Magazine Features

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. Now that the district has taken the unusual approach of parting ways with the Corps in favor of local control, a fix is finally in sight. Goals include protecting people from floods, restoring habitat, reconnecting the creek with its historical floodplains, and offering public access so people can enjoy the wonders of newly restored marshes. “We want to work with...

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 past — traces of the indigenous creekside camps to the Mission landmarks and Gold Rush-era place-names — tell part of the valley’s story. Unlike in neighboring areas that have embraced the commuting car culture, the endless lines of perfectly aligned row crops reveal that this valley is still very much a working landscape. But the Pajaro Valley is different from...

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 Tiburon peninsula out the Golden Gate to Point Bonita. Today, the fish still return. Each year between December and March, schools of Pacific herring, Clupea pallasii, lay and fertilize their eggs in the Bay’s shallow waters. When the fish gather at sites like Point Richmond, China Basin, and the Sausalito waterfront, so do frenzied birds and pinnipeds, all feasting on...
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Pearls in the ocean of information that our reporters didn’t want you to miss

Beaver dams may offer wildfire protection to western watersheds, in addition to providing better-known benefits such as groundwater recharge, wetland and habitat creation, and riparian restoration.

A new study by California State University Channel Islands professor Emily Fairfax analyzed satellite-derived vegetation indices of riparian areas and beaver dams mapped via Google Earth. At the same time, Fairfax analyzed data for large (over 30,000 acre) wildfires that had occurred between 2000 and 2018 in California, Wyoming, Colorado, Idaho, and Oregon, and compared...

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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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