Baykeeper's E-newsletter May 2017

Fighting trash in Oakland, preventing oil spills, investigating shark deaths, and more


San Francisco Baykeeper E-News
Monthly Update for May 2017
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Baykeeper's new bill to protect the Bay from tar sands oil spills

Ben Eichenberg and Scott Wiener testify

Baykeeper is sponsoring a new state bill, SB 709, to protect California waters and wildlife from tar sands oil spills.

Unlike lighter crude oils, tar sands are heavier oils that sink. However, most oil spill response technology is only designed to clean up the lighter oils that float on the water's surface.

Under new federal regulations that are encouraging more fossil fuel extraction, the oil industry is increasingly pushing to bring tar sands oil to the Bay Area for refining. That risks a spill that could seriously damage the Bay's ecosystem.

SB 709, introduced by State Senator Scott Wiener, would require oil companies and California's oil response agencies to study new technologies to prepare for tar sands oil spills.

"We want to be assured that there's a plan in place to clean up a spill of these heavier oils, before the Bay becomes a test case for unproven methods and technology," says Baykeeper Staff Attorney Ben Eichenberg, who testified before the State Senate in support of SB 709 in April.

Baykeeper will continue to advocate for this bill and all other measures to effectively protect San Francisco Bay from the risk of harmful oil spills.

Learn more about Baykeeper's work on SB 709.

Photo by Rulenumberone2, Flickr/CC

The proposed Delta tunnels: expensive, harmful & unnecessary

Delta aerial

The proposed Delta Tunnels project is once again threatening the health of San Francisco Bay.

After decades of excessive water diversions, San Francisco Bay and the larger Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta are starving for fresh water. The situation is harming fish, birds, plants, and people throughout the Bay-Delta estuary.

Unfortunately, Governor Brown is trying to advance his "WaterFix" plan, which would authorize additional water diversions from the Delta through two massive tunnels. This plan would further hurt rivers, the fragile Delta ecosystem, and San Francisco Bay.

California doesn't need a new expensive and disruptive water infrastructure project. Instead, Baykeeper, along with many coalition partners, is advocating for long-term sustainability, with a focus on smart water use and conservation.

Baykeeper has developed a new position paper outlining our science-based concerns about how the proposal could harm the Bay-Delta estuary. The Delta Tunnels aren't the right solution for preserving San Francisco Bay and all California waterways.

Read Baykeeper's scientific conclusions on why the Delta tunnels are bad for San Francisco Bay and the Delta.

Photo by Daniel Parks, Flickr/CC

Fighting Oakland's Bay trash problem

Bay trash

Baykeeper has been tackling the big problem of trash contamination in San Francisco Bay for many years. Trash harms the Bay's fish, birds, harbor seals, and sea lions. It's also washed out into the ocean, where it becomes part of the global trash burden on the planet.

But some Bay Area cities are still not meeting targets for cleaning up trash that's getting into the Bay. The City of Oakland, for example, is currently releasing more trash than the rules allow—about 25,000 more gallons of trash per year.

Baykeeper is joining with our partners at Save the Bay to put pressure on Oakland to get on track with a targeted "Zero Trash" advocacy campaign. Both Baykeeper and Save the Bay testified about the importance of reducing trash contamination at the Oakland City Council's Public Works Committee hearing today, May 23.

Baykeeper will provide our legal expertise on critical solutions for Oakland's trash issues. We'll especially draw on our landmark pollution control agreement with the city of San Jose, which includes meaningful requirements to reduce trash in the Bay.

Baykeeper helped develop the original Bay Area regulations for keeping trash out of the rain runoff that washes debris into the Bay. And we have challenged recent attempts to weaken those rules.

We will continue to work to keep the Bay's ecosystem free of trash, for healthy communities and a healthy Bay.

Monitoring Bay sharks in peril

Leopard Shark by Nathan Rupert

In recent weeks, unusually high numbers of dead or dying leopard sharks have washed up on beaches throughout the Bay Area.

Leopard sharks are small sharks that live in San Francisco Bay and along the California coast, do not attack people, and are occasionally caught for sport and eaten.

Biologists studying the shark deaths believe a fungal infection is responsible, but it is unclear why the sharks are dying in such large numbers—several hundred so far in 2017. Dead rays and halibut have reportedly also been washing up on Bay Area shorelines.

One hypothesis is that the fungus increased during the recent drought, as areas of the Bay stagnated for lack of fresh water. It's also possible that recent heavy rainfall changed the Bay's salt and pollution concentrations so dramatically that the sharks became more vulnerable to infections.

Baykeeper is investigating the situation and working with the experts at Shark Stewards and Bay Area scientists to see how our scientists and policy advocates can help. And we will continue our long-term pollution reduction efforts that are critical for the health of the Bay's wildlife.

Photo by Nathan Rupert, Flickr/CC

Baykeeper reduces sewage spills into the Bay

Bay Swimmer

Before Baykeeper was founded as the Bay's pollution watchdog, San Francisco Bay received untreated wastewater from cities all along the Bay. Swimmers and wildlife were frequently exposed to raw sewage that contained harmful bacteria and toxins.

As a result of 15 years of Baykeeper's Sick of Sewage Campaign, Bay Area sewer agencies have now dramatically reduced their spills of raw sewage in the Bay.

Under our legal agreements with sewer agencies, cities are required to upgrade their outdated infrastructure and leaky sewer pipes. San Carlos's sewer agency, for example, has reduced its sewage spill rate by more than 90% as a result of its agreement with Baykeeper.

We will continue to monitor sewage pollution and enforce sewage spill agreements until bacteria pollution is no longer a problem for the Bay Area.

Learn more about how Baykeeper is stopping sewage pollution.

Photo by Susanne Friedrich

Winning better standards for Bay mercury pollution

Bay fisherman

Baykeeper and our partners at Clean Water Action have advocated for over a decade to secure limits on mercury pollution to protect people and animals that consume local fish. As a result, a new standard was recently established that will further limit mercury levels for water bodies across the state.

Mercury, a heavy metal and neurotoxin that harms wildlife and people, is present in San Francisco Bay at unsafe levels. Some mercury contamination is due to Gold Rush-era mining practices. But there are also present-day sources of mercury pollution, including industrial facilities and urban runoff.

The new standard will require additional action to clean up mercury pollution in waters that provide fish to people who are at high risk of mercury exposure. This includes subsistence-fishing families around San Francisco Bay, and Native American tribes that depend on certain fish as a cultural resource.

This new protected category of waterways is an essential step toward reining in mercury contamination of San Francisco Bay.

Read the State Water Board release about the new limits on mercury.

Photo by Hudson Henry

Registration for the 2017 Bay Parade is now open

Bay Parade

Baykeeper's annual on-the-water celebration, the Bay Parade, is now open for registration!

Join us on July 9 for a fun and unforgettable day on the water that supports Baykeeper's mission to create a thriving San Francisco Bay. If you're a swimmer, kayaker, SUPer, or boater—register today!

The Parade's grand finale in McCovey Cove will be broadcast on the Jumbotron at AT&T Park at the start of the San Francisco Giants home game. We'll continue the celebration at the Bay Parade party, hosted by Anchor Brewing, where participants can enjoy bottomless beer and tasty bites.

Learn more and register for the Bay Parade.

Photo by Robert McKinney

Baykeeper Water Forum: threats and opportunities for the Bay

Baykeeper Water Forum

Under the new federal administration, San Francisco Bay is facing big threats. But there's hope! Vast numbers of people are mobilizing and speaking out, creating energy for a new environmental vision—for the Bay Area and the nation.

This momentum set the stage for this year's successful Baykeeper Water Forum, held April 24, with the theme of Water Policy and Bay Protection in the New Federal Era.

Our speakers were Jared Huffman (right), member of Congress from California's 2nd district, and Linda Sheehan (center), water policy expert and Executive Director of Planet Pledge. Radio station KALW's Rose Aguilar (left) moderated the lively discussion.

Over the course of the evening, Rep. Huffman discussed particular bills from the current legislative session that are aimed at combating the federal anti-environmental agenda. One is his "keep it in the ground" bill (HR 4535) to halt oil extraction on federal lands and along our coast. He urged everyone to stay informed and call and email your representatives when something matters to you; contacting them "moves the needle."

Linda Sheehan reminded us that this kind of mobilization was the root of the environmental movement and to keep working to achieve our vision of a healthy Bay, despite current setbacks.

Both distinguished speakers said that with anti-environment extremists in charge of government agencies, this is the moment when effective local organizations like Baykeeper are most needed.

Learn more about the discussion at Baykeeper's recent Water Forum.

Photo by Robb Most

Baykeeper is hiring! Join us as our new Development Associate

Rainbow Bridge

Baykeeper seeks an organized, dedicated, and passionate environmental advocate to join our fundraising team as the Development Associate.

The Development Associate supports all fundraising and relationship development with individual and corporate contacts, helps plan and execute Baykeeper's fundraising and outreach events, and ensures both seamless operations internally as well as excellent interactions with Baykeeper supporters and event participants.

This is a terrific opportunity to develop skills in nonprofit fundraising, operations, and event management, while advancing Baykeeper's critical mission to protect and defend San Francisco Bay.

Read the full position description and learn how to apply by clicking here.

Photo by Daniel Parks, Flickr/CC

Photo at top by Roberto Soncin Gerometta




Standing against oil spills in the Bay