Minutes of September 2, 2010 Commission Meeting
1. Call to Order. The meeting was called to order by Chair Randolph at the Port of San Francisco Board Room, Second Floor, Ferry Building, San Francisco, California at 1:12 p.m.
2. Roll Call. Present were Chair Randolph, Vice Chair Halsted Commissioners, Bates, Gibbs, Goldzband, Gordon (represented by Alternate Groom), Jordan Hallinan, Hicks, Lundstrom, Maxwell (represented by Alternate Addiego), McGlashan (represented by Alternate Adams), McGrath, Moy, Nelson (represented by Alternate Ranchod), Reagan, Sartipi, Wagenknecht, Wieckowski, and Ziegler. Legislative representative Charles Taylor was also present.
Not Present were: Resources Agency (Baird), Sonoma County (Brown), City and County of San Francisco (Chiu), Department of Finance (Finn), Speaker of the Assembly (Gioia), Alameda County (Lai-Bitker), Santa Clara County (Shirakawa), and State Lands Commission (Thayer).
3. Public Comment Period. Chair Randolph asked for public comment.
Mendel Stewart, Manager of National Wildlife Refuges for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service commented the following: The Commission and Mr. Travis, in particular, have been very helpful at a place called Skaggs Island.
We were able to remove all the buildings out at Skaggs Island working with the Navy and we are moving to the transfer of that property to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
At Pond S.F.2 which is part of the South Bay Salt Pond Project we are having a big event next week with Diane Feinstein as the guest speaker.
4. Approval of Minutes of August 5, 2010 Meeting. Vice Chair Halsted entertained a motion and a second to adopt the Minutes of August 5, 2010.
MOTION: Commissioner Wagenknecht moved, seconded by Commissioner Lundstrom to approve the August 5, 2010 Minutes. The motion carried by voice vote with seven abstentions.
5. Report of the Chair. Chair Randolph reported on the following:
a. Chair. Both Vice-Chair Halsted and I were away for out last meeting, August 5th. I asked Commissioner Goldzband to step in as the Acting Chair and you all kindly approved that at my request. I want to thank Larry for stepping in and ably leading our meeting earlier this month.
b. Next BCDC Meeting: Our next meeting, we’re going to cancel the next regularly scheduled meeting which would have been on the 16th of September. We’ll meet five weeks from now. That’s going to be October 7th. We’re going to be here at the Ferry Building. And at that meeting we’re going to take up the application to expand the Potrero Hills Landfill in Solano County.
(1) We held a public hearing on this application in June.
(2) We will hold a public hearing on revisions to our Bay Plan to address climate change.
(3) We will hold a public hearing and vote on an assessment of and a strategy for improving our coastal management program.
(4) We will receive a briefing on possible revisions to the San Francisco Waterfront Special Area Plan and will consider entering into a contract with the Port of San Francisco to begin that planning process.
(5) Finally, we will consider a status report on the progress we are making in carrying out our strategic plan.
c. Ex Parte Communications: That completes my report. In case any members of the Commission inadvertently forgot to report any ex-parte communications, written or oral, I invite Commissioners who have engaged in any such communications to report on them at this point.
No ex-parte communications were reported.
6. Report of the Executive Director. Executive Director Travis provided his report, as follows:
a. Personnel: As I informed you in June, Caitlin Sweeney resigned from her position as our Chief Deputy Director and yesterday she and her family arrived in Costa Rica where they will be living for the next year. While we will forever miss Caitlin, we didn’t have to look far for a worthy successor. I’ve offered the Chief Deputy Director position to Steve Goldbeck, and he has accepted subject to your concurrence in my decision.
Steve arrived on our doorstep 25 years ago with a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Planning and Public Policy from U.C. Santa Cruz. He began his tenure as an unpaid intern.
His expertise earned him a number of promotions and expansion of his duties to include a wide range of policy and management responsibilities. He was the principal architect of both the interagency LTMS program for dredged material and the creation of the award-winning Dredged Material Management Office. For the past three years he has been our Deputy Director for Climate Change and Legislation, and in that capacity he has done a sensational job of advancing our pioneering sea level rise adaptation program.
I’m confident that Steve will serve BCDC well in his new capacity where he will continue to serve as our point person on climate change as well as be responsible for the overall management and coordination of all our internal operations.
At this point, I would appreciate a motion, second and affirmative vote to confirm the appointment of Steve Goldbeck as BCDC’s new Chief Deputy Director.
MOTION: Commissioner Wieckowski moved approval of this appointment, seconded by Vice Chair Halsted. Upon a voice vote the item passed unanimously.
With Steve’s promotion behind us, we are moving quickly to fill the executive vacancy he is leaving behind. We are restructuring this position so it will serve as the Chief of our Regulatory Program, which includes permits, enforcement and dredging.
We will hold a civil service exam for applicants within the next few weeks. My goal was to bring our selection to you for your confirmation at your next meeting on October 7th. However, on Tuesday the Governor issued an executive order directing state agencies to cease hiring all employees.
This morning we received further instructions on how exemptions to the freeze may be allowed in some circumstances. And also it is possible that the order may not be applied to independent commissions like BCDC.
As always, we’ll keep you apprised of any significant news on this and other budgetary issues.
b. Reports. Some months back you approved Heidi Nutters as a new Coastal Fellow. She has arrived in our office and begun her work.
I would like Heidi to rise so that you know what she looks like. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies from Antioch College, which I happen to know is in a little town of Yellow Springs, Ohio and she has a Master of Arts in Environmental Sciences from Brown University. She has worked before in the Bay area. We are delighted to have her aboard.
I would like to call to your attention to two reports that we sent to you. The first is dated August 6th and is from the Commission Subcommittee that you established to deal with succession planning.
The second report, dated August 26th, is the first quarterly report on regional issues, which has been provided to fulfill an objective in our strategic plan. If you have any questions about either report, please let me know.
c. Acting Executive Director. The Dutch have offered to host my participation in a Delta Alliance conference in Rotterdam the last week of this month. During the same week, your new Deputy Director, Steve Goldbeck will be serving on a U.S. State Department team that is providing climate change planning assistance in Taiwan.
So since I will be in Europe and Steve will be in Asia Joe LaClair, our Chief Planner, will be serving as our Acting Executive Director from September 25th through October 3rd.
That does complete my report. We can go on to the administrative listing which we sent to you on August 19th and Bob Batha is available to answer any questions.
7.Commissioner Consideration of Administrative Matters. There were no items to report.
8.Public Hearing and Vote on Amendment No. One to Consistency Determination No. CN 5-04 of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the Cullinan Ranch Marsh Restoration Project, Napa and Solano Counties.
Max Delaney reported the following: Amendment No. One to Consistency Determination No. 5-04 would authorize the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to restore approximately 1575 acres of former diked bay lands to tidal wetlands within the Cullinan Ranch site in Napa and Solano Counties.
The proposed project would include creating 1549 acres of tidal marsh and 26 acres of upland and transitional habitat by breeching and lowering outboard levees, constructing a new buttress levee along a portion of Highway 37 and also armoring an existing levee for flood protection along Highway 37, excavating material within the site and placing fill to raise areas to expedite tidal marsh formation and importing up to 100,000 cubic yards of material from the neighboring Pond One site owned by the California Department of Fish and Game and importing up to 405,000 cubic yards of dredged material from nearby dredge projects.
Proposed public access improvements include an acceleration and a deceleration land along Highway 37, new viewing, fishing and kayaking facilities and surface improvements along the Pond One levee trail and a new trail and fishing pier at the former Guadalcanal Village site.
The project would also monitor and adaptively manage the site for 15 years following the completion of construction to ensure that the restoration goals are met.
The staff believes that the application raises five primary issues.
(1) Whether the project would provide maximum feasible public access consistent with the project.
(2) Whether the project is consistent with the Bay Plan policies on natural resources including fish, other aquatic organisms and wildlife, tidal marshes and tidal flats and subtidal areas.
(3) Whether the project is consistent with the Bay Plan policies on water quality.
(4) Whether the project is consistent with the priority use designation for the site and.
(5) Whether the project is consistent with the Bay Plan policies on sea level rise and safety of fills.
At this point I’d like to introduce Don Brubaker from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who will present additional information on the project.
Mr. Brubaker reported the following: My name is Don Brubaker. I’m the National Wildlife Refuge Manager for United States Fish and Wildlife Service. I manage the North Bay Refuges of Marin Islands, Antioch Dunes and San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuges.
What we’re looking to do is restore a portion of the North Bay, specifically Cullinan Ranch to a little bit over 1500 acres of wetland and also part of that project will be providing protection for Highway 37 to keep that from flooding.
Cullinan Ranch is bounded by Fish and Game land on the west, north and easterly side and slso some CalTrans land off over there in Guadalcanal.
Eric Larsen from California Fish and Game is here to answer any questions that might arise.
What we’re looking to do is to aid in the recovery of fish and wildlife, re-establishing coastal wetlands.
Historically this was an estuarine area of marshlands and channels of mixed fresh water and salt water. We’re trying to provide better re-connectivity with that, improve coastal resiliency.
And we will provide a wide array of public access. Once we get this restored we want to get people out there to enjoy it.
Threatened endangered species will be protected.
Some specific elements are as follows: Completing the permitting and design. Improve Pond One Levee and install water-control structures in partnership with Cal Fish and Game. Construct public access areas to get people out there to see this area. Lowering the levees on the northern boundaries so we can get that tidal flow back and forth. Excavation of historic channels to increase the hydrologic flow again. Construct five distinct breaches to better capture the tidal flow and get a better fluctuation and regeneration of waters back and forth. Protection of sub-structures that already exist like power line towers and State Route 37.
Visitor contact facilities will be provided as well as outreach of events that will be up and coming and opportunities to participate.
Guadalcanal Village access will be increased along the existing levee trail and a 1700 foot hardened surface trail will be put in to allow people to get out to the fishing pier.
The big six objectives are: wildlife conservation, fishing, interpretation photography, environmental education and hunting. We’re hoping to do a number of these activities out on the Cullinan Ranch Restoration Project.
Commissioner McGrath commented: On the public access, there’s existing access of about 7,000 feet on a gravel trail between Pond One and Cullinan Ranch, this would improve that and add 1760 feet of new access on the east side.
On the perimeter there is 26,000 feet along Highway 37 and there’s much longer along Dutchman Slough. So while there is about 9,000 feet of access that might have some level of disturbance, the vast majority of this site would not have perimeter access and therefore would be well buffered from any human disturbance.
So you would have public access in some areas with some admitted disturbance but the rest of it would be pretty far away except for kayaking.
A couple of questions about sediment and sediment budget:
The North Bay has been eroding and we’ve seen a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service project where damage was done to the trail from erosion so we’re concerned that to make sure that we don’t exacerbate that erosion at all significantly.
Roughly how much material, you’ve got 1500 acres in the staff summary says, it’s settled by up to six feet. Roughly how much material do you expect to settle in to that area and over what period of time?
Mr. Brubaker deferred to Mr. Steve Carroll of Ducks Unlimited.
Mr. Carroll replied: I don’t recall off the top of my head the exact amount of material but I know a hydraulic model looked at it and it was going to be about 60 years for it to come up to one foot above mean tide level.
Commissioner McGrath replied: I do think it’s important to know how that relates to overall sediment sources from the Napa River and from the Sacramento.
I would imagine it’s pretty small and inconsequential and the Commission could then conclude that it won’t contribute to erosion.
But I do think that’s an important factual question. So if you could dig it out while we’re going through the rest of it I’d really appreciate that.
Mr. Carroll answered: I’ll see if I can come up with the number.
Dr. Renee Spenst added: I’m Renee Spenst, Regional Biologist with Ducks Unlimited. The other thing that I want to point out is the project that you’re talking about is at Lower Tubbs Island. Is that correct.
Commissioner McGrath replied: I’m just looking at Cullinan Ranch and how much sediment it will fill and whether or not there’s –
Dr. Renee Spenst interjected that Commissioner McGrath was referencing a site that was erosional.
Commissioner McGrath replied: That’s right, Tubbs.
Dr. Renee Spenst added: So this is a little different location and you don’t have quite the same dynamics as you do right adjacent to San Pablo Bay.
And in this case we do see right at Pond Three which is just north of Cullinan Ranch that there is considerable data that’s been collected by U.S.G.S. looking at depositional rates in Pond Three. That site is depositional.
For sites that are substantially subsided they serve as sediment sinks where you get really rapid deposition in a fairly short timeframe.
As they accrete up to marsh plain elevation that deposition rate slows down. So over the course of the project we’re looking at about a 60 year timeframe for that site to accrete up to marsh plain elevation.
Chair Randolph added: As a point of information from the Commission I just verified with the engineer that the modeling didn’t include placing the half a million cubic yards of dredged materials so it would be that much less time because the sediment takes the place that otherwise sediment coming in from the Bay would have to –
Commissioner McGrath replied: Yeah I understand that. The gist of my question is, I believe the hydraulic connection to this is back to the Napa River.
And if you put a depositional sink in the Napa River the material coming from the Napa River may preferentially settle in here rather than go to San Pablo Bay where it may exacerbate erosion.
And I’m just trying to get an idea of the order of magnitude. If we’re talking about a tenth of a percent of the overall sediment budget to San Pablo Bay I think we can say that that’s not consequential.
If we’re talking about a third I would be a little bit worried. That’s why I’m asking the question.
Dr. Spenst replied: Yeah I think that’s something we could look at in more detail but the dynamics of the Bay where Highway 37 is constructed along what was historically a natural berm alignment where you had, basically, wave action pulling sediment up and dropping it out at the location where Highway 37 is currently constructed and so any sediment that would be flowing down the Napa River would be ending up down in San Pablo Bay outside the range of those marshes to some extent.
So it’s kind of outside the scope of this particular project. Of course, we don’t want to negatively impact other projects by implementing this one. So that is something that we wanted to take into consideration but we also wanted to take a landscape level view of, yes we’re adjacent to some other adjacent recently restored areas and we don’t want to adversely impact those either.
Chair Randolph added: So let’s open the public hearing and then we’ll come back to further Commission questions. Would anybody from the public like to speak on this topic?
If not, we’d welcome a motion and a second to close the public hearing.
MOTION: Commissioner Adams motioned, seconded by Commissioner Goldzband to close the public hearing. The motion passed unanimously.
Chair Randolph asked for further discussion from the Commission.
Commissioner Adams commented: You mentioned on there that hunting is one of the activities. Is there a special designated area where there won’t be conflict with other human enjoyers of the facility and kayakers who might happen to be going along in the line of fire.
Mr. Brubaker replied: When we get to that point of addressing that later on down the road we’ll definitely look at that. Once we get this area restored we could investigate that.
We may determine that hunting is not something that we’re going to allow in there simply because of the breadth and depth of other types of public uses.
Commissioner Adams asked: You mentioned a hardened surface trail. On your hardened surfaces is it going to be permeable hardened surface?
And then there was also another element that mentioned that a fencing might be considered in order to keep people on the trails. What type of fencing are we talking about?
Mr. Brubaker replied: If anything it would probably be something unobtrusive.
Commissioner Adams: Where the little critters could get underneath and run across?
MR. Brubaker: Right exactly. We would be concerned with that. We’re also concerned with the public too.
Our particular agency in what we do out on the land is working with people to help us work with the animals in their wild states.
During sea level rise and high tide Salt Water Mice and other animals would come up on there seeking refuge. We wouldn’t want to put any type of barrier there that would preclude them from that.
Commissioner Adams then asked: When you mentioned accessibility, disabled accessibility, are you also planning for blind, hearing impaired other than just mobility disabled?
Mr. Brubaker answered: That’s part of what we’re looking at in that surface is that there isn’t any tripping point or any of those features on there.
Again, it will be something that we’ll have to say, okay, this is what we’re proposing as a snapshot view at the moment. Then we’re going to get into the nitty-gritty as to, okay, what will these surfaces actually contain. How are we going to implement things for hearing impaired and sight impaired people?
Commissioner Sartipi commented: Just for the record, the Department and staff have been working with the Fish and Wildlife Service and the sponsor of the project and given that at some point in the future there will be discussion about the encroachment permit we just wanted to be on the record that as part of this project we want to make sure that Highway 37 is adequately protected and that the measures that are being proposed does not increase any maintenance and operation on the Department.
Chair Randolph added: And we’ve been working with CalTrans, California Department of Transportation engineers. Ducks Unlimited is doing a bang up job in creating and adding to Highway 37 and essentially we’ll hand it over to them later on.
And so part of this project will be further protection for Highway 37, somewhat of an expansion of Highway 37 in the acceleration and deceleration lanes.
Commissioner Reagan commented: I’m very pleased to see in the description of the project that it’s designed to reduce mosquito production which for the city of Vallejo has been an issue. And I’d like to hear a little bit about that.
And also as you accumulate this collection of refuges how’s your O&M budget looking in the long term?
Mr. Brubaker replied: Like our partners California Fish and Game we’re spread as thin as air on Mars but we’re trying to do the public a good and we work with the vector control districts. And we meet with them frequently and bounce ideas off of them as to what we should consider putting into the design to help each other.
With the tidal flow and water exchange we’re hoping to get out of this it’s going to be a little bit harder for mosquitoes to propagate in these waters.
Commissioner Reagan also asked: Is one of the outcomes of your contracts with the people who are going to be doing the grading to preclude stagnant ponding?
Mr. Brubaker replied: Yes. Those will probably be written into their contract proposals. And this will be something that we’ll work with Ducks Unlimited who will be the general contractor for that.
Commissioner Reagan continued: And you’re setting up the protections for Highway 37? I am concerned about your monitoring for the length of this project and coming up with the right kind of O&M budget long term or payment in-lieu of taxes for the rest of the world to pick it up when that doesn’t happen is something that we need to work on.
Commissioner Ziegler commented: Just a few questions about what the timing will be. I’m wondering if you could briefly speak to the construction timeframe when you’d expect breaching to be undertaken and the costs and what your anticipated funding is going to be.
Mr. Brubaker: It’s an easy question for Renee certainly.
Dr. Spenst: The first question was timing. We’re hoping to start construction this fall. As part of receiving the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds for this project we do need to go to construction this fall.
Depending on how soon we actually get to construction the project could be completed next year or by the following year, January of 2012 at the latest.
The project cost is estimated to be about 14 million and we’re in pretty good shape if that’s what the bids come in at.
Commissioner Ziegler added: And do you have 14 million now?
Dr. Spenst replied: We’re at about 13.
Chair Randolph asked: What is the ARRA component of that?
Dr. Spenst replied: It’s about 1.6 million off the top of my head.
Chair Randolph commented: But you have to begin construction by the end of the year for that to be used, right?
Dr. Spenst answered: We are working in close coordination with NOAA from whom this grant is being given and we have a much better chance of keeping the funding if we can go to construction this fall.
Commissioner McGrath commented: I’m very troubled by this. I’ve worked on wetlands restoration projects for over 30 years, more than half of it unpaid as a stakeholder in the South Bay Salt Ponds where the sediment budget issues were dealt with in substantial detail.
And I’m looking at page eight of the Draft Staff Report that talks about our criteria and it talks about making sure that we understand the impact of the project on the Bay’s sediment budget, localized sediment erosion and accretion.
And because I was trained as an engineer with slide rules and we had to do estimates I can actually do the math without a calculator.
If we kind of just guesstimate that we’ve got about 1,000 acres this is going to need about six feet of sediment, round numbers, that’s 10 million cubic yards of sediment and the 500,000 cubic yards of dredged material is not much.
It’s about 200,000 cubic yards of dredged material a year. And if I remember the numbers coming down the Delta which are dramatically diminished, they’re around 4 million cubic yards.
So it’s a pretty good chunk of sediment. I don’t like to make a decision based on my back-of-the-envelope guessestimates based on my knowledge.
So I’m not comfortable at this point without a better answer on that question I would have to abstain.
I think it’s an important issue that we should know before we vote. So that’s where I am.
Dr. Spenst replied: Steve did a quick calculation and he came up with about 108,000 cubic yards per year.
The site, at the most, is about six feet subsided. It ranges from three to six across the site.
And based on what they’re seeing at Pond Three they’re seeing an average of about two to three centimeters per year. But this site is more subsided so would accrete more sediment more rapidly than that.
Commissioner Ranchod commented: Two comments. One is, I’m pleased to see the agency working with partners from the NGO world.
Could someone elaborate on the role of Ducks Unlimited and any other partners in the project?
Dr. Spenst replied: I’m a regional biologist for Ducks Unlimited. You’ve met Steve Carroll already. We’re partnering on this project in that we’re doing the design for the project. We’re doing the permitting for the project. We’ve subbed some of that out to sub-consultant.
And then we’re going to be overseeing construction of the project. And then we raised the vast majority of the funding for the project.
Commissioner Ranchod: The second question: There’s reference in the document to the EIS, CIR that was prepared for the project and I assume nobody challenged that.
There wasn’t much detail in what I found. Was there any significant environmental impact that was found in the report that could not be mitigated?
Dr. Spenst replied: In the report the impact that we found that was significant for which no mitigation was available was for conversion of seasonal wetlands to tidal marsh.
And to go back a little bit to the context of that question, we’re in a location where this was converted. It was actually the first island that was converted to agriculture in the North Bay.
It was converted over 100 years ago, actually prior to the big slug of mining wastes coming down those rivers.
And it was farmed all the way actively up until about 1991 when the Service acquired the property. And at that point they made a decision along with other regulatory entities that they would prefer to provide interim habitat by turning off the pumps and not continuing to pay the costs of pumping and actually provide some wildlife benefits.
They initially thought that they could just breach the levees, restore tidal marsh and it would be a really short-term process.
Then they discovered about seven-tenths of a mile stretch of Highway 37 would be flooded under combined high wind and high tide events which would inconvenience a whole lot of motorists.
So we did some design refinements and it got us to the place where we are now but there was an interim gap where seasonal wetlands had developed on the site that were not there historically.
Commissioner Ziegler asked: I have a question following up on Commissioner McGrath’s concerns. I’m just wondering if staff has anything that they could add to those concerns around sediment and how that was considered in preparing the staff’s recommendations.
Is that a legitimate question to ask?
Mr. Batha replied: Staff did consider this. We were relying on the sedimentation rates in the neighborhood across Dutchman Slough at Pond Three where it is accreting more rapidly than anticipated.
But I think there’s recognition by most biologists that though the target here is to create habitat for the Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse and the Clapper Rail and that habitat is tidal marsh, that the intervening stages however long they are, whether its 40 years or 100 years, subtidal habitat will provide important habitat for the Bay.
And so it’s not like this area will not be providing important natural resources.
Commissioner Ziegler replied: But if I understand Jim’s concern, it’s about the overall budget and the input into the Bay and the loss of potential sediment from the accretion at this restoration site. It becomes more complicated.
Commissioner McGrath added: Yeah, in the South Bay they were concerned that the sediment source for the salt pond as you move towards restoration would end up being the mud flats in the Bay and you would end up instead of an entirely enhancing project, you would intend inadvertently converting one type of habitat to another through the hydraulic operation.
And again, that was dealt with in great detail with the help of U.S.G.S. and pretty detailed sediment budgets in that case.
So the question here is, do you contribute to more rapid erosion of outboard mud flats with those impacts?
And even if you do, is that a slight impact or is that a great impact? That’s the scale question.
Dr. Spenst replied: I think there are three points I’d like to follow up on.
The modeling that Steve Carroll mentioned did not account for actually lowering the levees along South and Dutchman Sloughs. So we’re going to get more rapid sedimentation across the entire side as opposed to just associated with the channels.
The other point I wanted to mention is, certainly we would be happy to accept additional material up until we breached the levees but given that there is costs typically associated with that we’re also trying to make the best project we can given the budget that we have knowing that we have to basically restore the Marsh in a pretty rapid timeframe in order for it to have a chance to keep pace with sea level rise going into the future.
Commissioner McGrath responded: Let me be crystal clear, I got the questions that I had about public accessing answered and I’m encouraged to see something where we’re providing new access yet keeping a lot of it free from impacts. I like the addition of kayaks.
And I would love to be able to vote for this. And I’m not saying that I wouldn’t vote for something that had the potential to have some adverse impacts on the Bay. I’m saying the Commission, in my mind, should have that frame before them so they understand the scale of potential impacts. That’s the problem that I have.
Executive Director Travis commented: It’s a problem that we all have. And I think the policy question here is, we all recognize that there needs to be much more research on sediment dynamics in the Bay.
And we’re working with trying to secure funding to do that with others.
As I understand it Commissioner McGrath is concerned about the impact of the sediment being taken out of the Bay system and what you’re hearing is he’s concerned that there isn’t enough coming in to do the wetlands restoration fast enough.
Both are legitimate views. But I think the policy question for the Commission is, do we stop restoring wetlands until we’ve done all the research or do we acknowledge that there will be some impacts possibly uncalculated and unknown at this point and still go ahead with the wetland restoration knowing what we know now with a commitment to try to know more later?
Commissioner Adams commented: Another question would be, is there going to be an active management program so that if it does turn out that this plan is causing some type of an adverse impact to the overall ecosystem that a mitigation can be implemented at that time and is there going to be some type of a capital reserve fund set aside to be able to actively manage that dynamic?
Dr. Spenst answered: I’ll answer the first part of that question. There is a monitoring and adaptive management plan in place and as part of that plan there are some associated habitat and species targets and some associated triggers where is we’re not meeting our restoration goals and objectives it will trigger additional action and review for the Service to meet with the Technical Advisory Committee, with the regulatory agencies and think about, given whatever the state of science is at that point, what’s the best way to proceed.
And one option would be if it were permittable to allow for placement of beneficially reused material should the sediment be available.
Executive Director Travis added: But correct me if I’m wrong. There is no consideration of, let’s say we find that the sediment budget in the Bay, the amount of sediment is declining precipitously, there is no inclination here to dig up the wetlands and put the material back in the Bay.
Dr. Spenst replied: That’s correct. And actually the Service and the Department have both talked about this question in the context of Napa-Sonoma Marshes in the broader landscape context.
I don’t think either one of these two organizations is firmly tied to having a particular configuration that’s very fixed in terms of what this landscape will look like.
There will be changes associated with this project. We expect more flow to come through the slough that’s to the north of Pond Three which was historically the dominant slough in that region.
Currently most of the flow is through Dutchman Slough which is right north of Cullinan Ranch.
Mr. Brubaker added: We have partnerships here of Cal Fish and Game. We see things that have gone on in the South Bay and we learned from those and Napa/Sonoma Marshes are no different. We watch and see how those wetlands are evolving and how we may need to tweak a few things in the Cullinan Ranch.
We see the problem arise and we see it coming at us and we start seeking funding to make these adjustments and modifications to this wetland to the best of our collective knowledge.
Commissioner Adams replied: What I’m hearing you say is that you have to wait until the problem arises and then compete for the funding with everybody else rather than be able to set up a contingency for a specific project area in advance.
Mr. Brubaker responded: The means or methods we can do that. If somebody comes in and just out of the kindness of their heart wants to give Fish and Wildlife money, and believe it or not, that happens.
We funnel it off to another place because if we leave it here it goes into a black hole and so we give it to a partner for one of those rainy day activities or as we see a problem we amass some money to take care of it.
Commissioner Reagan queried: That gets back to my O & M question. We’re creating with the help of your other partners the capital investment in creating some of these things that then become a much more enormous operation in maintenance long-term responsibility of the agency that’s operating them without any secure or sustainable source of funding like an endowment that would pay for those ongoing things that would not only do the monitoring for the wildlife recovery but also the removal of invasive species or control of them and noxious weeds and mosquito abatement and some of the other ongoing maintenance of the structures that you’ve committed to here for the public access and you’ve got levees that you’re putting in and other engineering features that you don’t have a long-term O&M thing for creating these sinks of future unfunded liabilities.
Mr. Brubaker replied: A lot of that restoration that’s going on there, a fair amount of it when it gets done.
Mr. Mendel Stewart added: I’m the manager for the greater Bay area refuges. And you’re asking really good questions.
And we are trying really hard to accumulate pots of money. And it’s actually working.
Restoring marsh is the ultimate goal. If we can restore marsh it’s relatively cheap. We can cut levees, and in general, walk away.
However, we still need to monitor it. We need to make sure that it’s doing what it’s supposed to do.
And finding money to do restoration projects is fairly easy. It’s the monitoring that is tricky because nobody wants to give us money for monitoring.
So what we’re trying to do is find pots of money throughout the Bay on all our projects that we can tap into. And we’re being fairly successful at Bair Island, at the Salt Bay Pond Project in the South Bay, two different projects, two pots of money. We’re accumulating money.
We don’t have a great answer but we definitely know we have to do it. And we also have a budget the Congress gives us every year and we can use those funds to do a lot of things that you’re talking about.
Commissioner Reagan added: Those of us that end up having to rescue people that are out walking and fall in or would end up having to go in and abate the mosquitoes or that transfer of unfunded requirements on the local government with zero tax base.
Mr. Stewart replied: That’s right. And we want to avoid that. In fact, going to Marsh is of tremendous benefit of not having to worry as much about mosquitoes. It’s not nearly as management intensive once a levee is breached as it is when it was a seasonal wetland.
Commissioner Reagan: If it’s done well
Mr. Stewart: If it’s done well and that’s why we have such a great design team that’s doing all this work for us.
Commissioner Reagan replied: But then you have the other invasive species and the other noxious weeds. There is an enormous ongoing operation and maintenance thing.
Mr. Stewart added: But it’s there anyway. We have that anyway. In fact, we have it worse at Cullinan Ranch now because it’s a seasonal wetlands.
Commissioner Reagan responded: I’m not opposed to this thing I’m just trying to get you to work with your partners to put in an endowment when they get you a little pregnant on these things.
Mr. Stewart replied: Yes, that’s an interesting way of putting it. We are very aware of that and I have become acutely aware that it’s easier to get money to do restoration than it is to monitor and maintain it over time.
But we’re working hard to get those pots of money so we can do all those things well over time.
Chair Randolph asked: Where do those pots come from typically?
Mr. Stewart replied: Sometimes from mitigation, sometimes from Congressional appropriations. Some of the pots that we’re accumulating on the Don Edwards Refuge are from mitigation.
When it’s appropriated money it doesn’t stay around very long. It has a five year window. So those pots are a little more ephemeral.
Commissioner Bates commented: I have the staff recommendations here before us. Is it appropriate now to go to those?
I think they make substantial improvements in the area, helping Highway 37, restoring 1500 acres of tidal marshland. I think it’s a substantial improvement to the area.
I heard the reservations and concerns and I sympathize with the fact that we can’t project precisely what’s going to happen. And I can also understand that we can’t look for every contingency by having set aside funds or appropriate money in a way to handle all these things in the future but I feel like this is a substantial improvement and it merits moving ahead.
And I’m also concerned about the timing. We heard that it has to move by fall or lose the money or at least the money will be more in jeopardy.
So given all those factors I’m prepared to move forward and would think that it might be appropriate to get the staff recommendation.
Commissioner Wagenknecht replied: Chair Randolph, I’ll second that motion.
Chair Randolph commented: Okay, let’s get the staff recommendation then.
Mr. Delaney replied: The staff recommends that you concur with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and that the Cullinan Ranch Marsh Restoration Project is consistent with the Commission’s laws and policies.
The recommendation that we wrote up includes a number of conditions designed to ensure the success of the restoration effort and minimize project impacts including, plan review by the staff to ensure that all construction activities including the construction of temporary
structures for delivering rip-rap, dredged material and other construction materials to the site are designed to minimize impacts to water quality and existing habitat, monitoring of methyl mercury, dissolved oxygen, salinity, invasive species and other parameters that may affect water quality and wildlife, the implementation of an adaptive management plan which specifies targets for restoration success and describes potential corrective actions if restoration targets are not being met and the adoption of other measures to prevent and/or minimize adverse impacts to listed and special-status species in the project areas.
Given the complexity and the scale of this project a number of corrections have been made to the recommendation in the last week. And we have passed around an errata sheet that each of you should have in front of you that lists those corrections.
The most significant corrections include, authorizing in the construction of a temporary unloading structure along the Dutchman Slough Levee. This would be designed to allow for the delivery of rip-rap to the site via barge and the potential use of this structure to clam shell dredged material from barges in the Dutchman Slough into the site for beneficial reuse.
Other noteworthy corrections we included were, adjustments to the dates by which public access improvements would be completed along the Pond One Levee, a correction to the size of the proposed fishing platform in the Guadalcanal Levee Trail.
Our staff recommendation described it as 1200 feet, actually it would be 200 square feet.
And lastly, the correction errata sheet clarified which of the public access improvements along the Pond One Levee would be ADA accessible.
At this time we would ask the Commission’s approval to incorporate these changes in the errata sheet along with any additional grammatical corrections to the final recommendation.
And staff recommends that you concur with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that the Cullinan Ranch Marsh Restoration Project is consistent with the Commission’s laws and policies.
Chair Randolph replied: Let me ask our representative from Fish and Wildlife if you agree with the staff recommendation and understand it?
Mr. Brubaker replied: Yeah as I haven’t had a chance to plow through it all but we have been working with Max and the rest of the staff and there have been sizable changes that we agree with. So we’re appreciative of that.
Commissioner Jordan Hallinan asked: In terms of public access it looks like we’re kind of adding a little pavement maybe or on what’s already a gravel road. So there’s no public access being taken away. Correct?
Mr. Delaney replied: Correct.
Commissioner Jordan Hallinan asked if there were any areas that could have had public access that were turned down?
Mr. Delaney replied: We have done our best to work with the Service to identify the most feasible areas for access around the project site also being mindful of trying to keep the majority of the site free of access for wildlife management.
Commissioner Jordan Hallinan asked how about pedestrian access along Highway 37 between the two parking lots? Was that a possibility that was considered?Mr. Delaney responded: That has been discussed in the past. Many interested parties would like to see that happen. At this time in the context of this project it was determined that wouldn’t be feasible.
That would require a substantial levee work along Highway 37 and basically huge costs. It would also require further collaboration between CalTrans and so for the restoration project it was determined that it wasn’t the appropriate timing.
Commissioner Jordan Hallinan then asked: Is there enough shoulder for people who don’t care that there isn’t public access there and can walk on it safely?
Mr. Delaney replied: Well at the east end as you saw Don point out in the PowerPoint there is a levee that is, essentially, access at this point that does run along a portion of Highway 37.
We’ve had some discussions. I can’t speak for them at this point, whether they’re going to be able to incorporate this but the potential for access on the buttress levee that they would construct as well along 37, so essentially there is some access, not along the entire length of 37 but some access.
Chair Randolph added: I tend to agree with Commissioner Bates that this is a good project that moves forward in a positive way. If there are no further questions or comments from the Commission if you could call the roll Mamie.
VOTE: The motion carried with a roll call vote of 16-0-1 with Commissioners Bates, Gibbs, Goldzband, Groom, Jordan Hallinan, Lundstrom, Addiego, Adams, Moy, Ranchod, Reagan, Sartipi, Wagenknecht, Wieckowski, Vice Chair Halsted, and Chair Randolph voting “YES”, no “NO” votes and Commissioner McGrath abstaining.
MOTION: Upon motion by Commissioner Bates, seconded by Commissioner Wieckowski, the Commission unanimously approved the staff recommendation with the proposed revisions.
9. Briefing by Ellie Cohen on Climate Change. Ms. Cohen made the following presentation: Thank you. Just a correction, I am not a doctor. I have a Masters in Public Policy but I do love science.
Thank you very much to Travis and the Commission for having me here today. It was great to sit in on the conversation just before this.
I’m Ellie Cohen, Executive Director of PRBO Conservation Science. We are founded as Point Reyes Bird Observatory in 1965. Our mission is to conserve birds and ecosystems through innovative science and outreach.
In essence we’re using birds as indicators of ecosystem health and improving conservation outcomes.
We have about 120 staff and seasonal biologists. We work throughout California and the West.
And our budget this year is around 7.3 million.
Our headquarters is based on the wetlands in the North Bay which maybe one day we’ll have to move out of.
Our priority is addressing rapid environmental change.
I’m going to spend a little bit of time summarizing some of the latest science on climate change globally.
I’ll talk about some of our findings here in California and in the Bay area in terms of ecosystems and climate change and talk about some possible solutions and then throw out some ideas to consider for the role that you play on the Commission.
So carbon dioxide is at the highest level that it’s been in 15 to 20 million years.
Our current emissions into the atmosphere is at around 390 parts per million. If we continue in business as usual we’ll be up at somewhere between 6 and 700 parts per million, way above, at least what has been the background amount over all these years before humanity has taken its toll on nature.
A new study came out last December showing that not only is it back 800,000 years but if you go back, the last time in the history of the Earth that there was this much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere the sea level was about 75 to a 120 feet higher and temperatures were 5 to 10 degrees warmer.
Ocean acidification is the other major issue that we have not truly dealt with yet in our society but it is already taking off.
The formation of carbonic acid is increasing as carbon molecules meet the top layer of the ocean and the bottom is pH and as pH goes down it gets more acidic.
A new study just came out last week that shows that lower pH in the past in the ocean equaled mass extinctions particularly of calcified organisms.
And those populations were then dominated by jellies and algae taking over.
There are some people in Washington that think with the heavy snowstorms that we experienced last winter that that meant that climate change was a hoax. It’s not real.
Unfortunately they are wrong. This past decade was the warmest decade on record yet. And, in fact, this year has been the warmest year to date on record.
Where you had some of the hottest anomalies were in parts of Russia.
A new study came out that talked about the fact that the urban heat island effect is probably contributing to accelerating warming globally.
Another result of warming is that there is a 40 percent decline in phytoplankton in the oceans since 1950.
Phytoplankton are the plant plankton that float in the ocean that translate solar energy into energy that feeds the food web. They’re at the bottom of the marine food web and are essential for life on Earth.
In fact, every other molecule of air that we breathe comes from the ocean. Without those plants in the ocean producing as they should be it threatens not just the ocean’s food web but life on Earth as we know it.
This is a huge finding and something that we absolutely must be paying attention to.
In addition, ice sheets are melting faster. In Antarctica it’s warming up faster all over Antarctica than had been suspected.
Imagine Antarctica imposed on North America. It’s the size of the United States and Mexico together but two miles thick ice across the whole thing and is starting to melt there. This allows the land based ice to come into the ocean more rapidly and cause sea level rise.
The rate of global sea level rise is already two times faster than was predicted in 2007 in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report.
The latest studies are showing that we are very likely to experience up to six feet of sea level rise over the next 100 years.
Another prediction that is already coming true is that with increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and increase in global warming is that we will see dramatic increases in extreme, unpredictable and deadly weather events across the world.
And this summer we saw record floods in Pakistan. This is supposedly the single biggest natural disaster that’s occurred.
But this is exactly what is predicted and it’s starting to happen on a scale that will ultimately not just impact Asia but will impact all of us across the world.
The three events of record breaking heat in Russia and fires, mudslides in China are all linked to the same anomalies; a warming Atlantic Ocean at the same time as you had a La Nina effect in the central Pacific and it caused this huge rains from a high in one place to a low in another and that rain just sort of sit right over Pakistan and incredible heat and dry weather in other places.
American West temperatures are rising two times faster than the rest of the world.
It takes about two to three decades for the ocean to absorb the impact of increased heat in the atmosphere.
The kinds of extreme weather events that will likely experience in the future will be that much greater unless we begin to pull back.
The amount of fog on the West Coast over the past 100 years has declined and that has huge impacts on the health of the Coastal Redwoods but also on communities such as San Francisco.
Wave height extremes are already increasing and that we could see wave heights of up to 46 feet in extreme weather events in the Northwest over the next 100 years.
We are already experiencing water shortages and the beginning of the loss of the permanent snow pack in the Sierras where two-thirds of our water comes from.
For the city of San Francisco our water comes from the Sierras and that is projected to be completely gone by 2070 to 2080. What do we do for managing water?
Right now our water storage system is set up to manage where we have a gradual spring and summer snow melt. So those dams will have to be used to manage instead heavy rain fall and have to be left open and not store water.
So it’s a big challenge to the infrastructure as we have developed it over the past 100 years.
There are huge challenges to biodiversity.
The Pikas in the high Sierras used to be at the lowest elevation of 7,500 feet, today their lowest elevation is around 9,000 feet; nine of the 25 western populations are extinct already.
Birds of many kinds have been adversely affected by climate change.
We’ve seen a great increase in ocean variability, another prediction of climate change.
The warming effects of El Nino actually cause our local ocean ecology to be less productive.
In songbird populations, climate change by 2070 will cause many ecological communities to be very different from what we have today.
Over 50 percent of California will have entirely different ecological communities than what we know today.
The bottom line is that we as humans rely on healthy ecosystems for basic ecosystem services or benefits to human communities.
We can’t continue business as usual. We have to not only stop greenhouse gas emissions but we have to conserve ecosystems side-by-side with that.
To sustain the human well-being in the Bay area we have to implement ecological and economic strategies jointly.
We have to address sea level rise and plan for extreme and unpredictable events.
We need to secure clean water and clean air for our survival.
And if we have ocean acidification accelerating as it is it has enormous implications for survival on our planet as we know it.
We need to manage for ecosystem health and biodiversity and all the benefits that gives us.
We need to think about how all this fits into sustaining economic growth and jobs.
So we need to start managing for rapid change now. And that means incorporating ecosystem-function issues into all types of urban planning.
We have to have adaptive management. We have to know that when we’ve invested this money and taken all these efforts knowing the rate of change around us what’s happening because we may decide to change track mid way if we have enough information to do that.
This kind of adaptive management requires everyone working together.
We need to expedite tidal wetland and urban creek restoration and the whole range of ecosystem services.
We have formed a new partnership here in the Bay area that we are calling the Bay Area Ecosystems Climate Change Consortium to break down some of the historic barriers between institutions and between more academic scientists and natural resource managers.
We need to think out of the box. What are the things that we need to do with the threats that we have?
We need to plant more drought-resistant natives and plants in general to reduce that heat sink in the cities because we will have more and more of extreme heat days.
We have to scale up the habitats, cool the micro-climates, strengthen the water cycle and it can provide habitat for birds, wildlife and butterflies and other wildlife.
We should prioritize and expand other local adaptation efforts.
Clearly the single biggest step forward that we can make today is energy efficiency and reducing our carbon footprint while also producing many jobs.
Are there other ways to create sustainable jobs and to create the housing needed for the population growth other than building at sea level?
Engaging young people in restoration and outside activities is a great way to permanently imbue them with these values.
Key drivers for a sustainable future are water, carbon and biodiversity. And whatever we do we need to keep these three things in mind and figure out how to address all of them to have a secure future.
In summary, climate change is rapidly accelerating. Ecosystem health has to be an equal priority to greenhouse gas reduction.
We can use nature to slow the impacts of climate change and allow more time for nature to adapt and human communities to adapt.
We need to plan for extremes and accept there will be losses.
We have to engage in novel partnerships in ways we never have before and we have to think out of the city.
Thank you very much.
Chair Randolph asked if there were any questions from the public or the Commission on Ms. Cohen’s presentation.
Executive Director Travis wanted to know if the presentation and slides were available on her website.
Ms. Cohen answered that they were and she would love for anyone who was interested to use them.
10. Consideration of Strategic Plan Status Report. Executive Director Travis commented to the Commissioners that we would request your approval to change two of the deadlines in the Strategic Plan.
MOTION: Commissioner Wagenknecht moved, seconded by Commissioner Wieckowski, the motion passed unanimously by voice vote.
11. New Business. There was no new business.
12. Old Business. There was no old business.
13. Adjournment. Chair Randolph entertained a motion to adjourn. Upon motion by Commissioner Reagan, seconded by Vice Chair Halsted, the meeting adjourned at 2:58 p.m.
Approved, with no corrections, at the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission Meeting of October 7, 2010
R. SEAN RANDOLPH, Chair