New Regional Rainmaker

New Regional Rainmaker

By Joe Eaton Environmental issues were important to Michael Montgomery as a young man. Montgomery’s career path led to 33 years with the United States Environmental Protection Agency, where he gained a wealth of experience in navigating complex regulatory landscapes to protect water resources, and ultimately to the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board, where he is now executive officer. “The Bay Area has a strong tradition of coming up with collaborative solutions,” he says. That’s how he...
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Bay-Delta Leaders Comment on Climate

Edited by Cariad Hayes Thronson These magazine pages share the opinions of various new leaders in the Estuary management world about climate change. “The biggest challenge is that it is difficult for people, including decision-makers, to plan for uncertain, long-range challenges. We know that in order to make the greatest impact we need to start now,” says BCDC’s Dana Brechwald. Climate change is forcing some regulatory agencies, including the State Water Resources Control Board and BCDC, to fundamentally shift the...
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A Tricky Ballet

By Michael Hunter Adamson Malea G., a fourth grader in Mr. Moore’s class at Bayview’s Malcolm X Academy Elementary School, shows me her Tower of Power. It’s a wooden, trapezoidal structure roughly two feet high and decorated with stickers naming personal qualities she’s proud of. I ask her which of these she might turn to when dealing with climate change. “Leadership,” Malea answers after a brief pause. “If there was a flood, someone would need to take charge.” Working in...
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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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Joaquin Esquivel is impatient with the narrative that has dominated California water policy for decades, especially when it comes to the Delta and the eternal tug-of-war between farms, cities and the environment.

“For so long in the water space you’ve had these false dichotomies where you are being told you have to choose one or the other,” says Esquivel, who Governor Gavin Newsom appointed Chair of the State Water Resources Control Board in February. “These narratives can fuel themselves, they take root in communities, but they don’t really do much to get to the heart of the policy question.” A native of the Coachella Valley, Esquivel served on the State Board for...
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Jessica Fain got a crash course in resilience planning when Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast in 2012.

Fain, Planning Director for the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) since October, was part of a three-person office in the Waterfront and Open Space Division of New York’s Department of City Planning. “We were doing a small study on adaptation options,” she recalls. “In the middle of that, Sandy hit. Suddenly all eyes were on us.” Fain brings that background to a setting unlike New York in many ways. Instead of five boroughs, for example, she’s dealing with a...
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Therese McMillan inherits huge challenges as the new Executive Director of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

The Bay Area region is beleaguered by traffic, a crippling housing shortage, and growing inequality. MTC plays a role in all these areas. “We have a master coordinator role in being able to knit the region together through land use and transportation planning, and major dollar investments,” says McMillan of the MTC, which distributes billions of public transportation dollars collected annually by local, state and federal governments, although she notes that the agency doesn’t “have land use authority, or our...
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Susan Tatayon wants to bridge the emerging communication gap between Delta science and policy.

While Tatayon, who was installed as Chair of the Delta Stewardship Council in January, sees good communication efforts on the part of council scientists and staff, not everyone on the receiving end gets their drift. “What I’m learning from some council members and others is that they don’t understand the connection between the science being done and the policies they want to make.” Tatayon assumes her new position after a career that includes stints at The Nature Conservancy, the U.S....
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Kris Tjernell thinks there could hardly be more a more exciting time to be leading conservation and water management programs in the country’s most populous and perhaps most water-stressed state.

“I see opportunities for big change,” says Tjernell, who was appointed California Department of Water Resources’ deputy director last May. At the time the DWR was adopting a new approach toward land and water management—especially the inclusion of floodplain restoration in many of its flood control projects. “We are demanding a lot out of the landscape of the Delta, and we are demanding a lot out of the Central Valley and beyond,” Tjernell says, describing a system of resource allocation...
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Sandra Scoggin has the qualities the San Francisco Bay Joint Venture needs in a leader at what she calls a ‘pivot point’ for the partnership.

In the early days, when the wetland protection and restoration landscape was less complex, the JV “could be everywhere and do everything.” Now it needs to be more strategic. “I’m a listener, a synthesizer, and I’m pretty good at herding diverse interests toward shared goals,” says Scoggin, who is taking over the 20-year-old wildlife habitat venture after 16 years in second seat. “The JV is built on deep and lasting relationships,” she says, both awe and pride in her voice....
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Louise Conrad sees the Delta Stewardship Council’s science program, which she now leads, as poised to shift into a new gear – from breaking down the science landscape and building a new foundation for Delta science to actually doing it.

 “With the update of the Delta science plan done, we can now can sink our teeth into some topical issues our scientists can be passionate about, such as aquatic invasive vegetation, microcystis and climate change, for example,” says the former Department of Water Resources (DWR) fish biologist. Conrad grew up in Philadelphia and developed an interest in conservation on summer road trips to western national parks in their family’s Dodge Ram. “My mom sewed us individual seat covers with pockets...
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Dana Brechwald is trying to bring rising sea levels to the forefront of the conversation for Bay Area communities and their affiliated agencies.

Joining the Bay Conservation and Development Commission as Program Manager for the Adapting to Rising Tides ( ART) program last November, Brechwald oversees multiple projects assessing coastal areas that are vulnerable to sea level rise. “We’re working at every scale, from the federal level down to community members who will be affected by climate adaptation,” she explains. Brechwald and her team cover the gamut of a community’s assets — from transportation systems to areas set aside for more development or...
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Dave Halsing is in a race against sea level rise to restore the South Bay salt ponds.

 “The existential challenge is doing marsh restoration fast enough to get it into place and established before sea level rise really starts to kick in,” says Halsing, the new Executive Project Director for the massive, 15,000-acre South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project. The thoughtful and reflective restoration manager is seizing the reins from previous director John Bourgeois to lead the 50-year, $1 billion effort that is the largest wetland restoration project on the West Coast. “I had to take a...
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Manuel Oliva’s career has been focused on climate change and conservation since his days as an engineering graduate student at the University of Maryland.

“I’ve done the entire spectrum, from the federal to the state to the NGO perspective,” says the incoming CEO of Point Blue, the Petaluma-based nonprofit focused on environmental conservation and research. “This gives me a really good overview on how to best support our work as an organization.” Most recently Oliva was an acting director of the Development Resources and Disaster Assistance Division at the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service. His work there focused on climate-smart agriculture projects, such as working...
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Melissa Foley’s list of concerns as the new head of San Francisco Bay’s premier water-quality program is long: microplastics, pharmaceuticals, PFASs, and other chemicals and contaminants entering the Bay through runoff and treated sewage.

An interdisciplinary scientist trained in marine ecology, with experience in policy, management, and public outreach, Foley assumed leadership late last year of the Regional Monitoring Program for Water Quality in San Francisco Bay (RMP). Along with overseeing the RMP’s rigorous efforts to study and manage Bay pollutants, Foley who comes to the RMP from New Zealand’s Auckland Council, where she used long-term environmental monitoring data to inform both regional and national management and policy strategies, says she’ll draw on her...
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Saltwater Revival

“Swimming sustains me,” says Fran Hegeler of the South End Rowing Club. That’s the kind of enthusiastic language some Bay swimmers express, but sharing the water means sharing it in sickness and in health. Right now, Sausalito’s Marine Mammal Center is dealing with a large outbreak of leptospirosis, a bacterial infection that can cause fatal kidney damage in California sea lions. But it isn’t likely to affect swimmers, as the bacteria is not known to survive long in saltwater.
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Toxic Soup Strains Silos

Headlines about falsified tests are just the latest development in a long history of frustrations for Hunters Point in San Francisco. Recently, the neighborhood has been in the news due to fraud in the cleanup of the former Navy shipyard, contaminated with radioactive waste from nuclear research. In what is now called by some the biggest case of eco-fraud in U.S. history, 97 percent of the cleanup results are in question and two supervisors have been sentenced to prison.
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Shark Hunt Stand Off

In the spring and summer months, anglers armed with heavy line and large hooks drop anchor in the murky, current-torn waters between Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge seeking the elusive, and occasionally gigantic, broadnose sevengill shark. As social-media hype stokes excitement among trophy seekers, some other fisherfolk and conservationists want to see the pursuit ended before it depletes shark numbers. While interest in catching large, breeding-age sevelgills has risen in recent years, it remains unclear whether the population can...
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San Joaquin Communities Access Cleaner Water Due to New Legislation

The only water easily available to many low-income inhabitants of the San Joaquin Valley’s smaller, non-incorporated settlements is well water tainted with arsenic and nitrates from surrounding activities. But two state bills ensure that these communities – and everyone else in California – not only have the right to safe, clean, and affordable drinking water, but also get access to public water infrastructure and services as needed. Assembly Bill 2501, approved this fall, “makes sure the state’s consolidation authority can...
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Constellation of Climate Events Lifts State Spirits

“We are seeing events we have never seen before,” said California Natural Resources Secretary John Laird to the over 750 attendees of the California Adaptation Forum on August 28th. Inside the cavernous ballroom of the Sheraton Grand in downtown Sacramento, Laird ticked off to the audience the evidence that climate change is present in California: wildfires burning faster and hotter, rainfall five hundred percent above normal, and longer lasting Central Valley heatwaves. “[Climate change] is happening, we’re experiencing it, and...
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