Bay Area Rep Introduces Environmental Restoration Bill

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Francisco/San Mateo, announced a bill on Thursday that seeks to use federal funding to improve the San Francisco Bay's environmental health.

H.R. 1132 -- also called the San Francisco Bay Restoration Act -- would authorize $50 million per year for five years to pay for environmental restoration activities within the Bay and the creation of a San Francisco Bay Program Office inside the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

"San Francisco Bay is a national treasure and the lifeblood of our region, producing over $370 billion in goods and services annually and supporting more than 4 million jobs," Speier said in a news release. "Tragically, the federal government has been complicit in its deterioration. The $250 million authorized in my bill would go a long way towards restoring wetlands and estuaries, helping endangered species recover, and study water quality improvement and adaptation to climate change."

The activities funded by the bill can encompass a range of restoration efforts, and seek to revive endangered species in the Bay, such as salt marsh harvest mice and the Ridgway's rail. The Bay's marshes are also nursery areas for salmon.

The bill would also direct the EPA to annually compile a list of funding priorities for projects or studies that could lead to improvements in the Bay's environmental quality.

The studies or projects must include efforts for "(1) water quality improvement; (2) wetland, riverine, and estuary restoration and protection; (3) nearshore and endangered species recovery; and (4) adaptation to climate change," according to the bill. Within the past 150 years, 90 percent of the San Francisco Bay's wetlands have been destroyed due to human activity, according to San Francisco Baykeeper, a Bay Area environmental nonprofit.

The bill has 10 co-sponsors, all from California, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Speier's office noted that between 2008 and 2016, the EPA invested $45 million into the San Francisco Bay, compared to $260 million for Puget Sound in the Pacific Northwest and $490 million for Chesapeake Bay on the East Coast.

"A mere $6 was spent on the Bay for each resident of the Bay Area, while almost $30 were spent for each resident living near Chesapeake Bay and almost $60 for residents near Puget Sound. This bill would also finally give the Bay the recognition it deserves," Speier said.

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