Minutes of September 4, 2008 Commission Meeting

  1. Call to Order
    The meeting was called to order by Chair Randolph at the Ferry Building in San Francisco, California at 1:10 p.m..
  2. Roll Call
    Present were Chair Sean Randolph, Vice Chair Halsted, Commissioners Baird (represented by Alternate Potter), Bates (represented by Alternate Balico), Bourgart, Brown (represented by Alternate T. Smith), Gordon, Jordan Hallinan, Hicks, Kniss (represented by Alternate Carruthers), Lai-Bitker, Lundstrom, McGrath, Moy, Peskin (represented by Alternate Owen), D. Smith, Thayer (represented by Alternate Kato), Wagenknecht, and Wieckowski. Charles Taylor, Legislative member was also in attendance
    Not Present were: Department of Finance (Finn), Speaker of the Assembly (Gibbs), Contra Costa County (Gioia), Governors Appointee’s (Goldzband), Association of Bay Area Governments (Maxwell), Marin County (McGlashan), Senate Rules Committee (Nelson), and Solano County (Silva).
    Not Present were: Department of Finance (Finn), Governor’s Appointee (Goldzband), San Mateo County (Gordon), Alameda County (Lai-Bitker), Senate Rules Committee (Nelson), San Francisco County (Peskin), and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (D. Smith).
  3. Public Comment Period
    There were no public comments.

  4. Approval of Minutes of July 17, 2008 Meeting
    Approval of Minutes of August 21, 2008 Meeting. Chair Randolph entertained a motion to adopt the minutes of August 21, 2008.
    MOTION: Commissioner Wagenknecht moved, seconded by Vice Chair Haslted to approve the August 21, 2008 minutes. The motion carried unanimously.
  5. Report of the Chair
    Report of the Chair. Chair Randolph reported on the following items:
    1. Today’s Agenda. There are two changes in the final Agenda for today’s meeting. When the Commission gets to Items 9 and 10, a Public Hearing will be held on these two related matters dealing with the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project. No vote will occur today; the vote is held over to the October 2nd meeting.
    2. Strategic Planning Workshop. In lieu of the regularly scheduled Commission meeting in two weeks (September 18th) the Commission will hold an all-day workshop to update the strategic plan. It will begin at 8:30 a.m. at the Waterfront Hotel at Jack London Square and conclude by 4:00 p.m. Chair Randolph urged that all members of the Commission make every effort to attend this important meeting.
    3. Next BCDC Meeting. The next regular business meeting will be on October 2nd at the Ferry Building. At that meeting the following matters will be taken up:
      1. A Public Hearing and vote will be held to formally adopt the strategic plan that will be developed at the workshop on September 18th.
      2. There will be a vote on two regulatory decisions dealing with the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project. One vote will be a permit application from the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG); the other a federal consistency determination by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
      3. There will be a briefing on the feasibility of developing a tidal energy project in the Bay.
  6. Report of the Executive Director
    Executive Director Travis provided the following report:
    1. California state budget. As all members are undoubtedly aware, the California budget situation remains unchanged and a state budget is still not in place. Staff was paid full wages for the month of August. Depending on the outcome of the upcoming lawsuit between the State Controller and the Governor, the staff may or may not be paid in full or in part for September. Until the budget is approved, Commissioners will not be paid their entitled stipend.
    2. Legislation: AB 2094 and AB 2954 have been approved by the Legislature and the Governor has until September 30th to decide to sign the bills, veto them, or allow them to become law without his signature. However, the Governor has stated that he will veto all bills until the budget is signed. It is hoped that, as the September 30th deadline approaches, either the budget will be approved or the Governor will change his position.
  7. Commission Consideration of Administrative Matters
    In response to a question from Mr. McGrath about the application of the Marin Rod and Gun Club near Fleming Point,
    Mr. Batha noted that the application has been received and will be analyzed.
  8. Public Hearing and Vote on Proposed Stipulated Cease and Desist and Civil Penalty Order No. CCD 2-08; Pacific Marine Yachts. Mr. Tim Eichenberg, BCDC chief counsel, presented staff’s recommendation, seeking Commission approval of a proposed stipulated Cease and Desist and Civil Penalty Order for resolving alleged violations by Pacific Marine Yachts at Pier 9 in San Francisco.
    The permittee has agreed to the terms and the issuance of the proposed Order.
    The Commission issued Permit No. 15-00 to Pacific Marine Yachts and the Port of San Francisco (the co-applicants) in March 2001. The permit is for installation on Pier 9 of a floating dock and ramps to support three charter cruise vessels, two public access areas to the north and south of the Pier 9 gate entrance, a bayside history walk and a breezeway that goes through the Pier, as well as tenant improvements and office space for the charter cruise business inside the Pier.
    In 2007 the permit was amended, as part of an enforcement action, and two doors were added to the breezeway.
    In November 2006 the BCDC staff issued a letter to the applicant, requesting that a number of alleged violations be corrected.
    In April 2008 the applicant met with the staff and the Executive Director and agreed to correct all the alleged violations by May 1st of 2008, except for the installation of the bayside history walk, which required the installation of doors to prevent vandalism, which the Port hadn’t done yet.

    Staff has worked with the applicant to resolve all alleged violations -- plans have been approved for public access improvements and public outreach programs, for additional cruises, and for installing the flags and banners. The permittee has installed bollards along the Pier as well as signs for public access and the bayside history walk, and the permittee has also executed the public access agreement.

    However, significant penalties have accrued ($128,500) under BCDC regulations. These are enumerated in Section Three of the Civil Penalty Order.

    The permittee disputes the extent of the fines and alleged violations but has agreed to pay $30,000 and correct all the alleged violations by October 31st. If the permittee fails to pay the fine or to correct the remaining violations by October 31st he has agreed to pay the entire $128,500.

    If the Commission approves the proposed Order, the permittee agrees to court enforcement of all the terms and conditions. If the Commission does not approve or changes the proposed Order then renegotiation will need to occur or violation proceedings will be instituted.

    Staff believes that the Order resolves past violations fairly and most of the violations have been corrected. In addition, the Order provides strong safeguards to ensure future compliance if the violations are not corrected by October 31st.
    Therefore, staff recommends that the Commission authorize the Executive Director to sign the proposed Order.
    Chair Randolph then opened the Item for Public Hearing. Seeing no response, the Chair entertained a motion to close the Public Hearing.

    MOTION: Commissioner McGrath moved, seconded by Commissioner Halsted, to close the Public Hearing. The motion passed unanimously.

    Commissioner Halsted asked about the Port’s role in the violations? Counsel Eichenberg responded that they have been cooperating with the Commission and they have no problem with the agreement.

    Commissioner Wieckowski noted that one of the keys to the agreement is the provision that allows for court enforcement. He asked how that might be to the Commission’s advantage, and will any relief of staff time occur if it is necessary to go to court? Counsel Eichenberg responded that, if the Executive Director signs the Cease and Desist Order, then the permittee is committed to complying to all the directives by October 31st. If the permittee does not, then the Commission can take him directly to court -- no more staff or Commission time will need to be spent; i.e., the Order will be enforced directly by the court.

    MOTION: Commissioner Tim Smith moved, seconded by Commissioner Bourgart, to follow staff’s recommendations on the Order. The motion passed unanimously.
  9. Public Hearing and Vote on Amendment Application No. 7-03, California Department of Fish and Game (DFG), for the South Bay Salt Ponds Restoration Project, Eden Landing Site, Alameda County.
  10. Public Hearing and Vote on Amendment to Consistency Determination No. CN 10-03, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, for the South Bay Salt Ponds Restoration Project, Alviso and Ravenswood Sites, Alameda, Santa Clara, and San Mateo Counties.
    (**The vote on items 9 and 10 has been postponed until October 2, 2008**)

    Chair Randolph stated that, because the two Items deal with separate components of the larger overall restoration project, the Commission will hold a single Public Hearing on the entire South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project. If anyone has specific comments that would apply to one Item but not the other, please let staff know.

    Max Delaney, BCDC staff, provided some background on the two projects:
    The applications are for Phase One of the Salt Bay Restorations Project, which would restore former industrial salt ponds to a mosaic of tidal wetlands and managed pond habitat, as well as create, maintain and upgrade public access trails and facilities throughout the project areas.

    Within the Eden Landing complex, DFG would restore approximately 630 acres of tidal wetlands, reconfigure approximately 230 acres of managed ponds, and install 3.8 miles of public access trails and other features, and conduct ongoing operations and maintenance activities.

    Within the Alviso and Ravenswood Complexes, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would restore approximately 330 acres of tidal wetlands and 1,400 acres of muted tidal habitat, reconfigure approximately 579 acres of managed ponds, install 2.75 miles of public access trails and other features, and conduct ongoing operations and maintenance activities.

    Staff believes that these applications raise a number of issues -- are they consistent with the Commissions laws and policies regarding salt ponds; fill; public access; protection of natural resources, tidal marshes, tidal flats and sub-tidal areas; protection of water quality; and methyl mercury?

    Mr. Steve Ritchie, Executive Project Manager, South Salt Bay Pond Restoration Project, presented additional information.
    There are 16,500 acres in total that cost about $100 million. The lands themselves are owned by DFG and US Fish and Wildlife.

    The restoration goal is the restoration and enhancement of wetlands in South Bay while providing for flood management and wildlife-oriented public access and recreation.

    They have been working since 1993 on developing the restoration plan. In particular, a stakeholder forum and a number of work groups have been held. A wide range of potential impacts and spatial scales were considered.

    The basic project approach, taking all factors into account, is that habitat distribution would be the starting point. A managed pond alternative was created, with about 50 percent of pond acreage converted to tidal marsh. A tidal habitat alternative was also considered. They expect that they will be slowly converting things to tidal marsh over time and stopping when they get to what they think will be a good balance, perhaps 30 years out.

    An in-board landward levee system will be required for flood management and significant public access will be made available.
    The EIR/EIS has been completed and was certified by DFG in March 2008. They are working through the permitting process now and will hopefully implement Phase One in the next few months.

    They will be putting out an RFP, probably in October 2008, for applied studies and monitoring. They expect to have in excess of $2 million available for the research necessary to move the project forward.

    Chair Randolph then opened the Item for Public Hearing.

    Ms. Ellen Johnck, Executive Director, Bay Planning Coalition, expressed her enthusiasm for approval of the permitting of Phase One. In addition, she noted that the South Bay Salt Ponds are significant as a cultural landscape and work is being done to identify whether the land areas are eligible for the national and/or state historical landmarks.

    Seeing no other public commenters, Chair Randolph entertained motions to close the Public Hearing.
    MOTION. Commissioner Owen moved, seconded by Commissioner Carruthers, to close the Public Hearing. The motion passed unanimously.

    Mr. Batha noted the website for the project -- www.southbayrestoration.org.

    Commissioner Carruthers thanked the Commission for being sensitive to the worry about how the hydrology of the South Bay might be influenced by the proposed project. He appreciated the Commission’s concerns regarding the complexities inherent in such a project, especially in terms of the requirements for adaptive management.

    Commissioner McGrath stated that he was a part of the original stakeholders group for the Project and advocated for it as a board member. As a professional, he worked on wetland restoration for 30 years. He expressed his opinion that the science behind the adaptive management process was very comprehensive and persuasive.

    Commissioner Lundstrom noted that she, too, has followed this project for a long time. She emphasized the importance of the monitoring of the erosion effects from wind-wave action, particularly on the eastern shoreline, as levees are breached and tidal action is introduced.

    Commissioner Tim Smith asked about the water quality portion of the staff report, which describes the salinity level as too high and that “actions would be implemented to avoid significant impacts.” He asked if those actions are described in the adaptive management plan and, if not, exactly what are they? Mr. Ritchie responded that one of the key components will be the institution of the initial stewardship plan to keep salt levels stabilized; and the salinity levels and potential toxicity has not been an issue thus far.

    The dissolved oxygen situation has proven to be more problematic and they are now adjusting some of the circulation patterns to ensure they minimize die-off of habitat species.

    Commissioner Adams asked about the action plan associated with the potential mercury problem. Mr. Ritchie responded that they have been determining how active existing mercury in the ponds is. Their research shows that rare, intermittent inundations are the prime conditions for methyl mercury and tidal restoration seems to be the most positive response in terms of mercury management. They are also working on reducing the sources of mercury upstream.

    Commissioner Lai-Bitker asked about the completion timeframe and expressed her excitement over the project. Mr. Ritchie stated that the completion timeframe is 2011-2012.

    Commissioner Carruthers asked about available monies. Mr. Ritchie responded that there are a large number of funding sources, including several state agencies, now available for Phase One.

    Commissioner Jordan-Hallinan asked about the creation of the islands. Also, are there plans to put in mileage markers on the public access trails? Mr. Ritchie responded that, literally, dirt and mud is picked up from elsewhere and plopped down to create new islands. Also, they are now developing the interpretive signage plan.

    Executive Director Travis remarked on the history of the South Bay and the various proposals that have been suggested in the past regarding its use. He concluded that BCDC inherited an organism (South Bay) that was on life support and is now coming back, and this project is an example of how they are helping to make the Bay Area better by restoring its’ precious natural resources.

    Chair Randolph concluded by noting that the Commission will vote on the Items at the October 2nd meeting.
  11. Briefing on Bay-Delta Planning and Science
    Jessica Hamburger, staff, provided background on the status of planning and highlighted some of the key points for the Bay-Delta ecosystem and the most recent scientific information about that system.

    She began by stating that one of the more serious things that occurred recently was the crash of the salmon fisheries this year that resulted in the closure of the commercial and sport fishery, which follows on several years of pelagic organism decline -- the crash of the delta smelt and other fish. She noted that we are also in the second year of the drought and still facing the problem of continued urbanization behind weak levees, and the threat of earthquakes and floods.

    She noted that one of the things that the Commission has always been concerned about is freshwater inflow to the Bay, as well as habitat restoration and, more recently, sediment management.

    The water diversion into the Delta, which has increased over the years, has certainly influenced the Bay. As the percentage of exports from the Delta goes up, so does the salinity in Suisun Bay. Water wars have resulted, which eventually led to water standards that were set to ensure adequate fresh water inflow to the Bay.

    The pelagic organism decline is ongoing, due to Delta water exports and other factors. Recent court rulings have looked at how the water pumps for the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project are operated, and the federal biological opinions on delta smelt and salmon were both invalidated over the last two years and will need to be revised. Federal Judge Oliver Wanger has issued interim orders to try to protect Delta smelt from getting sucked into the water pumps and to protect salmon.
    A wide range of efforts are ongoing, and a few themes are emerging from the different planning system processes. Ecosystem-based management is gradually becoming more recognized; i.e., the need to look at the system as a whole.

    Another emerging need, especially with the Delta, is the need for stronger land-use regulations.

    Another issue is whether a peripheral canal should be considered again.

    There is a growing understanding that the Delta can’t be fixed by just looking at the Delta; there are major ways in which habitat restoration, flood management and water supply all need to be managed in a coordinated fashion.

    There are various efforts to support Delta Vision and the Bay Delta Conservation Plan. CALFED has an ecosystem restoration program conservation strategy and a restoration implementation plan for the Delta. The CALFED work is guiding a lot of these other efforts, and coordinating a lot of the work.

    At the same time, a Delta Risk Management Strategy is being developed. There are a lot of threats to the levees and those risks are only going to increase over time; it is estimated they will increase about three times in 50 years and by seven times in 100 years.

    The Bay-Delta Conservation Plan focuses on providing permits for the water projects. As part of that, the participants are trying to look more holistically at the Delta as an ecosystem and provide mitigation for the water pumping in the form of fresh water flows and habitat restoration. It is still being worked out as to how much the Suisun Marsh will figure into the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan; certainly the water operations will have a big effect on the Marsh.

    There is now discussion about dual conveyance, which would involve taking water both around and through the Delta. This is being proposed as one option of the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan. Water would be diverted north of the Delta, around Hood. There are potential benefits but also risks associated with this option.

    Another important effort is the work of the Suisun Marsh Charter Group. The Suisun March Preservation Agreement of 1987 was an effort to look at the mitigation needed for the salinity changes that the water projects were having on the Marsh. More recently, the Charter Group has been making an effort to reconcile the Cal-Fed restoration goals in the Marsh, the need to restore endangered species, and the interest in preserving waterfowl habitat and water quality.

    The Commission’s role in this is how Delta management affects the Bay, with a focus on freshwater inflow. Historically, the Commission has been involved with CALFED and still is. In addition, the Commission is now working closely with Delta Vision, participating in their governance work and advising them on how they might use the BCDC Bay Plan as a model for better land-use planning and management in the Delta. BCDC will also be evaluating the Delta Vision strategic plan, which will be completed later this year, and making a recommendation to the Commission on that.

    As part of the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan process the Commission has commented on their notice of preparation of environmental documents calling for adequate freshwater flows there. The Staff will continue to track that process and will be inviting a speaker to come talk to the Commission about that process, probably early next year. BCDC is also continuing to work with the Suisun Marsh Charter Group, helping them develop their restoration plan.

    Dr. Stuart Siegel, a wetlands restoration scientist and Science Advisor to the Delta Vision Task Force and the Suisun Marsh Charter Group, next presented to the Commission a briefing on how the various restoration efforts intersect.

    Dr. Siegel began by mentioning some of the issues in Suisun Marsh. Harmful invasive species need to be dealt with and failing to do so will result in a lot of money being spent on restoration and little positive result, except more invasive species.

    Selenium has been an issue in the past and a lot of work has been done to deal with this problem. There have been discussions on that, and more issues concerning that will probably come the Commission’s way in the future.

    Low dissolved oxygen is a very localized effect in various places around the system. There are problems in Suisun Marsh and the Delta in different parts of the year. There are also other contaminants in the system, that interfere with ecosystem function.
    A lot of effort is now being put forth on the freshwater influence in the Bay and this is a critical issue.

    Impacts on endangered species, is one of the key drivers of the Suisun Marsh Plan; i.e., trying to reconcile the impacts on various endangered species in Suisun. The flip side of that, when doing tidal restoration, is the habitat for significant waterfowl on the Pacific Flyway and

    trying to make sure those needs are still met in the context of tidal marsh restoration in Suisun. There is no perfect answer to this question.

    There are broad efforts that are looking at the system as a whole. In Suisun they have a series of conceptual models being put together as part of the Suisun Marsh Plan. On the Delta side, a similar idea using conceptual models is being put together, some dealing with ecosystems, some with species and some with the various stressors in the system. They wrap together what’s known on the current science and are used to come up with ideas for restoration and also to evaluate what restoration outcomes might be, both to the ecosystem for water supply and for other possible adverse consequences; i.e., they are geared towards recognizing the full range of the positives and negatives that might happen.

    The pelagic organism decline - much work has been done in the past few years to understand why this decline is occurring. Part of the work is new research and part is synthesizing existing research. This contributes to understanding what might be done to provide solutions for fish species declines in the system.

    There is a large effort looking at methyl mercury discharges in Suisun Marsh and other areas.

    Commissioner McGrath asked what are the current hypotheses about the causes of the pelagic organism decline? Dr. Siegel responded that there are a few -- one has to do with flow, another with toxics. Some are well understood, others less so. There is a lot of continuing and new use of herbicides and pesticides in the agricultural sector, so a lot of things get dumped into the system, from the top of the watershed all the way through down into the Delta and even the Bay, that have not been looked at, especially revolving around the issue of the “soup of contaminants.” There is a big issue around the interactions of those contaminants. Also, a lot of work has recently been done on the role of ammonia that comes directly out of wastewater treatment plans but that also can be converted from fertilizers in agriculture and from cattle farms. These have direct toxic effects on fish but also more broadly on the food supply. Most of the nutritious aquatic algae is gone and has been replaced by blue green algae, which is relatively toxic to many species. Thus, the nature of what fish have to eat today is fundamentally different today than what it used to be.

    In addition, water reservoir storage is up from the 1990’s and past years, and part of the current working hypotheses are concerned with how each one of these function individually and how they fit together; this makes for a very complicated analysis. This is where the whole idea of science-based adaptive management is critical and really part and parcel of so much of what’s going on. There’s probably no single answer as to how this all fits together. Also, water temperature fits into this, as do El Niños, ocean conditions, and the temperature of water brought into San Francisco Bay from the ocean.

    The big thing is lack of habitat. Habitat for these fish is two things -- places like marshes and floodplains but also the water column. Fish need access marshes and flood plains, where their food grows and they can find refuge from predators. In the Delta there is almost no habitat left in the system outside of the channels, and the channels themselves are primarily managed to get water to the south Delta export pumps. The Delta is a very homogeneous system.

    In water exports there are really two things -- removing water from the system and also the completely changed hydrology of the Delta. Everything goes north to south today to move fresh water to the pumps. There is nothing natural about it and that plays into the overall problems.

    In Suisun there was a tidal restoration done two years ago, the first in about two decades. However, they don’t know a lot about fish issues and mercury data because of various issues in the area associated with who pays for the monitoring.
    Some work has been done on methyl mercury. UC Davis has been monitoring Suisun Marsh for about 30 years now -- they look at fish, at aquatic organisms, and at water quality parameters, and this has provided some of the best long-term data sets to better understand Suisun Marsh.

    The Bay Delta Conservation Plan is really getting into dealing with the nuts and bolts of water flow to better understand how things might change. On the Delta Vision side they are putting forth recommendations on what flow ought to be. The CALFED Ecosystem Restoration Program (ERP) Conservation Strategy is dealing with flow also, and the CALFED Record of Decision in 2000 also addressed questions of flow.

    Next year they want to focus on the targets for tidal marsh restoration for Suisun Marsh. There are two avenues to pursue. One is CALFED’S idea in their Record of Decision, which is 5,000-7,000 acres of restoration in Suisun Marsh. The other is what the Baylands Ecosystem Habital Goals Project identified in 1999, which is 17,000-22,000 acres. Both have created lots of controversy. The CALFED 5,000-7,000 acres is currently being used as a preferred approach.

    For Delta Vision, one of the things put forward is they don’t know how much restoration is needed, but they know it is a lot. So they recommend starting big with what you can immediately pull off and then keep on going as needed. They have recommended that Delta Vision start with 12,500 acres and go up to about 25,000 by the year 2040 and then keep going if needed. It depends on many factors, including maintaining support for waterfowl, which is a critical function. Things are still being worked out. ERP is still evolving in terms of what their targets ought to be.

    When doing tidal marsh restoration you start from whatever you have today and get to where you want to be down the road, which is basically a vegetative marsh plain with relatively high elevation. And there is a real difference in terms of how different areas are going to evolve.

    Ecosystem functions differ in different areas and change over time. Thus, a key thing when you do restoration is to ideally have a nice mix of stages of evolution throughout Suisun Marsh so that all species get some benefits. Various invasive species also cause problems over time.

    The Suisun Marsh Plan also looks at issues of how doing a lot of restoration changes the salinity in the Marsh and in the Delta, which can have far-reaching effects. Under certain scenarios, for example, increasing salinity in the Delta results from increasing tidal marsh in Suisun, which causes other problems.

    Historically, Suisun Marsh was a brackish, highly variable system. As levees and dams were built, two huge changes occurred. Spring outflow (as the Sierra snowpack melted) was greatly diminished, thus increasing the salinity of the water. Secondly, the fall Delta outflows became stabilized because water was being exported in the South Delta. This high level of stability is highly unnatural, which affects both the Delta and Suisun Marsh.

    Delta Vision is trying to increase the amount of spring outflow. The basic idea is to increase the percentage of unimpaired flow during the winter, which then becomes spring Delta outflow. The overall idea is to increase the variability throughout the year.

    Climate change projections - there is a lot of uncertainty here. The conclusion of Cal-EPA’s Climate Action Team is that we will probably have about the same amount of precipitation in 100 years as we have now. The key is the type of precipitation -- more rain, less snow and earlier snowmelt -- which have huge implications for the Bay and the Delta. More winter runoff means more water coming down when people want to export less, and less summer/fall runoff, since there is less snow and earlier snowmelt. The snowpack is by far the largest water reservoir in the State of California. Taking that away takes away immense storage and water supply when you need it the most. Increased storms will put more pressure on levees and greater chance of levee failure. In essence, balancing more extreme temperatures will be a huge challenge for the state.

    Commissioner Carruthers asked how the range of restoration in the Suisun Marsh area relates to the duck clubs in the area? Dr. Siegel responded that the Suisun Marsh Plan talks about a mixture of converting duck clubs into tidal marshes through restoration and, for clubs that stay as duck clubs, to do enhancements to those. Also, there is a clear and important role for managed wetlands (which is what the duck clubs are). Managed wetlands are very different from the tidal marshes, which are unmanaged systems. In Suisun Marsh there are about 54,000 acres of diked managed wetlands today, which is approximately half of the total protected area. CALFED recommended that 5,000-7,000 of this managed area be restored to tidal action and the higher numbers mentioned earlier in the presentation would also come out of this remaining half.

    Commissioner McGrath asked if there is research in Suisun Bay that indicates that wetland management may increase the rate of methyl mercury production compared to other landscape scenarios, like restoration? Dr. Siegel responded that no one has looked at that specific question yet, although it would seem logical that the rate would be higher in managed wetlands -- but that math hasn’t been done yet.

    Commissioner Balico asked how much water is needed to satisfy the Delta and the Suisun Bay? Dr. Siegel responded that that is the “multi-billion dollar question” and everyone he talks to about this says they don’t know, although they know they need more than they currently have. So either people don’t know or they’re very nervous about putting a number on it. What is known is that to fix the problems with the system will require more water, more habitat, cleaning up the water quality and other factors all working together.

    Commissioner Balico followed up by asking, “If we don’t know where we’re trying to get (i.e. how much water we need) how do we even proceed?” Dr. Siegel responded that this is where Delta Vision comes in. A lot of their effort is to put on paper where we want to go to; to define our goals and objectives and what we want to accomplish. They are in the process of defining those long-term targets.

    Commissioner Potter observed that the Delta Vision goals are fairly closely aligned with the Baylands Ecosystem Habitat Goals Project of 1999. Was that project used as a reference or was it coincidental? Dr. Siegel responded that there was no coincidence; that there has been a real effort to state sources of recommendations, and the Goals Project has been one source. Another big source is the Central Valley Joint Venture Management Plan.
  12. Briefing on Low Impact Development Strategies for Improving Water Quality
    Mr. Adam Parris, staff, introduced Dr. Jeff Haltiner, a hydrologist and engineer and nationally-recognized expert on new approaches to reduce water pollution through low impact development strategies.

    Dr. Haltiner discussed watershed management issues and how they affect what happens in the Bay.

    After providing a short history of watershed management issues, he noted that big changes have occurred in recent times as people learned how to “move water around” to suit their purposes and the original vision of what rivers looked like changed. The introduction of mass development also produced major changes.

    In the early 1970’s the focus became the integration of a wide range of goals regarding river management and flood management.

    Regulatory acts have occurred to maintain clean water, to mitigate damage from storm water and to regulate the “flow regime” of water. County planning agencies also play a big role in determining where and how development occurs, and thus the potential for adverse impacts from changing water flow.

    Various modern methods and tools have been developed to mitigate the adverse impacts -- detention basins, developer guidelines, hydro-modification plans, etc.

    Some of the things that can be done onsite to mitigate adverse effects include treating water as an amenity, maximizing permeability of the developments, minimizing the areas of imperviousness or pavement that are directly connected, and various BMP’s (Best Management Practices).

    The Bay wetlands provide a key value in filtering water and capturing pollutants before they get to the Bay.
    It’s important to recognize that we are inheriting watersheds that have been impacted heavily for 200-300 years; thus, they are not pristine.

    Storm water management needs to be integrated with flood control, with public access, with habitat, and with many other elements. In some ways the regulatory process is ahead of the technology, so much skepticism exists regarding the functionality of some of the processes. As water gets more expensive and more difficult to acquire, storm water as a resource will become a much bigger thing.

    Dr. Haltiner stated that we learn about things by trying them; thus, he is a big fan of field data collection. Try some things on a pilot scale and see what’s actually going to work. Working on storm waters is “working in somebody’s back yard” and requires involvement with neighborhood groups and other stakeholders.

    Commissioner Carruthers asked about bio-filtration -- don’t the contaminants build up and eventually require some mitigating action? Dr. Haltiner responded that the jury is still out. In general, the pollutants adhere to the sediment and the sediment settles out to the bottom. Over time those bottoms will need to be dredged, and when this occurs the sediment will be hauled out and tested.
  13. New Business
    There was no new business.
  14. Old Business
    There was no old business.
  15. Adjournment
    Upon motion by Commissioner David Smith, seconded by Commissioner Balico, the meeting adjourned at 3:50 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Will Travis
Executive Director

Approved, with no corrections, at the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission Meeting of October 3, 2008

R. Sean Randolph, Chair