Estuary News, November 2012 Issue


Estuary News, November 2012 Issue

Download Estuary Nov 2012 PDF

The current issue features articles on Delta history, urban runoff into the Bay, duck pond drainage issues, 40 years of changes in the Bay, water science townhall, and Cullinan Ranch restoration.


Featured Stories

DeltaHistoryUnearthing an Older Delta
If any scientific report could be called a page-turner, it would be Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Historical Ecology Investigation: Exploring Pattern and Process, a 408-page document prepared by Alison Whipple, Robin Grossinger, and their San Francisco Estuary Institute and Department of Fish and Game colleagues. Delta stakeholders have called the document “a truly significant contribution” and “a stunning piece of work,” but is it more than an exercise in nostalgia? Joe Eaton


caulkA Cautionary Tale about Caulk
Everyone’s seen buildings shrouded in black netting or white plastic, and heard the hum of industrial strength vacuums hoovering up chips of lead-laden paint and other toxic substances shed by remodeling and construction. The purpose of all this effort is to keep such substances out of the air and urban runoff into the Bay. The S.F. Estuary Partnership recently put the wraps on a three-year-project that might add one more substance to these cautionary scrap piles: caulk. Ariel Rubissow Okamoto


gooseDuck Ponds Run Afoul
There’s too much mercury and too little oxygen in some of the drainage from Suisun Marsh duck ponds, leaving public and private land managers experimenting with alternate management practices. The drainage problem occurs in fall, when water used to flood managed seasonal wetlands is discharged into neighboring sloughs. Joe Eaton


thalassiosiraFour Decades of Bay Discoveries
A federal top dog once asked Jim Cloern just how long he needed to study San Francisco Bay before he “figured it out.” Thirty years seemed plenty long enough to the guy asking the question. But Cloern’s answer, both then and now a decade later, is the same: “When it stops changing.” In an eloquent new paper published this October, USGS’ Jim Cloern and UC Davis’ Alan Jassby summarize how environmental conditions have changed in the estuary since the 1950s, and highlight six driving forces behind this change. Ariel Rubissow Okamoto


p11Speaking Different Languages
Conducting science in the Delta, at the confluence of the livelihoods of millions of human and non-human Californians, has always been a challenge. While the region is still a dimly-lit terra incognita in the mental map of many Californians, in terms of water politics it is under such an intense spotlight that research here has to withstand as much heat as light. At the recent Bay-Delta Science Conference, scientists and policymakers took part in a “town hall” meeting to brainstorm how they could communicate better. Susan K. Moffat


SetbackLeveeCullinan’s New Crust
On a drive by, Cullinan Ranch looks more like construction zone than a restoration site. The hay and oats grown here by farmers for more than a century are long gone, and once the earthmovers are done reshaping the site, there’ll be a breach in the dike the farmers built to drain the property too. As tides reclaim the ranch, it’s hoped that native plants and animals—including federally endangered species–will recolonize this vital piece of the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge. It’s been a long time coming. Joe Eaton


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Inside this Issue
[toggle_box] [toggle_item title=”Wanted: Otter Spotters” active=”false] North American river otters have charisma to burn. Biologists know relatively little about their lifestyles, distribution, and population trends in the Bay Area, though. Megan Isadore and Paola Bouley, co-founders of the River Otter Ecology Project, hope to change that with the aid of “Otter Spotters” who report their sightings to the nonprofit’s web site, where they’re posted on an interactive map. Joe Eaton[/toggle_item] [toggle_item title=”A Milestone Breach” active=”false”] A cheer went up on October 31st as one more levee was breached at the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project. As a crowd of 100 applauded, a backhoe bit into a half-century old dike in Alviso to let Bay water pour from Coyote Creek into Pond A17 at the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Poked through on the 40th anniversary of the Refuge, the breach represents an important milestone for the restoration project, bringing the total number of acres in active restoration to 3,200 out of 15,100 eventually planned. Pond A17 is paired with its neighbor to the south, Pond A16, to meet the needs of creatures with different habitat needs. For the clapper rail and salt marsh harvest mouse, A17 will be allowed to revegetate naturally into marsh. By contrast, for shorebirds such as American avocets, black-necked stilts, and western snowy plovers, A16 will be carefully managed as a shallow, largely plantfree pond with sixteen constructed islands for nesting. A water gate will be carefully calibrated to let just enough water flow from A17 into A16 to maintain a water depth of 6 to 12 inches in one large section of the pond to meet the needs of the shorebirds who prefer shallow open water to marshes.  Susan K. Moffat[/toggle_item] [toggle_item title=”Bird Poll” active=”false”] It’s census time for California’s shorebirds. On November 15, professional ornithologists and amateur birders hit the beaches and mudflats of San Francisco Bay to count sandpipers, plovers, willets, godwits, curlews, and dowitchers as part of the annual Pacific Flyway Shorebird Survey. Other coastal estuaries and Central Valley locations will be covered through mid-December. PRBO Conservation Science biologist Matt Reiter says training in shorebird identification and enumeration will be provided for volunteers. Data collected from Washington State to Baja California should help clarify population trends of these birds, which can be sensitive indicators of environmental quality.  Joe Eaton[/toggle_item] [/toggle_box]