Bay Area Council Blog: Storm & Flood Protection Archive

NAPA-SONOMA SALT MARSH RESTORATION PIPELINE PROJECT

HISTORIC VOTE TURNS THE TIDE FOR SAN FRANCISCO BAY

The San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority on Wednesday approved nearly $18 million in grants for wetlands restoration and flood protection projects in San Francisco Bay. The grants are the first made by the Authority, which is funded by Measure AA, the first nine-county regional ballot measure approved by over 70 percent of voters in 2016. The Bay Area Council partnered with the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and Save the Bay to lead the Measure AA campaign, whose success was made possible by generous contributions from Council members PG&E and Facebook, among many others.

The Council became increasingly engaged in Bay resilience following a 2015 Bay Area Council Economic Institute report—Surviving the Storm—estimating the region could suffer more than $10 billion in economic damages in an extreme storm event under present sea levels. In addition to providing habitat and water quality benefits, wetlands also naturally absorb tidal energies and can be paired with lower, less costly levees to improve local flood protection against rising sea levels. Measure AA will raise $500 million over 20 years for shoreline and other projects that improve the region’s resilience to extreme storms and rising seas.

Among the initial projects to receive funding was the Montezuma Wetlands’ Tidal and Seasonal Restoration Project, which is managed by Bay Area Council Executive Committee member Jim Levine. Congratulations, Jim! To engage with the Council’s Committee on Water & Resilience, please contact Vice President of Public Policy Adrian Covert.

megaregion report

Charting a Course for Megaregion Coordination

A rising economy, a massive housing shortage and growing traffic in the Bay Area are causing major changes across the Northern California megaregion that represent both opportunities and challenges. The Bay Area Council is spearheading an effort to bring together business, government, academic and civic leaders from across the megaregion on planning to embrace the former and minimize the latter. The Council last week traveled to Stockton where CEO Jim Wunderman presided over a meeting that included mayors from Stockton, Merced, Modesto and Livermore, leaders from key rail and regional planning organizations, and business and academic leaders.

In addition to hearing about the foundational research on the Northern California megaregion put together by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute and University of the Pacific, participants focused on the potential for future rail investments–in the ACE train and high speed rail–to spur economic development. The meeting, hosted by University of the Pacific in partnership with Valley Vision, was the first of a series of meetings the Council is convening across the megaregion in the coming months that will seek to produce a common policy advocacy agenda for megaregional stakeholders. To engage in the Bay Area Council’s work on the Northern California Megaregion, please contact Senior Vice President Michael Cunningham.

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Council’s Board Welcomes Senator Feinstein and Mayor Schaaf

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf met with the Bay Area Council’s Board of Directors Thursday to discuss a range of pressing issues, from healthcare reform and homelessness to infrastructure investment and public safety. Board Chairman and Kaiser Permanente Chairman and CEO Bernard J. Tyson welcomed both leaders to a packed room at Kaiser’s Oakland headquarters. Feinstein updated the Board on her efforts to ban assault weapons, an issue she has championed for decades. She also discussed the importance of making Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) permanent as well as her interest in leveraging public private partnerships to repair and rebuild the nation’s aging and crumbling infrastructure.

Investing to expand and improve the region’s congested transportation system was also a top issue as Feinstein emphasized the need for a new crossing south of the Bay Bridge. Tyson thanked Feinstein for her great leadership and urged Council members to join a business delegation we’re leading to D.C. in May to promote California’s importance to the nation as some critics frame the Golden State as out of control.

Feinstein also gave warm praise for Mayor Schaaf, who described the progress Oakland is making in turning around years of crime and addressing a complicated homeless problem. Schaaf also highlighted a measure she is championing for the November ballot—the Oakland Children’s Initiative—that would invest in expanding access to early education and other early childhood programs. She touted the huge returns that early childhood investments have in increasing employment opportunities and avoiding expensive social and public safety costs. This is an issue that has long been a priority for the Council, whose executive leadership has expressed early support for Schaaf’s November measure as she works to get it placed on the ballot. The Council extends its gratitude to Kaiser Permanente for hosting our meeting.

RBD team members

KEY MILESTONE IN SEA-LEVEL RISE DESIGN COMPETITION

The Resilient by Design Bay Area Challenge entered its final phase on Thursday (Jan. 11), with each of the 10 world-class design teams being assigned a specific location on the San Francisco Bay shoreline to prepare for sea level rise. State officials estimate there’s a 67 percent likelihood that sea levels at the Golden Gate will rise by 1.1 feet by 2050. Those troubling figures build off of a 2015 study by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute that estimated the Bay Area could suffer more than $10 billion in economic damages due to flooding from a 150-year storm event under present-day sea levels.

The final Resilient by Design sites were the result of months of research and interaction between design teams, community members, and experts in government, industry, and academia. The final designs will be unveiled this spring. The Bay Area was awarded financial support to host Resilient by Design by the Rockefeller Foundation shortly after Bay Area voters approved the Bay Area Council-backed Measure AA campaign for a $12 parcel tax to fund multi-benefit flood protection/wetland restoration projects along the Bay shoreline. To learn more about Resilient by Design, contact Bay Area Council Vice President, and Resilient by Design Executive Board Member, Adrian Covert.

Read the San Francisco Chronicle’s story on Resilient by Design>>

Photo by New York Times

WITH RECORD BUDGET PROPOSAL, GOV. BROWN SEES RAIN IN THE FUTURE

There hasn’t been a lot of rain so far this winter, but Gov. Jerry Brown had the wet stuff on his mind this week (Jan. 11) when he released a $190 billion budget proposal that ups the state’s “Rainy Day Fund” by $5 billion to $13.5 billion. The reserve is designed to protect California against future economic downturns, which Brown believes is coming sooner rather than later. Still, the budget represents a record for California and includes a $7 billion increase over the previous spending plan. The Bay Area Council applauded many of the spending priorities, which include $4.6 billion for commute improvement projects from last year’s SB1 (Beall) legislation that the Council supported.

The plan invests $245 million to expand and protect affordable housing under SB2 (Atkins), another bill the Council supported last year. Brown proposed another $277 million for housing in anticipation of the passage of a statewide housing bond measure expected to appear on the November 2018 ballot. The spending plan also continues the Governor’s efforts to pay down the overall state debt and makes a small dent in the state’s massive pension liability shortfall. The Council is continuing to analyze the plan and will be weighing in directly as it now moves to the legislature, which has a June deadline to approve it.

New Yorker ferrry cover

THE ART OF FERRIES

Expanding regional ferry service in the Bay Area continues to be a top priority for the Bay Area Council, and we have been inspired by the ambitious work that New York is doing to build out its own system. The Big Apple’s embrace of ferries was artfully depicted on the most recent cover of New Yorker magazine in an image by artist Jorge Colombo who said riding the East River Ferry “can be a refuge, a secret hideaway, a sanctuary” from the intense traffic onshore.” Ferry riders, he said, can be a great inspiration. “From where I live, in Brooklyn Heights, it’s a much better way to get to Williamsburg and Greenpoint, or to Thirty-fourth Street in Manhattan, than the subways. It’s a mini boat adventure, an endless trip of a few minutes.”

Council CEO Jim Wunderman in a 2015 San Francisco Chronicle OpEd envisioned a future where expanded ferry service could be a game changer in easing traffic gridlock. The Chronicle also recently featured ferries on the front cover of its pages in a story by reporter JK Dineen that examined the work the Water Emergency Transportation Authority is doing now to build out a robust regional ferry system in the Bay Area. That work would get a big boost from the proposed Regional Measure 3 (RM3) that is expected to go on the ballot in June 2018. The Council was a chief proponent of including ferry funding in RM3 and we will be urging the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to place RM3 on the June ballot when it meets on January 24. Read the Chronicle’s “SF Bay ferry service on brink of major expansion”>>
 
To engage in the Council’s ferry work, please contact Policy Director Emily Loper.

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2018 POLICY AGENDA TARGETS HOUSING, TRANSPORTATION, WORKFORCE

Behind the Bay Area Council’s continuing advocacy, the California legislature this year took its first (albeit modest) actions to address the state’s historic housing crisis. Much, much more needs to be done, and the Council’s Executive Committee and Board of Directors, under the leadership of Chair and Kaiser Permanente CEO Bernard J. Tyson, this week approved a 2018 policy agenda that calls for escalating our work to achieve deeper, stronger and more effective reforms for spurring the tsunami of new housing the state so badly needs. Already, the Council is identifying new legislation for 2018 that can speed the approval and bring down the cost of new housing.

The 2018 agenda also prioritizes ridding the scourge of traffic fom the Bay Area’s roads and highways and getting more commuters out of their vehicles and into ferries, carpools, shuttles and other forms of transit. The Council is gearing up now for a campaign to win passage of Regional Measure 3, a $4.4 billion transportation investment plan that is expected to hit the June 2018 ballot. Rounding out the Council’s top policy priorities for 2018 is building a stronger workforce pipeline to meet the future needs of the region’s employers. The Council’s Workforce of the Future Committee is making immense strides to better align educators and employers to close the region’s yawning middle skills and talent gap, as well as creating new career opportunities for underserved youth.

Along with the top three policy priority areas, the 2018 agenda includes gender equity and workforce diversity, healthcare, advanced communication infrastructure, China and global innovation, carbon reduction and renewables, and water and climate resiliency.

The policy agenda was approved Thursday (Dec. 7) during a meeting hosted by new member Santa Clara University. The Board also welcomed state Sen. Jim Beall Jr. and applauded him for his incredible leadership as the author this year of SB 1, which invests $52 billion in statewide transportation improvements, and SB 595, which authorized the vote on Regional Measure 3. Beall talked about both measures and outlined his plans for new legislation for delivering transportation projects faster and at lower cost. The Council will be working closely with Sen. Beall on that project delivery legislation.

ca climate

California Businesses Launch Major New Climate Resilience Initiative

The Bay Area Council today launched the “California Climate Challenge,” a major new initiative to strengthen California’s resilience to climate change. The statewide challenge will attract resources from across the business community to support research, planning, and implementation of community-level resilience projects and policies focused on California’s water, energy and telecommunications infrastructure, as well as its natural ecosystems and the wildland-urban interface.

The effort is being jumpstarted with a $1 million contribution from PG&E Corporation to the Bay Area Council Foundation. The total amount raised through the challenge – and final details on its scope – will be announced in concert with the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco in September 2018. PG&E’s contribution will come from its shareholders, not its customers.

“California’s business climate is inseparable from its actual climate,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “Much of California’s infrastructure was built under a colder, wetter, more predictable climate than we have today. Protecting our homes and employment centers from extreme weather events, such as droughts, floods and wildfires, requires a top-to-bottom assessment of our existing resilience, and fresh thinking on how to best adapt.”

“We are already experiencing the reality of climate change in California,” said Geisha Williams, CEO and President of PG&E Corporation. “PG&E is incorporating this ‘new normal’ into how we manage risks, plan, and invest our resources. But our collective response to extreme events such as the tragic North Bay firestorms must go beyond the immediate work of rebuilding what was lost. A focus on resilience will strengthen our communities for the future.”

“We applaud this initiative to fund a public-private partnership for climate resilience in California,” said Mindy Lubber, CEO of Ceres, a leading sustainability non-profit organization. “Businesses are concerned about climate risks, which have the potential to cause wide-ranging disruptions to their operations and supply chains. Corporate support for tackling climate change is only growing stronger, and companies clearly see the benefit of staying ahead of the game and doing their part.”

Need for Action

Climate change will push California’s already volatile weather system to further extremes, increasing the frequency and severity of droughts, heat waves, flooding, and wildfires, and drive longer-term changes such as rising sea levels. California’s recent drought included the driest three-year period in the state in 1,200 years, including the hottest year ever recorded. Conversely, Northern California just experienced the wettest “water year” in its recorded history, resulting in severe infrastructure damage at California’s largest reservoir. According to the U.S. Forest Service, more than 100 million trees have died in California since 2010 and Cal Fire’s budget has increased by 45 percent since 2014 to address successive record wildfire seasons.

The California Department of Water Resources predicts the Sierra snowpack, which accounts for over a third of California’s total water supply, will decline by up to 65 percent by the end of this century, straining California’s farms, cities and ecosystems. On our coastlines, sea levels at the Golden Gate are projected to rise 6-13 inches by 2050, on top of the eight-inch rise measured in the 20th century. According to a study from the Bay Area Council Economic Institute, the Bay Area alone could suffer over $10 billion in damages (about the same as Loma Prieta earthquake) during an extreme storm under current sea levels.

These and other changes have the potential to negatively impact the health and safety of communities throughout the state, and undermine California’s economic prosperity. California companies are integral to the sustainability of the communities they serve — and have a unique responsibility to help them prepare for, withstand and recover from extreme events caused by climate change.

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MAKING THE BAY RESILIENT BY DESIGN

Against the backdrop of record-breaking flooding in Houston and the Caribbean, the Resilient by Design Bay Area Challenge on Sunday (Sept. 10) announced 10 winning design teams to propose innovative resiliency projects along the San Francisco Bay shoreline. The winning teams were selected by an independent jury from a pool of over 50 applicants, and include several Bay Area Council member companies, including AECOM, Arup, Gensler, and Andy Ball. The winning teams are now spending the next few weeks taking whirlwind tours of the entire Bay shoreline, meeting with local officials and community groups along the way to get a better understanding of the Bay’s diverse needs, culminating in the unveiling of 10 project proposals in May 2018.

The Rockefeller Foundation selected the Bay Area to host the first Resilient by Design challenge following the region’s approval of Measure AA, the June 2016 parcel tax measure that raises $500 million over the next 20 years for wetland restoration and flood protection improvements along the San Francisco Bay shoreline. The Bay Area Council played a leading role in the Measure AA campaign, and serves on the Executive Board of Resilient by Design. To learn more about the Council’s resiliency work, or about the Resilient by Design challenge, please contact Vice President Adrian Covert.

forests

BAY AREA WATER SUPPLIES DEPENDENT ON HEALTHY FORESTS

The impact of a century of fire suppression policies in the Sierra Nevada could have major implications for Bay Area water supplies, and the Bay Area Council is engaging with state water and forest managers to better understand what’s at stake and how best to address the challenge. The Council recently joined a tour of the Plumas National Forest organized by the Governor’s Office of Planning & Research to examine how fire suppression policies have reduced state water supplies and wreaked havoc on natural ecosystems. The Bay Area gets about half of its fresh water from watersheds in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

For centuries, native Californians managed large portions of Sierra Nevada forests with low-intensity fires that promoted biodiversity and reduced the risk of explosive wildfires. In response to heavy logging following the Gold Rush, aggressive forest conservation efforts focused on bolstering fire suppression to protect trees, timber production, and property. As a result, much of the Sierra Nevada is wildly overgrown. Increased snowfall that is captured in dense tree canopies evaporates before it reaches the ground, causing a big drop in water runoff that would otherwise fill rivers, streams and reservoirs. Hydrologists estimate that forest thinning, through a combination of precision logging and reintroduction of low-intensity fire management, could yield hundreds of thousands of acre-feet of additional water flows. The Council will continue to work with stakeholders to develop solutions for improving the health of California’s upper watersheds. To engage in the Council’s water policy work, please contact Vice President Adrian Covert.