Bay Area Council Blog: Water Archive

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Bay Area Water Leaders Give Input to National Policy Agenda

Forty of the Bay Area’s top water leaders convened at Google on Thursday (Dec. 15) to map out federal water advocacy in the Trump-era. The meeting was a partnership between the Bay Area Council and the U.S. Water Alliance, a national water infrastructure advocacy group, as part of the Alliance’s 13 water stakeholder “listening sessions” held across the country. The discussion in Silicon Valley elevated several common themes, including regulatory reform, the water sector’s aging workforce, public-private partnerships, tax incentives, and issue framing. The Alliance will be comparing the notes from each of the listening sessions and distilling them into a comprehensive policy platform early in 2017. To engage with the Bay Area Council’s water policy work, please contact Vice President Adrian Covert.

Thanksgiving Holiday Travel Expected To Increase 11 Percent From 2009

Council Doubling Down on Solving Regional Commute Mess

The Bay Area Council just loves a good challenge, and there is perhaps no bigger challenge for the region than bringing some relief to the congested mess that is our transportation system. The Council’s Executive Committee, meeting at member company Facebook in Menlo Park, on Thursday endorsed a 2017 policy platform that will direct significantly more time, energy and resources to finding and implementing both short-term and longer-term solutions to the region’s grinding traffic and overwhelmed mass transit systems. The Executive Committee under the leadership of Chair Michael Covarrubias of TMG Partners also renewed the Council’s priority policy areas from 2016 that include expanding housing, closing the workforce skills gap and securing the region’s long-term water supply in the face of continuing drought and increased competition among urban, environmental and agricultural interests.

The message was clear, however, that the highest priority must be on fixing the region’s dysfunctional commute, which ranks among the worst in the country and threatens to undermine the Bay Area’s economic success. Michael Matthews, Director of California Public Policy for Facebook, emphasized the importance of commute improvement in his remarks welcoming the Council to the social media giant’s campus, saying it is a key issue for the company along with housing (just today, Facebook announced a $20 million commitment to help local nonprofit housing and rental assistance programs).

Longer commutes, slower traffic and congested mass transit are choking the region’s economic productivity and putting us at growing competitive disadvantage with other states and regions. The Council has already begun laying the groundwork for a bold and aggressive regional transportation improvement vision that will be unveiled in the coming months. In addition, the Council will be exploring new technologies that can help manage the demand side of the transportation equation, promoting the development of autonomous vehicles and continuing our work to increase the use of private commuter shuttles. Expanding public and private water transportation services will figure prominently, and builds on great progress the Council has already made to increase public ferry service around the entire bay and promote fast-emerging private water taxi services.

Housing, of course, is another area on which the Council will continue to put heavy focus. Our leadership and advocacy this year helped win passage of the only significant housing bill in Sacramento – SB 1069 to expand accessory dwelling units (also known as in-law units) — and elevate the housing issue among elected leaders who as a result are now pointing to 2017 as the year of housing. The Council also backed affordable housing measures in Santa Clara and Alameda counties that both passed last month.  Stay tuned for further details on planning for our work on housing, transportation, workforce and water policy. 2017 is going to be a big year.

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Exciting News for Expanding Ferry Service to Silicon Valley

The Bay Area Council is wading forward in its work to expand ferry service to the Peninsula and South Bay, where exploding job growth has led to severe congestion on highways and overwhelmed existing transit systems.  The Council’s Water Transit Committee met this week with the Port of Redwood City, which gave a thorough update on its plans to move forward with the development of a ferry terminal that will be designed to support both private service in the near term and public service in the long term.  The Water Emergency Transportation Authority’s (WETA) Strategic Plan identifies Redwood City as a preferred location for future expansion of the public ferry service, but the agency will need to secure sufficient operating funds to support the service.

The committee also heard a presentation from PROP SF, which will begin high speed private ferry service to Redwood City in January.  This route will serve commuters in both directions and enable them to avoid gridlock on Highway 101.  The Council was supportive in helping to secure the appropriate permits for PROP SF and Tideline Marine Group to begin regularly scheduled commuter service to new destinations around the bay.  PROP SF also announced at the meeting a new partnership with Chariot, the private bus service, which will provide first and last mile connections to and from terminals for commuters choosing the commute on the water. To engage in the Council’s water transit work, contact Policy Manager Emily Loper at



Big Election Wins for Bay Area, Council on Housing, Transportation

Millions of Bay Area commuters could breathe a sigh of relief Tuesday when 70 percent of voters passed Measure RR to fix and upgrade BART, the region’s aging and overcrowded mass transit backbone. The Bay Area Council was a leading advocate for Measure RR, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to support the campaign and countering vocal, but misguided opposition led by state Sen. Steve Glazer that would have been content to see the measure fail and watch BART descend into chaos. The $3.5 billion Measure RR raises will help keep the system running, increase ridership capacity, keep cars off congested roads and highways and keep the region moving.

It was one of several successful measures across the region that the Council was backing to invest in affordable housing and transportation. Measure B in Santa Clara County also reached the 70 percent threshold and will generate $6.5 billion to extend BART to Silicon Valley, expand Caltrain and fix local roads. That campaign was led by Silicon Valley Leadership Group CEO Carl Guardino. Also in Santa Clara County, Measure A passed with flying colors and will provide $950 billion for a variety of affordable housing programs. In Alameda County, Measure A1 will provide $580 billion for affordable housing. The Council also endorsed Measure KK in Oakland to invest $600 million in affordable housing, transportation and other vital city services.

On the Presidential front the nonpartisan Council didn’t take sides, but is now working to see where we may have agreement with President-elect Donald Trump and where we may need to advocate on issues important to ensuring the Bay Area economy remains strong. Trump signaled during the campaign his support for massive infrastructure investment, including for transportation, water and energy. He also identified early education as an area he supports. On trade, the President-elect has voiced strong concerns about free trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership which the Council supports. A report the Bay Area Council Economic Institute is preparing to release next week examines the huge benefits of foreign trade to local, state and national economies. Trump’s position on climate change may also put him at odds with California’s global leadership on clean energy technology, a growing area of the state’s economy that the Council has long embraced. Immigration may be another area where the Council calls for moderation on policies that could hurt the ability of employers to attract needed talent.

Statewide, the Council nearly ran the table in its endorsements. Of the eight propositions for which the Council took a position, all but one went the right way.

See a full results roundup of the Council’s ballot positions>>



Council Water Transit Advocacy Makes Waves; WETA Opens New Facility

The Bay Area Council’s advocacy efforts to rapidly expand our region’s water transit system are paying off. This week the Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA) opened a new North Bay Operations and Maintenance Facility on Vallejo’s Mare Island, signifying the rapid growth of its ferry operations. The facility will provide operations dispatch and routine vessel maintenance for its current fleet, as well as WETA’s seven new boats that are expected to come online in the next few years. The accelerated development of new boats will add significant capacity to the system, both providing commuters with a new transportation option and enhancing the agency’s emergency response capability.

This new facility comes just a month after WETA announced the groundbreaking of the Ron Cowan Central Bay Operations and Maintenance Facility in Alameda, marking a key milestone in advancing the agency’s new bold vision for expanding regional commuter ferry service as laid out in its new Strategic Plan. The Bay Area Council has been working hard to support the expansion of the public ferry system to provide commuters with a comfortable and convenient alternative to our region’s severely congested highways and transit systems. The Council was also instrumental in securing the CPUC approval of two private operators last month, which are set to begin service to new locations such as Berkeley, Emeryville, and Redwood City as early as the next few months.

Watch the exciting KTVU news segment on WETA’s growing operations>>


To engage in the Council’s water transit policy work, please contact Policy Manager Emily Loper.



Proposed Water Cuts Hit SF, Silicon Valley

The Bay Area could lose as much as 10 percent of its water supply if draft recommendations by the State Water Resources Control Board are adopted next year. The Bay Area Council Water Committee is currently reviewing the proposed rules closely and considering strategies to protect the region’s water supply while supporting efforts to restore California’s iconic delta ecosystem. The state board argues the cuts are necessary to provide more water for the San Joaquin river, one of the two rivers that feed the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the largest estuary on the west coast.

Current diversions for farms and cities leaves between 15 to 20 percent of the San Joaquin’s natural flows to reach the estuary. The water board wants to increase that figure to between 35 and 40 percent. That would mean big cuts to the regional Hetch Hetchy water system, which serves 2.6 million customers in 30 cities across four counties, including San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Alameda. The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which owns and operates the Hetch Hetchy system, estimates the cuts could cost tens of thousands of jobs and require customers, already some of the most efficient water users in California, to conserve an additional 40 percent during drought years, and exacerbate the region’s housing crisis. To engage in the Council’s water policy work, please contact Vice President Adrian Covert.

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Water Committee Meets. Rain Falls.

There were no special dances or incantations at the Bay Area Council Water Committee meeting last Friday (Oct. 7) at member HNTB in Oakland, and yet not a week passed and the skies have opened after a seven-month dry spell. The Committee basked briefly in the glow of success, as its two top 2016 priorities, regional Measure AA and the Bay Area Council-sponsored AB 1755, each became law. Then it was on to business, as the committee discussed the 2017 water policy landscape with Water Foundation CEO Wade Crowfoot. The discussion centered on the ongoing struggle of getting clean drinking water to poor rural areas of California, and ensuring AB 1755 is implemented wisely.

The Committee heard remarks from David Esmaili from the Water Career Pathways Consortium, which connects high schools, community colleges, and industry and non-profit partners to offset the anticipated retirement of skilled water/wastewater employees. The consortium is partnering with the Bay Area Council to help connect water industry leaders to their program. The meeting closed on a discussion with Jennifer Persike from the Save Our Water campaign. Persike unveiled new tools and partnership opportunities business can take to help ensure conservation becomes a way of life across California even after the drought. The Water Committee is chaired by Andy Ball of Suffolk Construction and Jim Levine of Montezuma Wetlands LLC.

To engage with the Bay Area Council Water Committee, please contact Policy Director Adrian Covert.


Council Forms Megaregion Partnership with Sacramento to Keep Jobs, Grow Economy

The Bay Area Council today  announced a new partnership with the Greater Sacramento Area Economic Council  as part of a campaign promote the integration of the Bay Area and the Capital Region into a single high-performing economy by developing and leveraging a joint civic, business, and policy platform. The #CaliforniaJobsMatter campaign will focus on the Sacramento area, the Central Valley, and the mega-region. Sacramento Mayor-Elect Darrell Steinberg and Bay Area Council CEO Jim Wunderman will lead the mission.

“Our regions will come together and compete on a national stage to host some of the most innovative companies,” Bay Area Council President and CEO Jim Wunderman said. “Connecting these regions through the Capitol Corridor will help drop commute times to under an hour and further bolster this competitive advantage.”

“The Northern California mega-region strategy will provide communities in the Greater Sacramento area access to opportunities in the most innovative market in the world, and vice versa,” Greater Sacramento Area Economic Council CEO Barry Broome said. “California is the world’s 6th largest economy and is the most innovative and profitable state for business – but we lack a placemaking strategy for communities that are without jobs.”

The Sacramento region is the competitive response against alternative economies including Texas, Utah, and Colorado, which are regularly targeting our key industries. The region has access to high-demand talent with 308,000 actively enrolled college students in the area who are adding to the already talented workforce. In the Sacramento region 31.1% of the residents have at least a 4-year degree and 49.4% of them are in STEM fields, the 4th highest amount nationally.

Connecting these jobs to the mega-region will stabilize the state’s economy, create employment opportunities, and keep tax dollars in California’s education and health systems, which will also help alleviate high levels of youth unemployment, decrease economic distress in neighborhoods, and support middle class employment for California residents.

“This is a great opportunity for us to partner with the Bay Area region and create a corridor for businesses to come and thrive in the Sacramento region,” Sacramento Mayor-Elect Darrell Steinberg said. “Choose Sacramento over Texas, our region offers talent and resources that can help facilitate the Bay Area’s rapid growth in a more innovative and sustainable way.”

Greater Sacramento will launch an office in Sunnyvale to further interconnect the Capital region with the Bay Area as one high-performing market, creating the Sac-Bay innovation corridor within the Northern California mega-region.

A growing rate of job loss in the state is masked by the strong job creation in the Bay Area. Such reliance on a single economic market puts into question the long-term economic sustainability of California as a whole. Robust, diverse, economies depend on a mix of advanced and legacy industries.

The Bay Area Council Economic Institute, the research arm of the Bay Area Council, in July released a report examining the emerging megaregion, including the need for stronger transportation and workforce development connections.

Read The Northern California Megaregion>>

The Northern California mega-region strategy will connect communities such as Sacramento, Tracy, Vacaville, Stockton, and others to the Bay Area region.  Greater Sacramento will work with the Bay Area Council to defend California-based jobs against out-of-state competitors.

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More Ferries Coming Soon, Serving New Routes and Destinations

The big WETA and Golden Gate ferries that serve the region’s heavy commute corridors will soon be complemented by nimble, privately financed and operated ferries on several new routes. Two private operators—Tideline Marine Group and Prop SF—gained approval this week from the California Public Utilities Commission to inaugurate new service that will enable commuters to avoid traffic on congested highways and bridges.  Tideline and Prop SF are both eyeing service to San Francisco from Berkeley and Emeryville, with Redwood City also in Prop SF’s initial plans. Expanding regional ferry service is one of the Council’s top 2016 priorities as part of its overall transportation policy agenda.

Along with urging the CPUC to approve these private ferry operators, the Council also has been hard at work to support expansion of the public ferry system. Under the leadership of Board Chair Jody Breckenridge and Vice Chair and Council CEO Jim Wunderman, WETA’s new Strategic Plan envisions ferry service coming to Mission Bay and Redwood City, and the Council is deeply involved at both locations to accelerate construction of ferry terminals. To engage with the Council’s ferry efforts, please contact Policy Manager Emily Loper.

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Major Win for Council’s Transformative Water Data Bill

Legislation the Bay Area Council is sponsoring to revolutionize how California uses data technology to better manage the state’s water system is headed to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk for his signature. After months of intense advocacy by the Council in support of AB 1755, the state Assembly on Thursday (Aug. 26) approved The Open and Transparent Water Data Act authored by Assemblymember Bill Dodd of Napa.

With the Governor’s signature, AB 1755 would enable the Department of Water Resources to take a wealth of disparate and disconnected data about the state’s water and put it all in one place online. Such an online platform is a vital step towards building a functioning water transfer market across California that can help improve conservation efforts and allow water agencies to more efficiently and effectively buy and sell water to meet local demands. We need your voice to tell the Governor to sign AB 1755. To add your name to a letter of support, please contact Policy Manager Rachele Trigueros at