Proponents of a new plan to rehabilitate the San Francisco Bay Area say they hope to make significant gains in the coming years with millions of dollars in new federal funds.
The estuary, the largest on the west coast of North America, covers 60,000 square miles from the foot of the Sierra Nevada to the Golden Gate, including the Sacramento-San Joaquin River delta. The estuary and surrounding mountains, which hold about half of California’s water supply, are home to highly diverse ecosystems, including 100 endangered and threatened species, and support a multi-billion dollar economy.
As part of a decades-long effort to address environmental damage and habitat loss caused by development over the past two centuries, the San Francisco Estuary Partnership – a federal-state agency created in 1988 – released an updated plan on Tuesday to guide restoration projects for the next five years. The master plan, last updated in 2016, now places greater emphasis on climate adaptation projects, such as sea level rise defenses and equity issues affecting communities. underserved communities.
The plan has no regulatory teeth, but serves as a roadmap of broad goals and actions that agencies and nonprofits in 12 counties can commit to, from improving wetlands to reducing water use through reducing waste and pollutants.
“This estuary is so large that it’s hard to grasp compared to something like Bolinas Lagoon or Tomales Bay,” said Marin Audubon president Barbara Salzman, who sits on the partnership’s steering committee. ‘estuary. “You can’t make a plan for everything. You have to take it to pieces. All of this contributes to a healthier estuary.
The plan’s completion comes months after Congress and President Joe Biden approved a $53 million infusion of federal funds for the San Francisco Estuary.
“State governments and the federal government have activated the fire hose to fund climate-resilient solutions,” said Warner Chabot, executive director of the San Francisco Estuary Institute, a nonprofit research group. “This master plan, which is the result of six years of discussions among all the many actors, hopefully provides a roadmap for how to spend this money effectively and reflects the consensus of multiple actors at the local, state and federal.
Darcie Luce, an environmental planner with the partnership, said the increased federal funding “will help us give that injection that this region really needs to build momentum.”
The $52.5 million funding increase comes from both the $1.5 trillion government spending bill signed in March and the $1 trillion federal infrastructure program approved in November.
The spending bill increased funding for a competitive grant program for the nine-county Bay Area from its normal $5 million to $24 million this year. An additional $24 million will be allocated to the grant program over the next five years from the infrastructure bill. Another $4.5 million from the infrastructure bill has been allocated to the National Estuary Program for San Francisco Bay Estuary projects over the next five years, or about $1 million. dollars more than normal.
Pat Eklund, a Novato councilor who sits on the estuary partnership steering committee, said the new plan will help communities compete for grants by linking their local projects to the wider estuary restoration effort. . In the Novato region, projects that could benefit include a review of the fight against sea level rise and the impacts of flooding in the Bahia district and a project to restore an important wetland habitat. near Bel Marin Keys.
“We all love the San Francisco Bay Area,” Eklund said. “It adds to our quality of life, and as we improve the bay, it will help ensure that the people and communities around it can continue to thrive.”
Salzman said the plan also addresses equity issues that were not addressed in the plan’s last update in 2016. One example is the call for the creation of groups to increase collaboration and contribution between underserved communities and government agencies for projects.
“We haven’t paid much attention to communities that are more diverse and now we are,” Salzman said. “And this is a good thing.”
A copy of the estuary blueprint is available at sfestuary.org/estuary-blueprint-2022-update/.