Magazine Features

Reflowing the Sierra to the Sea

A fall flight over the Mexican coast where the Colorado River meets the Sea of Cortez offered me a gut-punching, eye-screwing, visual on the results of impaired flow. The semantics of ‘unimpaired’ and ‘impaired’ flow have laced the language of California water management debates since some engineer invented these politically ‘neutral’ terms long ago. The terms refer to our alteration of freshwater flows from snowmelt and runoff by dams and diversions. But whatever the labels, or whichever estuary you’re referring to, keeping these flows from reaching the sea via rivers can starve these aquatic ecosystems of their liquid life force. Whether it’s the vast yellowing salt flats that are all that remain of the mighty marshes of the pre-dam Colorado River delta, or our own estuary at the mouth of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers, when we “impair” the...

Greening Dickson’s Heights

Looking east from the levee-top trail, a silvery swath of bay is dotted with low islands -- some tufted with plants, others mere muddy humps that barely break the surface. This is low tide at the nearly 1,000-acre Sears Point wetland restoration project on the western side of San Pablo Bay. The islands, 500 in all, are actually man-made mounds, scattered across the mudflat as an integral part of the restoration design. Each is roughly 60 feet across and was carefully sculpted so its wide, flat top would submerge at high tide, creating habitat for a specific group of marsh plants. This in turn provides an important suite of ecological functions central to the project’s success. “Without the mounds, you would just have a big area of open water,” says Julian Meisler, a program manager with Sonoma Land Trust. The...

Estuary Partners Choose their Battles Coast to Coast

A boatload of estuary experts from around the country gathered on an early October day to tour the prettiest part of San Francisco Bay. They paid rather less attention to Alcatraz and the Golden Gate than to each other. In town for the National Estuary Program’s annual Tech Transfer Conference, they had come to compare notes and strategies from the 28 varied bays, bights, bayous, and river mouths that benefit from one of the nation’s most durable, and efficient, environmental laws. In 1987 amendments to the Clean Water Act, Congress proclaimed selected tidewater regions to be “estuaries of national significance” and offered money to help local coalitions take on environmental problems there. Through all the political gyrations since, a thin stream of funding, via the Environmental Protection Agency, has continued to flow to place-based programs with tiny core staffs and...
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Pearls in the ocean of information that our reporters didn’t want you to miss

The Nature Conservancy’s venture in growing food crops for wintering cranes on Staten Island is under fire from an unexpected source—the Wetlands Preservation Foundation.

The nonprofit, headed by Stockton tomato packer Dino Cortopassi, is suing TNC and the California Department of Water Resources, which holds a conservation easement on Staten Island, alleging farming practices that cause soil subsidence and threaten levee integrity, and misuse of revenue from farm operations. The 9200-acre farm, acquired by TNC in 2001, is a...

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ESTUARY News is the 25-year-old regional magazine of the San Francisco Estuary Partnership and its myriad partners around the Bay and Delta. Written by professional, independent journalists, it provides in-depth, silo-crossing coverage of the environmental, restoration, and climate adaptation issues of our time, and tells the stories behind the 2016 Estuary Blueprint.

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