One-of-a-Kind Stories

One-of-a-Kind Stories

American Avocet on managed, former salt ponds in the South Bay. Photo: Roopak Bhatt, USGS

Our magazine’s media motto for many years has been “Where there’s an estuary, there’s a crowd.” The San Francisco Estuary is a place where people, wildlife, and commerce congregate, and where watersheds, rivers and the ocean meet and mix, creating a place of unusual diversity. In choosing to tell the Story of the Estuary in just nine major topics and a few browsing categories, so many unique stories from our archives have been missed. Like tales about the region’s various research vessels that collect data on conditions in the water or trawl for fish of management concern. Or the stories bringing to life the experiences of people swimming or fishing or boating on the water, or walking the trails and watching the birds on our shores. Central to so many of our stories are also the people working on the frontiers of estuary management, and our archives also include profiles, memorials, Q & As and podcasts like this one about efforts to embrace equity in resource management. And then there are just the fascinating specifics about a particular place (a dam, a levee, a floodplain), a particular group or agency or a time when something really important happened like Measure AA. More treasures can be found by scrolling down to Reporters Look Back on our archive home page (each of our legacy reporters chose their stand out stories). If you dig deep into our older archives, you’ll also unearth some tales of times past, all of which add up to the unique place and history that is the San Francisco Estuary. Photo: USGS

Editor’s Picks

  • The Grande Dames of the Delta
    The Grande Dames of the Delta

    The moveable bridges that cross the rivers and sloughs in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta were built in the first half of the 20th century, and most are operated by control panels as old as the bridges themselves. A day spent touring these strong-boned grande dames on backwater levee roads…

  • Cooking Food in a Sacramento Shipping Channel?
    Cooking Food in a Sacramento Shipping Channel?

    The learned doctors attending the bedside of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta agree on one thing: the patient is not doing well. What ails it, many students of the case suggest, is dehydration: the perennial artificial drought induced by withdrawals of water for human use. Recently, though, attention has turned to a comorbidity: malnutrition. Delta waters simply don’t generate enough basic food, in the form of phytoplankton, to sustain the food chains extending to salmon, sturgeon, and smelt.

  • Tallying Bird Populations Then and Now
    Tallying Bird Populations Then and Now

    How many ducks and geese used the Estuary before the Gold Rush? The numbers are beyond conjecture, but they must have been mind-boggling. Observers writing about a hundred years ago noted major decreases during the era of market hunting, when waterfowl were shot to supply the restaurants and stores of California’s emerging cities, but offered […]

  • A Fragile Fleet
    A Fragile Fleet

    Watching Bay-Delta science unfold, we take for granted the little armada that keeps it all going. Nobody has a firm count, but it appears there are about 100 vessels supporting research in the Estuary. They range from a few large craft that can work outside the Golden Gate to little “trailerable” skiffs and Adirondack rowboats that ply Delta shallows. Like many of the systems that quietly sustain our society, this one is showing signs of strain.

  • Tracking Curlews Cross-Country
    Tracking Curlews Cross-Country

    This winter, Jay Carlisle, director of the Intermountain Bird Observatory, teaming with Nils Warnock of Audubon Canyon Ranch and netting expert David Newstead of Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program, caught two long-billed curlews and outfitted them with transmitters. Those birds may reveal where the wintering curlews on the California coast and Bayshore are coming from.“It’s such a habitat generalist that adapts well to humans,” Carlisle notes…

  • Where have all the Herring Gone?
    Where have all the Herring Gone?

    Pete has fished San Francisco Bay for nearly all of his 60 years. A lifelong San Francisco resident who keeps his last name to himself, he recalls herring runs in the 1970s the likes of which rarely, if ever, occur anymore. “I remember herring spawns that went from Oyster Point all the way to the […]

  • True to the Trail
    True to the Trail

    A small group of friends are walking the entire San Francisco Bay Trail by tackling one segment at a time, in order, once a month. After two years, they have covered more than half the trail, both the finished, and as best they can, the unfinished portions.

  • Feds Coastal Research Crew Bucks Headwinds
    Feds Coastal Research Crew Bucks Headwinds

    Jim Cloern looked out of an airplane window one day and saw red streaks in the water; crimson patches darkening the grey-green shallows that are San Francisco’s South Bay. A superscientist with the US Geological Survey, he knew something big was happening. The color indicated a red tide, a harmful algal bloom…

  • The State’s Biggest Landlord Reconsiders Its Neighbors
    The State’s Biggest Landlord Reconsiders Its Neighbors

    When Mari Rose Taruc approached California environmental justice (EJ) leaders about advising the California State Lands Commission on its EJ policy, they didn’t know what she was talking about. “They were like, what does the State Lands Commission do?” recalls Taruc with a chuckle. A two-way discovery has since taken place between the agency and the resulting EJ group. The discovery is significant because State Lands wields bureaucratic power often out of reach of small EJ groups. As Taruc quips, it is “the state’s biggest landlord.”

  • Radar Envy
    Radar Envy

    Near the end of 2012, the US Army Corps of Engineers released 28,000 acre-feet of water from Lake Mendocino. Then followed 14 of the driest months on record. The key to managing the drought and deluge cycle of California lies in a better understanding of atmospheric rivers, intense winter storms that transport water from the tropics to the West Coast. Over the last decade California has pumped more than $40 million into the statewide network that tracks these rivers, giving lead times of up to a week.

  • Going Local Buys Future for Bayshore
    Going Local Buys Future for Bayshore

    When Bay Area voters approved Measure AA in June 2016 they not only created a significant new source of environmental funding, they also made California history, levying a parcel tax across the entire region for the first time. The measure, which resulted in creation of the SF Bay Restoration Authority, may be a catalyst for a regional approach to wetland restoration, rising sea levels and other challenges.

  • Bay Belle Retires; Catamaran Carries On
    Bay Belle Retires; Catamaran Carries On

    Side by side at a Redwood City marina, two vessels await their very different destinies. The Research Vessel Polaris, a classy 96-foot yacht, spent decades as the workhorse of the US Geological Survey’s San Francisco Bay science program. Her successor floats next to her in the Redwood City marina, a 67-foot aluminum catamaran named RV David H Peterson for the late oceanographer.

  • Mainstreaming Resilience
    Mainstreaming Resilience

    Whatever the “perturbation” coming our way – a flood, a drought, a weed or Donald Trump – our recovery, in the aftermath, depends on something ecologists call resilience. It’s a term everyone is pasting onto their management initiatives these days. But what exactly does it mean?

  • The Most Under-Regulated Facility
    The Most Under-Regulated Facility

    The Kaiser Permanente Cement Plant (named after nearby Permanente Creek) produced six million barrels of cement to build Shasta Dam, and countless roads, buildings, and bridges. Now known as Lehigh Southwest Cement Company, the quarry and plant still supplies 50% of the Bay Area’s Portland cement, and recently earned some intense scrutiny from local regulators.

  • Editor’s Pick Special Issues
    Editor’s Pick Special Issues

    In recent years, Estuary News produced a number of special issues dedicated to central topics ranging from fish to restoration to Delta science and climate adaptation. These issues come together especially beautifully in PDF formats, where the relationships between stories and silos begin to emerge.

  • Editor’s Pick One-of-a-Kind 1993-2013
    Editor’s Pick One-of-a-Kind 1993-2013

    Walk back through time with this selection of early stories from Estuary’s first two decades of publication. Stories cover everything from regulating habitat to Sierra watershed management to SF Bay mud math and the San Luis Drain.

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