Baykeeper's Monthly Column

Baykeeper publishes a monthly column on San Francisco Bay cultural, environmental, and maritime issues.
(April 2019) Three decades ago, media reports warned that San Francisco Bay was dying.  Anti-pollution laws were not being enforced. Polluters were dumping waste into the Bay with no fear of detection. The Bay was being slowly poisoned and there was no relief in sight.   Until 1989, when research scientist Dr. Michael Herz determined that the Bay needed a fierce champion—and founded San Francisco...
(March 2019) One day in 2011, Baykeeper staff was on a regular patrol of San Francisco Bay in our boat—when we came across something awful. A shipping terminal on the Richmond shoreline had placed huge, looming piles of dark black material at the edge of the water. Wind was blowing black dust from the piles directly into the Bay. Facility operators were also making a mess in the water while...
(February 2019) I try hard to understand the mindset of the people who decided to build dirty, dangerous oil refineries on the gorgeous San Francisco Bay shoreline. Back 50-100 years ago, the Bay represented a plentiful source of cooling water for refining processes that reach temperatures over 1,000 degrees. The oil industry saw a site where tanker ships could easily deliver crude oil. And the...
(January 2019) I’m not a fan of my morning alarm disrupting my cozy slumber. But to be on time and prepared for my busy day, I need that wake-up call, no matter how jarring.  I write this with similar mixed feelings. No one likes an alarmist, but this new year, all of us snoozing unaware around San Francisco Bay need a wake-up call. The Bay is already under stress from more than 7 million of us...
(December 2018) A multinational corporation is mining sand from the bottom of San Francisco Bay and selling it for a profit. But the Bay’s sand belongs to you and me. And taking sand out of the Bay harms Dungeness crab, San Francisco’s Ocean Beach, and other Bay Area beaches and wetlands. One main area where companies mine sand lies between the San Francisco waterfront and Angel Island. Young...
(November 2018) If you’ve travelled by plane over the Bay Area, you may have seen the bright red, orange, and yellow ponds in south San Francisco Bay. They look pretty and calm, but they’re actually the site of a battle between those who want to restore the area to wetlands and large corporate interests envisioning a complex of offices and condominiums. The South Bay salt ponds were once...
(October 2018) San Francisco Bay’s water level is expected to rise over the coming decades. Even using the moderate estimates of three feet over the next eighty years, the resulting damage could resemble the recent hurricane-caused havoc on the East Coast. Scientists estimate the cost in the Bay Area of a major rainstorm plus a three foot rise in the Bay’s water at $70 billion, with losses to...
(September 2018) On Saturday September 15, International Coastal Cleanup Day, thousands of Bay Area residents will head to local beaches to pick up trash. But many people don’t realize that San Francisco Bay’s shoreline is part of the coast. In fact, there’s often more trash accumulated along Bay shoreline than on Pacific Ocean beaches, but fewer volunteers at Bay cleanup sites. So consider...
(August 2018) A lack of fresh water is tearing apart San Francisco Bay’s web of life. Salmon hatch in rivers and migrate to the ocean at a young age. They mature there and return to the river where they hatched to spawn—leaving the eggs of a new generation. The Bay once teemed with salmon from the two main river systems, the San Joaquin and the Sacramento, that flow into the Delta and then to the...
(July 2018) We were on the Baykeeper boat for a pollution patrol recently when I noticed something surprising. The stockpiles of toxic black coal that usually tower along the Richmond shoreline were the smallest I’d seen in my 15 years on patrol. I’d expected coal stockpiles to be even higher than in the past. That’s because when coal industry corporation Bowie Resource Partners hit a roadblock...

Pages