Don't Pave My Bay

The Huffington Post

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The gushing oil in the Gulf of Mexico is a daily reminder of how vulnerable our bays, estuaries and oceans are to devastation from human activities. But the efforts of brave people over decades also prevented man-made destruction that threatened to shrink the West Coast's largest bay to a narrow river.

Now thousands of people are working to restore San Francisco Bay for people and wildlife. So it's shocking that the country's largest private corporation proposes to pave over San Francisco Bay salt ponds where tidal marsh could be restored.

When I was born in 1961, more than one-third of San Francisco Bay had already been filled in for development, or diked off and drained for agriculture and salt-making. At that time, developers could pave the shallow bay without limit or regulation. Nearly every city on the bay had plans to fill in the marshes and mudflats on their shorelines, urged on by big corporations like Standard Oil and Santa Fe Railroad.

Then three Berkeley housewives began an unlikely revolution. They mobilized tens of thousands of residents over the next five years to defeat the powerful land barons and halt further paving of the bay. Their success inspired similar movements from the Chesapeake to Puget Sound, and prompted passage of the Clean Water Act and other landmark legal protections for the nation's environment.

Nearly fifty years later, it's astonishing to see a big corporation again pushing development in San Francisco Bay, over the outcry of the entire region.