Feinstein, Boxer Introduce Legislation to Restore Bay

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U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) introduced the San Francisco Bay Restoration Act to implement wetlands and habitat restoration projects with the goal of improving the San Francisco Bay water quality.

Since 2008 the EPA has managed a competitive grant program, the San Francisco Bay Water Quality Improvement Fund (SFBWQIF), to support restoration and protection projects for San Francisco Bay. Over $32 million has been spent on 53 projects through 25 grant awards. These projects include 71 partners that contribute an additional $105 million to restore wetlands and watersheds, and reduce polluted runoff.

The EPA has stated restoring the San Francisco Bay Delta Watershed as a priority through improving water quality by reducing or preventing contamination of rivers and streams, through a watershed approach.

Geared at protecting the largest estuary on the west coast, the legislation proposes an amendment to the Clean Water Act and authorizes the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to award grant funding for activities and studies such as wetlands restoration projects and habitat improvement initiatives.

“By authorizing the necessary resources, this bill will help restore tidal wetlands and improve the quality of the Bay Area’s water,” said Feinstein. “The San Francisco Bay is so important to our state’s economy and ecology that restoration deserves renewed attention.”

The Estuary’s watershed, the largest in western North America, covers 60,000 square miles and drains 40 percent of California. Two-thirds of California’s salmon pass through the Bay, a commercial fishery continues for Pacific herring, and nearly half of Pacific coast waterfowl and shorebirds depend upon the Bay’s mudflats for sustenance during their migrations.About half of California’s surface water supply falls as rain or snow into the watershed; half is diverted for use by farms, factories or households with freshwater diverted to serve 18 million people and over 4 million acres of agricultural land. Simultaneously the watershed absorbs over half a billion gallons of treated wastewater daily, and with large quantities of urban stormwater and floodwaters during rainstorms.

“San Francisco Bay is so important to the economy and the environment of the whole region,” said Boxer. “I am proud to work with Senator Feinstein on this plan to protect and restore the health of the Bay.”

The legislation would require EPA to consult with local and state government, the San Francisco Bay Estuary Partnership and other stakeholders to develop an annual priority list for funding restoration projects, all of which will be consistent with the San Francisco Estuary Program’s Comprehensive Conservation and Management Program, the long term plan for bay restoration.

Additionally, there is a similar bill that has been introduced in the House of Representatives. Full text of the Senate bill can be found here.

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