Estuary News

June 2017 Issue
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F e a t u r e s

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...

Flood Plan Boosts Floodplain

The 2017 update to the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan, to be released later this summer, radically revises the flood control strategies that have prevailed for more than a century. The plan recognizes the connections between the flood system, the water system and the ecosystem, and relies less on levees and more on floodplain restoration to upgrade the state’s aging and inadequate flood control infrastructure.

LA Drainage Goes Native

Community Conservation Solutions is piloting a new analytical tool that not only taps an untapped local water supply — the 969 miles of metropolitan storm drains in Los Angeles — but also has the metrics to earn carbon credits for doing so. “It’s very practical, you just stick your straw in the local water source rather than pumping it into the city from hundreds of miles away,” says the NGO’s director Esther...
Pearls in the ocean of information that our reporters didn’t want you to miss

Rebalancing the Bay

Former Chronicle reporter Jane Kay spent a year exploring the San Francisco Bay’s 1,000-mile shoreline, focusing on efforts to restore the balance of the bay she loves. She reports that the rising seas and intensified storm surges of climate change may be mitigated by natural buffers, including tidal marsh from reclaimed hayfields and commercial salt ponds as well as restored eelgrass and oyster reefs in subtidal zones. Kay also highlights the ecological role of freshwater flowing though Delta, which benefits species in the Estuary and helps flush treated sewage out of the South Bay. Her story was posted by National Geographic on June 13, 2017. Photo by Ariel Okamoto.

Devil in the Details with Delta Smelt

Delta smelt and Delta pumps – never the twain shall meet. That’s the bargain struck between wildlife managers and those who supply the State Water Project and southland communities. But preventing this endangered fish from being sucked in by the Tracy pumps requires keeping tabs on its whereabouts. And previous smelt survey methods weren’t cutting the mustard. Too often, these surveys indicated fish were absent when some were known to be near the southern Delta pumps. To correct this problem, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife has launched a far more intensive smelt surveying effort. The Enhanced Delta Smelt Monitoring Program deploys multiple crews a day virtually year round to randomly selected locations across the smelt’s range. The new methods should provide better real-time data for water managers to adjust pump operations. Sparing as many wild smelt as possible is critical, since the population has plummeted to the point where scientists are contemplating running a rescue hatchery or establishing an artificial Delta habitat to save the species. Smelt, Chinook salmon, and a number of other California fishes are so close to disappearing that UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences researchers say it’s time to develop extinction policies grappling with such grim possibilities.


Predicting Killer Plankton

Red tides have long stumped scientists with their apparently random appearance. But forecasting these phytoplankton blooms is far from a purely academic problem. Red tides can poison seafood and wildlife, trigger breathing problems in people, and cause operational emergencies in power and desalinization plants. Now, researchers at Scripps Institute of Oceanography at UC San Diego are moving red tide predictions out of crystal ball territory and into the realm of science. Viewing the ecosystem holistically, the scientists report in the journal Ecology, enabled them to correlate factors such as stable water columns and low surface nutrient levels to blooms. The method could lead to an early warning system for future red tide events.  Photo: Ginny Velasquez/Wikimedia Commons


Cool Map of Buried Gold Rush ships

For the ships that carried the original Forty-Niners, the voyage to California often proved a one-way trip. Once docked in Yerba Buena Cove, crews hightailed it out to gold country. Vessels saw new life as saloons, hotels, and warehouses. Others were scuttled so their owners could claim the land beneath their hulls. Rubble was dumped atop the sunken ships to extend the bayshore and create the prime real estate upon which the Financial District’s skyscrapers stand today. Those who wish to tour this maritime graveyard will soon have a new map to point the way. San Francisco Maritime Historical Park is reissuing a gorgeous new edition of its buried ship map featuring the latest archeological discoveries. The outlines of the entombed vessels, are superimposed over the streets, wharves, and buildings of the modern city. The finished map should be on display and available for purchase by early next year.

Map: San Francisco Maritime Historic Park.

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.