President Trump and his approach to environmental protection, conservation, and science—it’s about as antediluvian as anyone could have imagined. While there’s some comfort in knowing California will continue to blaze its own trail on environmental issues, Washington, D.C.’s financial tentacles into our state, though not always obvious, are important. Federal agencies and the funding they bring to the San Francisco Bay Area are critical to our local environment in myriad and veiled ways. More than 150,000 acres of land in our region falls under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior, while our national marine sanctuaries help protect one of the most biologically productive shorelines in the world.
The Bay Area is an easy mark for cuts in D.C. given our voting preferences. For example, a $4 to $7 million funding pool for San Francisco Bay restoration work is on the chopping block. “I’m not optimistic,” says Beth Huning, coordinator of the San Francisco Bay Joint Venture. “Given the political climate right now and the fact that we are very far away from D.C. And also, we don’t have any delegates that sit in the majority—we are a target.”
A limited sample of at-risk federal funding tied to Bay Area environmental issues in the proposed 2018 federal budget is listed here. Congress will consider the budget this fall, along with the opinions of members’ constituents (hint, hint), before voting on a final version, usually approved in October.
Around Tomales Bay, the Marin Resource Conservation District supports ranchers and farmers working to reduce runoff containing animal waste from their lands, a contributor to unhealthy levels of E. coli in the bay. The district has received more than $2M over the last decade through EPA’s nonpoint source pollution program—now slated for elimination—to help polluted water bodies meet federal Clean Water Act standards.
Some 1,200 acres of tidal wetlands were reborn when Cullinan Ranch was completed in 2015 with $1.4M in help from the S.F. Bay Water Quality Improvement Fund. This pool of EPA money contributes an average of $5M annually to the Bay Area for watershed improvements, a valuable add-on to state and local money that has supported 61 projects since 2008. The fund is slated for elimination.
Tidal marshes at China Camp State Park and Rush Ranch Open Space Preserve make up the S.F. Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, part of a national network of 29 coastal sites designated for the study and protection of estuarine systems. NOAA allocates $23M to the network of reserves, and cuts to the program would disrupt long-term monitoring of the effects of climate change and pollutants on the Bay, as well as education programs and scientific research.
Regan Patterson, a UC Berkeley graduate student, is developing a participatory method for mapping asthma-inducing nitrogen dioxide in polluted cities like Richmond. Her research receives a Science to Achieve Results grant from EPA, which is supplying $1M to Bay Area graduate students between 2015 and 2018. Eliminating the program would impact students like Patterson pursuing advanced degrees.
Redwood Creek, home to endangered coho salmon, is a biodiversity “hot spot.” Thanks in part to a $1.2M grant from NOAA Fisheries’ Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund, the creek and Muir Beach watershed provide improved habitat for the salmon, species monitoring, and public access. Elimination of this average-$76M annual fund would curtail efforts to save coho and other salmonid species.
Off the Golden Gate, the EPA manages the discharge of dredged material at two ocean disposal sites under the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act to ensure the dumping does not endanger human health or the marine environment. Cuts to EPA’s $10M marine pollution control program would lessen the agency’s ability to uphold the act or respond to sudden pollution issues that arise from emergencies, such as oil spills.
Water-quality monitoring on Ocean Beach, and 290 other California beaches, is conducted by the state and counties with the help of $500,000 in annual EPA grants under the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (BEACH) Act. Federal cuts could result in less frequent testing of water bacteria levels or a closing of monitoring stations that would affect public notification of unhealthy beach conditions.
John Largier, an oceanographer at Bodega Marine Laboratory, studies saltwater intrusion into San Francisco Bay and its effects on water acidification and hypoxic conditions with help from a $293,000 award from Sea Grant, a NOAA program that provides $5M annually for projects in California related to coastal issues, including climate change and techniques for sustainable fisheries and aquaculture. The fund is slated for elimination.
Air quality around the Port of Oakland is regulated largely by the EPA. Locomotives at the busy rail yards, for example, emit toxic diesel particulate matter harming adjacent communities in West Oakland. Cuts to EPA’s core operations and changes in staff directives could slow or reverse agency efforts to control air pollution around large transit hubs. In the Bay Area that includes five ports and three international airports.
Building the S.F. Bay Trail around the decommissioned Alameda Naval Air Station is part of the S.F. Bay Conservation and Development Commission’s mission to improve public access to the Bay and ensure that development adheres to environmental standards. More than $200,000 of the commission’s budget comes from NOAA’s Coastal Zone Management Program. Cuts to this federal program would also affect coastal agencies such as the California Coastal Commission, which stands to lose 10 percent of its budget.
More than 4,000 acres overlooking Half Moon Bay are the newest addition to the GGNRA. Rancho Corral de Tierra was purchased with $13M in help from the interior department’s Land and Water Conservation Fund. The fund has contributed more than $2B toward land and waterway projects in California over its 50-year history and last year provided $8M to state and local parks.
In the Diablo Range, 3,286 acres in Santa Clara County—home to highly vulnerable species, including the bay checkerspot butterfly, California tiger salamander, and red-legged frog—are slated for purchase with the help of a $2M grant from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Cooperative Endangered Species Fund. Cuts to the fund, as well as other agency programs that protect endangered species, would imperil similar efforts to save vulnerable populations.
Bay Nature will continue to follow federal impacts on the Bay Area’s environment. Send information and tips to Alison@baynature.org.