I have a hard time respecting environmentalists, but it's not because I want to pave the earth. I love clean air and water, fishies, owls, and all that sort of thing. What I don't love is environmental-mysticism masquerading as science. The Bay Institute, a Marin Country-based organization "Dedicated to the preservation and restoration of the San Francisco Bay Watershed, from the Sierra to the Sea" has recently "graded" the San Francisco Bay on various ecological criteria and found it wanting -- a result surprising to no-one, I suspect.
The San Francisco Bay is getting an ecological report card today -- and it doesn't look good. But there's hope behind the C's, D's and an F, according to the nonprofit environmental group that graded the bay's health. ...Ah, yes... why do I get the feeling that the Bay Institute itself determined these "restoration targets" based on their own agenda, and that these targets were in fact the driving force behind many of the bad grades? The Bay Institute itself admits that the bay is doing well in some areas:
The bay's grades -- one B, three C's, three D's and an F -- were based on historical conditions, environmental and public health standards, and restoration targets, according to the institute.
"The destruction of San Francisco Bay's unique environment has in some cases been halted or even slightly reversed," said Grant Davis, Bay Institute executive director. ...Why is that? Because otherwise their "restoration targets" cannot be reached!
"Fish and wildlife populations that were crashing now appear to be stable. Many people are working to protect and restore habitat, improve water quality and use resources more efficiently. But progress is slow and needs to be accelerated," Davis said.
So what's causing the problems? People want to use the fresh water that historically flowed into the bay for other purposes, like growing food.
Tina Swanson, fish biologist and member of the science team working with the Bay Institute, said decades of diversions of Sacramento and San Joaquin river hwater to growers and cities have taken a heavy toll on native aquatic species in the bay.And so, some species of fish are becoming rare in the bay -- or are disappearing altogether -- because we humans need to use fresh water to grow food. Well, there's not much that can be done about that, is there? Water isn't free, and growers try to keep costs down by not using more than they need to. Water management in California is taken very seriously, and is a complex issue that I don't claim to understand perfectly, but I don't think that a great deal of water is being wasted.
Historically, during rain and snowmelt, the fresh river waters have flowed into the bay and out the Golden Gate. The rush of the rivers creates a special mixing zone where the freshwater hits the salty ocean water, providing an important nursery for many estuary species, scientists say.
"The bay suffers from a permanent drought because so much water is diverted from its watershed," said Swanson. The species are not recovering from the steep decline they experienced over the last several decades, she said.
So what does the Bay Institute hope to accomplish with this report card? I don't know, because they don't say; all I can infer is that they don't want us to grow so much food, and that they don't think there should be so many darn humans all over the place.