By Alice Kaufman, Legislative Advocate
In June, voters in all nine Bay Area counties will vote on the Clean and Healthy Bay ballot measure, which would authorize a $12 parcel tax to restore and protect the Bay. Committee for Green Foothills has endorsed this ballot measure, and we hope all our supporters will encourage everyone they know to vote for a clean and healthy bay in June.
The measure would provide $500 million over 20 years to restore tidal-marsh habitat around the bay, reduce pollution and trash in the bay, improve trails, and prevent shoreline flooding. San Francisco Bay once had 200,000 acres of tidal marsh and wetlands; today, the figure stands at only about 40,000. Scientists say that about 100,000 more acres are needed for a healthy bay. Projects such as the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project are restoring thousands of acres of tidal marsh, but they need funding to accomplish this goal.
Tidal marshes and wetlands provide unique habitat for hundreds of species of birds, fish, and other animals, including several threatened and endangered species such as the western snowy plover, Ridgway’s rail, and salt marsh harvest mouse. They also filter pollution from water flowing to the bay and provide wonderful open spaces for hiking, biking, and birding. With sea levels predicted to rise several feet over the next few decades, tidal marshes are also vital to protect our communities, as they absorb storm surges to prevent flooding and sequester carbon from the atmosphere.
The ballot measure provides that funding may be used for levees only if wetland restoration is incorporated into the design – a new concept that saves money, provides better flood protection, and creates new habitat (“Living Levees,” Green Footnotes Fall/Winter 2015).