Articles by

Cariad Hayes Thronson
About the author

Cariad Hayes Thronson covers legal and political issues for Estuary News. She has served on the staffs of several national publications, including The American Lawyer. She is a long-time contributor to Estuary News, and some years ago served as its assistant editor. She lives in San Mateo with her husband and two children.

Articles by Cariad Hayes Thronson

A new online portal from the Delta Stewardship Council offers everyone from scientists to tourists an accessible window into the Delta’s identity and importance.

“Although I had studied freshwater and marine ecology, I really was not familiar with the Delta before I started working there,” says 2017 Sea Grant Fellow Heidi Williams, who developed the Beginner’s Guide to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. “I was looking for a way to dive in and learn about the Delta and realized that there wasn’t an easily accessible place to turn for the basics.” As a science communications fellow, Williams suggested to the Council that she create one...
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Vital and Vulnerable? Delta Contemplates Climate Change

With its pivotal role in California’s ecology and economy, the Delta’s ability to adapt successfully to climate change and sea level rise will have an enormous influence on how well the state as a whole adapts. “Most of the climate vulnerability work in the Delta so far has focused on water resource management, not the array of other potential impacts,” says Delta Stewardship Council’s Kate Anderson. In May, the Council issued an RFQ for an assessment of the Delta’s potential...
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South Bay: Swaps and Sponges Create Absorbing Vision

East Palo Alto is a microcosm of Silicon Valley’s most pressing social and environmental issues. Home to low-income communities, the city faces rising rents and the displacement of longtime residents. As one of the lowest-lying communities in the Bay Area, it is also ground-zero for sea level rise in the South Bay. Although located at the northern end of Resilient by Design’s Field Operations Team’s 20-mile shoreline jurisdiction, much of their public engagement effort was focused on East Palo Alto....
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Updated guidance synthesizing the best available science on sea-level rise projections and rates for California—including advances in modeling and improved understanding of the potential impact of ice loss from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets—is now available from the California Ocean Protection Commission.

The State of California Sea-Level Rise Guidance 2018 Update is the second update to guidance originally released in 2010. It is based on the scientific findings of the OPC Science Advisory Team’s 2017 report, “Rising Seas in California: An Update on Sea-Level Rise,” which noted among other findings that California may be particularly vulnerable to sea level rise stemming from ice loss in Antarctica. The guidance “provides a bold, science-based methodology for state and local governments to analyze and assess...
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Napa County voters will weigh in on the fate of the county’s remaining oak woodlands this June, when they cast ballots on Measure C, the Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative.

“Ninety-five percent of oaks on the valley floor are gone and we want to do a better job reducing deforestation on the hills” initiative co-author Jim Wilson, told the Bay Area Monitor. “Our hillsides are beautiful and also filter rain, keeping water clean as it replenishes aquifers.” Most of Napa’s oak woodland loss is due to vineyard development, and the county General Plan projects that another 3,000 acres of woodland will be converted to vineyard by 2030. Current protections require...
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Overdue Levee Almost Shovel Ready

After more than a decade of study and planning, the first part of a critical flood protection and environmental project is creeping towards construction near the town of Alviso. The South Bay Shoreline Project will eventually include over four miles of levee, 2,900 acres of restored tidal wetlands, and upgrades to the iconic Bay Trail. While the US Army Corps of Engineers waits on financing, other partners are focused on getting ducks in a row, such as coordinating access with...
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Moving West for the Greater Good

The San Francisco Estuary Partnership is optimistic that a move to the Bay Area Metro Center will offer new opportunities for collaboration with other regional agencies sharing the same roof.
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A wide-ranging Habitat Conservation Plan that could eventually protect up to 4800 acres of endangered species habitat in the Bay Area is the linchpin of a November agreement between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Pacific Gas and Electric Company.

Under the agreement, FWS issued the utility a 30-year incidental take permit for operations and maintenance activities in the nine Bay Area counties. The HCP includes strategies to avoid, minimize, and offset potential direct, indirect, and cumulative effects of PG&E’s O&M and minor new construction activities on 32 threatened or endangered species. The parties are hailing the landscape-scale plan as an improvement over the project-by-project process they previously operated under, as it will enable PG&E to complete projects more quickly...
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All In for One Water

As climate change threatens to upend precipitation patterns and disrupt water supplies, agencies are increasingly searching for ways to wring more benefits out of every drop. The Santa Clara Valley Water District is seeking to take integrated water management planning to the next level through its One Water initiative. “The idea of One Water is to manage all water — treated water, groundwater, stormwater, flood water, water for habitat, species and Baylands — as one resource,” says the District’s Brian...
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The number of Chinook salmon returning to Central Valley rivers is near record lows as a result of water management decisions made during the recent drought.

Returns of endangered winter-run Chinook salmon this year will be the second lowest this century—according to the Bay Institute’s Jonathan Rosenfield, the final 2017 estimate is likely to be less than 1,000 fish total, of which more than 80% were hatchery-spawned. Returning fish represent the survivors of the 2014 incubation period, when the US Bureau of Reclamation did not provide adequate cold water, and poor juvenile outmigration conditions during winter-spring 2015 resulting from reduced Delta inflow and outflow standards. Despite all this,...
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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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Simultaneous lawsuits filed against 37 fossil fuel companies by Marin and San Mateo Counties, along with the City of Imperial Beach, over sea level rise may open new front in climate battle.

 The suits, filed in California Superior Court, seek compensatory and punitive damages and other remedies for the ongoing harm that oil, gas and coal cause by contributing to global warming and sea level rise. A 2009 Pacific Institute study calculated that San Mateo has more property and people at risk from sea level rise than any California county, while in Marin more than 12,000 homes, businesses and institutions, with an assessed value of $16 billion could be at risk from...
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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.
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Going Local Buys Future for Bayshore

When Bay Area voters approved Measure AA in June 2016 they not only created a significant new source of environmental funding, they also made California history, levying a parcel tax across the entire region for the first time. The measure was the result of a carefully planned and meticulously executed effort over more than a dozen years that offers lessons for other regions, and may be a catalyst for a regional approach to rising sea levels and other challenges.
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Wetland Protections in Transition

Environmentalists are heading warily into the fall following two regulatory developments that they fear may cramp efforts to protect California’s wetlands. In June the State Water Resources Control Board released a draft document overhauling wetlands protection procedures but leaving open the question of exactly which wetlands are eligible for protection. In the same month the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that landowners may mount court challenges to U.S. EPA or Corps of Engineers jurisdictional determinations before a permit is issued, potentially...
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