In the last 200 years, San Francisco Bay has undergone profound changes, and the health of the Bay has varied dramatically. Before the wave of gold rush settlers, for example, the Bay was a vibrant ecosystem teeming with marine life, to the extent that oysters, shrimp and several species of fish were commercially harvested. By the 1970s, however, the Bay had become a severely polluted waterbody that suffered from frequent waves of fish dying off and a notorious foul stench.
A few months ago, I wrote about a technology in use at three Bay Area power plants called once-through cooling, a process that kills fish and marine life as it pulls in Bay water to cool heated machinery inside the plant. In response, we received this inquiry:
Current operations of state and federal water projects in California’s Central Valley jeopardize endangered California Chinook salmon and steelhead populations, according to a biological opinion filed today by the National Marine Fisheries Service. Today’s announcement also finds that current water operations jeopardize killer whales, which rely on Sacramento River salmon as a major food source.
San Francisco Bay is at the center of the Bay Area and the extensive network of housing, transit, retail and industry that sustains the more than seven million people that live here. The Bay is a big part of what makes the Bay Area so special, but its close proximity to a major urban area also means that the Bay is constantly bombarded with pollution from Bay Area cities and industrial facilities.
San Francisco Bay is known throughout the world for its majestic natural beauty, and San Francisco Baykeeper works every day to protect the health of the birds, fish and other aquatic animals that make the Bay so special. But the Bay isn’t just lovely to behold – it is also an active end point along an international shipping route that contributes to a significant portion of California’s trillion-dollar economy.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) could weigh industry costs when establishing environmental protections for power plants with cooling water intake structures. The Court’s ruling states that a cost-benefit analysis is not categorically forbidden by the Clean Water Act, leaving it to the new Obama Administration to decide whether and how to compare costs to benefits when it issues new regulations for existing power plants.
In the wake of increasingly alarming climate change data and a growing movement to reduce our nation’s dependence on fossil fuels, energy issues have risen to the top of the national environmental agenda. The Obama administration has pledged to craft a sustainable national energy policy that promotes renewable sources of energy and minimizes the harmful environmental impacts of our energy consumption on air quality and global climate change.
The San Francisco Bay defines much of the lifestyle of the Bay Area. The Bay is an avenue for worldwide commerce and local transportation, an arena for outdoor sports and recreation and a breathtaking local attraction that draws residents and visitors alike. In our daily routines, it is easy to overlook the amazing complexity and diversity of life that thrives below the surface of the Bay and just beyond our view.
San Francisco Baykeeper has worked for almost two decades to protect the San Francisco Bay from pollution. Over the years, we’ve achieved a number of victories that have helped improve water quality not only locally but at the state and national level as well – in fact, last month we secured an important court ruling that requires the federal regulation of pesticide spraying in waterways across the country.
Found throughout North America, eelgrass is an important plant in estuaries like the San Francisco Bay because its structure creates multi-layered habitat for many organisms. Oil spills like the one that spread across Bay waters last week can devastate eelgrass beds and the marine life that they support.