Shorelines, Wetlands, and the Bay
Many of our most environmentally sensitive areas are shorelines (on both Bay and ocean) and wetlands. They are also among the most biologically productive ecosystems.
An immense variety of microbes, plants, insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds, fish, and mammals need wetlands for part or all of their life cycles. More than 1/3 of all threatened and endangered species live only in wetlands, and nearly half use wetlands at some time in their lives. For decades we have worked, with considerable effectiveness, to stop development of wetlands and shorelines and to bring them into public ownership and protection.
Now rising sea levels bring a new threat. Of all habitats, shorelines are among the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. As sea levels rise–they are already doing so (see www.pacinst.org/reports/sea_level_rise/maps for maps)–low-lying lands are submerged or turned brackish, bluffs are eroded, and coastal development is threatened and destroyed. These effects are already happening, and even if human greenhouse-gas emissions were stopped tomorrow, we’d be facing these problems for decades. In the worst-case scenario, 93% of San Francisco Bay’s tidal marsh could be lost in the next 50 – 100 years.
We must find ways to adapt to this inevitability. We can stop placing people and businesses in harm’s way by not allowing development in projected inundation zones and flood plains. We can lessen beach erosion through building natural habitats such as kelp forests and oyster beds, which act as wave breaks. We can protect shorelines by stabilizing dunes and establishing vegetation barriers. We can allow for the expansion of wetlands, valuable in their own right for their natural diversity, and also as flood buffers. And we can make choices to concede to nature and plan retreat from the shore, often the most cost-effective and safest option.
San Francisco waterfront
San Francisco is where it is and what it is because of its waterfront location. Now it faces at least four development proposals which together would constitute the greatest change to the waterfront in many decades:
- 8 Washington
- Piers 30 - 32 (Warriors)
- 75 Howard Street
- Seawall Lot 337/Pier 48 — Giants
» Learn more about the San Francisco Bay Chapter's efforts to protect the San Francisco shoreline.
The Bay Chapter has a long tradition of working to protect the wetlands along the bayshore. Sometimes this takes the form of opposing inappropriate development; sometimes of working for protective zoning or acquisition of the lands by a public agency. The articles below tell of some recent and current efforts:
» Learn more about our efforts to Restore the Wetlands at Sharp Park.
We work to create and protect parks along much of the Bay shoreline. For more details see "Parks and Open Space".
California Coastal Commission
The Sierra Club was deeply involved in the initiative campaign that passed Proposition 20 in 1972, establishing the California Coastal Commission as the guardian of the state's shoreline, and we have worked actively ever since to strengthen its powers and to make sure that it does its job well. For some of our recent efforts see:
» "Give Coastal Commission power to issue fines" (Aug. 19, 2013).
» "Coastal Commission OKs Beach Chalet project" (May 22, 2013).
» "Tomales Dunes finally wins protection" (July 14, 2014).
A California water primer
» Finding out about your water
» Who uses how much? California water by the numbers
» The potential for water conservation
» Water and power: joined at the hip
» The watershed approach to planning
» Making all our landscapes water-wise landscapes
» Where there's rain, there's runoff: integrated water management begins at home