Legislators launch effort to protect SF Bay

Legislators from both houses of Congress introduced bills Thursday¬†that seek to improve and protect San Francisco Bay, according to representatives of the legislators’ offices.

U.S. Sens. Diane Feinstein, D-California, Barbara Boxer, D-California, and U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Francisco/San Mateo, introduced the San Francisco Bay Restoration Act today. The act seeks to provide federal money to restore the Bay’s wetlands and habitat, improve the Bay’s water quality and protect the Bay’s coastline from further erosion, according to the legislators’ offices.

Sen. Feinstein said in a statement:

“By authorizing the necessary resources, this bill will help restore tidal wetlands and improve the quality of the Bay Area’s water.”

The senator’s office said the bill will amend the Clean Water Act and allow the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to award grants for work and studies for projects such as wetland restoration and habitat improvement.

Under the act, the EPA must consult with state and local governments, the San Francisco Bay Estuary Partnership and other groups with an interest in the Bay to create an annual list of project priorities. All the projects will have to be in line with the San Francisco Estuary Program’s Comprehensive Conservation and Management Program, a long-term plan for Bay restoration.

Director of the San Francisco Bay Estuary Partnership was not immediately available to say which project or projects the partnership would like to see completed first. The president of a non-profit organized by one of the partnership’s committees said her group would like to see a project to bring more fresh water to the Bay.

President of the Friends of the San Francisco Estuary Barbara Salzman said:

“It’s really vital for the species that depend on the estuary and that includes people.”

Salzman would like to have some money to buy fresh water rights. Speier’s office said the EPA grants would be awarded on a competitive basis. Her office said that San Francisco Bay has received a disproportionately small amount of money in the past, compared with other large bodies of water such as Puget Sound, Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes.

Speier said in a statement:

“All of us who live by the Bay are uniquely blessed with one of the most beautiful places to live and work in the country, and it is incumbent upon us to protect it.”

All three legislators said the Bay is important to the area’s economy. Speier’s office said the entire Bay Area Congressional delegation supports the act.