Baykeeper's E-newsletter for January 2020

San Francisco Baykeeper E-News
Monthly Update for January 2020
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Richmond, thank you for banning coal!

No Coal in Richmond

On Tuesday, the City of Richmond voted to ban coal storage and handling. This is a bold step forward in the fight to protect local residents and stop dirty coal pollution in San Francisco Bay.

The Bay Area's main source of coal pollution is the Levin Terminal in Richmond, shown above. Levin currently handles a million tons of coal at its shoreline facility every year, releasing toxic dust that coats surrounding neighborhoods and blows into the Bay.

Coal is extremely toxic—both for people and wildlife. Baykeeper has been working for nearly a decade to stop pollution from the Levin Terminal. Our legal win in 2012 stopped water pollution from the site. And for the last year, we've worked alongside local community partners to help the city of Richmond craft an ordinance to phase out the storage and handling of coal.

After months of debate, the City Council finally voted to pass the ordinance at a lively, hours-long meeting on January 14.

"The City of Richmond has taken a stand to protect its citizens and San Francisco Bay in the face of enormous pressure from fossil fuel interests," said Baykeeper Staff Attorney Ben Eichenberg. "This is truly a historic step in defending public health and the Bay from toxic coal pollution."

Read more about Richmond's new coal ban.

Photo of coal piles at the Levin facility by Baykeeper and LightHawk

How a dream restaurant became a waterfront nightmare

The Sherman

The nightmare began several years ago with a dream of turning a 95-year-old former war vessel into a floating luxury restaurant.

But the dream was never realized. The owner abandoned the boat, the Sherman, and left it to rot at Vallejo's municipal dock—leaving the city stuck with a mess.

"This is just one example of a Bay-wide problem," says Baykeeper Staff Attorney Nicole Sasaki. "People buy boats they can't afford to maintain or repair, then abandon them, and the boats gradually fall apart and pollute the Bay."

Baykeeper provided an expert report assessing the threat posed by the boat to support Vallejo's bid to gain ownership. And it was successful—as a result of the city and Baykeeper's efforts, the Sherman has been removed and is no longer a threat to the environment or to the harbor dock.

We're also working to target the wider problem of abandoned boats. Baykeeper is collaborating with agency partners to craft statewide solutions to end this source of pollution in the Bay.

Read more about the Sherman and the pollution threat of abandoned boats.

Photo of the Sherman courtesy of the City of Vallejo

Newsom's Water Portfolio is a wish list, not a roadmap

The Delta

Fisheries are collapsing. Endangered species are rapidly approaching extinction. And drinking water is unsafe in some of California's most disadvantaged communities.

The fresh water that flows from the Sierras, through the Central Valley, the Delta, and into San Francisco Bay is a precious natural resource. But decades of overuse and mismanagement have exploited this supply and devastated aquatic ecosystems across the state.

When Governor Newsom announced plans to release a Water Resilience Portfolio, we knew it was an opportunity to put California on the path to water sustainability. Baykeeper Senior Scientist Jon Rosenfield led a coalition of 54 organizations to identify the top water priorities for protecting disadvantaged communities, endangered wildlife, and dying fisheries.

The Administration recently released a draft Water Portfolio that includes many of Baykeeper's recommendations. Unfortunately, the draft plan contains no concrete steps to achieve any of these critical goals.

"We need the Portfolio to be a real plan for addressing California's most urgent water issues," says Jon. "Without budgets and action timelines, the Governor's Portfolio is just a wish list of nice ideas."

Only time will tell if Governor Newsom is willing to do more than just talk about the sustainability of California's water supply. California needs an aggressive plan to rapidly protect people and the environment—before it's too late.

Read more about the Water Resilience Portfolio.

Photo by Robb Most for Baykeeper and LightHawk

King Tides sound a pollution alarm in the Bay

Zeneca in Richmond

Last weekend, high tides in San Francisco Bay washed up onto the shoreline at the site of a large former pharmaceutical company in Richmond, shown in the photo above.

A few hours later, the outgoing tide pulled contamination—including pesticides, toxic chemicals, and radioactive waste—off the industrial land and into the Bay.

This occurs a few times every year during the highest tides, known as King Tides, which are 1 to 2 feet higher than normal high tides. With sea level rise over the coming decades, however, flooding waters like this could hit polluted shoreline sites every day.

Baykeeper's ShoreView website identifies more than 1,100 contaminated sites that could be flooded by sea level rise.

Unless these sites are cleaned up in advance, a torrent of toxic waste will wash into the Bay. Baykeeper is fighting for these most vulnerable sites to be cleaned up before the water rises.

Read more about defending the Bay and local communities from sea level rise.

Photo by Robb Most for Baykeeper and LightHawk

Thirty years of victories for the Bay

One lesson stands out over Baykeeper's 30-year history. It's because of our supporters that we're able to stand vigilant on the front lines and effectively safeguard the Bay—no matter how serious the threats.

To celebrate Baykeeper's anniversary, we're pleased to share our biggest impacts across the Bay since 1989.

Baykeeper Anniversary

Baykeeper extends a huge thank you to everyone who made a gift to empower our work for San Francisco Bay in 2019. With your help, we are stopping polluters and protecting San Francisco Bay from major threats.

If you haven't yet made a gift, please consider making a contribution today. Your support keeps us on the water and in the courtroom, defending San Francisco Bay.

Meet Kayla Karimi, Baykeeper's Legal Fellow

Polluters beware. Baykeeper's new Legal Fellow, Kayla Karimi, is identifying active industrial polluters all around San Francisco Bay and building the legal cases it takes to hold them accountable.

Kayla Karimi

Kayla also researches the legal grounds to compel closed industrial companies to clean up any toxic mess they may have left behind. We're aiming to stop shoreline pollution from leaching into the Bay, and to prevent new contamination in the Bay when sea levels rise.

And Kayla is part of the Baykeeper team fighting coal dust pollution in the Bay and in city of Richmond.

Kayla recently graduated from UCLA School of Law and passed the California Bar exam. She has joined the Baykeeper team for a year, thanks to the University of California President's Public Service Fellowship.

We're especially thrilled to have her back on our team. When she was still a law student, she volunteered as a Baykeeper law clerk in the summer of 2018. Kayla says, "I wanted to do cutting-edge environmental work, and that's why I'm glad to be at Baykeeper."

When she's not using the law to stop polluters, you might find Kayla playing with Cashew, her poodle-mix rescue dog and constant companion. On Kayla's agenda: introducing Cashew to parks along San Francisco Bay.

Save the Dates for the Baykeeper Dinner & Bay Parade

Baykeeper Dinner

The Baykeeper Annual Dinner is coming up on Sunday, March 8! Join us at the Dolphin Swimming & Boating Club for a fun evening of celebrating big victories for San Francisco Bay. Enjoy fresh crab, local wine and beer, and a silent auction with an exciting selection of new items.

Tickets will go on sale in the next few weeks, so keep an eye out for our email announcement with more details. We hope to see you on March 8!

We're also gearing up for our annual on-the-water extravaganza, the Bay Parade, which will take place in San Francisco on Sunday, June 21. This one-of-a-kind Bay celebration includes a supported 6.5-mile open-water swim from the Golden Gate, a fun paddle for SUPers and kayakers around Oracle Park, and a beer-and-hot-dogs after party for all.

Mark your calendars now and plan to join the Bay Parade on June 21!

Photo by Drew Bird

Binocs  Baykeeper on patrol

This winter, for the 120th annual Christmas Bird Count, Baykeeper Senior Scientist Jon Rosenfield (pictured, below right) and Skipper Mark Caplin led a bird count aboard the Baykeeper patrol boat.

Every year, the Audubon Society organizes this bird census drawing on observations from citizen scientists around the world. For the last several years, the Baykeeper boat, staff, and volunteers have supported Marin Audubon to conduct counts of birds on the Bay.

We enjoyed clear weather for counting thousands of individual birds, including various species of gulls, cormorants, diving ducks, loons, and shorebirds.

King Tides

Photo by Eileen Richey

Photo at top by Robb Most

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Victory to ban toxic coal!