Oakland—In order to ensure the health of San Francisco Bay, its wildlife, and local residents, it's critical to protect the entire Bay watershed, which depends on fresh water flowing into the Bay from the Central Valley tributary rivers. Historically, these waters created the largest inland estuary on the Pacific Coast and supported vast wildlife populations, commercial and recreational fisheries, and communities that depend on them.
San Francisco Baykeeper has a three-decade history of advocating for increased river flows into the Bay-Delta estuary from across its watershed, both in court and in Sacramento. Over the last five years, the organization has increased its legal and advocacy staff to support robust river flows. This issue has become one of its top programmatic priorities because the Bay—and the survival of native fish and commercial and culturally important fisheries—depends on the healthy flow of rivers from the Sierra to the sea.
One of Baykeeper’s long-time partners, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), recently closed its regional water program. NRDC’s Chief Program Officer, Drew Caputo, observed: “We know the important work of protecting California’s Central Valley rivers will continue through increased efforts by our existing partners, like San Francisco Baykeeper, who have the expertise and experience needed to tackle these issues.”
Baykeeeper is hiring additional legal staff and re-allocating existing scientific and advocacy capacity to meet the challenges facing the watershed. The organization will continue to engage its existing partnerships with environmental, fishing, tribal, and community groups reliant on the Bay and its Central Valley tributaries to advocate for the protection of the San Francisco Bay watershed.
Together with its allies, Baykeeper will maintain pressure on California water districts, as well as state and federal government agencies, to reduce the unsustainable water diversions that deny San Francisco Bay the flows it needs to thrive. This effort includes advocating against ill-conceived new construction projects like the Delta tunnel and Sites Reservoir dams.
Baykeeper's executive director, Sejal Choksi-Chugh, commented:
“In an average year, the state allows diversions of more than half of the water that should flow to the Bay. That lack of fresh water has pushed six of the Bay’s fish species into the "endangered" category—including our iconic Chinook salmon—and demolished our once-vibrant fisheries.
"The harm to river and Bay–dependent communities is undeniable, as is the degradation of the Bay's water quality. Yet, Governor Newsom and his agencies are making plans to send more of the Bay’s fresh water to unsustainable industrial agriculture and to big cities.
"That’s why Baykeeper and our allies are expanding our efforts to remain on the frontlines and block the government from continuing to harm San Francisco Bay, its tributary rivers, and the people who depend on them.“