Washington, DC - The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee today approved legislation sponsored by U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer (both D-Calif.) to authorize ten years of funding for the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) to continue wetlands restoration projects and improve water quality in the San Francisco Bay and its watershed.
The Environment and Public Works Committee, which is chaired by Senator Boxer, today approved the Feinstein-Boxer legislation by voice vote during a full committee meeting to consider a number of pending bills. The legislation was introduced by Senators Feinstein and Boxer late last week, and now goes to the full Senate for consideration.
The committee-approved legislation (S.3539) would authorize a consistent stream of funding for EPA's ongoing restoration projects in the Bay. Over the last three years, Senator Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, the Environment and Related Agencies, has helped to secure $17 million in funding for the EPA to conduct ecosystem restoration and water quality work in the San Francisco Bay. To date, these projects have helped to restore wetlands and to improve runoff systems for urban areas and stormwater.
"A healthy San Francisco Bay is not only vital to the region, it is also critical to the State's economic and ecological future. There is nothing more important to the Bay's health, in my opinion, than restoring tidal wetlands and improving water quality. That's why I've helped to secure $17 million in funding for EPA to do these types of restoration projects in the Bay Area, and an additional $15 million for Fish and Wildlife Service to restore tidal wetlands at the former Cargill salt ponds," Senator Feinstein said. "I'm delighted to work with Senator Boxer, my friend and colleague, on this legislation to authorize a consistent stream of funding that would enable EPA to continue its important restoration and water quality projects in San Francisco's celebrated Bay for the next ten years, and I thank her for the Committee's timely action to approve this bill."
Senator Boxer said, "San Francisco Bay is important to the economy and the environment of the whole region. Senator Feinstein and I share a commitment to protecting and restoring the health of the Bay, and I am so pleased to work together with her to move forward on legislation to ensure the resources are available to restore the estuary's vital wetlands and continue the process of improving water quality."
Specifically, the legislation amends Section 123 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1961 to authorize EPA funding from Fiscal Year 2011 through Fiscal Year 2020, consistent with the San Francisco Estuary Program's Comprehensive Conservation and Management Program (http://www.sfestuary.org/pages/index.php?ID=7).
The legislation prioritizes funding for projects that will:
• Protect and restore vital estuarine habitat for migratory waterfowl, shorebirds, and wildlife; and
• Improve and restore water quality and rearing habitat for fish.
In addition to the funding for EPA restoration projects in the Bay, Senator Feinstein has also helped to secure $15 million in funding since 2006 for the Fish and Wildlife Service to do tidal restoration projects for the Bay's former Cargill salt ponds. In 2003, Senator Feinstein played a key role in brokering a landmark public-private partnership to purchase 16,500 acres of former salt ponds from the Cargill Corporation. In March 2006, via a series of orchestrated levee breaches, several former Cargill ponds were opened to tidal action for the first time in 60 years. So far more than 12,000 acres of wetlands have begun the restoration process, including the 479 acres of salt ponds opened to Bay water.