California environmental leaders learned Wednesday that one of their own, Nancy Sutley, could be tapped to lead the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Sutley currently serves as the deputy mayor for energy and environment in Los Angeles and previously served on the California State Water Resources Control Board, which is responsible for managing California’s water quality.
As fall turns to winter, many of us look forward to the holiday season and to celebrations with friends and family. Unfortunately, we at San Francisco Baykeeper have come to expect that the winter months also bring something less pleasant: sewage spills in San Francisco Bay. One cause of sewage spills to the Bay is the rain we get in the winter; during heavy rains, water seeps into leaky sewers and is piped to sewage treatment plants, overwhelming their capacity and sometimes causing sewage overflows.
On November 7, 2007, the Cosco Busan container ship collided with the Bay Bridge, spilling more than 50,000 gallons from the ship’s enormous fuel tanks and causing San Francisco Bay’s largest vessel-related oil spill in over a decade. The failure by response agencies to accurately evaluate and quickly communicate the scale of the spill allowed bunker fuel to spread throughout the Bay and onto beaches, marshes, wetlands, eelgrass beds and other sensitive wildlife habitats.
Experiencing the San Francisco Bay’s amazing array of wildlife is one of the many pleasures of living in the Bay Area. Countless creatures call the Bay home, and millions of birds stop over during their annual migration. The San Francisco Bay is an important staging area along the Pacific Flyway, a migratory route used by more than 250 species of birds. These birds use the Bay to feed and regain strength during their migrations, which can span from Alaska to Argentina.
Cruise through Richardson Bay, the Oakland Estuary or the sloughs near Redwood City, and you will see dozens of abandoned boats of all makes and sizes. The number of derelict boats is so extreme in the eastern reaches of the Bay that a recent Contra Costa County report indicated that the removal of 300 vessels in the past 20 years has hardly put a dent in the "aquatic junkyards." As more and more vessels litter our waterways, I've become increasingly concerned about the gaps in policies for dealing with abandoned boats.
Frequent sewage spills in Burlingame will soon be reduced through a new agreement with San Francisco Baykeeper to make substantial improvements to sewage operations. The pollution watchdog group sued the City for Clean Water Act violations in February after investigations revealed that Burlingame spills thousands of gallons of raw sewage from its sewer lines every year and uses an unpermitted pipe to discharge treated wastewater to the Bay near Coyote Point, a
popular windsurfing spot.
California is currently in the midst of a severe drought. Our streams and rivers are carrying only about 40 percent of their average water flow, and smoky skies have clouded the Bay Area for weeks as wildfires born of dry conditions rage in nearby communities. As the summer stretches on with no relief in sight, we’re reminded of how important healthy waterways are for our state.
Dealing a setback to the shipping industry, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of environmental organizations seeking to force the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate ship discharges under the Clean Water Act. The decision follows a 2005 lower court ruling that EPA had illegally exempted ship discharges from Clean Water Act requirements. That decision gave the agency until September 2008 to end the regulatory exemption and issue permits to ships, an order that EPA appealed to the Ninth Circuit.
Welcome to summer in the Bay Area: the fog is rolling, the Bay is crowded with windsurfers, swimmers and sailors, visitors fill tour boats and residents are flocking to shoreline parks and beaches for picnics and playtime. Summertime gives us all a chance enjoy recreation on or near the Bay. At this time of year, I am often asked, “Is it safe to play in the Bay?” And my response is always, “Yes – sometimes.”
San Francisco Baykeeper just announced its intent to enforce the Clean Water Act against the Town of Hillsborough and the Burlingame Hills area of San Mateo County for sewage spills. A recently completed investigation of the Hillsborough and Burlingame Hills sewer systems revealed that these poorly maintained and operated systems suffer from high rates of spills to nearby creeks and the Bay, and are contributing to the City of Burlingame’s illegal sewage discharges into San Francisco Bay near the Coyote Point recreation area.