to improve the Bay – more than the 2/3 necessary for passage.

A recent op-ed in the San Jose Mercury News by Save The Bay’s Executive Director, David Lewis, and prominent business leader Andy Ball made the case and the call: Act now to protect San Francisco Bay!

We can make this breakthrough, and restore San Francisco Bay for all the generations to come, but only if Save The Bay’s supporters lead the way, as we have throughout our organization’s history.

We know our supporters are up to the challenge, and in the weeks ahead we’ll be letting you know exactly what you can do to help. Thank you, as always, for all you do to Save The Bay!

OP-ED: Act now to protect San Francisco Bay

Bay Area wetlands
A “Clean and Healthy Bay” ballot measure will allow Bay Area voters to invest $500 million over 20 years to enhance the Bay and protect the shoreline for future generations. Sign on to show your support today.


The Bay Area and the San Francisco Bay itself are on the cusp of a rapid transformation that will take place over the coming decades. As our region prepares to deal with the real impacts of climate change, Save The Bay is dedicated to convening environmental, business, and labor leaders to protect our region. Today, Suffolk Construction executive Andy Ball and I published the following editorial in the San Jose Mercury News, calling for a regional parcel tax to protect the Bay, our communities and our economy.

As the Bay Area’s boom continues, it’s essential that we protect what makes this such a desirable place to live and work — San Francisco Bay itself.

The bay is central to our region’s identity, quality of life and strong economy, but its waters and shoreline are challenged by pollution, population pressures and the effects of climate change. Low-lying communities and critical infrastructure face increasing risk from intense storms and flash floods. Animals that live only in our bay marshes face extinction.

Fortunately, we have an unprecedented opportunity to accelerate improvements around the bay that will benefit people and wildlife and make our economy more resilient to climate change.

Public agencies already own more than 30,000 acres of salt ponds and diked shoreline areas that are slated for restoration to tidal marsh. Many of these marsh projects also would improve flood protection for adjacent homes, businesses, roads, railways and sewage treatment plants. This protection is crucial for companies that want to stay and grow and for others that want to move here.

Marsh projects in Redwood City, Alviso, Hayward and Novato are stalled by inadequate federal and state funding, but we can close the gap. Polling shows voters throughout the nine Bay Area counties overwhelmingly support paying a small parcel tax to restore the bay and protect our communities and jobs from flooding today and in the future.

Now business, labor, and environmental leaders are joining with cities and counties in a broad coalition to offer voters that opportunity next year. For as little as $12 annually per parcel, we can achieve enormous improvements that make the bay healthier for fish, add trails for recreation and protect our communities and our economy from intense storms and high tides. Because we all love the bay, most voters agree these benefits are a great deal for a small price shared by all of us.

Take Action Now:
“Yes, I will support a ballot measure to
generate $500 million for the Bay.”

 

The price of inaction is much higher. The Bay Area Council Economic Institute’s report, “Surviving the Storm,” details the devastating risk floods now pose to our regional economy, and how climate change will increase the frequency of floods. Pressures on bay wildlife also will increase with the region’s population and business growth.

Uniting as a region to improve the bay also will provide momentum to tackle other problems. We lack housing that working families can afford; BART and other transit systems can’t meet demand. Yet agreement on solutions has eluded us.

Better regional transit around, under or even on the bay can get cars off the roads, reducing air pollution and traffic. Building affordable housing near jobs, open space and recreation can sustain economic growth in healthy, livable communities. Working together for bay restoration will encourage broader regional collaboration on these important issues.

Generations of visionaries protected natural resources and open spaces that make the Bay Area livable and attractive, from Big Basin to Point Reyes. Leaders with foresight built us world-class universities, regional transit systems, ports and airports for mobility, commerce and tourism. These make our vibrant economy in a spectacular natural setting the envy of the world.

Now it’s our turn. In the coming months, we’ll expand this regional conversation about investing in the bay for everyone’s benefit. Let’s seize this moment to make the bay we love healthier and make the Bay Area a better place to live and work for all of its residents.

David Lewis is Executive Director of Save The Bay. Andy Ball is West Region President of Suffolk Construction and a longtime board member of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and Bay Area Council. They wrote this for the San Jose Mercury News.

Take Action Now:
“Yes, I will support a ballot measure to generate $500 million for the Bay.”