Baykeeper's E-newsletter for July 2019

An advocacy victory in Alameda for the Bay, moving ahead with our pioneering heavy crude oil spill bill, advocating for sustainable water management, and more
San Francisco Baykeeper E-News
Monthly Update for July 2019
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Stopping pollution in Suisun Marsh

Every spring, our scientists review the latest water quality data from industrial facilities across the Bay Area. We rank polluting facilities and then investigate the ones that are causing the biggest harm to the health of San Francisco Bay.

This year, we flagged the Vision Recycling facility in Benicia as one that was releasing significant illegal pollution into the Bay.

High levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, and other contaminants were running off from the facility's industrial composting operations into neighboring Suisun Marsh. The marsh provides important habitat for many native fish and wildlife in the northern part of San Francisco Bay.

So Baykeeper filed a lawsuit under the Clean Water Act to hold the company accountable. After a site visit and many months of technical discussions, Vision Recycling agreed to adopt our recommendation to contain all of the facility's runoff and stop polluting Suisun Marsh.

Read more about Vision Recycling's agreement to stop polluting Suisun Marsh.

Above: Map of Baykeeper's Bay-Safe Industry wins across the Bay Area.

Conserving water for good

Delta view

Newly elected Governor Gavin Newsom is calling for a broad portfolio of water projects to make California more water efficient in the face of the impending climate crisis.

Baykeeper believes that's a smart move—but only if the priorities are right. There's a danger that the projects will simply deliver more water to agribusiness and cities that are already using water unsustainably.

Instead, we're urging the Governor to prioritize the human right to clean drinking water and the public right to a healthy ecosystem.

We recently led a coalition of 56 environmental, fishing, community, and tribal groups to call for new California water projects to serve two clear goals:

(1) Provide safe and affordable drinking water for all California communities, especially those currently lacking safe drinking water.

(2) Restore our rivers to ensure the survival of fish and wildlife.

"Corporations and cities take too much water from our rivers and much of that water is used irresponsibly," says Jon Rosenfield, Baykeeper's Senior Scientist. "This new approach is an opportunity to put our state on the path of protecting water for the good of its people and fish."

Read more about Baykeeper's advocacy on Newsom's Water Portfolio.

Photo by Robb Most, thanks to LightHawk Conservation Flying

Alameda tells Nautilus to cool it

Bay from Alameda

When Nautilus Data Technologies proposed building a data farm on the Alameda shoreline, the plan, at first, didn't raise any red flags for the city.

But the company didn't choose the location for the scenic Bay views. The planned data farm would pump millions of gallons of Bay water every day to cool computer servers, releasing the warm, used water back into the estuary.

This method, known as once-through cooling, is outdated and harmful. Underwater valves would kill fish and wildlife, and the intake and release of water could alter the Bay's currents. In addition, releasing hot water into the Bay would impact the delicate ecosystem around the discharge area.

"The Bay's fish and wildlife are already at risk from so many different human impacts," says Baykeeper Senior Scientist Jon Rosenfield. "Warming the Bay's water, building giant pipes in important habitat, and trapping tiny fish and their prey—these are all activities that can damage the Bay."

Baykeeper sent a letter to the city of Alameda outlining the threats posed by the data farm, and Mayor Ashcraft specifically cited our concerns in her opposition to the project. In a victory for the Bay, the city recently voted unanimously to reject the proposal.

Read more about Baykeeper's advocacy on the Nautilus proposal.

Photo of the Bay from the former Alameda naval base by Russell Mondy, Flickr/CC

Bill to prepare for heavy oil spills moves forward

Ben Eichenberg and Assm. Rivas

Oil companies are trying to ramp up the extraction and refining of heavy crude oil—and that means more of this dangerous oil could be shipped across San Francisco Bay every year.

If heavy oil was spilled in a waterway like the Bay, it could sink quickly, coating the bottom and smothering plants and animals. It's critical that a spill of heavy crude like tar sands or coal tar be addressed promptly and appropriately, before it's virtually impossible to remove.

To address this risk, Baykeeper worked with State Assemblymember Robert Rivas and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to draft new state legislation, AB 936. The bill would strengthen safety, preparedness, and response for heavy crude spills throughout California. In June and July, Baykeeper testified at two Senate committee hearings to support the bill.

We're happy to report that AB 936 is now headed for review by the Appropriations Committee! Thank you to everyone who signed on to our recent action alert in support of AB 936.

Read more about protecting the Bay from a heavy crude spill.

Pictured: NRDC Southern California Legislative Director Linda Escalante; Baykeeper Staff Attorney Ben Eichenberg; State Assemblymember Robert Rivas; and NRDC Environmental Law Fellow Jennifer Skene.

Baykeeper is hiring! Become our Managing Attorney

Erica Maharg

Baykeeper is seeking an exceptional Managing Attorney to lead our high-impact environmental enforcement and legal advocacy program.

This position manages a docket of 10-15 cases, leveraging the Clean Water Act and other environmental laws to achieve concrete legal victories for the Bay and Bay Area communities. In addition to litigation, the Managing Attorney collaborates with our Senior Scientist to strengthen water quality policies through legal advocacy before regulatory agencies.

This is a great opportunity to join our highly effective organization, and put your legal skills to work for the Bay.

Click here to read more about the position and learn how to apply.

Swim, paddle, or boat in the Bay Parade on August 11

Bay Parade

Baykeeper's 6th annual on-the-water recreation festival, the Bay Parade, is less than a month away!

Join us for this fun celebration of healthy San Francisco Bay as a swimmer on the supported 6.5 mile course from the Golden Gate to McCovey Cove, solo or relay. Or paddle with us as a kayaker or stand-up paddleboarder in a 2-mile loop from Pier 40. We also need paddlers and rowers to volunteer for course support, and boaters as support boat volunteers for swim teams. Want to volunteer on land? Join us for event setup and breakdown at the finish line.

All proceeds from the event support Baykeeper's work to defend San Francisco Bay. Plus you'll make it on the San Francisco Giants Jumbotron for the grand finale in McCovey Cove. Then join us for the Bay Parade After Party with tasty food and Anchor Brewing beer.

Thank you to our premiere event sponsors United Airlines, Levi Strauss & Co., Anchor Brewing, and the San Francisco Giants, and to everyone who's donated to support a participant so far!

The registration deadline is August 4, and the paddle is filling quickly. We hope to see you at the Bay Parade on August 11!

Click here to learn more and sign up for the Baykeeper Bay Parade.

Photo by Robb Most

Binocs  Baykeeper on patrol

While patrolling the Bay on the Baykeeper boat over the last few years, we've noticed that a construction facility in Richmond has been slowly growing its operation and creeping into the Bay. More and more barges are starting to crowd the dock, and heavy industrial equipment keeps piling up along the shoreline. But the facility has not officially identified itself as an industrial operator.

"We're concerned that the company is trying to avoid complying with pollution laws by simply claiming that they're non-industrial," said Baykeeper Staff Attorney Ben Eichenberg.

Earlier this year, our field team patrolled the location by kayak (pictured, below) and documented the facility's lack of pollution controls. Last week, we submitted an assessment to local regulators detailing Baykeeper's concerns and recommending that the agency reclassify the facility as an industrial site, which would require it to follow environmental laws.

"The company needs to clean up its site and make sure they're not releasing toxic contaminants into the Bay," Ben noted. "They shouldn't be allowed to risk harming the Bay by abusing a loophole in the law."

Kayak patrol

Photo at top by Robert Most

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Stopping pollution in Suisun Marsh