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Measure AA passage assures funding source for North Bay restoration projects 

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
SEARS POINT— On this spread of flooded former hayfield edging San Pablo Bay, clumps of native pickleweed are sprouting, seabirds and raptors soar overhead and fish forage on the incoming tide.
It’s a scene wetland experts hope to replicate along the North Bay shoreline and on nearby creeks as part of an ambitious effort to improve water quality, enhance wildlife habitat and bolster natural defenses against sea-level rise.
Here, on 960 acres of land where a century-old levee was breached last fall and bay waters rushed in, some of that transformation is already under way. It is part of a decades-long, patchwork effort to reverse degradation of San Francisco Bay’s once-vast complex of tidal and freshwater wetlands.
And soon there will be more public money to expand the restoration. It will come from a $12 annual parcel tax passed last week by voters in the nine-county Bay Area, a turning point, conservationists say, in the regionwide quest to recover the fringe of wetlands that historically rimmed the region’s 1,600-square-mile estuary.
Measure AA, the Clean and Healthy Bay Ballot Measure, is expected to generate $25 million a year for wetland restoration and related projects, providing a reliable funding source for environmental projects for the bay and its watersheds, conservationists said.
Read more at: Measure AA passage assures funding source for North Bay restoration projects | The Press Democrat –

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Bay Area wetland restoration tax passes

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A ballot measure expected to raise $500 million over two decades for wetlands restoration and other projects designed to improve the health and resilience of San Francisco Bay passed Tuesday.
As of Wednesday morning, the measure received 69.3 percent of the vote. To pass, it needed support from two-thirds majority, or 66.7 percent of voters within the nine Bay Area counties.The measure fell short with 63.3 percent of the vote in Sonoma County, one of four North and East Bay counties where it trailed. The others were Napa, Solano and Contra Costa counties.
The measure, the San Francisco Bay Clean Water, Pollution Prevention and Habitat Restoration Program, would impose a $12-a-year parcel tax on property owners in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, Sonoma and San Francisco counties, generating about $25 million a year over its 20-year lifespan.
The money would be used to fund a host of shoreline projects around the region intended to restore tidal marshes and freshwater wetlands that play a critical role in filtering bay water, creating wildlife habitat and buffering against flooding and climate-related sea rise.
Wetlands are the bay’s “heart and lungs,” keeping the water clean and providing abundant wildlife habitat, according to Save the Bay, an environmental advocacy group. Yet, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, the region has lost 95 percent of its original wetlands due to human activity since the mid-19th century.
“We’ve done extensive polling on the measure and about people’s attitudes toward the bay for many, many years,” said David Pine, chairman of the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority. “What’s encouraging is people across the bay — even those who don’t live near the bay shore — have a strong affinity toward the bay and see it as a defining asset of our area and one that needs to be passed on to the next generation in better shape than we got it.”
Source: Bay Area wetland restoration tax passes | The Press Democrat

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Op-Ed: Measure AA is vital for future of the bay 

Dave Koehler, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The San Francisco Bay defines our region — a shared natural resource that unites residents and visitors with its breathtaking beauty. The truth is, the bay is highly threatened by pollution and sea-level rise. Thousands of acres of wetlands must be restored because miles of bay shoreline face increasing flood threats from extreme weather and rising seas. If we are going to pass on a healthy, beautiful bay to our children and grandchildren, we need to come together and act now to protect and restore it.
For the first time in our history, the entire Bay Area has an opportunity to financially support the San Francisco Bay and make it healthier and safer for future generations. Measure AA on the June 7 ballot in all nine Bay Area counties is a small parcel tax that generates big benefits. For only $12 per year per parcel, amounting to $1 per month, Measure AA will raise $500 million over 20 years to restore wetlands around the bay — including in Sonoma County — that will provide habitat for fish and wildlife and filter out pollutants from the water. These wetlands — such as the Sonoma Land Trust’s own Sears Point Wetland Restoration project along Highway 37 — also provide a natural barrier against flooding and offer recreational open space for all of us.
North Bay counties will receive millions from Measure AA for essential wetland restoration projects. The allegation made by some that these counties — and Sonoma County in particular — will receive less than our fair share of the $500 million in funding is simply inaccurate. Measure AA has many built-in provisions to ensure the funds are used where they are most needed. Sonoma County has thousands of acres of wetlands restoration projects ready to go, and our projects will be highly competitive with other regions.
Of all the anti-AA arguments, the claim that the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority is not answerable to the public completely distorts the truth. The restoration Authority board was set up under state law and is made up entirely of local elected officials. In other words, they are the same county supervisors and city council members who we rely on and interact with every day. Each region of the bay has a designated representative on the board. The current North Bay representative is Supervisor Keith Caldwell from Napa.
Our own Supervisor Susan Gorin has expressed interest in being nominated to the authority for the North Bay seat when it opens up for a term change. Measure AA also includes an additional level of openness and accountability by establishing a citizen oversight committee whose sole job is to make sure the authority is following the law and being transparent with its funding decisions.
Measure AA is endorsed by the most diverse coalition the Bay Area has ever seen, including local and national environmental organizations, leading businesses and organized labor and mayors and other elected officials, from Gov. Jerry Brown to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, and Reps. Jared Huffman and Mike Thompson — more than 600 groups and individuals in all. They understand Measure AA will bring us critical bay improvements for people and wildlife, and green infrastructure that will help protect our cities from flooding.
Sonoma Land Trust is campaigning hard for Measure AA because we have confidence in its safeguards and believe it is our best chance to fund the restoration of large sections of the Sonoma and northern bayshore before ocean levels rise even higher. We trust you won’t believe the scare tactics of the anti-tax groups. Please free to reach out to us if you have additional questions.
Dave Koehler is the Executive Director of the Sonoma Land Trust.
Source: Close to Home: Measure AA is vital for future of the bay | The Press Democrat

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New hiking trail opens up along San Pablo Bay 

Bill Swindell, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sonoma County’s newest hiking trail officially opened Sunday just a few hundred yards from the often backed up and typically frustrating Highway 37.
The Eliot Trail, located at the edge of tidal wetlands near where Lakeville Highway meets Highway 37, gives travelers an experience opposite to the nearby roadway.
The two-and-a-half mile trail offers walkers, joggers and cyclists a tranquil view of Mount Tamalpais and the skyscrapers of San Francisco as they traverse the flank of the new northern border of San Pablo Bay.
“It is such nice place to take a run,” said Julian Meisler, the Baylands program manager for Sonoma Land Trust. “For Sonoma County, this is one of the best access points we have to the bay.”
Jim Jackson of Sonoma said he was impressed with the extremely flat trail after doing the round-trip five-mile hike with his wife, Sharon.
“You get great views of the entire bay. It’s extremely peaceful and quiet out there. You can hear the water lapping by you,” Jackson said. “You realize how quickly you are away from 37.”
Read more at: New Sonoma County hiking trail opens up along San Pablo Bay | The Press Democrat

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Bay Area-wide tax aims to protect against rising sea levels 

Denis Cuff, SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS
Bay Area voters will be asked in June to approve a $12 annual parcel tax to protect and restore the San Francisco Bay shoreline and wetlands from rising sea levels due to climate change.
The proposed tax is believed to be the first to go on the ballot in all nine Bay Area counties. It needs two-thirds approval to pass.
In authorizing the measure unanimously on Wednesday, members of the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority said the tax is needed to provide $500 million over 20 years to fortify levees and create flood relief plains to protect homes, businesses, airports, highways and parks around the bay, and restore wetlands important to fish and wildlife.
“This is a historic day for Bay Area counties to get together on wetlands restoration on a scale not seen before,” said Dave Pine, a San Mateo County supervisor who is chairman of the restoration authority board. “San Francisco Bay is a common resource people in our region want to protect. It’s part of our identity.”
The panel is made up of seven elected county, city and special district officials who oversee a partnership that aims to protect bay wildlife and wetlands.
Board members, environmentalist and business leaders say the tax is needed to guard against the growing risk of flooding from rising sea levels because of climate change. Scientists predict the sea level to rise 3 to 5 feet through 2100.
Business groups such as the Bay Area Council and Silicon Valley Leadership Group, and environmental groups such as Save San Francisco Bay, back the measure.
Read more at: Bay Area-wide tax aims to protect against rising sea levels – San Jose Mercury News

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Levee breach transforms Sears Point farmland back into wetlands

Derek Moore & Diane Peterson, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

History: The Changing Wetland Landscape of San Pablo Bay

Cooled by a stiff breeze off San Pablo Bay, about 300 supporters and partners of the Sonoma Land Trust cheered on Sunday as an excavator’s crane broke through a 140-year-old Sears Point levee, allowing saltwater to flood back over 1,000 acres of reclaimed oat hay fields at the southern tip of Sonoma County.
As the water rushed in, the crowd of government officials and others involved in the decade-old Sears Point Restoration Project threw balls of pickleweed seeds into the mud to aid the wetland’s rebirth.
It is expected to take another 25 to 30 years before the marshland’s vegetation and wildlife comes back completely, but a flock of sandpipers swept in Sunday to investigate the small levee breach, which will be widened to 285 feet.
Read more at: Levee breach transforms Sears Point farmland back into | The Press Democrat

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Ambitious project seeks to restore Sears Point wetlands

Derek Moore, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Bulldozers ripped into a hayfield Friday, beginning a project to transform nearly 1,000 acres south of Sonoma into a tidal marsh and levee system that organizers say will support wildlife, provide flood control and offer new recreational opportunities for visitors.

The $18 million project, one of California’s most ambitious wetland restoration efforts, is the culmination of a decadelong effort to return Sears Point Ranch to its natural state. Upon completion, the site could become the premier access point into San Pablo Bay from within Sonoma County, organizers say.

“This project will actually require that we rewrite the map of San Francisco Bay. That’s a major, major accomplishment,” said Julian Meisler, a program manager with the Sonoma Land Trust, which is leading the restoration effort along with Ducks Unlimited.

via Petaluma360.com | Petaluma Argus-Courier | Petaluma, CA.