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Is it ‘smart growth’ to build in the San Francisco Bay? Updates from the field
UPDATE 4: 'Both-and approach is really the right approach' — Sept. 13, 2010
UPDATE 3: Whose land/bay is it anyway? — Sept. 9, 2010
UPDATE 2: Looking at the levees at Redwood Shores — Sept. 8, 2010
UPDATE 1: Eco-factoids — Sept. 7, 2010
- The San Francisco Bay is actually an estuary. That means, it’s a partly enclosed body of coastal water with one or more rivers and streams flowing into it.
- The daily mixing of seawater and freshwater due to tidal action makes the waters here especially nutrient rich, which explains the amazing biodiversity in this largely urban region.
- The region has experienced massive growth since the discovery of gold in Sierra Nevada foothills in 1849. The resulting land use changes have led to loss of wetlands around the bay, alteration of freshwater inflows, water contamination and decline in fish and wildlife species. Many native species dependent on tidal wetlands are now endangered.
- Wetlands are important, not just because of the wildlife they support but also because they act as buffers, protecting the land beyond it from flooding and storm surges by absorbing much of the excess water produced during rainstorms and high tides. Scientists say they are also an important first line of defense against rising sea levels (details on this later). There’s more. Wetlands act like nature’s lungs, they filter polluted runoff from the cities and towns behind them and let out clean water into the bay.
- More than 91 percent of tidal wetlands have been dredged, diked, drained and filled in, in order to be used as farmland, salt ponds and residential or industrial property.
- On the whole, the bay has shrunk by nearly 40 percent.
Architect and urban planner Peter Calthorpe is working on the proposed Redwood City Saltworks project. Photo by Ian Umeda/SF Public Press.
About the Author
Maureen Nandini Mitra is the Managing Editor of Earth Island Journal (www.earthislandjournal.org), an award winning environmental quarterly. A journalism graduate from Columbia University, her work has appeared in publications such as The New Internationalist, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, The Caravan and Down to Earth magazine.