Silicon Valley reps back bay restoration bill

Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Garima Wilson and courtesy of Green Foothills.

Posted on July 14, 2021

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The San Francisco Bay could get a $125 million boost to help improve its water quality and restore surrounding wetlands.

The House of Representatives passed the San Francisco Bay Restoration Act last month and the Senate recently referred it to the Committee on Environment and Public Works.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose), who co-sponsored the bill, told San José Spotlight she is pleased by its progress.

“This issue is particularly close to me because I worked on the creation of the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge while I was a young staff member in the office of my predecessor, Don Edwards,” said Lofgren. “The refuge was renamed after Congressman Edwards following his retirement, and I’m proud to continue his legacy of protecting our bay.”

If signed into law, the bill would establish a San Francisco Bay Program Office within the Environmental Protection Agency. It would direct the office to develop and implement projects that improve water quality, restore the surrounding wetlands, protect endangered species and help the area adapt to climate change.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough), would further allot $25 million to the office annually from 2022 through 2026 to accomplish these goals.

In addition to Lofgren, the legislation received support from other members of the Silicon Valley delegation, including Reps. Ro Khanna (D-Fremont) and Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto). Khanna told San José Spotlight he was proud to support the measure.

“The San Francisco Bay is one of our nation’s most important natural wonders,” he said. “If we want to preserve the region for future generations, we must invest in its preservation.”

Khanna said he is optimistic the bill will receive a vote in the Senate before the current congressional session ends.

Environmental activists in Santa Clara County hope the bill will pass.

Megan Fluke, executive director of Green Foothills, said the organization believes it would be a step in the right direction. Green Foothills is a Palo Alto-based nonprofit that works to protect open spaces and natural resources in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.

“We want to see the bay restored,” she said, adding that the site was used as a regional dump for decades. “Science and indigenous wisdom tells us we should be working with nature instead of against it.”

Restoration work can consist of a wide range of activities, such as cutting a breech in a levee, directly restoring plants or monitoring for mercury pollution. Fluke said the bill could help animals who live in the area, including 11 types of sharks and the salt marsh harvest mouse, an endangered species.

With some of the bay’s wetlands located in Santa Clara County, Fluke said residents would benefit from restoration because it can reduce or prevent flooding.

Gladwyn d’Souza, chair of the Conservation Committee for the local chapter of the Sierra Club, agreed that restoration efforts in the bay are sorely needed.

“There are a million cars on the road and their break liners and tire dust just go into the bay and then a lot of heavy metal pollution gets in the water,” he said. “When you go out to the bay, you’ll see a sign that says don’t eat the fish. That’s how bad it is, you can’t even eat the fish because they’re polluted.”

D’Souza said he hopes the bill will receive bipartisan support in the Senate, as conservatives and progressives alike both enjoy the outdoors. But while he supports the measure, he said it should only be looked at as a first step toward saving the bay.

“It would be sort of a down payment,” he said. “We are going to need a lot more effort.”

Contact Katie King at KatieKingSJS@gmail.com or follow @KatieKingCST on Twitter.

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