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 http://peopleforacleanandhealthybay.org.