This April, the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority awarded the first round of Measure AA grants, including $539,000 for San Leandro’s water pollution control plant. The plant, which is surrounded by blue- and white-collar communities, recently completed upgrades that allow the repurposing of a retired treatment pond. The money will pay for plans, designs, and permit applications necessary to convert the pond to a wastewater treatment marsh and buffer zone between the plant and the advancing Bay—a critical improvement, since just 16 inches of sea level rise could flood 82% of the plant’s infrastructure . “We’re so little, without the right kind of help and a push from outside forces, it would be hard to initiate this kind of project,” says plant manager Justin Jenson. “Outside forces” include the East Bay Dischargers Authority, the San Francisco Estuary Institute, and water quality regulators seeking to reduce the amount of nutrients discharged into San Francisco Bay, which are starting to cause harmful algal blooms. “We’ve seen other experimental green infrastructure systems in Discovery Bay and Oro Loma remove nearly 100% of nutrients at a much lower cost than conventional treatment,” says Baykeeper scientist and SFEI advisor Ian Wren. “Instead of getting more concrete, chemicals, and pumps, the community could see plants and beauty on our shore,” says Jenson. “The grant is a catalyst.”

Though a tiny and low-lying treatment plant on the San Leandro shore is facing increasing regulation of nutrients and rising sea levels, it’s got a path to adaptation thanks to the region’s taxpayers.

This April, the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority awarded the first round of Measure AA grants, including $539,000 for San Leandro’s water pollution control plant. The plant, which is surrounded by blue- and white-collar communities, recently completed upgrades that allow the repurposing of a retired treatment pond. The money will pay for plans, designs, and permit applications necessary to convert the pond to a wastewater treatment marsh and buffer zone between the plant and the advancing Bay—a critical improvement, since just 16 inches of sea level rise could flood 82% of the plant’s infrastructure . “We’re so little, without the right kind of help and a push from outside forces, it would be hard to initiate this kind of project,” says plant manager Justin Jenson. “Outside forces” include the East Bay Dischargers Authority, the San Francisco Estuary Institute, and water quality regulators seeking to reduce the amount of nutrients discharged into San Francisco Bay, which are starting to cause harmful algal blooms. “We’ve seen other experimental green infrastructure systems in Discovery Bay and Oro Loma remove nearly 100% of nutrients at a much lower cost than conventional treatment,” says Baykeeper scientist and SFEI advisor Ian Wren. “Instead of getting more concrete, chemicals, and pumps, the community could see plants and beauty on our shore,” says Jenson. “The grant is a catalyst.”

About the author

Ariel Rubissow Okamoto is both today’s editor-in-chief and the founding editor of ESTUARY magazine (1992-2001). She enjoys writing in-depth, silo-crossing stories about water, restoration, and science. She’s a co-author of a Natural History of San Francisco Bay (UC Press 2011), frequent contributor of climate change stories to Bay Nature magazine, and occasional essayist for publications like the San Francisco Chronicle. In other lives, she has been a vintner, soccer mom, and waitress. She lives in San Francisco close to the Bay with her architect husband Paul Okamoto.