San Francisco Bay Restoration Measure Clears Two-Thirds Hurdle

Measure AA would raise millions to restore tidal marshes, like this one in Richmond. (Lauren Sommer/KQED)

A measure to restore San Francisco Bay wetlands and prepare for sea level rise appears to have passed with about 69 percent of the vote.

As of Wednesday morning, unofficial counts had  Measure AA clearing the required two-thirds vote by more than 31,000 votes. That’s a margin unlikely to be overcome by the few ballots yet to be counted. The $12 per year parcel tax would raise $500 million over 20 years for environmental restoration. The measure requires a two-thirds margin of all the votes cast among counties surrounding the bay.

Supporters worked for more than a decade to put the rare, all-Bay Area measure on the ballot. Thousands of acres of the bay’s shoreline are slated for restoration, but have lacked a funding source. Around 80 percent of the bay’s wetlands have been lost since the Gold Rush.

“People in the Bay Area love San Francisco Bay,” said David Lewis, executive director or Save the Bay. “They want it to be clean and healthy. The money raised by Measure AA could restore 10,000 to 15,000 acres of tidal marsh.”

It’s also one of the first times climate change adaptation has been put before voters. Sea level could rise 2 feet by midcentury and Measure AA supporters say wetlands are a key strategy in the face of rising water, since they absorb storm surges and protect important infrastructure.

Some anti-tax groups opposed the measure, saying a flat $12 per parcel would be unfair. Low-income households would pay the same as large tech campuses located right on the shoreline, like Google and Facebook.

Measure AA doesn’t specify exactly what restoration would take place. Instead, restoration projects would apply to the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority, a special governing board made up of local elected officials.

Half of the $25 million raised each year would be given out based on geographic region, while the other half could be allocated to any county. The projects must meet specific goals, like restoring habitat for wildlife, protecting shoreline communities from floods or improving water quality.

The parcel tax would begin in tax year 2017, with the first restoration funds being awarded in 2018.

San Francisco Bay Restoration Measure Clears Two-Thirds Hurdle 8 June,2016Lauren Sommer

  • Primrose DeVille

    What a bunch of fools to pass yet another tax, as if this state doesn’t have enough money to take care of the precious bay without adding another entry on my already two-pages long tax bill. I bet the people behind this are feeling really good — pulled one over on the dumb sheetz Bay Area voters.

  • Ted Maxwell

    What great news

  • Gary Bodwin

    How can we be sure of the outcome of this or any other election with all of the uncertainty concerning how many people voted and when all ballots will be counted? How can you write and publish this story?

Author

Lauren Sommer

Lauren is a radio reporter covering environment, water, and energy for KQED Science. As part of her day job, she has scaled Sierra Nevada peaks, run from charging elephant seals, and desperately tried to get her sea legs - all in pursuit of good radio. Her work has appeared on Marketplace, Living on Earth, Science Friday and NPR's Morning Edition and All Things Considered. You can find her on Twitter at @lesommer.

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