Wednesday, August 22, 2012

FEMA Implicated in Delta Habitat Loss

This story came out today in the Chron, front page of the Bay Area section -- with a nice big photo just below the fold. For you internet people, that means it was visible. Speaking of the internet, here's the link ... and the first couple grafs. Enjoy; it's an interesting story (and a quick one -- just 700 words).

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Add the federal government's flood insurance program to environmentalists' list of villains when it comes to safeguarding threatened fish populations in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency's flood insurance program encourages development in the floodplain, eliminating valuable habitat and affecting federally protected fish species, critics say. And now they've got the law behind them. ...

KQED Climate Watch blogging

In what I expect may become a regular gig, I've recently penned a couple posts for KQED's ClimateWatch blog. The first is here and the second should be up later today. I appreciate the opportunity to report on the Bay Area and California environment (my favorite subject, natch) for another regional outlet. Stay tuned for more.

Lock Up, Kids

Another story on bike parking, this time looking at Berkeley company BikeLink, which manufactures shared electronic lockers that have now been installed in all but one of the East Bay's 30 BART stations. After it came out last week, I received a note from BikeLink founder and president Steven Grover noting that secure bike parking is no new fad, and that his company's primary innovation was to allow lockers to be shared (rather than dedicated to a single person) through the use of electronic controls and the associated BikeLink debit card. True enough. He also noted that, contrary to my story's implication, the lockers are not strictly for folks with nice bikes. Also true. However, I tend to be more interested in the social context of  bike parking, which is why I focused on a) the growing availability of secure bike storage in the Bay Area; and b) where, exactly, demand for secure bike parking is coming from. Learn a bit about both in my most recent story for the Express.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Salt Pond Test

Rather than my typical synopsis, I present to you the first couple grafs of my latest Eco Watch column in the East Bay Express (published today). This story came about after I learned about the project while reporting on another story for the San Francisco Chronicle, published a couple weeks ago.

Talk of restoring the Bay Area's tens of thousands of acres of former salt ponds to tidal marshes tends to conjure a rather irresistible image: A bright yellow earthmover tears a massive rift in a century-old levee and returns the tides to coastal areas from which they've long been estranged. Soon native vegetation appears, then birds, and eventually the once-desolate flats become a thriving tidal wetland. The recovery is natural, wild, and absolutely inevitable. Except that it's not.

The reality is that saltworks along the perimeter of the San Francisco Bay — some of which date back to Gold Rush days — have permanently altered the landscape and its ecology. Even if all of the hundreds of levees that divide the once vast tidelands into salt ponds were to be breached, the bay's wetlands would not automatically revert to their formerly productive state.

That's why an experiment being developed by Memphis-based hunting and conservation group Ducks Unlimited at Hayward's Eden Landing Ecological Reserve is so important. ...

Betting on Steam

My latest cover story for the East Bay Express addresses the incredible promise of geothermal energy, and the significant roadblocks to achieving it. As I note in the story, there's enough heat in the ground to meet 75% or more of our nation's current energy needs with reliable, baseload electricity. The problem is getting to it. The US government is backing efforts to develop the next wave of geothermal energy, and major players including Calpine, which owns most of the plants at The Geysers in Sonoma, the world's largest complex of geothermal plants, are putting some of their best minds behind it. Even Google has invested $10 million in developing geothermal technologies to access this incredible resource. Will it work? Read on ...