New report: San Francisco Bay getting healthier, not in the clear yet

Just like a patient from intensive care but still suffering aches, pains and also the need for a number of rehab, Bay Area Bay is around the mend but not even close to taking pleasure in a clean bill of health.

This is the conclusion of the new report launched Monday with a team of researchers studying Northern California’s signature natural feature along with a wide range of their issues — from esturine habitat to wildlife, toxic pollution to trail access.

“The bay’s health is certainly improving. We are making progress,” stated Andrew Gunther, an environment researcher and chief author from the “The Condition of Bay Area Bay 2011.” “But we still have the means to go. Beginning using the Gold Hurry, we’d a hundred years of degrading the bay. And we have only been rebuilding it because the early seventies.”

The report arrives every 2 yrs prior to the biennial Condition from the Estuary Conference, a scientific and public policy meeting that begins Tuesday in the downtown Concord Marriott.

Among its key findings this season: The bay is way less polluted now compared to the nineteen fifties and sixties. After Congress passed the Water That Is Clean Act in 1972, vast amounts of dollars were spent, and continue being spent, improving the sewage treatment plants that filter the wastewater of seven million San Francisco Bay Area citizens and release it in to the bay. Today’s technology removes as much as 99 % from the contaminants for the reason that wastewater. Meanwhile, toxic substances like DDT and PCBs happen to be banned, no significant filling from the

bay has happened in decades, and previously 2 yrs condition government bodies have enforced strict new rules needing San Francisco Bay Area metropolitan areas to significantly reduce the quantity of trash that flows lower storm drains and streams into bay waters.

Wetland restoration is also a significant vibrant place. Previously decade, roughly 10,000 acres of esturine habitat happen to be restored, a lot of it in the former Cargill salt ponds within the South Bay. The bay has roughly 50,000 acres of tidal marsh, up from about 40,000 in 1999, and scientists will work toward a lengthy-term goal of 100,000 acres. Most encouraging, biologists are already seeing increases in wild birds, and a multitude of seafood, from anchovies to leopard sharks, are arriving within the recently restored esturine habitat.

But you will find still major problems.

One of the top problems, based on the report, may be the ongoing diversion of freshwater that will have naturally ran in to the bay. Large dams and pumps that move vast amounts of gallons of water in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to farms and metropolitan areas have cut freshwater flows in to the bay by 50 %. Which has permitted salty water in the sea to push farther eastward underneath the Golden Gate, in significant levels up so far as Contra Costa County.

That change, which faster previously decade, continues to be associated with crashes seafood populations, stated biologist Christina Swanson, among the report’s authors.

“Within the last several decades, the bay continues to be in a condition of chronic drought,” Swanson stated. “Safeguarding the bay’s ecosystem and recuperating its fisheries will need alterations in water management within the bay’s tributary rivers and also the Delta to improve freshwater flows, particularly throughout the spring.”

In comparison towards the eighties, the abundance of pelagic, or open water, fishes previously 5 years was 88 percent reduced Suisun Bay, 68 percent reduced San Pablo Bay, and 55 percent reduced South Bay, the report noted. That information originates from monthly seafood surveys completed in 35 locations round the bay by condition Seafood and Game biologists who’ve used nets to trap and measure seafood regularly since 1980.

Other challenges include invasive species, such as the overbite clam, which crowd out native species. Harder rules needing ships to empty their ballast water outdoors the Golden Gate make a positive change, however the bay continues to have a lot more than 200 nonnative species that oftentimes have pressed out or reduced natives.

And you will find legacy contaminants remaining in the Gold Hurry like mercury, which still washes lower from closed mines in Santa Clara County and also the Sierra Nevada. The bay is gradually eliminating more mercury to the sea than is defined in, but it will require decades before all seafood within the bay are secure to consume, particularly for ladies of childbearing age.

The report, which is published at world wide, was made by the Bay Area Estuary Partnership, a course from the Association of San Francisco Bay Area Government authorities that’s funded through the U.S. Environment Protection Agency and also the condition of California.

One major challenge, as condition and federal agencies proceed with rebuilding 15,100 acres of former Cargill salt ponds, is funding. With budgets tight, future progress might be slow happening that actually work, as well as on efforts to grow the Bay Trail, 310 miles which is finished toward a 500-mile goal.