Bay Area Council Blog: Storm & Flood Protection Archive


Council Prepares to Host World’s Top Energy Ministers

The Bay Area Council this week was in the final stages of preparations for welcoming 23 of the world’s top energy ministers, including U.S. Energy Sec. Ernest Moniz, to San Francisco on June 1-2 as they meet to begin working on implementation of the Paris climate agreement. The Clean Energy Ministerial marks the first direct follow up meeting since the COP21 agreement. The Council is working with the U.S. Department of Energy to organize the conference. The selection of the Bay Area for this important convening highlights the region’s global leadership in developing the science, innovation and technologies that will help the world achieve the ambitious climate change goals in COP21. San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and Gov. Jerry Brown are scheduled to participate. Learn more about CEM7>>

water recycling

Council Unveils New Regional Water Supply Prioritization

The Bay Area Council today (May 5) released a first-of-its-kind prioritization of regional water infrastructure projects that, if completed, could produce up to 250,000 acre-feet of new water each year, enough to serve or offset the use of an estimated 3.6 million new Bay Area residents, or approximately 1.25 million new Bay Area households.[1] The Bay Area’s 11 major water agencies project an estimated 2 million additional residents by 2035.[2]

The Regional Water Project Prioritization identifies 23 water supply projects around the Bay Area that would bring an additional 250,000 acre-feet of new water supply to the region. An acre-foot of water is enough to serve the annual water needs of about five Bay Area households.

The Bay Area Council worked with the region’s 11 major water agencies over the past six months to create the ranking as part of a larger process to prepare the Bay Area for climate change and prioritize how the region pursues limited state and federal funding to pay for water infrastructure projects.

“If everything’s a priority, nothing’s a priority” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “The region needs to focus on using our limited resources to create new water, maximize the water we currently have, and protect vital bay infrastructure. The mercury is rising, so too are sea levels and the cost of inaction. We hope these projects will help kick-start a regional conversation about how we prioritize and fund our future water needs.”

The projects include 18 water recycling production-and-conveyance projects; three brackish desalination facilities; two reservoir expansions; and a state-of-the-art storm forecasting system. In total, the water supply projects would cost $2.37 billion.

“The rain doesn’t stop at water agency jurisdictions” said Jerry Brown, General Manager of the Contra Costa Water Agency. “That’s why the Bay Area’s water agencies are looking to regional planning efforts like this to prepare the region for climate change and to improve our drought resiliency. I applaud the Bay Area Council for helping launch that discussion.”

The prioritization also includes four flood protection projects totaling $1.23 billion to defend critical bayside infrastructure from sea level rise and extreme-weather-related flooding. According to the Bay Area Council Economic Institute’s 2015 report, Surviving the Storm, a 150-year storm event could cost the entire region greater than $10 billion in economic damages, about the same as the Loma Prieta Earthquake. Flooding would be most acute in Santa Clara County, where major water and wastewater facilities are located along the bay shoreline. At SFO, flight delays and cancellations would result an estimated $164 million in lost economic productivity.

Approximately 66 percent of the Bay Area’s freshwater originates as Sierra Nevada snowpack, which the California Department of Water Resources estimates will decline by at least 25 percent by 2050.[3] However, the Bay Area’s 11 major water agencies project an additional 2 million residents by 2035.

The Council’s priorities are being announced as Bay Area water agencies begin the development of the Bay Area Regional Reliability Drought Contingency Plan (the BARR DC Plan). The BARR DC Plan is a joint effort by eight Bay Area water agencies collectively serving more than 6 million people in seven counties, and bringing a regional approach to enhancing water supply reliability, leveraging existing infrastructure investments, facilitating water transfers during critical shortages, and improving climate change resiliency. The BARR DC Plan is funded by a grant from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and will culminate in a report to be finalized in early 2017.

[1] Calculated from State Water Resources Control Board estimate of per-capita Bay Area water use between March 2014-2015, and ABAG regional population estimate (7 million). Assumes 2.87 individuals per household (Source: Department of Water Resources. “California Single Family Water Use Efficiency Study”, June, 2011. Table 96, pg. 251).

[2] 2013 Bay Area Integrated Regional Water Management Plan, Figure 2-18

[3] State of California. Department of Water Resources. Climate Change Impacts on California’s Water. Fall 2008.


chron delta photo

Council Readies Ambitious Water Plan

El Nino has come and gone, but it hasn’t quenched California’s thirst for robust debate over how to manage our water resources. And the Bay Area Council, whose Executive Committee under the leadership of Chair Michael Covarrubias of TMG Partners made water one of our top policy issues, is working to influence the outcome. The debate was roused this week when Sen. Dianne Feinstein sent an open letter to President Obama requesting that he direct federal agencies to “maximize pumping in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to the maximum extent allowed under the Endangered Species Act.” Feinstein noted that while El Nino tripled the amount of water flowing through the Delta, the volume being pumped for various uses increased only a fraction. Still, the letter touched off a response from environmentalists and several Congressional legislators who argue that keeping current restrictions in place are important for helping endangered fish species recover from years of drought.

The Council’s Water Committee under the leadership of Co-Chairs Jim Levine of Montezuma Wetlands and Andy Ball of Suffolk Construction and California Water Commission member, is currently focused on developing an ambitious plan that would balance competing demands on the state’s water. Levine presented his plan to the Council’s Executive Committee on Thursday (March 24) and for the past several months has been meeting with high-level public and private sector stakeholders to get their input. The plan take a diverse portfolio approach that combines ambitious environmental restoration and water-for-fish targets, across-the-board conservation goals and major new investments in storage, conveyance and recycling infrastructure. To engage in the Council’s water policy work, please contact Policy Director Adrian Covert.

weta ferry

Water Transit Agency Unveils New Emergency Response Plan

When the Loma Prieta earthquake knocked out the Bay Bridge in 1989, ferries motored to the rescue. As the Bay Area’s designated agency in charge of coordinating all water transit response in times of catastrophe, the Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA), also known as SF Bay Ferry, responded. The 6,800 passengers that left their cars behind to travel by ferry during the peak commute was equivalent to the number that would occupy three lanes of the Oakland-SF span during a full hour. Highlighting the vital role that ferries play in keeping the region’s transportation system and economy moving during disasters, the WETA Board on Tuesday (March 8) adopted an updated emergency response plan that also outlines how ferries will help in the immediate aftermath by transporting rescue workers and helping move the injured.

“Ferries will provide vital transportation for first responders, disaster service workers and survivors after a regional seismic event,” said Nina Rannells, executive director of WETA. “The adoption of an update to WETA’s Emergency Response Plan marks an important step forward in defining WETA’s role in response to a regional disaster and identifies action items that WETA can and will act on now in anticipation of a regional emergency.”

Expanding water transit service is among the Bay Area Council’s lead policy priorities and we are working closely with WETA to support its plans for adding capacity between the East Bay and San Francisco and creating new connections to Silicon Valley and the South Bay. Those additional connections would prove valuable in further expanding the role of ferries in times of emergency. To engage in our water transit policy work, please contact Policy Manager Emily Loper.

Read WETA’s Emergency Response Plan>>


Bay Restoration Campaign Gets a Big Boost

A regional ballot measure campaign that the Bay Area Council is helping lead to raise funding for San Francisco Bay restoration got a major boost today (Feb. 25) with a generous commitment from member PG&E. As part of its commitment to public safety and serving the community, PG&E Corporation made a $250,000 shareholder-funded commitment to the People for a Clean and Healthy Bay Coalition. With this contribution, PG&E joins a growing list of local leaders—including the Bay Area Council, Save the Bay, The Silicon Valley Leadership Group, San Mateo County Economic Development Association, The Trust for Public Land, The Nature Conservancy and Audubon California—in support of environmental restoration, pollution reduction and critical flood protection around the San Francisco Bay.

“Absolutely nothing is more important to us than keeping the public safe. Joining efforts like this will protect our communities and enable PG&E to continue to provide the reliable service our customers count on to power their lives,” said PG&E Corporation Chairman and CEO Tony Earley, who serves on the Council’s Executive Committee. “We are a company with a strong and enduring commitment to the environment and combating climate change. It’s rooted in a commitment to our customers and to doing our work in a way that protects the vital species and habitats that call our service area home and that’s why we’re pleased to be joining this important effort.”

If approved by voters in June, “Yes on Measure AA for a Clean and Healthy Bay” would raise $500 million over 20 years to fund critical conservation and flood protection projects, including the restoration of 15,000 acres of wetlands and creation of 25 miles of new Bay trails. Co-Chaired by Senator Dianne Feinstein, the campaign has received endorsement from local elected officials, and business, environmental, labor, philanthropic and civic leaders.

“Wetland restoration pencils out,” said Jim Wunderman, President & CEO of the Bay Area Council. “Not only do wetlands provide vital habitat for the fish, birds and other wildlife the Bay needs to thrive, but they also act as a natural sponge, absorbing storm surges and adapting to rising sea levels. This is especially important given recent estimates from the Bay Area Council Economic Institute that the region could suffer more than $10 billion in economic damages during a 150-year extreme storm event. I applaud PG&E and Tony Earley for exhibiting the corporate leadership necessary to keep our Bay clean, healthy and safe.”

“Our wetlands are integral to our way of life in the Bay Area. If we want to keep this a desirable place to live and work, we need to eliminate the trash and pollution that has built up from years of neglect and restore the natural environment. It will not only enhance the bay, but also help protect us from the risks associated with climate change,” said Dave Cortese, President, Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors.

Protecting and restoring San Francisco Bay will benefit the community for generations by reducing trash and pollution and restoring habitat for fish, birds and wildlife along the Bay and its shoreline. Brigid McCormack, executive director of Audubon California, said, “A healthy San Francisco Bay is vital for the millions of birds that rely upon this ecosystem. But it is also a prerequisite for Bay Area communities and businesses to thrive, as well. I am pleased PG&E understands the connection that we all have to the Bay and am grateful for their contribution to the Measure AA campaign.”

Studies have shown that should an extreme storm hit and trigger flooding, much of the Bay Area, including Silicon Valley, is at risk of suffering significant damage. This includes potential impacts to homes and businesses, as well as critical infrastructure, such as ports, airports, water, sewer, transportation and energy facilities. San Mateo County Economic Development Association President and CEO Rosanne Foust said, “If the Bay Area gets hit with an extreme storm and we experience severe flooding, the damages associated with it would reach into the billions, greatly impacting the business community. Supporting ‘Yes on Measure AA’ is a critical step in reducing that risk.”

Silicon Valley Leadership Group President and CEO Carl Guardino said, “It’s rare to see such a diverse group of business, environmental, corporate and civic leaders unite for the same cause. It’s happening today because this initiative impacts each and every one of us who lives and works in the area. And because of the important innovation that happens here, its effects are far reaching.”

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said, “The Bay is the lifeblood of our region. Wetlands on its shoreline are critical for climate resilience in the decades ahead, and our future vitality as a region requires robust investment in their restoration.”

“Measure AA will provide funds for an integrated response to climate change that protects habitat around the Bay and enhances flood protection for people,” said Jay Ziegler, Director of Policy and External Affairs at The Nature Conservancy. “In its work around the Bay, The Nature Conservancy has partnered with public agencies, local activists, and land owners around the Bay to conserve ecological hotspots on the verge of development. Through these actions, today these lands and waters are part of the Bay Area’s renowned urban parklands.”

PG&E’s commitment to the environment, which includes providing its customers with some of the nation’s cleanest energy—with more than 55 percent coming from non-greenhouse gas emitting sources—has grown to include a focus on adapting to changing climate conditions, and ensuring its system is more resilient to extreme weather conditions. This ranges from modernizing infrastructure with new technologies to collaborating on emergency response plans and procedures to address near-term risks such as storms, heat waves and wildfires. PG&E also maintains a team of scientists who monitor sea level rise, temperature increases and other factors to assess the likelihood of potential impacts in the future.

The San Francisco Bay is challenged by trash, toxins and sea-level rise among other threats. For the Bay to be healthy and sustainable, it ultimately needs 100,000 acres of wetlands to filter pollution from its waters and increase habitat for fish, birds and other wildlife that make up its rich and diverse ecosystem. These wetlands will also allow for further expansion of public access to the shoreline, and protect low-lying communities and critical infrastructure from the increased risk of flooding due to extreme weather and rising seas brought about by climate change.

Each year, rising seas swamp more and more of the shoreline, leaving less wetlands to restore and making restoration of those that remain more expensive to complete. The recently completed Baylands Ecosystem Habitat Goals Update, a report that represents the consensus of scientists who study the San Francisco Bay, concluded that only 20 to 30 years remain for restoration that had previously been planned to take place over a period of 50 years.

Right now, the Bay has only 44,000 acres of tidal wetlands, and while more than 30,000 shoreline acres have been preserved from development and are awaiting restoration, lack of funding has slowed progress. Yes on Measure AA will generate sorely needed funding for the restoration of San Francisco Bay wetlands, benefiting the people, wildlife, and economy of Bay Area communities. This local funding will also help the region leverage the additional state and federal funding necessary to finish the job.

About Yes On Measure AA for a Clean and Healthy Bay

People for a Clean and Healthy Bay is a coalition of business, labor, and environmental leaders working together to pass a $12 per year, 20-year parcel tax on the June 2016 ballot in all nine Bay Area counties. It would raise $500 million for Bay wetlands restoration and shoreline protection. We hope that you will attend to learn more about our campaign and how to get involved. For more information, please visit

U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Senator Feinstein speaks about START Treaty on Capitol Hill in Washington

Sen. Feinstein Announced as Co-Chair of Bay Restoration Campaign

The regional campaign (Yes on Measure AA) that the Bay Area Council is helping lead to protect and restore San Francisco Bay got a significant boost Thursday (Feb. 18) when it was announced that Senator Dianne Feinstein agreed to be an honorary co-chair. The June 2016 measure proposes a $12 per year parcel tax that would raise $500 million over 20 years to fund critical conservation and flood protection projects, including the restoration of 15,000 acres of wetlands and creation of 25 miles of new Bay Trails.

“Measure AA is an unprecedented opportunity for all Bay Area residents to unite in support of the Bay we love, and improve it a lot for very little cost,” Sen. Feinstein said. “The Bay is the very heart of our region’s identity, and is vital to the economic and ecological future of California. It is up to us to protect and restore it for the benefit of our children and our children’s children.”

Feinstein joins civic leader Bob Fisher as honorary co-chair of the campaign, which has received broad support from local elected officials, environmental, business, labor, and philanthropic groups, and civic leaders, more than 70 of whom have already endorsed the measure. Feinstein, a lifelong Bay Area resident, has been a consistent voice on behalf of protecting the San Francisco Bay. In 2003, she led the effort to secure 16,500 acres of salt ponds and shoreline property for wetlands restoration to clean the Bay’s waters, expand wildlife habitat, build miles of new Bay Trails, and provide flood protection for threatened communities and critical public infrastructure.

Yes on Measure AA will generate sorely needed funding for the restoration of San Francisco Bay wetlands, benefiting the people, wildlife, and economy of Bay Area communities. This local funding will also help the region leverage the additional state and federal funding necessary to finish the job. Learn how you can support Measure AA>>



East Bay Assemblymember Tony Thurmond (Richmond) this week was appointed chair of a new Select Committee on Regional Planning in the San Francisco Bay Area, and the Bay Area Council is moving quickly to engage with him and the committee to provide input. The committee is being formed to address the planned merger of the Association of Bay Area Governments and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. The Council is a leading proponent of merging the two agencies to better address the region’s pressing housing and transportation challenges.

Read the Council’s position on the MTC-ABAG merger>>

Thurmond said in a statement that he “also intends for the select committee to address other regional issues, including the lack of affordable housing; environmental issues, such as sea-level rise; strengthening the local economy; and improving public transportation systems. These facts tell me that if we don’t take a regional approach to these issues, there is no way we can appropriately allocate resources to fix the problems.” An initial hearing of the committee is scheduled for Feb. 19 in Oakland and the Council is looking forward to participating. To engage in our regional planning work, please contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan.



U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz this week (Jan. 26) visited San Francisco and announced details of the seventh Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM7), which will be hosted by the United States on June 1-2 and which the Bay Area Council is honored to be helping organize. During a talk at the Commonwealth Club on Tuesday (Jan. 26), Sec. Moniz said CEM7 will play a critical role in helping to implement the clean energy goals that are part of the climate commitments put forward by countries at COP21.

The Clean Energy Ministerial is a historic global forum of the energy ministers of Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, the European Commission, Finland, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Norway, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The upcoming CEM7 will emphasize the critical role of the private sector in technology investment, development and deployment, and policy guidance, and will be part of a broader “Clean Energy Week” and will include a series of public private events and announcements. To learn about opportunities for participating in CEM7 and becoming a sponsor, contact Policy Manager Genevieve Herreria.



As reported on the front page of Thursday’s (Jan. 14) San Francisco Chronicle, the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority voted unanimously to place the Clean and Healthy Bay regional parcel measure on the June 7 ballot. The measure would raise $500 million over 20 years through a flat $12 parcel tax across the nine-county Bay Area to fund critical environmental restoration and flood protection improvements along the San Francisco Bay shoreline.

Learn more and support the campaign for a clean, healthy bay>>

The measure is the culmination of years’ worth of work by the Bay Area Council, Save the Bay, and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, and has been endorsed by the mayors of San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose. Last April, a report from the Bay Area Council Economic Institute report that estimated a major storm event could cause over $10 billion in economic damage to the region’s economy. To engage on the Council’s Water Committee, please contact Policy Director Adrian Covert.



Defending the Bay Area against extreme weather, flooding and sea level rise just got a bit easier with the launch of a new website to support a June 2016 regional San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority campaign. In April, the Bay Area Council Economic Institute released a study estimating that the region could suffer more than $10 billion in economic damages from a 150-year megastorm. However, for $1.5 billion, much of the Bay could be defended through a network of new levees and 30,000 acres of restored wetlands, work that would also improve public access and the Bay ecosystem. The Bay Area Council has joined forces with Save the Bay and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group to pass a 20-year, $12 regional parcel tax to get this work started before it’s too late. To learn more about the effort to defend the Bay, please contact Policy Director Adrian Covert.

Support the Bay Restoration campaign>>