One month ago, a unique governing body called the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority put a measure on the upcoming June ballot that could, in effect, keep us all from treading water.
The Clean and Healthy Bay ballot measure, which will come before voters in all nine Bay Area counties on June 7, would impose a $12 parcel tax per year for 20 years, raising about $500 million in total. With that money, the Authority says, it will “reduce pollution of bay waters, expand wildlife habitat, increase bayside recreation opportunities, and protect shoreline communities from flooding.”
These goals are intertwined. Obviously, expanding wildlife habitat – by restoring tens of thousands of acres of wetlands around the Bay – is good for wildlife. But it’s also good for the humans, as we gain more beautiful open space to enjoy and, crucially, a buffer against rising seas and powerful storms. Indeed, $500 million is a pittance compared to the $10 billion in damages our region could suffer in the event of a “mega-storm,” according to a Bay Area Council study released in 2015.
Most Sonoma Valley residents don’t realize that between one-fourth and one-third of our Valley–generally everything south and east of Highway 121–was once subject to the tides of the Bay, and this whole area falls within the scope of the measure.
One focus point close to home is Highway 37, which currently acts as a traffic-clogged, flood-prone levee separating San Pablo Bay from the open space behind. Raising the road onto a causeway would solve that, allowing bay waters to flow beneath. As the Kenwood Press notes, Sonoma Ecology Center has been working with other nonprofit groups, researchers, and agencies to fix the problem before this major corridor becomes swamped.
“We have been part of the Highway 37 conversation for a long time,” says Caitlin Cornwall, the Center’s research program manager. “I was just at a big stakeholder meeting a week or so ago. And we were at the kick-off Sonoma County strategy meeting for the Bay-wide ballot measure.”
The Authority was created by the California Legislature in 2008, and is fulfilling its mission to protect the Bay Area against future challenges such as climate change and a population expected to grow by two million people in the next quarter-century. This $12-a-year tax goes far in reaching that goal, although the requirement of two-thirds voter approval will be tough to meet. That’s why we urge all voters to go to the polls this June and support the Clean and Healthy Bay measure.