Baykeeper's E-newsletter for February 2018

Ocean Beach & sand mining, Oakland sewage spill reporting, the new Delta Tunnels plan, and more

San Francisco Baykeeper E-News
Monthly Update for February 2018
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The toadfish Sinatra of San Francisco Bay

Midshipman toadfish

There was a period of time in the 1980s when Sausalito houseboat owners thought that Russian submarines had infiltrated Richardson Bay. Others thought that they were in the midst of an alien invasion. They were mystified by a loud underwater hum in the area.

The sound turned out to be a toadfish love song.

The hum came from the plainfin midshipman, or Porichthys notatus, a species of toadfish (named for their distinctive frog-like appearance). Every summer, plainfin midshipman toadfish come to the Bay to breed. After creating a nest on the Bay's floor, male midshipmen rapidly vibrate an internal gas bladder to produce a droning noise for up to an hour at a time. Female midshipmen find the sound irresistible.

This Valentine's Day, if you're looking for some inspiration to serenade your sweetheart, you can listen to a recording of the midshipman's courtship song here.

And if you're wondering, midshipman get their name from the bioluminescent dots on their bellies, reminiscent of the buttons on British naval uniforms. Keep an ear out for their special love song this summer—it's just one more reason to love the Bay!

Photo by Ron Caswell, Flickr/CC

Sewage spill in Oakland? Contact Baykeeper

If you encounter a sewage spill in Oakland—or have reported a spill to city officials in the past—please report it to Baykeeper too.

Recent news investigations found that Oakland officials failed to report hundreds of thousands of gallons of sewage spills and may have falsified data.

No SwimBaykeeper is seeking reports from residents so that we can track when spills have occurred and whether the city responded appropriately.

Baykeeper and the EPA have an active legal agreement that requires Oakland to upgrade its sewer system in order to prevent illegal sewage pollution of the Bay. The agreement has measurable goals intended to improve Oakland's sewage problem. If the city is misreporting spills, they may not be meeting those goals and that could be harmful to San Francisco Bay.

For currently active spills, please first submit a report to Oakland Public Works. Then submit your report to Baykeeper, too. We're interested in collecting reports of Oakland sewage spills from 2012 to the present. Thank you for doing your part to help protect the Bay!

Read here for instructions on submitting reports of sewage spills in Oakland.

The Delta Tunnels plan may change—but still poses a threat to California waterways

Sacramento Delta

In response to public pressure, Governor Brown's office recently proposed adjusting the Delta Tunnels project to include only a single tunnel in its initial phase. But the one-tunnel plan would still potentially remove large amounts of water from the Bay and Delta ecosystem.

Baykeeper and our partners at the Natural Resources Defense Council, Friends of the San Francisco Estuary, and other environmental groups recently spoke at a hearing in Sacramento to express our concerns. Regardless of whether the project proceeds with one or two tunnels, environmental review is necessary to determine how reducing freshwater levels will impact the Bay-Delta estuary and native fish.

The Delta Tunnels project, also known as California WaterFix, is a proposed multi-billion dollar infrastructure project that would divert water from the Sacramento River to Southern California cities and Central Valley farms. The twin tunnels plan has been widely criticized by environmentalists, farmers, and tribal rights groups.

There are many proven, lower cost methods to increase California's water supply and make water use more efficient. For example, California could add 10% to its water supply simply by fixing leaking pipes. Other technologies like water recycling and rainwater harvesting would make a huge difference, while also preparing California for extreme climate events like droughts and storm surges.

And, unlike the Delta Tunnels plan, these more efficient approaches would be less costly and benefit communities and habitat throughout the state.

Baykeeper will be monitoring the new Delta Tunnels plan carefully, and advocating against any measures that will further weaken the Bay's ecosystem.

Photo by James Dalsa, Flickr/CC

The case for Bay sand and a healthy Ocean Beach

Ocean Beach

San Francisco's Ocean Beach suffers from unusually high levels of erosion, which scientific evidence has linked to the removal of sand from the Bay.

That's why Baykeeper went to court to stop excessive sand mining in the Bay. We won a legal victory that required the State Lands Commission to reevaluate how much sand they allow to be mined from the floor of the Bay. Private mining companies sell the sand for use in making cement and other building materials.

Instead of considering more sustainable levels of sand removal, the agency authorized a 50% increase in sand mining in the Bay, to 1.5 million cubic yards annually. Baykeeper is now challenging their latest actions in court.

We're standing up to protect Ocean Beach, a natural resource that:

  • provides vital habitat for wildlife, including the endangered Snowy Plover
  • attracts residents and tourists as a popular recreation spot
  • serves as a natural buffer between the Pacific Ocean and public infrastructure like the Great Highway and city sewer lines.

"Excessive sand mining damages the Bay and Ocean Beach," says Baykeeper Staff Scientist Ian Wren. "These natural treasures belong to the public, and Baykeeper is going to fight to protect them."

Read about our ongoing legal challenge to Bay sand mining.

Photo by Robb Most

Announcing Baykeeper's 2018 Blue Rivet Award winners

Baykeeper is proud to announce our 2018 Blue Rivet Award winners. The award honors volunteers, community members, activists, organizations, and businesses that share Baykeeper's mission and have made significant contributions to a safe, healthy, and thriving San Francisco Bay.

Congratulations to the 2018 Blue Rivet Award winners:

Geoff Potter, for his two decades of service as Baykeeper's Head Skipper. Geoff is one of the most dedicated volunteers in Baykeeper's history. He's spent thousands of hours maintaining the Baykeeper boat and patrolling San Francisco Bay to find and stop pollution.

New Resource Bank, for its dedication to supporting environmental protection through green banking. Baykeeper was one of New Resource Bank's very first clients. We appreciate that our deposits are used to support sustainable businesses and nonprofits and are not invested in the polluting companies that we oppose in our advocacy for the Bay. And we are grateful to their staff for joining us at clean ups and other events to help protect the Bay.

Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment, for its support of grassroots action to protect the environment and public health. The foundation develops young environmental leaders in Oakland's low-income communities and communities of color, and amplifies Baykeeper's work by funding other nonprofits' projects to restore San Francisco Bay.

This year's Blue Rivet Awards will be presented at Baykeeper's annual dinner. We look forward to celebrating these award winners on March 4.

Meet Baykeeper Board Vice Chair Diane Livia

Diane Livia What Diane Livia loves most about San Francisco Bay is that it is home to so many varied species. "Human well-being hinges on biodiversity," she says, "and the Bay is a unique ecosystem with a huge range of species. I feel that the Bay's biodiversity is taking care of me."

It wasn't always this way. Diane grew up in the Bay Area, and when she was little, her family would drive across the Bay Bridge, "and the Bay would be stinky. I don't mean like mudflats at low tide. I mean really stinky. In my lifetime, I've seen the Bay change, get healthier, and become more beautiful."

That's why Diane decided to serve on Baykeeper's Board of Directors, first as a member, and now as Vice Chair. She wanted to do something effective to improve the Bay's health.

"Baykeeper is out there patrolling the Bay, looking for pollution, and stopping pollution. I am continually awed by the breadth and depth of the work that the staff does. Baykeeper's productivity is through the roof."

Diane recently retired from her position as an environmental planner with the City of San Francisco Planning Department. Now she has new energy to boost Baykeeper's advocacy capacity. She is volunteering as an advocate for San Francisco Bay at regulatory hearings, city council meetings, and other local venues where decisions are made that affect the Bay's fate.

In her free time, Diane enjoys walking along the Bay and joining on-the-water patrols aboard the Baykeeper boat. Most important to her is the feeling that she and the Bay are part of the same ecosystem.

"I love knowing that through my work with Baykeeper, I'm making the Bay healthier," she says. "I'm taking care of the Bay that takes care of me."

Photo by Jane Cleland

Binocs  Baykeeper on patrol

Scientists aboard the Baykeeper boat conducted another round of testing for microplastics this month, collecting samples from under the Golden Gate Bridge, in the Oakland Estuary, and in the Central Bay. Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic that come from trash, synthetic fabrics, and cosmetics washed down the drain. We're working with our partners, 5Gyres and the San Francisco Estuary Institute, to measure microplastic levels in the Bay. Read more here.

Environmental science students from San Francisco's Gateway High School joined us on a boat patrol to learn about fighting pollution in the Bay. Baykeeper skipper Robert Fairbank and Field Investigator Sienna Courter talked to the students about the natural history of the Bay and how Baykeeper works to keep the ecosystem healthy.

Microplastics survey

Above: Bay microplastic sampling aboard the Baykeeper boat

Photo at top by Roberto Soncin Gerometta

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A love song for San Francisco Bay