Happy Anniversary!

Two people on the Baykeeper boat using a net to pull trash out of the water

Guess what?! This year marks Baykeeper’s 35th anniversary defending San Francisco Bay from polluters and government agencies—and thanks to your generous year-end support, our team is off to a running start!

We just won a court decision that says the Supreme Court’s awful Sackett decision doesn’t apply to the South Bay’s tributary creeks and rivers, so these waters will remain protected under the Clean Water Act. We also filed a new lawsuit with Tribal and fishery partners last week to stop the governor’s destructive Delta tunnel proposal. We’re following up on legal petitions to protect the Bay’s imperiled longfin smelt and white sturgeon. And now, during the heavy rains, our field team is testing polluted runoff from industrial facilities around the Bay.

This action-packed month is the perfect way to kick off our anniversary year in honor of the powerful vision that our founder, Dr. Michael Herz, made a reality in 1989.

Mike once told me about the first week after local media reported that Baykeeper was open for business. He proudly estimated that the buzz led to nearly 100 different calls to our pollution hotline from people around the Bay Area asking for help to stop pollution in their community. That’s when he knew he’d made the right decision to start the organization.

One of those first tips was about a renegade shipyard. The company wanted to win high-paying Navy contracts, but its entrance channel wasn’t deep enough to accommodate the big ships. So, they began illegally scooping tons of mud off the Bay floor and dumping it outside the channel. The dredging released heavy metals and toxic chemicals from the contaminated mud into the water.

We needed evidence of the wrongdoing, but the shipyard was doing all its dirty work at night. So, we began nightly surveillance. Our field investigators paddled out after dark in kayaks to quietly monitor and take detailed notes, unseen by the company’s operators.

Then things got weird. Someone broke into the Baykeeper patrol boat and stole our monitoring equipment (worth approximately $5000!). They also tossed our pollution logs into the Bay. The police never caught the burglar, but unfortunately for the dredging company, we retrieved the pollution records, and thoughtful supporters donated funds for new monitoring equipment. In the end the Bay won: The court stopped the illegal dredging, the polluter paid stiff fines, and two company officers went to jail.

Today, we continue to rely on that special brand of Baykeeper persistence—a unique combination of investigation + science + litigation—that leads to big wins for the Bay.

One of our current cases, for example, had a similar start: A hotline tip led us to stake out an export facility at the Port of Benicia, with drones this time! That’s when we caught the Valero oil refinery red-handed, dumping toxic petroleum coke into the Bay. Now we’re in court compelling the company to clean up its act.

Over the course of the coming year, we’ll be sending special anniversary emails to highlight more big historic wins that made a difference for the Bay. We’ll celebrate you and the ways that your support is making a lasting impact with new cases and ongoing efforts today. Because we know that Baykeeper wouldn’t have made it through these past 35 years without dedicated supporters like you.

Thank you for everything you do for the Bay and for being an essential part of Baykeeper.

Happy anniversary!