Monday, December 22, 2008

Bay Trash--Threatening Damon Slough and shorelines near you!

by Amy Alton, Communications Associate

Originally posted on September 17, 2008

If you’ve ever taken BART to an event at Oracle Arena or McAfee Coliseum, you have crossed over it. If you’ve ever traveled in or out of the Oakland Airport, you’ve flown over it. And if you live in East Oakland, your neighborhood storm drain connects right to it. I’m talking about Damon Slough. A thriving habitat flowing around the Coliseum and running alongside the Nimitz Freeway, Damon Slough in Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline Park opens up to Arrowhead Marsh and is home to several species of native plants, including pickleweed and arrowgrass, and endangered wildlife like the California clapper rail and the salt marsh harvest mouse. It’s also home to unsightly masses of trash and debris.

Damon Slough

At Save The Bay, we call it a “Bay Trash Hot Spot.” In fact, for the last three years we have compiled a list of some the Bay Area’s trashiest waterways to call attention to this problem and Damon Slough has been on the list for three years running. One of the few, three-time repeat offenders, Damon Slough in its current state is particularly disturbing given it has all the makings of the proverbial Cinderella story.

In the 1980’s, crews from the Port of Oakland began dumping fill into the northeast side of the marsh. Fortunately the commotion caught the attention of East Bay Regional Park District staff and they contacted the authorities. After a successful lawsuit headed by the Golden Gate Audubon Society, Save The Bay, and the Sierra Club, $2.5 million dollars were allocated for restoration of this 72-acre wetland.

Since 2000, Save The Bay has partnered with East Bay Regional Park District to work with schools, community groups and corporations to restore wetland habitat along Damon Slough. Part of that effort includes shoreline cleanups to pick up trash and debris from urban runoff, litter, and dumping. To date, our volunteers have removed over 20,000 pounds of trash and recyclables!

Even so, Damon Slough is repeatedly inundated with plastic bags, Styrofoam cups, cigarette butts, bottle caps, car batteries, shopping carts, industrial waste, and old electronics.

While Damon Slough is of particular concern, trash accumulates in massive amounts all over the Bay, choking wetlands, poisoning and entangling wildlife, and harming water quality. A 2005 assessment by the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board (Water Board) found an average of three pieces of trash along every foot of streams that lead to the Bay. And this trash also has global ramifications; it flows out the Golden Gate to form part of the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”—a floating island of trash the size of Texas.

So what can we do? The good news is that because we create this pollution, we have the power to diminish it. We can:

Reduce the amount of trash we generate and make sure our trash doesn't end up in the Bay.

Dispose properly of hazardous waste, switch to reusable bags, and recycle and compost when we can.

Advocate for tougher policies and regulations to reduce trash flowing to the Bay. In fact, the Water Board has the opportunity to stop trash from fouling the Bay as they vote this fall to renew the storm water permit. Save The Bay is working to ensure that the permit limits the amount of trash cities and counties discharge into the Bay.

Volunteer to clean up and restore the Bay shoreline. Save The Bay hosts monthly cleanup and restoration events at several sites around San Francisco Bay. This Saturday, nearly 100 Save The Bay volunteers will clean up hot spot Damon Slough at the Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline in Oakland, as part of the Coastal Commission’s 24th annual Coastal Cleanup Day.

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