BCDC has adopted a mission statement which reflects its two primary mandated responsibilities:
The Bay Conservation and Development Commission is dedicated to the protection and enhancement of San Francisco Bay and to the encouragement of the Bay's responsible use.
The Commission has adopted a strategic plan that includes ongoing goals and short term objectives.
The Commission has been remarkably successful in achieving its mission. Before 1965, an average of about 2,300 acres were being filled each year. Now only a few acres are filled annually-all for critical water-oriented needs. Even this small loss of water area is being mitigated by opening diked areas. As a result, the Bay is now larger than it was when BCDC was established.
When BCDC was established, only four miles of the Bay shoreline were open to public access. By drawing attention to the Bay, the Commission has played a major role in making the Bay and its shoreline a national recreational treasure. The Golden Gate National Recreational Area and numerous local, regional, and state parks and recreation areas have been established around the Bay since the Commission was established. The Commission has also approved thousands of new boat berths and has required that public access be provided along 65 miles of the shoreline as part of new waterfront projects. Now over 200 miles of the Bay shoreline are open to the public.
In 1965 opponents of Bay protection argued that saving the Bay could only be achieved at the cost of sacrificing economic growth. Contrary to this fear, the Bay Area economy has continued to expand in part because the Commission has approved billions of dollars of construction and worked with local governments on special area plans to encourage new development.
By providing strong support for maritime development, BCDC has helped San Francisco Bay maintain its role as one of the great ship-ping centers of the world. The Commission has also prepared a regional seaport plan to guide port expansion so that it can be done in the way that is least damaging to the Bay's natural resources.
By preventing wetlands and mudflats from being filled, by encouraging restoration of degraded marshes, by supporting the continued and productive use of salt ponds, and by preserving the 85,000-acre Suisun Marsh for agricultural use, duck hunting clubs, and wildlife refuges, the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge and the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge have been established to further protect some portions of the Bay. BCDC has played an important role in supporting restoration of Bay wetlands.
Around the Bay, the visible results of Bay protection are apparent. Garbage dumps have been made into parks. Once neglected waterfronts are now heavily used and much enjoyed by the public. In a stark departure from the past when buildings were often faced away from the Bay in fear that a view of the Bay might become a view of a landfill, now many attractive restaurants, shops, residences, and other structures grace the Bay shoreline, taking full advantage of their scenic locations.
Almost every day, many of the people who live in the Bay region see the Bay. Whether from their homes, their places of work, or their travels in between, they can enjoy the visual magic and majesty of the Bay; they can watch the Bay being protected. This frequent visual evaluation of its work keeps the San Francisco Bay Commission diligent and makes it proud of what it has accomplished.
BCDC'S Role in Bay Governance
In the over third of a century since BCDC was established, a number of state and federal laws have been enacted which contribute to the protection of San Francisco Bay. Under the federal Clean Water Act the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board regulate discharges into the Bay and protect Bay Area wetlands. The National Environmental Policy Act and the California Environmental Quality Act provide government agencies and members of the public with the critical information they need to evaluate whether development in and around the Bay should be authorized. The federal Coastal Zone Management Act established a voluntary partnership between coastal states and the federal government to protect the national interest in coastal resource management. And the California Coastal Act was passed to protect the state's Pacific Ocean coastal zone. BCDC was not made redundant by the passage of these laws nor does BCDC duplicate the roles of other agencies. Instead, the Commission plays a critical role in Bay governance, a role which complements the responsibilities and authorities of other public agencies involved in Bay protection and development.
The Commission's large and diverse membership--which includes representatives of virtually everyone who has an interest in the Bay--allows BCDC to serve as a forum where affected agencies and interests can gather to coordinate their perspectives. As a result, BCDC's decisions often represent a political consensus of what is in the best interest of the Bay.
BCDC has become an integral part of Bay governance by recognizing that local governments, acting alone, cannot fully address regional issues and by providing an effective mechanism to focus state and federal laws and policies on a regional resource of national significance. The effort to protect the Bay is a continuing struggle that requires public awareness and the hard work of many agencies and organizations who have joined BCDC in its commitment to make San Francisco Bay better.
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