Baykeeper's Monthly Column

Baykeeper publishes a monthly column on San Francisco Bay cultural, environmental, and maritime issues.
(December 2019) What I saw on the San Francisco Bay shoreline that day worried me.  I asked our volunteer skipper, Robert, to maneuver the Baykeeper boat closer. Since the last time we'd been to the site, more heavy industrial equipment had piled up near the water. And more barges were crowding the dock. It looked likely that during storms, toxic pollutants would run off into the Bay.   We...
(November 2019) Every year, 7 trillion tiny pieces of plastic—microplastics—flow into San Francisco Bay. Once these tiny pieces are in the water, they never go away. They just break into smaller and smaller pieces. Microplastics range from the size of a popcorn kernel to smaller than a grain of salt. Some plastic particles sink into the mud on the Bay floor. Others float near the surface, where...
(October 2019) The Trump administration has reached a new low in its assault on clean water.  Trump's Environmental Protection Agency is claiming that Bay water isn’t water.  The agency recently decided that the South Bay salt ponds are land and don't need Clean Water Act protection. This bizarre decision is dangerous for San Francisco Bay. Corporations created the South Bay salt ponds by...
(September 2019) Once-through cooling. For decades, power plants along the San Francisco, Pittsburg, and Antioch shorelines used this technology.  Powerful pumps sucked Bay water into local power plants, pulling in larvae and small fish that died by the force. Intake screens trapped larger fish in the water rushing in. Heated water dumped into the Bay killed fish eggs and made it too warm for...
(August 2019) Our children’s San Francisco Bay could be much bleaker than the beautiful Bay we all know and love today.  Within their lifetimes, rising water might flood toxic hotspots, industrial facilities, and sewage treatment plants—spreading pollution through the Bay and into neighborhoods. Warming Bay waters will likely cause toxic algae blooms, spread new diseases to plants and animals,...
(July 2019) If you’re a swimmer, kayaker, stand-up paddle boarder, boater—or someone who simply loves San Francisco Bay—you’re invited to be part of the 6th annual Bay Parade.  This event is a once-a-year chance to celebrate a San Francisco Bay that’s clean enough for recreation on and in the water. The Bay Parade is Sunday, August 11, with varied morning start times, depending how you choose to...
(June 2019) As the dust settles from the whirlwind transition of the California governor’s office, it’s a relief that the new statehouse has squashed the Delta tunnels water project.  The proposal for massive twin tunnels through the Delta was an expensive infrastructure project—deceptively named “WaterFix”—that would have caused irreparable harm to San Francisco Bay. Too much fresh water is...
(May 2019) A new proposal by the Trump administration poses a big threat to San Francisco Bay and to local drinking water.  If it’s adopted, the rule would erase Clean Water Act protections for streams and creeks that flow only when it rains or when the winter snow melts. A polluter would be free to contaminate the water flowing in a creek if that creek, during another part of the year, usually...
(April 2019) Three decades ago, media reports warned that San Francisco Bay was dying.  Anti-pollution laws were not being enforced. Polluters were dumping waste into the Bay with no fear of detection. The Bay was being slowly poisoned and there was no relief in sight.   Until 1989, when research scientist Dr. Michael Herz determined that the Bay needed a fierce champion—and founded San Francisco...
(March 2019) One day in 2011, Baykeeper staff was on a regular patrol of San Francisco Bay in our boat—when we came across something awful. A shipping terminal on the Richmond shoreline had placed huge, looming piles of dark black material at the edge of the water. Wind was blowing black dust from the piles directly into the Bay. Facility operators were also making a mess in the water while...

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