Bay Area Council Blog: Water Archive

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.

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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.

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Bay Area Leads Nation in Squeezing Most Economic Value from Water

The Bay Area not only is one of the stingiest water users in the country it also squeezes more economic value out of every precious drop than any major metropolitan area in the nation, according to a new analysis the Bay Area Council Economic Institute released today. The findings come as state officials consider cutting water flows to the Bay Area.

San Francisco led U.S. counties with over $1.32 million of gross domestic product (GDP) generated per acre-foot of water consumed, while Silicon Valley led US metropolitan regions with almost $504,000 in GDP per acre-foot of water consumed, the study found. One acre foot equals 325,851 gallons or about the amount of water used by 11 Californians per year.

“Nobody gets more bang per gallon than Bay Area residents and businesses” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “Public policy should encourage population and economic growth in the most water efficient ways possible, including supporting development in areas with a proven track record of economic efficiency with our limited water supplies.”

The findings come as the State Water Resources Control Board discusses a plan to reduce water diversions from the San Joaquin River and its tributaries, including the Tuolumne River. In an average year, approximately 48 percent of Tuolumne River water is diverted to the Turlock and Modesto Irrigation Districts, 38 percent remains in the river, and 14 percent serves the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and its 2.6 million customers in San Francisco, Silicon Valley, and the East Bay. Residents in the SFPUC service area use an average 54 gallons per day, compared to the California state average of 82 gallons.

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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.

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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.

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FERRY RIDERSHIP SOARS TO NEW HIGHS

Ridership on San Francisco Bay Ferry is soaring, highlighting the importance of the Bay Area Council’s continuing work to dramatically expand the role of water transit in helping address the region’s horrific traffic mess. A record 288,000 passengers traveled on SF Bay Ferry in July, according to the Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA), which operates the service. Ridership increased on all four of SF Bay Ferry’s routes, and is up 78 percent overall since 2012.

The Council, whose CEO Jim Wunderman serves as vice chair of WETA, has been advocating for years for increasing funding to expand the number of boats and routes serving the region. Most recently, the Council has been working in Sacramento to maximize funding for ferries in legislation (SB 595) that would authorize a regional vote in 2018 on a bridge toll increase to pay for a wide range of projects to ease traffic and expand transit service. The additional funding is critical to realizing WETA’s plans to expand to 44 vessels, 16 terminals and 12 routes. To engage in the Council’s water transit work, please contact Policy Director Emily Loper.

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Sen. Monning Addresses Water Committee on Clean Water Fund

It’s estimated that as many as one million Californians (10 times the population of Flint, Michigan) lack access to safe, clean drinking water, mostly in rural, economically disadvantaged areas. This troubling statistic undergirded the Bay Area Council Water Committee’s conversation with Senator Bill Monning (D-Carmel) hosted by member company Cargill on Tuesday (July 25). Senator Monning’s bill, SB 623, would create a new clean drinking water fund capitalized through a combination of new fertilizer taxes and fees on water utility bills. The Council took the issue under advisement until the precise bill language becomes available. The Committee also received a briefing from the Department of Water Resources’ Erin Mellon on the race against time to repair the Oroville Dam Spillway, which was destroyed during last years’ record rainfall. To engage with the Council’s Water Committee, please contact Vice President of Public Policy Adrian Covert.