Every year, 3 to 6 million cubic yards of sediments are dredged in and around San Francisco Bay to keep navigation channels open for large ships. Now, Bay dredging management rules face a possible update, and Baykeeper is advocating for Bay dredging to be done in an environmentally sound manner.
Dredging in the Bay is carried out under the guidelines of the Long Term Management Strategy for Dredging, a cooperative effort of the federal EPA and several state and regional agencies.
Prior to the development of the Long Term Management Strategy for Dredging in 1990, uncontrolled dumping of dredged material in San Francisco Bay led to a decline in fisheries, increased pollution, harm to wildlife habitat and poorer water quality.
The Long Term Management Strategy for Dredging calls for dredging to be managed with the goal of reducing the disposal of dredged material in San Francisco Bay. An additional goal is to increase recycling of dredged material for "beneficial uses." These uses include habitat restoration, levee maintenance and construction fill.
According to the agencies that manage Bay dredging, this strategy has reduced harm to the Bay. There are now more approved disposal areas for dredged materials outside of the Bay and also more dredged material re-handling facilities. Several ongoing projects benefit wildlife, such as habitat restoration sites created through the reuse of dredged material and stricter protections for fish habitat.
However, dredging in the Bay needs further improvement. First, most existing and planned projects for beneficial reuse of dredged materials are currently on hold due to lack of funding. Second, too much dredging is being done during times of year when endangered, threatened and environmentally sensitive species and habitat are most likely to be disturbed.
Baykeeper will continue to participate in the updating of dredging management rules to advocate for maximum protection for the Bay, its wildlife and its wildlife habitat.