OAKLAND, Calif. – In a move that seeks to breathe new life into one of the Western Hemisphere’s most important natural places, the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority this afternoon voted to place the San Francisco Bay Clean Water, Pollution Prevention, and Habitat Restoration Program, known as the “Clean and Healthy Bay Ballot Measure,” on the June 2016 ballot in all nine Bay Area counties.
Audubon California immediately threw its support behind the measure, which will raise approximately $500 million for tidal marsh restoration throughout San Francisco Bay. It is expected that these monies will leverage additional state and federal funding for bay restoration.
“In a state that offers so many natural treasures, San Francisco Bay stands apart for both its beauty and its importance to birds and wildlife,” said Brigid McCormack, executive director of Audubon California. “This ballot measure offers residents the opportunity to not only restore what has been lost over time, but to also invest in the future.”
The Clean and Healthy Bay ballot measure will create a $12 per parcel tax for the next twenty years. The $500 million it is expected to raise will leverage additional state and federal funding for bay restoration.
“Restored wetlands and cleaner water will support shorebirds and waterfowl that use the bay, which is one of the anchors of the Pacific Flyway,” said McCormack. “Increased public access to the bay shoreline will provide recreational and educational opportunities.”
Save the Bay, the Bay Area Council and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group – along with Audubon California – are part of a broad coalition of environmental and business groups supporting the measure. A number of Bay Area Audubon chapters have also stated their support for the measure.
More than a million shorebirds and waterfowl use San Francisco Bay habitat at the height of migration, and the area includes twelve spots designated as Important Bird Areas due to the high number of rare and endangered bird species as well as the sheer number of birds supported by the bay and surrounding wetlands.
Perhaps the most numerous of these birds are the Greater and Lesser Scaup, along with Bufflehead and Ruddy Ducks. Other birds include Ridgway’s Rails, Western and Clark’s Grebes, Wigeon, Pintails, Coots, Cormorants and Loons. Surf Scoters – with their white, red, yellow and black bills – were once plentiful in San Francisco Bay, but have declined considerably in recent years.
San Francisco Bay in 2013 was designated a “Wetland of International Importance” under the Convention on Wetlands, also known as the Ramsar Convention. It has also been recognized by the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network, which ranks it as being of “Hemispheric Importance” to shorebirds.
Tidal marsh restoration funded by the measure would improve water quality and control pollution by reducing the trash and other toxins that flow into the Bay and ocean. It would increase natural habitat for hundreds of species of wildlife beyond birds, including Pacific salmon and Dungeness crab, porpoises, sea lions, and shorebirds.
Restoring San Francisco Bay’s wetlands will protect shoreline communities from rising waters attributable to climate change. More than $60 billion in homes, businesses, and crucial infrastructure is at risk, including ports, airports, roads, office buildings, and entire neighborhoods at or below sea level. A March 2015 report commissioned by the Bay Area Council found that an extreme storm event could cost our region $10.4 billion, almost as much as the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.
About Audubon California
Audubon California is building a better future for California by bringing people together to appreciate, enjoy and protect our spectacular outdoor treasures. With more than 150,000 members and supports in California and an affiliated 48 local Audubon chapters, Audubon California is a field program of the National Audubon Society.
More information is available at www.ca.audubon.org.