>What is Wetlands Restoration & Why Do We Need it?
>Around 1800, there were 195-200,000 acres of tidal marsh in San Francisco
>Bay, equal to more than twice the area of open water in the Bay and Delta.
>Today, there are between 40-50,000 acres of tidal marshes or about 10%
>of the open water area of the Estuary. A rough accounting indicates that over
>26,000 acres of wetlands have been acquired and over 28,000 acres restored
>in the San Francisco Bay area since 1993.
>Wetlands play a vital and often overlooked role in maintaining a healthy
>ecosystem. They improve water quality, provide essential wildlife habitat,
>act as natural flood control, and prevent shoreline erosion. More
>productive than all ecosystems but tropical rainforests, wetlands feed
>and shelter countless species, support a diverse plant community, and
>form the foundation of the food web.
>Recently, purchase of 16,000 acres of commercial salt ponds in the South
>Bay established the largest wetland restoration project in the western
>United States. An extensive planning process is underway that over time
>will create enhanced habitat for endangered species, improve Bay water
>quality, and restore the hydrologic integrity of the historical tidal
>wetlands of South San Francisco Bay.
>Briggs Nisbet is the Restoration Campaigns Manager of Save The Bay, a
>membership organization that has been working for four decades to protect
>and restore the San Francisco Bay-Delta.
Briggs Nisbet began her talk by explaining that Save The Bay was formed in 1961 as a response to a plan to fill in and pave over the entire San Francisco Bay. Since then they have kept busy, fighting one development project after, most recently the expansion of San Francisco Airport, which has still not gone away completely. In addition to that Save The Bay has expanded into habitat restoration and educating the next generation about the ecosystem in their back yard.
Briggs Nisbet then stepped back and explained that the physical geography of the area has been about the same for 300,000 years or so. However, until about 30,000 years ago the Sacramento River just wound its way through a valley with a delta out beyond where the Golden Gate bridge is now. At that point in time, climate change caused the glaciers to melt, which raised sea level to the point where San Francisco bay grew to about its current dimensions, with tidal marshes along most of the sides.
The first huge impact of western man on the bay came about 150 years ago, when gold mining caused huge rushes of sediment as the gold panners hosed away entire hillsides. This had the impact of doubling the width of some tidal marshes, but it also poisoned a lot of life, because of all the mercury the miners used. Since then there has been a lot of building out on landfills. For example, Foster City, Redwood Shores, and some of San Francisco were all built on landfill. There has been much less of that recently, partly because of work done by environmental activists working with Save The Bay and other organizations.
There have also been some successes. Most recently, half of the Cargill Salt Ponds, something like 16,000 acres has been bought by the State and Federal governments, and will be restored as endangered species habitat. Also, there are large numbers of volunteers who go out on weekends, pulling out the invasive weeds and planting indigenous plants like pickleweed. Save The Bay helps those out by providing the plants for those efforts, raised to planting size in their nursery in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Regional Shoreline Park.
Pollution from sources like factories and waste disposal plants is way down from where it was when Save The Bay began their work. In fact, the biggest remaining pollution source is what is called a "non point source", meaning the everyday habits of normal people that drip oil off old cars and stuff like that. To battle that, Save The Bay advocates passing AB 204, which would take up to $4 of additional registration fee, and use the money to filter pollutants out of runoff before it reaches the watersheds.
For more information, please visit www.saveSFbay.org