service matters

March/April 98

Issue No. 33

The Bay-Delta Estuary

Status Report on Conservation and Restoration Achievements

ABAG's San Francisco Estuary Project recently released The State of the Estuary, 1992-97, a report which examines the health of the estuary's waters, wetlands, wildlife, watershed, and aquatic ecosystem. It also summarizes scientific advances in our understanding and management of these ecosystems. The report is one of several means by which the Estuary Project seeks to educate the public about the importance of the San Francisco Bay- Sacramento-San Joaquin-Delta Estuary, and involve residents in its protection and restoration.


The San Francisco Bay and the Delta form the West Coast's largest estuary. This is where the fresh waters of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers and watersheds meet the Pacific Ocean, forming a vibrant aquatic habitat.

Today, the estuary encompasses roughly 1,600 square miles. Runoff from more than 40% of the state's land drains into rivers and lakes that feed the estuary. It provides drinking water to approximately 20 million Californians (two-thirds of the State's population) and irrigates 4.5 million acres of farmland. Two-thirds of the state's salmon and nearly half the birds migrating along the Pacific Flyway stop off in the Bay-Delta. Managing the estuary requires a delicate compromise between water demand and water quality, and between economic and environmental concerns. Today, many government, business, environmental and community interests agree that estuary use cannot be sustained without large-scale environmental restoration.


Over the years, mining, logging, large-scale farming, damming and pumping degraded the estuary's health. It is only since the clean air, water and wildlife protection laws of the 1970s that conservation and restoration of the estuary has become a priority. In the last ten years, the push to preserve specific species, wetlands and resources has translated into a need to sustain and even restore whole biological communities and ecosystems.

Although problems persist, the San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary is in better shape today than in 1992, when the Estuary Project issued its first report. Some of those improvements are due to natural causes; for instance, the storms of January 1997 reduced salinity rates in the San Francisco Bay to their lowest point in 30 years. In addition, a host of public-private and governmental efforts have been launched, making great strides to enhance, restore or protect (through public purchase) substantial tracts of wetlands; clean up and improve conditions in numerous creeks and watersheds; and reduce selenium, copper and rice-pesticide discharges to waterways. As a result, the decline of many endangered species, such as the Chinook salmon, has been halted; and waterfowl and shorebirds continue to stop over in large numbers.

"For more than one hundred years, the wetlands around the Estuary have been severely affected by human activities," said Mike Monroe, an environmental scientist with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. "Now, with the days of rampant wetland filling behind us, we are moving into an era of increased appreciation of wetlands and the important role they play in the estuarine ecosystem."

In the late 1980s, the Estuary Project identified five critical Bay-Delta management issues on which to focus: the decline of biological resources; the diversion and alteration of freshwater flows; increased dredging; increased pollution; and intensified land use. Of these five, only the land use issue remains un-addressed on a large scale. However, piecemeal efforts have been made to reduce storm water pollution and develop environmental planning tools for local governments.


The more fresh water that flows into the estuary, the better its health. Freshwater inflows improve estuarine circulation patterns, water quality, and increase the number of fish, plants, and other organisms. Starting in the 1930s, major water developments began to change these natural cycles by controlling the volume and timing of fresh-water flows for flood control, agriculture and municipal purposes. Today, diversions to cities, farms and other uses remove more than half of the water that would otherwise reach the Bay.

Nearly half (46%) of the state's total water supply is currently used for agriculture, but demand from California's cities and suburbs is expected to increase. Population growth is expected to elevate urban water demand from 11% to 15% of the total water supply by 2020. Historically, at least two-thirds of statewide demand has been supplied by the Bay-Delta watershed.

To counteract the stress this exerts on the estuary, the state is planning to increase water efficiency planning. However, the two activities that could reduce demand the most-retiring farming on a large-scale and reducing water subsidies to agriculture-remain contentious.


Water supply, navigation/dredging and flood control projects have reduced the Bay's open water by one-third. As valuable wetland and shallow water habitats have been destroyed, the estuary's ability to sustain large populations of economically important fish and shellfish species has diminished. Seventy-five percent of fish species native to Bay creeks maintain healthy populations. But, winter-run salmon in the Sacramento river have been designated a federal and state endangered species, and the number of striped bass is at a historic low.

Even more alarming, 212 non-native organisms have established themselves in the estuary's water's and wetlands. Some of these invaders have dramatically altered habitats, contributing to the reduction and extinction of native species. This is likely to have implications further up the food chain.

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For example, phytoplankton that sustain native invertebrates and juvenile fish, are consumed at an alarming rate by the invading clam, Potamo-corbula amurensis. Chinese mitten crabs are near the Delta, where their burrowing may undermine levees. And Atlantic Zebra Mussels, known to clog water intakes, are near our borders.


{short description of image}The wetlands and riparian corridors along the Estuary's shores are some of the most ecologically and economically important components of the Bay-Delta system. They provide food and shelter to fish and wildlife, flood and water quality protection, erosion control, as well as waterfront open space and recreational opportunities.

Nevertheless, development has resulted in the loss or conversion of more than 500,000 acres of tidal wetlands and thousands of acres of shoreline and stream habitat. In the Bay Area, 82% of the approximately 200,000 acres of tidal and brackish wetlands have been converted to other types of wetland or non-wetland uses. In the Delta, 97% of the 345,000 acres of freshwater wetlands have been converted to other uses, primarily agricultural. More than half of the estuary's approximately 600,000 acres of wetlands is currently used for agricultural purposes.

Wetland loss has slowed since the 1970s. But shoreline wetlands continue to be threatened by, among other things, highway and bridge construction, airport expansion and shoreline development. Further from the Bay, residential, commercial and industrial development including flood control and transportation projects encroach.

The San Francisco Bay Area Wetlands Ecosystem Goals Project is attempting to identify the variety, amount, and distribution of wetlands needed to support a healthy eco-system in the Bay Area. These benchmarks will serve as the scientific backbone for a Regional Wetlands Management Plan.


Since the mid-1970s, high concentrations of sediment-bound mercury, silver, lead, copper, and extremely toxic organochlorines such as PCBs and DDT have been reduced in the Bay.

The decline is due to decreased mining and other industrial activities, and billion-dollar investments in advanced waste treatment by municipalities. However, many contaminants persist, concentrating as they move up the food chain.

Although banned for more than 20 years, PCBs, along with dioxin and mercury, have accumulated in Bay fish to levels unsafe for human consumption. Similarly, selenium concentrations appear to be on the rise and are threatening higher levels of fish and waterfowl.

{short description of image}The biological effects of estuary pollution tend to be lowest in the Central Bay, which is flushed daily by strong tidal action. Pollutants tend to concentrate a bit more in the South Bay, which it is shallow and enclosed. The greatest impact has been in the North Bay at the Napa River, the Suisun Bay, and the confluence of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers. This is probably the result of pulses of pesticides from farm drainage and trace metals from mine runoff.

Despite significant improvements in stormwater management since the Clean Water Act was amended, agri-cultural and urban runoff continues to contaminate the Bay. Of particular concern are the nearly one million pounds of diazinon, chlorpyrifos, malathion and methidathion applied to Central Valley fruit orchards each year. In a study conducted during the 1992 rainy season, 30% of all water samples were toxic. Diazinon appeared in 90% of those toxic samples.

More scientists, resource managers, educators and concerned citizens are involved in analyzing and monitoring estuarine conditions than ever before. Yet, despite a wealth of data, our understanding of how the estuarine system works and responds to management changes is still far from complete.

According to a 1996 Estuary Project "report card" on Bay-Delta environmental management, 59 of 145 actions detailed in a management plan to protect fish wildlife, wetlands and watersheds have had moderate to full implementation since 1992.

Significant progress has been made in this short span of years. However, after decades of exploitation and abuse, substantial work remains to be done. "We still need to draw a relevance between preservation of the Estuary and the quality of people's lives and involve government officials in the call to action," said Reuben Barrales, San Mateo County Supervisor and BCDC Commissioner, at the State of the Estuary Conference. "We need more diversity in our effort to protect the Estuary."

For more information or to request a copy of the State of the Estuary report, call the San Francisco Estuary Project at 510/286-0460 or visit their website at Look for the next State of the Estuary Conference in the fall of 1998.

Bay Area Futures

Where Will We Live and Work? {short description of image}

The San Francisco Bay Area's natural beauty, robust economy, and cultural vitality continue to make it an attractive place to live. Today, seven million people and thousands of national and international corporations make their home in the region, and those numbers are expected to grow. However, most of the Bay Area's new housing is being built in its outer suburbs, far from areas where jobs are concentrated. The region's highways are frequently congested with traffic, and already high housing prices are continuing to skyrocket.

The Bay Area's long term viability will be determined in large part by how we use our remaining land. Yet, land use decisions are complicated by the fact that people hold widely different ideas about what constitutes an appropriate use, and pace, of development.

To help community, political and business leaders cope with the challenges caused by growth in our region, the San Francisco District Council of the Urban Land Institute, with support from the Bay Area Council, commissioned the Association of Bay Area Governments to produce a report on the evolving pattern of land use in the Bay Area. The result was the report, Bay Area Futures: Where Will We Live and Work?

The report begins by tracing the historical development in the region, maps current land use, and identifies land designated for future development.

The next four sections examine recent development actiivity and provide forecasts of future growth in each of four subregions: the South Bay: Santa Clara County; the West Bay: San Mateo, San Francisco, and Marin counties; the East Bay: Alameda and Contra Costa counties; and the North Bay: Solano, Sonoma, and Napa counties.

The concluding section examines issues that emerge from the detailed forecasts, but are more regional in scope, such as affordable housing, and the relative proximity between housing, jobs and transportation.

The outstanding feature of Bay Area Futures is the maps. ABAG produced what is believed to be the first-ever GIS (geographical information system) maps on land use in the Bay Area. The maps are an excellent tool for visualizing the geographic distribution of land use activity, per square mile and in full color.

Copies of Bay Area Futures are available from ABAG for $18 (including $3 postage and handling), plus your local sales tax. Refer to catalog number P97010PRO.

A Closer Look at Projections 98

When ABAG released Projections 98, we learned that the Bay Area can expect 1.4 million new residents and 1.4 million new jobs between the years 1995 and 2020.

Now that the initial fury has subsided, there is time to take a closer look at the numbers for additional insight into the patterns of growth that we can expect.

An examination of the charts that rank Bay Area cities for job and population growth forecast between 2000 and 2020 provides alarming information about the mismatch between the location of job and population growth.

The jobs/housing imbalance has been an issue on the regional radarscreen for some time; but the data found in Projections 98 emphasizes the cause for concern.

Looking at the top 15 cities ranked for new jobs, three cities are forecast to add a moderate number of new jobs in excess of new residents (in the range of about 1200 to 2500 more jobs than residents). [Vallejo will add 1,190 more jobs than residents; Pleasanton will add 1550 more jobs; and Santa Rosa will add 2,470 more.]

However, eight cities are forecast to add far more jobs than residents, the differences ranging from about 10,000 to over 85,000. [Hayward will add 9,900 more jobs than residents; Fremont will add 10,390 more jobs; Sunnyvale will add 10,910 more; Milpitas will add 13,760 more; Oakland will add 17,510 more; Santa Clara will add 19,380 more; San Ramon will add 19,730 more; and San Francisco will add a whopping 85,200 more jobs than new residents.]

For these eight cities alone, there will be 217,370 more jobs than new residents. Conversely, when looking at the top 15 cities ranked for population growth between 2000 and 2020, only four are expected to gain more new jobs than residents. [Vallejo will gain 1,490 more jobs than residents; Pleasanton will add 1,550 more jobs; Santa Rosa will gain 2,470 more jobs; and Fremont will gain 10,390 more jobs than residents.]

The remaining 11 communities will add far more new residents than jobs, with the differences ranging from about 4,700 to 32,390. [Livermore is forecast to add 4,710 more residents than new jobs; Dublin will add 12,820 more residents; Windsor will add 14,010; Brentwood will add 15,170; Pittsburg will add 16,340; Rio Vista will add 17,780; Vacaville will add 20,620; Fairfield will add 20,020; Antioch will add 21,040; "Rural East Contra Costa County" will add 26,420; and San Jose will add 32,390 more residents than new jobs.]

These 11 communities are forecast to add 202,320 more residents than jobs.

The data in Projections 98 forecasts job growth and population growth that is clearly out of balance; it quanitifies the warnings we have heard for years. If we are to address issues like traffic congestion, air quality and urban sprawl, we must tackle the jobs/housing imbalance in this region and actively promote policies and programs that encourage affordable housing adjacent to jobs and transit.

Projections 98 (report+diskette) is $200 (+local sales tax, & shipping/handling); 20% discount for members. Ask for catalog number P98001PRO.

Spring General Assembly · Friday, April 17, 1998

The Radisson Hotel at the Berkeley Marina

Co-sponsored by the Association of Bay Area Governments and the Urban Land Institute


Keynote Speaker: Tony Downs, The Brookings Institute

Prices are $70 for members of ABAG or the ULI; $85 for non-members. To request a brochure with full agenda and registration information, please contact Debbi Nichols at 510/464-7965 or e-mail

Take Note

The Price of Self-Sufficiency in the Bay Area

Fueled in part by the national push to move welfare recipients more quickly into the workplace, the Washington, D.C.-based group "Wider Opportunities for Women" developed what they called the "self-sufficiency standard" in 1996. The standard estimates the minimum amount of money working adults need to meet their family's basic needs for housing, childcare, food, transportation, medical care and taxes. The calculations, published in The Self Sufficiency Standard for California, assume that the adult(s) in the household work full-time; therefore, it includes costs associated with employment; specifically childcare and transportation. The standard takes into account cost variations based on geography, particularly in housing, as well as family size and the age of household members. It also assumes that the household receives no subsidies, public or private.

For example, a single-parent, with one preschool child, living in Sonoma County would need $1,840 a month, or $10.50 an hour, to achieve self sufficiency. In San Francisco, where jobs are more plentiful but housing is quite expensive, the stakes are higher. Here a single parent would need to earn $2,550 per month or $14.50 per hour. Both hourly wages far exceed the pay of most entry-level or unskilled jobs.

Not surprisingly, households with two wage-earners fare better. A San Francisco couple with one preschool child would need $2,880 per month to cover their basic needs, only $330 more than a single-parent family in the same city. Plus, the adults would each need to earn only $8.20 per hour, within the reach of many entry-level or minimally skilled jobs-but just barely. This document should be a useful tool for policymakers and service providers.

For more information, contact Wider Opportunities for Women at 202/638-3143.

Report Card on Bay Area Schools

The Bay Area Council recently released a report entitled, "Performance Profile of{short description of image} Bay Area School Districts." This report is a compilation of approximately 30 graphs showing Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) score results from our local Bay Area schools, primarily by county and district. The information provided in the report is derived from the California High School Performance Report by the State Department of Education for each district in the state.

The report compares California's SAT scores to the nation during the years 1971/72 to 1995/96, compares the average SAT scores by region and county, presents the percentage change in average SAT scores for Bay Area counties between 1986-1987 and 1995-1996, details graduation rates by county from 1995-1996, and identifies each county's average SAT scores by individual district.

For example, in the 1995-96 school year, 36.45% of all students were tested statewide; and 20.2% placed above average. For that same year, 43.87% of all students in the nine-county region were tested and 27.48% placed above average.

For Alameda County, 26.90% tested above average; in Contra Costa County 32.6%; Marin County, 38.3%; Napa County 27.1%; San Francisco 26.2%; San Mateo County 24.2%; Santa Clara County 27.6%; Solano County 17.5%; and in Sonoma County, 23.6% tested above average.

The information in the report serves as a measure of performance so that parents, educators, employers, and civic leaders can work together to improve the education and performance of students in all Bay Area Schools.

To request a copy of this report, please contact the Bay Area Council at 415/981-6600.

Heads Up

Government Information Online

Online Reports from the Legislative Analyst's Office

Analyses of Ballot Measures for June 2, 1998
Prop. 223 (5% istrative expenditures for schools); Prop. 22(term limits for members of Congress); Prop. 227 (the English-only initiative). Are you informed?

Sheltering the Homeless: Alternatives to Armories
What is the most appropriate role for the state? Where can local governments find help?

CalWORKS Welfare Reform: Major Provisions and Issues (Jan. 98)
Key features, LAO fiscal analysis, recent changes, and implementation challenges ahead.

For any of these publications, go to and click on "New Reports."

Sustaining the Environmental and Economic Health of the San Francisco Bay

March 18 and 19 at the Presidio in San Francisco
Biodiversity · Building Sustainable Communities · Tour of Presidio Restoration Sites

Centers for Water and Wildland Resources, at 530/752-8345 or e-mail For online information or registration, go to


An Eco-Efficiency Conference

March 30 - April 3

Santa Clara Convention Center, Santa Clara

ABAG's Training Center presents a series of workshops designed to help companies save time and money through new, business-driven approaches to environmental management.

Discounts available to ABAG members.

For more information, call the HAZMACON Hotline at 510/464-8495

SUBREGIONAL PLANNING {short description of image}

In March, ABAG will distribute a Request For Proposal (RFP) which will provide local jurisdictions the opportunity to compete for subregional planning grants. This will be round three of the Subregional Planning Initiatives. ABAG's objective is to fund one or two new projects during the next fiscal year, while continuing to support projects already underway. The grant program was initiated by ABAG in 1994. The first round of subregional planning grants funded the preparation of comprehensive strategies in the Tri-Valley area of Alameda and Contra Costa counties, and in Sonoma County.

The second and most recent round of subregional planning grants supported the following new projects:

The Regional Planning Committee (RPC) has identified areas of emphasis that new subregional projects should strive to address. For the current round, we will be seeking projects that incorporate one or more of the following concepts: 1) transit-oriented development; 2) jobs housing balance; 3) welfare-to- work; 4) sustainability; and 5) dispute resolution.

The deadline for submitting proposals will be announced in the RFP. The selected projects should be chosen by June 1998.

For further information, contact Alex Amoroso at 510/464-7955, or e-mail

1998 calendar


March 5 - 10 am
Actuarial/Underwriting Committee for ABAG PLAN Corporation
Dublin City Hall

March 19 - 3:30 pm
Legislative & Governmental Organization Committee
ABAG Conference Room B

March 19 - 5 pm
Finance & Personnel Committee
ABAG Conference Room B

March 19 - 7:30 pm
Executive Board
MetroCenter Auditorium

March 20 - 10:00 am
ABAG POWER Technical Committee
ABAG conference room A

March 20 - 1 pm
ABAG POWER Community Aggregation Committee
ABAG Conference Room A

March 31 - 10 am
Heads Up Seminar (for city mgrs. and CAOs)
MetroCenter Auditorium


April 17 - 8:30 am
Spring General Assembly
Berkeley Marina Radisson
200 Marina Blvd., Berkeley

April 17 - 10 am
ABAG POWER Technical Committee
ABAG Conference Room A

April 17 - 1 pm
ABAG POWER Community Aggregation Committee
ABAG Conference Room A

Service Matters is a publication of the Association of Bay Area Governments, the planning and services agency for the San Francisco Bay Area's 9 counties and 100 cities.

Supervisor Mary King


Councilmember Doris Morse
Vice President

Councilmember Charlotte Powers
Immediate Past President

Eugene Y. Leong
Secretary/Treasurer and
Executive Director

Michelle Fadelli, Editor
Debbi Nichols, Production Coordinator
Laura Stuchinsky, Contributing Writer
Margo Yetemwork, Contributing Writer

Association of Bay Area Governments
P.O. Box 2050
Oakland, CA 94604-2050
Phone: 510/464-7900
Fax: 510/464-7970