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.
The California Coastkeeper Alliance (CCKA), a coalition of 12 Waterkeeper groups spanning the coast from the Oregon border to San Diego, and San Francisco Baykeeper today called on the U.S. Coast Guard and the State of California’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response to work with the public and lawmakers to improve oil spill preparedness and response in the San Francisco Bay Area and around the state. CCKA and Baykeeper spoke in response to the U.S. Coast Guard’s release today of its Phase II Incident Specific Preparedness Review (ISPR) Report on the M/V Cosco Busan oil spill.