After decades of dreaming about restoring old salt ponds, farm fields, and abandoned properties around the San Francisco Bay to native wetlands, a report prices the effort at $1.43 billion.
The money would be used to restore more than 36,000 acres of land around the bay, doubling the wetlands' current size. Wetlands, in addition to aesthetic appeal, benefit a region by providing natural pollution and flood control.
“If you spread it out over 50 years and everybody paid a share, it would be less than $4/year per person,” says David Lewis, executive director of Save the Bay. “It's a big number, but we think it's achievable.”
The group's research suggests that residents in the nine counties that surround the bay would be happy to foot the bill for the project. A poll indicated that 83% of respondents would be willing to pay up to $10/year more in taxes or fees to make the dream a reality.
In order to collect the money, a special district—much like the existing East Bay Regional Park District that currently serves the area—would need to be created, bringing in representatives from key state, regional, or local governmental bodies. That plan has support from residents as well as businesses, which see the measure as benefiting the area's pocketbook, in addition to the environment and water system.
“A clean environment is one of the most important features you can have in an innovation economy,” says John Grubb, spokesperson for the Bay Area Council, a group of area executives. “The opportunities that nature provides is one of the draws here—and the reason costs are so high. But you get what you pay for.”