Monday, December 22, 2008

A landmark step for wetlands

by David Lewis, Executive Director

Originally posted on September 23, 2008

Right now a landmark bill for wetlands is in limbo waiting the Governor’s signature.

Forty years ago, public outcry put a badly needed end to the slow destruction of San Francisco Bay from widespread filling and development. Indeed, the Bay as we know it now is a monument to that victory. Today, we have a significant opportunity to build on that legacy and ensure that future generations can enjoy the economic and ecological benefits of the Bay. The key lies in making smart investments to restore thousands of acres of salt ponds and diked hayfields to tidal wetlands

Only five percent of the Bay’s original wetlands remain&mdashrestoring more wetlands is vital to support endangered species, combat global warming, filter pollutants from the water, protect communities against flooding, and provide open space.

In 1999, scientists created a regional blueprint for restoring Bay wetlands, including 100,000 acres of restored tidal marsh at sites where it was still possible. Large shoreline parcels were acquired to pursue this blueprint, from salt ponds in San Jose to hayfields near Petaluma. Although state and federal resource agencies and private foundations have already invested at least $370 million, a broad long-term commitment supported by public and private interests is needed to preserve the Bay.

Save The Bay’s Greening the Bay report documents for the first time the total projected cost of these restoration projects, finds strong public willingness to pay that cost, and recommends ways to secure the necessary funds. The report states that over 50 years, $1.43 billion of investment will be required to fully restore more than 36,000 acres of tidal marsh. That’s only about $4 annually per area resident. We have the will and the wallet – what we lack is a way to translate this strong regional support into steady funding for restoration of Bay wetlands.

That's why Save The Bay sponsored California Assembly Bill 2954, which establishes the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority, a special district that can raise funds and make grants to restore tidal wetlands in San Francisco Bay, without new costs to the state. Currently, this bill has passed the California Legislature and is waiting to be signed by our Governor.

Over the last four decades, Bay Area residents have overcome tremendous odds to prevent the Bay from being destroyed. By developing a long-term Bay wetlands restoration plan now, we can make the Bay healthier for people and wildlife long into the future.

Please help by telling the Governor to sign this landmark wetlands bill.

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