Baykeeper's E-newsletter for June 2019

San Francisco Baykeeper E-News
Monthly Update for June 2019
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Suing Trump to protect Delta fish in peril

Longfin smelt

The number of longfin smelt in the San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary has plummeted. This native species of small fish is now on the verge of extinction.

Yet the Trump administration is delaying endangered species protections for the longfin smelt—protections that the Obama administration found warranted and that California instituted at the state level ten years ago.

"The federal government has failed to protect longfin smelt for too long," said Jon Rosenfield, Baykeeper's senior scientist. "While the Trump administration is catering to big agricultural interests, these fish are running out of time."

The decline of longfin smelt reflects the breakdown of the entire Bay-Delta ecosystem, where five other fish species are endangered, many fisheries are struggling, and water quality is deteriorating.

Baykeeper is taking action. Along with the Center for Biological Diversity, we sued the Trump administration for failing to protect longfin smelt and seven other highly imperiled species under the Endangered Species Act.

Read more about our case against the Trump administration in The Hill.

Photo by René Reyes, US Bureau of Reclamation

Take action to protect the Bay from oil spills

Oil tanker on the Bay

The threat of a destructive oil spill in the Bay is looming large. Oil companies are increasingly transporting heavy crude that's virtually impossible to clean up once it sinks into a waterway.

That's why Baykeeper is sponsoring new state legislation, Assembly Bill 936, to improve California's response to a heavy crude oil spill.

The bill passed the Assembly and is now before two Senate Committees. Thanks to everyone who already took action to protect the Bay. There's still time to make your voice heard in Sacramento!

Please take action today to tell Senate Committee members that you support AB 936 to protect the Bay, the California coast, and the Pacific Ocean from a destructive heavy crude oil spill.

This bill would help protect the Bay—and waterways throughout the state—from the worst consequences of heavy crude spills. If not addressed immediately and effectively, this kind of oil can sink to the floor of a waterway, coating the bottom, smothering wildlife, and becoming almost impossible to remove.

Speak up for protecting the Bay from sinking oil spills.

Photo by rulenumberone2, Flickr/CC

New report confirms that Oakland's sewage system stinks

Sewage spill warning sign

Smelly sewer lines are not the only things that stink about Oakland's sewage program. A new investigation found that the city failed to report and respond to raw sewage spills that ran into streets and homes and ended up in storm drains flowing to the Bay.

In 2018, Oakland's sewer system spilled more than 100,000 gallons of raw sewage into creeks and the Bay—despite the fact that the city is legally required to reduce sewage pollution under a 2014 legal settlement with Baykeeper and regulatory agencies.

After Baykeeper and Oakland residents raised concerns about the city's high number of spills, the EPA and the Regional Water Board undertook an investigation that found that Oakland:

  • delayed responses to urgent sewage spills;
  • conducted ineffective and time-consuming repairs;
  • misreported the frequency and volume of sewage spills; and
  • relied on small fixes, when it needed to prioritize the rehabilitation of major sewer pipes.

Baykeeper is working to get Oakland to uphold its responsibility to fix its sewage pollution.

Read more about the investigation into Oakland’s polluting sewage program.

Sucking rivers dry leaves only a trickle for the Bay

Delta flows

For decades, the Bay has been starved for fresh water. As big cities and mega farms suck water from Sierra rivers, only a trickle of fresh water is left to flow through the California Delta to San Francisco Bay.

This practice is unsustainable—and has pushed the Bay-Delta estuary to the brink of collapse. Already there have been dramatic losses in native fish populations.

The agency that regulates state water flows, the California Water Resources Control Board, recently set a new requirement that 40% of natural flows be left in three Delta tributaries during the winter and spring.

Sadly, 40% isn't nearly enough. The Water Board's own analysis shows that a minimum of 60% of unimpaired flows is needed to revive fish populations and allow the ecosystem thrive. So Baykeeper is suing for more water flowing to the Bay-Delta estuary.

"The Water Board should base its decisions on sound science and the need to protect the public's resources," says Baykeeper Senior Scientist Jon Rosenfield. "Otherwise we risk irreversible damage to the Bay and Delta."

Read more about our case for healthy freshwater flows to the Bay.

Photo by John Chacon, CA Department of Water Resources

Victory for the Bay! Joining forces to stop dirty coal exports

Delta flows

In 2013, the Vallejo Marine Terminal (VMT) and Orcem Cement company proposed building a shipping terminal and cement plant along the shores of northern San Francisco Bay.

The project proposal immediately raised red flags. We suspected that, in addition to polluting cement materials, the terminal also could be used to transport hazardous products like coal.

In Oakland, a developer had hidden plans to use a proposed shipping terminal for coal exports until after the city had signed the contracts allowing the project to move ahead. When we heard about the VMT project and the lack of transparency around the company’s plans, we realized that the same bait and switch could happen in Vallejo.

For six years, Baykeeper, Sierra Club, and Vallejo community partners fought for limits on the Orcem project in order to protect the environment and public health.

And now, we achieved victory: the company has pulled the plug on the project, officially withdrawing their latest appeal.

"This is a huge win for the Bay and the Vallejo community," says Baykeeper Managing Attorney Erica Maharg. "The Bay Area already faces multiple pollution threats from heavy industry around the Bay's shoreline. The last thing we need right now is to ramp up dirty coal exports on the Bay."

Read more about our advocacy to stop the VMT/Orcem terminal and cement plant.

Photo of the proposed site of the VMT/Orcem facility courtesy of Fresh Air Vallejo

Join the 6th annual Bay Parade on August 11

Bay Parade

Baykeeper's annual on-the-water recreation festival, the Bay Parade, is coming to San Francisco Bay!

On Sunday, August 11, you're invited to celebrate a healthy Bay as a swimmer, kayaker, or stand-up paddleboarder. Boaters are invited to volunteer on the water, and we need volunteers on land too. Or you can cruise in style aboard the Bay Parade Yacht.

The Bay Parade ends in a grand finale at McCovey Cove, where you'll make it to the big screen on the Jumbotron at the San Francisco Giants game. Plus, the fastest swimmers and biggest fundraisers can compete to be honored forever as Baykepeer's 2019 Golden Rivet Award winners.

Best of all, your participation directly supports Baykeeper's work to stop the biggest threats to San Francisco Bay. We hope to see you on the water on August 11!

Click here to learn more and sign up to join us.

Bay Parade Swim

Photos by Drew Bird and Clay Schmitz

Binocs  Baykeeper on patrol

In June, Baykeeper conducted an aerial patrol to investigate a proposal by the federal Army Corps of Engineers to deepen a shipping channel in the San Joaquin River near Stockton. Ship traffic from Stockton travels on the San Joaquin River, including some ships that pass through the Delta to San Francisco Bay and then out to the Pacific Ocean and overseas destinations.

The plan to deepen the ship channel would allow even bigger ships in the river to carry toxic coal and other hazardous materials from dirty facilities near Stockton, like the one pictured below. That poses an increased threat to the Bay from more toxic material transport. Plus we're watchdogging the Army Corps to ensure that any dredging plans use the least harmful methods that don't kill fish in the river. We'll be monitoring the proposal closely to protect fish and the Bay.

Below, a facility near Stockton that handles toxic materials like sulfur. Photo by Baykeeper volunteer photographer Robb Most, thanks to LightHawk Conservation Flying. 

Coal facility

Photo at top by Robert Most

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Suing Trump to protect Delta fish in peril