A wedge of gravel, mud, and grasses irrigated by treated wastewater outperforms all expectations as a prototype for climate change adaptation.

A wedge of gravel, mud, and grasses irrigated by treated wastewater outperforms all expectations as a prototype for climate change adaptation.

Experts monitoring 16 months of plant growth on a humpbacked levee experiment on the San Leandro shore, a project led by the Oro Loma Sanitary District, found early weed colonization followed by rapid dominance of target native perennial vegetation. “Native vegetation outcompeted weeds,” says Peter Baye, who designed the planting palette for this multi-benefit infrastructure project. The results were apparent during an October 2017 tour for international design teams looking at homegrown innovations in sea level rise adaptation as part of...
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For the first time, the San Francisco Estuary has been mapped out for non-motorized watercraft.

From the Palo Alto Sailing Station to the Petaluma Creek Marina, the San Francisco Bay Area Water Trail program has established five maps that unify a network of “trailheads,” allowing boaters to access the entire Estuary. “The goal of the project is to improve and enhance access for non-motorized craft,” says Ben Botkin, Water Trail Planner. The back of each map provides information on the specific ecosystems of each region, serving to inform and inspire boaters to explore the varied...
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Profile – Emily Koller

By Kristine Wong “The best place for our students to learn about the environment is in their own community.” Emily Koller, who has been teaching conservation and environmental science to fifth graders at Bahia Vista School in San Rafael, works with Point Blue Conservation Science’s STRAW (Students and Teachers Restoring A Watershed) to restore a section of wetlands in the student’s own backyard.
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Choice Mountain Parcels Help Protect Bay

By Nate Seltenrich John Muir Land Trust announces one of its largest-ever purchases, the 604-acre Carr Ranch located squarely within San Leandro Creek’s 50 square-mile watershed. Similar conservation targets exist across the Bay Area, particularly on the outskirts: Sprawling, undeveloped, privately owned parcels whose protection sends a variety of benefits cascading downhill towards the bay.
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Prepping for Sea Level Rise—Who’s on First?

On an uncommonly sultry Thursday evening at the end of August several dozen people gathered in a grove at San Mateo’s Coyote Point, sipping beer and listening to a presentation on sea level rise by staff from San Mateo County’s Office of Sustainability. Then, accompanied by the sound of gunshots from a nearby firing range, everyone trooped down to the Bay’s edge, where temporary markers indicated how high the water would rise under three different scenarios. In the most dire projection, water...
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Caspian Push and Pull

The origin story of a project to lure Caspian terns to several barren islands in the South Bay Salt Pond Habitat Restoration Project stretches all the way to the mouth of the Columbia River in Washington. This bird story that turns out to be a fish tale shows what can happen when multiple agencies and states work together to protect the numbers of an endangered species by changing the patterns of another species. In this case, the robust population of...
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The Dirt on Flea Control

It’s hard to go to the big box pet store and not stumble over the flea control displays. Most pet owners have dabbed or squirted Frontline or Advantage between their cat’s shoulder bones or onto the back of their dog’s neck, but who would guess this same chemical would make its way off our pet’s fur, down the drain, through wastewater treatment, and into the Bay? Apparently all the petting and shedding and subsequent washing of hands, doggies, and floors...
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EBMUD Experiments With Pipe Replacement

Download June 2016 ISSUE PDF EBMUD Experiments With Pipe Replacement By Nate Seltenrich On average, underground water distribution pipes can last about 100 years. The East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) owns and maintains roughly 4,200 miles of them. And it replaces about ten miles per year. At that rate it would take four centuries to replace the whole system: an approach one could charitably call unsustainable even if all the pipes were brand-new today. But parts of EBMUD’s system, cast-iron pipes...
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Bay Belle Retires; Catamaran Carries On

DOWNLOAD March 2016 ISSUE PDF Bay Belle Retires; Catamaran Carries On By Joe Eaton Side by side at a Redwood City marina, two vessels await their very different destinies. The Research Vessel Polaris, a classy 96-foot yacht, was built in 1927 as a pleasure craft for a Los Angeles tycoon. Beyond a few streaks of rust, her age isn’t showing. After a series of owners, she spent decades as the workhorse of the US Geological Survey’s San Francisco Bay science...
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No Drought of Dirt

DOWNLOAD December 2015 ISSUE PDF No Drought of Dirt by Joe Eaton With its massive environmental and economic costs, it’s hard to see a bright side to the California drought. Consider mud, though. According to US Geological Survey scientist David Schoellhamer, the long dry spell may be giving tidal wetland restoration efforts an unexpected boost by promoting the buildup of sediment in the South Bay where former salt ponds await conversion to tidal marsh. Since the Gold Rush, San Francisco...
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Tracking Tiny Toxins

By Joe Eaton San Francisco Bay and the region’s other water bodies have an unfortunate legacy of human pollution. But we’re not the only culprits: beyond the mercury and PCBs, the Bay contains toxins produced by phytoplankton—photosynthesizing microorganisms classified as blue-green algae (also known as cyanobacteria), dinoflagellates, and diatoms. Under conditions still not well understood, these tiny organisms secrete chemicals that can enter aquatic food webs and impact human health. Funded by the San Francisco Estuary Institute’s Regional Monitoring Program...
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Beyond the Blubber

When John Kucklick talks about interrogation techniques, his subjects aren’t tight-lipped terrorists, they’re bits of blubber. Harbor seal fat is a well-known repository of legacy contaminants from the Bay like PCBs, flame retardants and DDT, but the Regional Monitoring Program for Water Quality in San Francisco Bay (RMP) wanted to know what they might be missing. In 2010, they asked Kucklick, a scientist with access to a national database of 330,000 chemicals and some pretty cutting edge software, to check...
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Cullinan Finally in the Fold

DOWNLOAD MARCH 2015 ISSUE PDF Cullinan Finally in the Fold by Joe Eaton Real estate developers often name their projects for what they’ve displaced: Quail Acres, Live Oak Estates. Egret Bay would have been another such necronym. The 4,500-home development proposed for the former Cullinan Ranch on San Pablo Bay in 1983 would have left little room for egrets, or other birds. A citizen’s group, Vallejoans for Cost Efficient Growth, supported by Save the Bay and other environmental organizations, helped...
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Beyond the Bag Ban

The other day I found myself turning out the closets for one last plastic bag. Dreaming of those white Safeway sacks as I searched for something to sequester what may well be the most toxic contaminant in the homes and cars of many a modern family: freshly used soccer cleats. But a year into San Francisco’s bag ban, there just aren’t that many plastic shopping bags around our house anymore. All told, 60 percent of municipalities in the four most...
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Small Fish Test Helps Target PCB Clean Up

Jay Davis didn’t expect much from a pilot test for PCBs in silversides and topsmelt that live on the edges of the San Francisco Bay. The monitoring program he heads only ran the test on these small fish, which rarely grow more than 3-4 inches long, because it was simple to piggyback on an existing study of mercury in the same fish samples. “I thought it wouldn’t really be a big deal,” says Davis, who is lead scientist for the...
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Hamilton Done, But More To Do

DOWNLOAD JUNE ISSUE PDF Hamilton Done, But More to Do By Ariel Rubissow Okamoto Breaching the outboard levee near Marin County’s Hamilton community this May is cause for both a whoop of celebration and a sigh of relief. Celebration because it was an ambitious wetland restoration project with a complicated design and multiple partners that wasn’t easy to pull off, yet in just a few months it’s become a beautiful landscape filled with blue water, green shoots, yellow flowers, quacking...
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The Island That Came in from the Cold

DOWNLOAD MARCH ISSUE PDF The Island That Came in from the Cold by Joe Eaton For years, Skaggs Island was a tantalizing blank in the map of San Pablo Bay wetlands restoration. Renee Spenst of Ducks Unlimited says it was “one of those places in a strange limbo.” Two-thirds of it was owned by the US Navy, which had operated a top-secret listening post there; the rest was privately-owned farmland, where the Haire family grew oat hay. Converting any of...
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