JULY 2021
What do rock walls across Delta water channels, brown lawns, bans on hoses, and red flag fire warnings have in common? California’s deepening drought. Up in the Delta, the state is once again piling up rocks in False River to prevent salty ocean tides from intruding too far inland, and too close to intakes for the state’s water supply pumps. Meanwhile, the Governor has asked every Californian to reduce water use by 15%, on the heels of at least four water districts around the Bay Area asking the same or more of them. Among drought, heat and water-shortage combat actions, EBMUD is purchasing back-up generators to ensure water delivery during public safety power shut offs; Sonoma is scrutinizing new opportunities for groundwater recharge; and some cities are reconsidering residential grey water systems. A new drought resource guide compiled by the Bay Area Climate Adaptation Network rounds up the best reports, portals, and local project examples in one document – helping cities and counties think about new ways to adapt to drier, hotter, more fiery conditions. The Los Angeles Times argues that this is not a drought, but rather our new climate, stating "the years of steady and predictable water flow are over, and there is no sign of them coming back in our lifetimes. This is it. We have to build, and grow, and legislate, and consume for the world as it is, not as we may remember it."
False River barrier being built. Photo: DWR
Sophia Zaleski
Regional leaders approved a joint platform of nine actions and 21 tasks this June aimed at galvanizing the Bay Area into collaboration on sea level rise adaptation. Actions range from rooting planning in communities to raising more money for resilience and making the best local science and technical support accessible to all. The platform also “centers the most vulnerable” – 28,000 disadvantaged people in the future flood zone and wildlife in drowning wetlands. Leaders approving the platform commended the effort to address so many governance challenges: “Corralling this to where it is today quite a feat,” said the Bay Area Council’s Adrian Covert; “This document gets the balance between local responsibility and the regional role of a catalyst and supporting force pretty darn right, ” added Marin County’s Jack Liebster; “What is a platform? It is something to stand on moving forward,” summed up Mark Lubell of UC Davis. Art copyright: Sophia Zaleski/Acclimatewest
Last call for public comments on Plan Bay Area 2050 is July 20. In the past, Plan Bay Area focused more on where to locate housing and transit hubs, but the latest version from MTC/ABAG raises some deeper questions about where we’re at: “Does the region strategically move from isolation and fear into a future that is more affordable, diverse, connected, healthy and vibrant for every Bay Area resident, or do we continue down a path of inequality?” It also fills in the details of strong action to adapt to sea level rise, walking hand-in-hand with the Bay-Adapt joint platform to promote regional resilience.
East Bay Regional Parks recently finished analyzing which reaches of Bay Trail are most likely to be flooded by sea level rise. The analysis highlights eight areas of high risk and goes into more depth on two sites, where planners hope to model adaptation options. A site in Berkeley’s Eastshore State Park near Schoolhouse Creek (see image) seems most achievable in the near future, says planner Chantal Alatorre. “Many sites have more complex political and jurisdictional challenges to adaptation than engineering and scientific ones, but this one already has strong public interest and support.” 

San Francisco has updated its Floodplain Management Ordinance in response to a new Flood Insurance Rate Map published by FEMA, which went into effect on March 23rd. The map supports a national program through which the federal government makes flood insurance available at affordable rates in the city. Information on the ordinance and which properties are located in special flood hazard areas can be found at City of San Francisco’s Office of Resilience and Capital Planning.
In the Bay Area, the zip code you’re born into can swing your life expectancy by 20 years relative to neighboring communities. But when a new report was released from the Bay Area Regional Health Inequities Initiative (BARHII)—a coalition focused on closing that gaping health disparity—the focus wasn’t lifestyle, healthcare, or policy. It was all about resilient climate change planning.

BARHII’s report, dubbed Farther Together, is rich with Bay-Area-specific examples of effective community engagement, as well as advice from experts working at the nexus of grassroots groups and long-term environmental planning. Crucially, Farther Together doesn’t stop at listing idealized recommendations: it also highlights regional groups that have demonstrated each of these guidelines in action. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission gets a shout out for creating an online, multilingual game about local sea level rise planning. The California Coastal Commission is praised for providing free meals for community members who attend climate change engagement meetings. 

The Farther Together report concludes with an entreaty for all organizations involved in climate adaptation in the Bay Area to “[make] community engagement on par with other core planning activities, such as geophysical modeling and civil engineering.” By breaking the goal of “meaningful engagement” into bite-sized steps, BARHII has effectively removed a common excuse for organizations to avoid doing the work: not knowing where to start.
Connecting local community groups with shoreline project proponents will help increase equity in planning and permitting resilience projects. By filling out this BCDC survey (red button) community-based organizations serving vulnerable residents and neighborhoods can begin to build bridges with those planning for sea level rise adaptation on their shores.
While monarch butterfly numbers at traditional winter roosts on the California coast hit an all-time low of about 2000 last winter, observers have noticed that some remain in the San Francisco Bay Area year-round. Biologists Elizabeth Crone and Cheryl Schulz estimate a resident population of 12,000 in northern and central California. The shift could reflect warmer and drier conditions or increased fall and winter availability of tropical milkweed and other food sources. Climate effects on either the decline of the migrants or the recent behavioral change are hard to verify. “We can’t tell just from the data we have now whether it’s land use or climate change that’s driving the decline,” Crone explains. “There’s a stronger correlation with the development of land along the coast and the use of pesticides.”

The US Fish & Wildlife Service hasn’t reversed the Trump administration’s refusal to list the monarch as endangered, and a court decision last year excluded insects from protection under the California Endangered Species Act. Meanwhile, gardeners can help by planting monarch chow. “Adult monarchs need more than milkweed,” Crone notes. “They need a lot of different nectar plants to enable them to fly farther, live longer, and lay more eggs.” While recommending native milkweed if available, Crone says the jury is out on tropical milkweed: “We don’t know if it’s good or bad. I wouldn’t encourage people to pull it up, but many other conservationists would.”
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Resources for Butterfly Gardeners
A collaboration between a giant restoration project and a local flood district will build flood resiliency for low-lying communities in the South Bay. The 50-year South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project, begun in 2007, is collaborating with San Mateo County Flood and Sea Level Rise Resiliency District to build a stormwater diversion project that protects low-lying urban communities in the South Bay. A portion of the Restoration Project’s Ravenswood Ponds are being enhanced as managed wildlife habitat most of the year, but during major storm events, they will be used to divert excess flows from the Bayfront Canal and Atherton Channel. As waters rise, the ponds will empty into neighboring sloughs so that they can fill with stormwater and, in turn, drain the stormwater and fill back up with baywater when the waters recede.  These kinds of multi-benefit designs (similar to urban flood detention basin-cum-ballparks like McKelvey Park in Mountain View) allow for greater flexibility in climate change resilience planning. Furthermore, they offer simultaneous solutions to the salt pond project’s stated three-pronged goal to restore habitat, provide public access, and manage flood risks in the South Bay. “If you’re going to manage these lands for wildlife, you can’t do it in isolation,” says project manager David Halsing, discussing the challenges of a project taking place in the first and largest urban wildlife refuge. “Necessarily, everything we do is multi-benefit.”
Diagram: Multi-benefit cross-section for San Mateo County Flood and Sea Level Rise Resilience District.
On a bright Saturday this July a group of 18 people coming from all ages with a shared passion for environmental justice gathered at the Judge John Sutter regional park to explore local native species and shipyard history, and begin a six month training program. The training was hosted by the new Oakland Shoreline Leadership Academy. Speakers from the East Bay Regional Park District, Spare The Air, and the California Environmental Protection Agency shared stories. Along the shoreline trail, there are some restoration efforts to bring back native species such as white sage (Salvia Apiana) and coyote brush (Baccharis pilularis). Youths were having fun learning to recognize them by smell, size, and shape. Later in the day, there was a presentation on shipyard history and current cleaning progress. After hearing the effect of leftover Naval wastes on humans and animals, leadership academy participants raised concerns and asked questions, and learned more about the nuances of contamination clean-ups. In the end, the team returned for lunch and debrief where closer interactions with the field experts were possible. This first day of training equipped participants with information on potential ways to help protect our parks and environments from pollution and climate change. As a first-time observer, I thought it was an amazing opportunity to learn about the hidden environmental justice struggles by the Bay! --Audrey Xu Youth Reporter

Kyler Williams
When I was small, I was always told half of my clans are from water. My mother used to say you're half born from water, and you're half born from Earth, you are a combination of both. Everyone is a combination of both. Water is the most important element, but here at my hogan, we don't have running water. And this requires us to get water from other places on the Navajo Nation, whether it be wells or my grandparents house or other people's houses. In this podcast, high-schooler Kyler Williams talks about water in his culture and his daily life. Illustration KW.
In late June, Governor Newsom and legislative leaders agreed to spend $3.7 billion over the next three years on climate resilience statewide.

Up to $440 million is to be spent during the fiscal year that began on July 1. The agreement does not specify how the funds will be allocated; negotiations over the details are continuing.

"Cities and counties are where the real work of adaptation planning and implemen-tation occurs. We hope the final budget recognizes this basic fact and provides the needed support," says the SF Estuary Institute's Warner Chabot.
Following a lightning speed grant process, 17 Bay Area governments, tribes, fire districts, parks, and other agencies are set to receive more than $6 million in state wildfire resilience funding through the Coastal Conservancy. The money is part of the $536 million in fire prevention funding for this year that Governor Newsom announced in April. Upon receiving a total of $12 million—to be spent statewide before the start of the 2021 fire season—the Conservancy issued a request for proposals with just a two-week turn-around, and received 81 proposals requesting a total of $48 million. Thirty-three projects throughout the state were approved on June 7. “We prioritized projects that were going to start by August and reduce fire risk in the wildland-urban interface,” says the Conservancy’s Mary Small. The funded projects showcase diverse vegetation management strategies. Photo: Fuel reduction crew.
Some new research from the Greenbelt Alliance addresses the urgency of Bay Area wildfire prevention planning. In a report titled The Critical Role of Greenbelts in Wildfire Resilience, the organization calls for action and advocates for the potential leadership role the Bay Area can play in advancing green space as a land-use solution for wildfire risk in the Western US. The white paper outlines four types of greenbelts that play a role in reducing loss of life and property, like open space, orchards, planned zones within subdivisions, and recreational greenways like bike paths. It also makes four policy recommendations and includes a video sharing expert opinion on greenbelt resilience. 

Graphic: Four types of greenbelts, Greenbelt Alliance.
This pilot bi-monthly review is produced by Acclimatewest in collaboration with the Bay Area Regional Collaborative, Bay-Adapt, Bay Area Climate Action Network, Mycelium, and San Francisco Estuary Partnership. Views expressed are independent of all collaborators.

This fall RARA will grow into a more substantial online magazine. If you would like to join our project or have ideas for improving it, please email us.

Publisher: Ariel Rubissow Okamoto.
Managing Editor: Michael Adamson.
Writers: Cariad Hayes Thronson (fire), Sierra Garcia (BARHII), Joe Eaton (Monarchs), Audrey Xu (academy).
Design: Afsoon Razavi
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