Baykeeper's E-newsletter for May 2018

A planned coal facility threatens the health of the Bay and local communities

San Francisco Baykeeper E-News
Monthly Update for May 2018
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Judge rejects Oakland's ban on facility's coal exports

Coal cars

In a deeply disappointing decision, a US District judge ruled this week against Oakland's bid to stop coal transport from a planned shoreline terminal.

If the project moves forward, the terminal could receive millions of tons of dirty coal by rail every year, turning Oakland into one of the largest fossil fuel hubs on the West Coast.

Oakland passed a ban on coal transport in 2016 to protect the public's health and safety after discovering that the developer Phil Tagami intended to turn a planned terminal near the Oakland Port into a major hub for coal exports. Tagami sued the city for breach of contract.

San Francisco Baykeeper and the Sierra Club, represented by Earthjustice, intervened in the city's defense of the ban in court.

"This is a sad day for Oakland and the entire Bay Area," says Baykeeper Managing Attorney Erica Maharg. "The proposed coal export terminal will have devastating impacts on West Oakland residents and the health of San Francisco Bay. Corporate interests should not outweigh Oakland's right to protect public health and the environment."

Baykeeper is evaluating next steps as we review the details of the ruling. We'll continue supporting Oakland’s effort to fight increased coal shipments in the Bay Area.

Read more about the judge's decision on the Oakland coal ban.

Photo by Robb Most

Cities need to do more to protect the Bay from sewage spills

Sewage map

During the most recent 2017-2018 rainy season, over 350,000 gallons of sewage-contaminated spills flowed into San Francisco Bay and into creeks that flow to the Bay.

That's too much. Fortunately, Baykeeper's Sick of Sewage Campaign is making progress at reducing sewage pollution. Our legal actions have required sewer agencies serving 20 Bay Area cities to replace leaky pipes and upgrade outdated infrastructure. So far ten cities have worked with Baykeeper to successfully reduce or eliminate their sewage pollution.

However, many East Bay sewer agencies need to do better. Some of the sewer agencies serving nine East Bay cities, plus the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD), were recently fined for excessive sewage spills under their legally-binding agreement with the EPA, the Regional Water Quality Control Board, and Baykeeper. Oakland was also singled out for misreporting and failing to repair ongoing spills.

Under a new legal agreement with Baykeeper, the city of Richmond's sewer agency recently agreed to do more to stop sewage spills. The agency had over 40 sewage spills during each of the last two rainy seasons. Last month, Baykeeper secured a new 10-year agreement that requires the Richmond agency to make major infrastructure upgrades that will significantly reduce sewage pollution to the Bay and in homes and neighborhoods in Richmond.

See an interactive map of Bay Area sewage spills during the past rainy season.

Two new victories to stop industrial pollution in the Bay

In the latest victories for Baykeeper's Bay-Safe Industry Campaign, two more Bay Area industrial facilities have agreed to keep contaminated runoff out of San Francisco Bay.Victory Boat

Deal Auto Company, a used auto parts business located just outside Richmond, has been allowing rainwater with high levels of pollutants to run off into storm drains that flow to the Bay. The company will install an advanced runoff water treatment system to remove contaminants and take additional pollution control measures.

The Newark Group, Inc., a San Jose paper recycling facility, will implement controls to protect the Bay from high levels of pollutants that are harmful to Bay wildlife. Rainwater from the facility flows to a storm drain that empties into the Guadalupe River, which flows to the Bay.

These victories will reduce pollution in San Francisco Bay that harms both wildlife and people.

Learn more about Baykeeper's legally-binding pollution cleanup agreements under the Bay-Safe Industry Campaign.

Silicon Valley water district flips to support the harmful Delta Tunnels


Last month, the proposed Delta Tunnels project got a vote of support from Southern California's largest water district. Unfortunately, Silicon Valley's water district recently reversed course and has now also agreed to help pay for the project that will harm San Francisco Bay and California waterways.

If completed, the Delta Tunnels would divert huge quantities of water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to Southern California cities and Central Valley farms. The Delta Tunnels project would mean less water flowing into the Bay and Delta—an estuary that is already starved for fresh water.

By supporting the project, the Santa Clara Valley Water District may be trying to buy some control over the Delta Tunnels plan. "But there is no guaranteed increase in water supply for Santa Clara Valley ratepayers," says Baykeeper Staff Attorney Ben Eichenberg. “Silicon Valley residents may end up on the hook for a hugely expensive, ineffective, and damaging project."

Baykeeper and our allies are advocating for far more sensible and inexpensive alternatives. Water recycling, upgrades to existing infrastructure, and rainwater capture are examples of ways to increase California's water supply without harming the environment.

Baykeeper will continue to advocate for smart water management that doesn't put the Bay-Delta Estuary at risk.

Read Baykeeper's position paper analyzing the threat of the Delta Tunnels.

Photo courtesy of the California Department of Water Resources

Registration is now open for the 2018 Bay Parade!

Bay Parade

Attention swimmers, kayakers, rowers, stand-up paddleboarders, boaters, sailors, and Bay enthusiasts—registration is now open for the 5th annual Bay Parade! Baykeeper's 2018 Bay Parade will take place in San Francisco on Sunday, July 15.

This on-the-water recreation extravaganza offers a 6.5 mile swim from the Golden Gate to McCovey Cove, on an open relay team or to compete for the Golden Rivet Award for fastest solo swimmer or fastest relay team.

We also have an all-levels kayak and SUP course from Pier 40 to the Bay Bridge to McCovey Cove. Enjoy incredible views of San Francisco Bay while paddling to support a healthy Bay!

Boaters are needed to provide safety support for the Bay Parade. Sailboat, motorboat, inflatable, or rowboat—come volunteer with us!

The Bay Parade's grand finale will be broadcast live from McCovey Cove on the San Francisco Giants Jumbotron. Festivities will continue on-shore at the Bay Parade after party with tasty food and Anchor Brewing beer.

Last year's Bay Parade participants helped us raise over $100,000 to fight pollution in San Francisco Bay. Join the year's most fun, high-energy celebration of a healthy Bay for all.

Learn more about the Bay Parade and how to sign up as a participant or volunteer.

Bay Parade swim

Photos by Drew Bird and Susanne Friedrich

Meet Robert Fairbank, Baykeeper volunteer Head Skipper

Robert Fairbank

Did you ever wonder where Clipper Cove on Treasure Island got its name? Or how to identify San Francisco’s leaning skyscraper? Or where to find harbor seals in San Francisco Bay?

For this and much more Bay lore, ask Baykeeper's newly promoted volunteer Head Skipper, Robert Fairbank. He's a walking—or rather, boating—encyclopedia of all things San Francisco Bay.

Robert has volunteered as a Baykeeper Skipper, piloting our boat on pollution patrols, for over 10 years. He plans to keep up traditions started by Geoff Potter, who recently stepped down after 22 years of service as Baykeeper's Head Skipper, and remains on our volunteer skipper roster. Robert will continue at the helm, and, he says, "maintain the Baykeeper boat and be a good steward of the boat."

Robert has vast boating experience. He's often on San Francisco Bay, racing with a crew of seven in a sailboat he co-owns.

When he retired from a career as an airplane engineer, he sought out Baykeeper because he was "looking for opportunities to volunteer with people who do good work for the Bay. I care about what I enjoy, and I want to see it preserved and improved."

For the record, here are Robert's answers to the questions above: Clipper Cove is named for the Pan American Clippers, a fleet of luxury floating airplanes that took off and landed in the cove's waters from 1939 to 1941. San Francisco's tilted skyscraper, the Millennium Tower, has a distinctive triangular top, shown in the photo below. And harbor seals often hang out on a small Yerba Buena Island beach facing the San Francisco skyline.

Learn more about Baykeeper's new volunteer Head Skipper, Robert Fairbank.

Robert Fairbank

Photo of Robert Fairbank by Gail Odom. Photo of Clipper Cove by Robb Most. Photo of Millennium Tower courtesy Wikimedia Commons. Photo of harbor seals by Joan Robins.

A big boost for Bay wetland restoration

Rose for the Bay

Two years ago, Baykeeper supported regional Measure AA to provide funding for Bay shoreline restoration. Bay Area voters overwhelmingly approved the measure, and now, that vote has begun making a difference for San Francisco Bay.

A total of $18 million in funding is now being provided to restore thousands of acres of the Bay's wetlands, improve Bay wildlife habitat, and increase shoreline parks and trails.

The restoration projects will help provide flood protection in the face of sea level rise, along with natural filtering of pollutants.

One shoreline area in San Leandro will be transformed into an innovative wetland that will not only provide wildlife habitat, but will also reduce pollution from treated wastewater. Baykeeper Staff Scientist, Ian Wren, helped develop the proposal for this "treatment wetland," which could become a model for other Bay Area shoreline wastewater treatment plants.

Thank you again, Bay Area voters! Measure AA funding is making the Bay healthier and more resilient to sea level rise.

Learn more about new wetland and shoreline restoration projects around the Bay.

Photo by Gareth Bogdanoff, Flickr/CC

Wine & dine for a healthy Bay

Oyster enthusiasts rejoice! When you dine at Waterbar restaurant in San Francisco through June, you can support Baykeeper with Waterbar's Oyster Giveback Campaign. For every oyster sold, Waterbar will donate 5 cents to San Francisco Baykeeper.Oysters

Waterbar specializes in sustainable shellfish and seafood, and we're excited to partner with them to protect San Francisco Bay. Learn more about Waterbar's Oyster Giveback Campaign supporting Baykeeper.

And on May 31, Baykeeper will be the featured expert at the California Water Wars Civic Table discussion at Nopa in San Francisco. Wine and a four-course lunch will be paired with a lively discussion of drought, water management, and sand preservation in our thirsty state. All proceeds benefit San Francisco Baykeeper.

Click here for more information and to purchase tickets to Nopa's Civic Table event featuring Baykeeper on May 31.

Plus, the 2017 vintage of Rosé for the Bay is now available. Every year, Obsidian Ridge winery crafts a special pinot noir rosé for San Francisco Baykeeper, with 100% of the proceeds supporting our work to defend the Bay. Obsidian describes the 2017 Rosé for the Bay as bright and crisp, with notes of rose petals and lime.

Click here to learn more about Rosé for the Bay and support a healthy San Francisco Bay with your purchase.

Binocs  Baykeeper on patrol

Baykeeper Staff Attorney Ben Eichenberg recently took representatives from the San Francisco Department of the Environment and the Mayor's Office on an aerial patrol of the Bay. The aerial perspective helped illustrate how sand mining in San Francisco Bay is connected to erosion at San Francisco’s Ocean Beach, and how interrupted freshwater flows from the Delta affect the entire estuary. Thank you to our partners at LightHawk Conservation Flying for piloting the flight.Red tide

While on boat patrol in San Pablo Bay, Baykeeper Field Investigator Sienna Courter spotted a large red algae bloom, known as a "red tide", just under the water's surface (photo at right). Red tides can cause toxicity in shellfish, and usually occur in warm, polluted waters. Baykeeper is following up with phytoplankton experts about the incident. If you see a red tide in the Bay or its tributaries, please report it to Baykeeper's pollution hotline.

Baykeeper Executive Director Sejal Choksi-Chugh recently met with Puget Soundkeeper staff in Seattle and joined them for a brisk boat patrol in Puget Sound. "Puget Sound is a West Coast waterbody that is similar to the Bay in many beautiful ways. But both are also located in densely urban areas and surrounded by industrial facilities that release toxic pollution into the water."

As founding members of the global Waterkeeper Alliance, the staff of San Francisco Baykeeper and Puget Soundkeeper often collaborate with each other and with Waterkeepers across the globe to share best practices to stop polluters. Thank you to Baykeeper sponsor United Airlines for making this site visit possible.

Pictured below: Sejal with Puget Soundkeeper Staff Attorney Katellyn Kinn.

Sejal and Katellyn

Photo at top by Roberto Soncin Gerometta

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Judge issues bad ruling in Oakland coal case