Blue Notes 149
By David Helvarg
August 23, 2016
In This Issue:
- Margo’s Paddle
- Why I Fight for Point Molate
- Creating an Ocean Policy in 2016
- Blue Frontier at IUCN’s WCC
- SAVE THESE DATES – May 9-11, 2017
- Tee Party Donation?
Our very own Margo Pellegrino is two weeks into the 2nd and last phase of her New York 2 New Orleans paddle, the final of her three most epic including Miami 2 Maine and Seattle 2 San Diego, all in the cause of clean water and healthy seas. Below is a sample of the blogs she writes each morning before launching her outrigger for another 50 miles of river paddle. They’re a great way to follow along on her adventure. You can do so by going to https://paddle4blue.wordpress.com
Day 5 – August 13th
This stretch of the Illinois River is THE best part. It widens out so if the wind blows, preferably at your back, like it did for me yesterday, there is some swell to ride. The rolling hills in the background make me think a bit of the Hamptons in Long Island, NY, and more folks are playing on and in the water.
I’m guessing the water is cleaner, and folks, like the lady I just met in the bathroom, have told me that they think the water is cleaner than it used to be. Then, and this happens more often than not, like it did just now, the person telling me this will then say, “oh, my son got a staph infection from the water and my other kid got an ear infection.” So tell me, how is that cleaner? With all the corn fields growing right up to the water and Chicago’s unSanitary canal dumping raw sewage into the drink, how far downstream do you hafta go before its clean? And with all those people in Chicago and development in that area, how can one possibly think the downstream areas AREN’T going to be compromised? Especially as there are more sewage treatment facilities all the way down as well as some pretty big polluting industries.
From the smell of things, I’ve passed more than one pulp mill. Once you smell a pulp mill you never forget that weird acrid odor. Not as bad as what I’ve smelled on the Fenholloway River from the Gulf, but definitely distinctive.
Yesterday was the busiest day on the water for recreational traffic. Well, when it gets hot where is the best place to be? It’s definitely killing me right now to have these raw rubs, because I really want to hop in and cool off. It’s brutal, to be so hot, surrounded by water, and not be able to jump in because of the threat of infection.
So today is a bit of an earlier start with one lock, which might just be open (it’s a four foot drop) because of the high water. Tomorrow is a longer paddle, and two locks. So today I’ll enjoy the casual pace and hope this high water from all the rain in Chicago continues to hold and push me downstream, like the debris from the city.
Last night our dockage, shower, and dinner were sponsored by Roz and Bill Wolfram. Chelsea and I stuffed ourselves on the awesome food being served up at a gathering of yacht clubs and enjoyed the company of our hosts before leaving and stuffing ourselves with cookies. We were allowed to pitch my tent (and Chelsea her hammock) at the Detweiller Yacht Club. It is always so nice to be sleeping where your boat is.
Onward ho!! And don’t forget to sign my petition for clean water if you haven’t already!
For our ocean!
Also check out this nice article and interview with Margo just published by EcoWatch.
“It’s the most beautiful part of the Bay Area no one’s ever heard of,” I was told soon after I moved to Richmond nine years ago. That’s before I made my first sojourn to Point Molate, my city’s greatest natural treasure where I now regularly bring loved ones, friends and local high school classes (see Blue Notes #148).
Point Molate is 422 acres of spectacular San Francisco Bay-facing wooded uplands, native grasslands and submerged eel grass meadows just east of the Richmond Bridge with a breathtaking view of Mount Tamalpais (“Mount Tam”) that gets better as you climb higher up its hills. At the top is a ridgeline that divides the spectacular headland from Chevron’s sprawling century old oil refinery on the other side. This is the last significant green space left on San Francisco Bay.
Largely undeveloped, it does contains a historic wine port with a red brick castle and Victorian clapboard workers village along with bits of old rail tracks, piers, concrete pads and buried storage tanks from when it later functioned as a World War II (and post-war) Navy fuel depot before the navy sold it to the city for a dollar in 2003.
Following in the tradition of human addictions (alcohol, petroleum) in 2010 it almost became the biggest casino development west of Las Vegas, with planned hotels, an 11-story high-rise parking structure, unaffordable housing and 4,000 slot machines, until the people of Richmond voted the scheme down 58 to 42 percent, expressing fear of increased crime, traffic and gambling addiction.
Today Point Molate remains a hopeful indicator of nature’s resiliency left mostly unpaved from its windy ridgeline to muddy bay bottom where bat rays cruise. Native grasses, eel grasses and coastal prairie are on the rebound helpfully range managed by ospreys, seals, mule deer and wild turkey along with colossal Toyons- Christmas berry shrubs – the size of live oaks. There are also live oaks, federally protected Suisun Marsh aster and endemic (native only to this headlands) Point Molate blue fescue – a bunchgrass now globally popular with landscapers and garden nurseries. There’s also California sage and coyote brush, wild mint, Dutchman’s pipe vine, and its rarely seen companion, the pipevine swallowtail butterfly that makes itself poisonous to birds and other predators by feasting on the toxic pipevine in its caterpillar stage. Other butterfly species mimic it’s appearance to avoid being eaten.
Local volunteers have begun working to remove the French Broom and other water thirsty invasive plants that are crowding out California grasses and flowers. They’re not too worried at this point about the invasive but still lovely Eucalyptus groves and woods that have long covered the hills above the old wine village.
Citizens for a Sustainable Point Molate (CFSPM), a project of Blue Frontier, is working with other Richmond and Bay Area groups on plans for a historically-themed recreational and visitor hub by the castle and village including a LEED certified green inn, museum conference center and restaurants to be surrounded by public green space, camping sites, kayaking, sports fields and hiking trails, a park that would pay for itself.
Still, in spite of Richmond having more shoreline than any other Bay Area city, it is the only one without an integrated plan to deal with threats to its shoreline, including sea level rise, erosion and unsustainable development such as is again looming over Point Molate.
Jim Levine, the failed Casino developer who’s been suing the city for the last six years, and Mayor Tom Butt are now negotiating a massive real-estate development that could include up to 1,400 high-end houses and condo units spread across the headland. The scheme has been discussed at four closed-door, Richmond City Council meetings this past summer, with another one likely in September.
CFSPM has helped form a coalition of more than a dozen local and Bay Area social and environmental justice groups to protect Point Molate as a unique and special place that needs to be developed carefully, democratically and sustainably. After all San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park and New York City’s Central Park are also prime real estate locations but people long ago decided they had greater value as their cities green space. We feel the same.
For more on our ongoing battle go to: http://www.cfspm.org
Also I’ve specifically addressed the burning (drowning?) question ‘How should a fish vote in this Election in The Progressive magazine.
Summer Actions Continue:
Our friends at 5 Gyres are taking the digital revolution and remote sensing seriously. You can follow their Arctic expedition – to survey plastic pollution I assume – live on their homepage through August 24. www.5gyres.org
Speaking of ubiquitous plastic pollution, Olivia and Carter Ries, the two young founders of One More Generation (OMG) are launching their latest effort “One Less Straw Pledge Campaign” to eventually get rid of plastic straws in the nation’s school cafeterias, starting with getting students, their friends and parents to pledge not to use any plastic straws in the month of October. You can learn more at their website Onemoregeneration.org.
NRDC, Conservation Law Foundation, Sierra Club
These and other groups calling on President Obama to establish a first Atlantic Ocean Marine Monument (See Blue Notes # 147) were delighted when Senators Blumenthal, Murphy and the entire Connecticut Congressional Delegation endorsed the plan in a recent letter to the President. Here’s a link to my latest article in The Hill, ‘Will Obama Protect the Atlantic’s Grand Canyons?’
We’re also expecting the President to soon announce a massive expansion of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in NW Hawaii.
The Ocean Project
The Ocean Project has put together a great team of partners on a new Website promoting these Blue Parks for America. Check it out at http://bluebackyard.org/
If you’re one of the estimated 10,000 scientists, conservationists and others planning to attend the International Union for the Conservation of Nature World Congress ‘Planet at the Crossroads’ September 1-10 in Honolulu please join me for the workshop I’ll be doing with Stuart Coleman of Surfrider and Malu Nunes of Brazil’s Fundacao Grupo Boticario on Sept. 4. It’s on “Innovative Communication Strategies” (i.e. – how to do better media work). Workshop # 10250 will be held at Convention Center Rm. 312 11AM-1PM.
The 6th biennial Blue Vision Summit will be held May 9-11 2017 in D.C. where we’ll bring a new ocean agenda to a new President and Congress.
The 10th Peter Benchley Ocean Awards will be held on May 11, 2017 at the Sant Ocean Hall in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in D.C.
Sea Party 2016! Tee shirts still available for a $25 contribution that will also cover the shipping charge to you – let us know your size – S, M, L, or XL. To order a shirt email firstname.lastname@example.org