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Remembering Bruce Wolfe

Bruce H. Wolfe, for 15 years the Executive Officer of the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board, suffered a fatal heart attack on February 25 while out on a run at Hilton Head, South Carolina. Doing what he loved, one inevitably notes; but family, friends, and long-time colleagues in the water world would have preferred to have him around much longer. Wolfe was an aficionado of the sport of orienteering, a kind of racing with map and compass...
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Where have all the Herring Gone?

Pete has fished San Francisco Bay for nearly all of his 60 years. A lifelong San Francisco resident who keeps his last name to himself, he recalls herring runs in the 1970s the likes of which rarely, if ever, occur anymore. “I remember herring spawns that went from Oyster Point all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge,” says Pete, a former commercial fisherman, referring to the point near Brisbane. He also remembers massive spawns that stretched contiguously from the...
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Sustaining Pajaro Valley’s Water

The Pajaro Valley enjoys a temperate microclimate, in part because it is situated at the hip of Monterey Bay. It lays like an east-west-oriented horseshoe, with the open end settling around the coastal plains of Elkhorn Slough and its various tributaries and side sloughs. Rimmed by the Santa Cruz Mountains to the north, the Gabilan Range to the south, and the San Andreas Fault at its head, the Pajaro Valley is a unique place in California. Marks from the state’s...
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Opening the Mouth of Walnut Creek

Paul Detjens is driving us from his Martinez office to a restoration site near the mouth of Walnut Creek on Suisun Bay, a project he spearheads as an engineer for the Contra Costa County Flood Control District. These lower reaches of the creek — straightened, widened, and leveed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — have been a sluggish, silt-filled problem for more than half a century. Detjens has worked to find a solution for the last 17 years....
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Network Listens for Passing Salmon

It’s a cold morning in early February, and Chris Vallee of the U.S. Geological Survey is motoring upriver along Steamboat Slough. His two-man crew is hunched in the bow with backs to the wind, wrapped to the ears in water-resistant jackets above warm layers. Vallee pilots the vessel in relative comfort behind the shelter of the windscreen. The boat passes the usual Delta sights: greenish-brown water drifting past road-crowned levees, the occasional dock and house, a greater egret the color...
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Flows and Ecosystem Function Dominate Delta Plan Amendment

With the Delta lagging behind the Bay on four of the State of the Estuary Report’s five indicators, the last long-range plan for restoring its ecological health abandoned, and the threats from climate change becoming ever more alarming, the need for a new regulatory vision for the region may never have been greater. A pending amendment to the Delta Plan, shared by Ron Melcer at the State of the Estuary Conference as part of a policy update session, is meant...
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Big Picture Review of Regional Science and Governance

Offshore, kelp forests were dwindling. Outside, hillsides were burning. Inside the Scottish Rite Center in Oakland, scientists and policy people were sharing the latest findings concerning the vital shallows in between: the San Francisco Estuary. The patient pursuit of knowledge, essential to smart action in a changing world, had chalked up a fruitful two years. Of the action itself, there was rather less sign. Felicia Marcus might speak to that better than anyone. As chair of the State Water Resources...
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Not So Picky Marsh Mouse

The endangered salt marsh harvest mouse (informally “Salty”) is a poster child for tidal marsh restoration in San Francisco Bay. But recent research, presented by University of California at Davis postdoc Katie Smith in a State of the Estuary conference session on tidal wetlands, suggests we’ve misinterpreted what the mouse needs. “It’s been managed as a habitat specialist,” she said, based on assumptions that it requires tidal wetlands and a diet of pickleweed. However, hours of mouse-tracking around the Bay...
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Scarce Shark Tough to Tag

Basking sharks were once so abundant along the California coast that a thrill-seeking trophy hunter reportedly harpooned a half-dozen in under three hours in Monterey Bay. That was in 1947. Today, the big fish are so rare that it’s taken a team of scientists between San Diego and Santa Cruz eight years to put tracking tags into just six animals. Their numbers are so low, in fact, that researchers, working with tiny sample sizes, can scarcely study them at all...
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Tire Melt in Salmon Stream?

On the morning of November 8, 2018, Allen Harthorn, a farmer who lives about two miles from the town of Paradise, watched a dark cloud of smoke forming in the east and began to worry about the safety of his and his neighbors’ homes. He also began to worry about some other residents of the Butte Creek watershed—the largest run of naturally spawned spring Chinook in California. The fire missed Harthorn’s home, but grew into the deadliest wildfire in California...
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True to the Trail

On a clear San Francisco morning, I met Barb Christianson and Sally Jo Dinwoodie, both 64, at a Hunter’s Point neighborhood with new, multi-storied townhouses that can go for a million dollars. Seven of us headed down the hill towards the Bay with the San Francisco skyline and Bay Bridge sparkling. Christianson, Dinwoodie, and a small group of friends are walking the entire San Francisco Bay Trail by tackling one segment at a time, in order, once a month. After...
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Super-Shore: A Multi-Habitat Experiment at Giant Marsh

Interview anyone of any stripe about the Giant Marsh living shorelines project and the same two words will be in every other sentence: high tide. Each construction step of this California Coastal Conservancy-led effort to build new native oyster reefs interspersed with eelgrass off the Contra Costa County shore must consider the timing of tides. High enough to float a barge or Boston whaler into the shallows, do a day’s work, and get back out again on the next cycle....
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Sandhill crane

Wildlife and Way of Life in the North Delta?

Californians ask a lot of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, where the state’s longest rivers meet and deliver snowmelt from the mountains. Water suppliers want to reconfigure the Delta’s plumbing via the ever-contentious Water Fix project, which Governor Gavin Newsom just sent back to the drawing board. State wildlife officials want to boost restoration in the region, and the 2019 Delta Conservation Framework outlines their latest plan. And people in the Delta want to live and farm there as they...
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Oakland green infrastructure vision.

Clock Ticking for Cities to Commit to Greening

Managing stormwater is a physics problem, and not a very glamorous one. In decades past, the main objective of managing stormwater was figuring out how fast it could be directed through the Bay Area’s built landscape via storm drains, culverts, and channels, and into the Bay. In decades future, however, the object will be to slow down the runoff, and sink it into greener, spongier surfaces sprinkled throughout our cities and counties, or to run it through more meandering, more...
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New Video: USGS Investigates 50-Year Mystery of San Francisco Bay

Between April 1969 and March 2019, USGS conducted 1,167 boat-based sampling cruises to better understand changing conditions in San Francisco Bay — producing data used by scientists around the world. Meet four scientists and the captain of the March 14, 2019 cruise, and watch them plumb the Bay depths, drag nets, filter samples, and explain their work.
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Feds Coastal Research Crew Bucks Headwinds

Jim Cloern looked out of an airplane window one day and saw red streaks in the water; crimson patches darkening the grey-green shallows that are San Francisco’s South Bay. A superscientist with the US Geological Survey, he knew something big was happening. As soon as the plane landed he called his crew. “You will not believe the explosion we’re seeing on the surface,” he heard back from his crew leader Tara Schraga. A quality control freak who sticks to the...
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Purse Opens for PCA Projects

Marsh restoration, Bay and Ridge Trail extensions, and urban park upgrades are among the types of projects eligible to receive funding through the 2019 Bay Area Priority Conservation Area (PCA) One Bay Area Grant Program. By March, aided by new mapping tools that can pinpoint regional landscape characteristics and needs, more than 36 cities, counties, agencies and non-profits had submitted letters of interest to the program, outlining a variety of projects that benefit one or more of the Bay Area’s...
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Youth Learn to Shift as the World Shifts

In a bright classroom in the hills of East Oakland, youth huddle in small groups building miniature rain-catchment models. Birdhouses serve as the base for a catchment system composed of a foil gutter, a straw pipe, and a Dixie cup rain barrel. Spritzes of water from a spray bottle generate rain-like condensation, which trickles through the system into the barrel. The eight middle schoolers gathered on this chilly Saturday morning are participating in a youth social-media ambassador training organized by...
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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...
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Green Cement Blues

For the last three years, an environmental storm has been brewing in the North Bay city of Vallejo. Some elements of the story are familiar: grassroots activists pitted against a multinational corporate developer, environmental justice versus the lure of new jobs. Add historical preservation, iconic wildlife, political shenanigans, and the unexpected involvement of the California Attorney General’s office, and the mix becomes more complex. An Irish cement company and its local partners want to build a processing plant and a...
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About Us

The San Francisco Bay-Delta is named in the federal Clean Water Act as one of 28 “estuaries of national significance." For over 20 years, the San Francisco Estuary Partnership has worked together with local communities and federal and state agencies to improve the health of California’s most urbanized estuary.

San Francisco Estuary Partnership 1515 Clay Street, Suite 1400 Oakland, CA 94612 (510) 622-2304

Association of Bay Area Governments