Pilots for a Future Bay

The Bay has a legacy of activism, stemming from the 1960s grassroots action against large scale filling of the Bay by developers and planners. With disappearing baylands and sediment scarcity, we must organize and collaborate in equally urgent and engaged ways around the risks of climate change. Many of the same regulations that support our clean water, clean air, and protect our habitat also limit experimentation in the water. In order for our practices, technologies, and regulations to adapt with the pace of sea level rise we must work together to change the system.

Pilots for a future bay proposes four distinct pilot projects that advocate for joint regulatory change and physical experimentation. We aim to engage middle schools around the Bay, working with our next generation of environmental stewards to design and monitor small-scale experiments that can shift the physical trajectory of the baylands.

Sediment is a resource. Despite committed efforts around the Bay to value sediment, an average of 30% of dredge material is removed from the system and dumped offshore. This is #OurBayOurMud, and we must work together to test and develop new, more cost-effective and multi-benefit solutions for the placement of dredge material. Building off ongoing work, we propose to develop a pilot for testing new patterns of shallow water sediment placement in the South Bay. UNDERWATER MUD BERMS placed parallel to marshlands will slowly erode, distributing sediment to the bay bottom and tidal edges over time.

Value suspended sediment. Clean water regulations are designed to keep suspended sediment out of water. But in an era of sediment scarcity, muddy water can be positive. Policy must adapt to value clear AND muddy water, in different seasons and time periods. At the Searsville Dam on San Fransiquito Creek, we propose to pilot SEDIMENT CREEK RELEASES and INVESTIGATE DAM REMOVAL, balancing the need for clear water with strategic pulses of valuable mud, and set up a series of sensing stations to monitor the result.

Embrace the unconventional. Limits on material that can be placed in the Bay for habitat building must be reconsidered in light of sediment scarcity. While construction fill is being tested as a marsh substrate at Bair Island, other unconventional materials, like biosolids from waste water treatment plants, should also be seriously pursued for application around the tidal baylands. We propose a GARDEN OF NEW MUDS that uses agricultural methods to remove nutrients from biosolids, then places this material as bayland substrate in rising waters. This requires careful study and monitoring before widespread application.

Value ecosystems of the future. Communities vulnerable to sea level rise face hard decisions in the future. The Bay Area is ecologically progressive, and many communities like San Rafael may pursue strategies that extend new bayland ecosystems adjacent to flood prone communities. However, regulations that prevent habitat conversion—the displacement of one habitat type for another—limit the building of living infrastructure. Communities faced with future risk may be pushed towards more conventional hard engineering solutions, like higher seawalls and levees, if regulatory review makes habitat construction for risk reduction difficult.

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Pilots for a Future Bay

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Public Sediment

PUBLIC SEDIMENT is a multidisciplinary design team that views sediment as a core building block of resilience in San Francisco Bay. The team is led by SCAPE Landscape Architecture with Arcadis, the Dredge Research Collaborative, TS Studio, the UC Davis Department of Human Ecology and Design, the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences, and the Buoyant Ecologies Lab.

Our team believes in ecological infrastructure and its protective value. Yet the Bay area’s ecological infrastructure- its marshes, mudflats, and coastal edges- are at risk. The slow and methodical subsidence of the Bay’s...

PUBLIC SEDIMENT is a multidisciplinary design team that views sediment as a core building block of resilience in San Francisco Bay. The team is led by SCAPE Landscape Architecture with Arcadis, the Dredge Research Collaborative, TS Studio, the UC Davis Department of Human Ecology and Design, the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences, and the Buoyant Ecologies Lab.

Our team believes in ecological infrastructure and its protective value. Yet the Bay area’s ecological infrastructure- its marshes, mudflats, and coastal edges- are at risk. The slow and methodical subsidence of the Bay’s tidal wetlands is a catastrophe of tremendous proportion not just for ecosystems, but for communities. Combined with sea level rise, this subsidence exposes hundreds of thousands of residents and the region’s critical drinking water, energy, and transportation infrastructure to tremendous risk. To creatively adapt to this challenge, our team proposes to focus on sediment, the building block of resilience in the Bay. In short, we propose to design with mud.

Counties benefited:
Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, Sonoma

Location