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Most people give little thought to mud or sand until a boat runs aground in shallow water or erosion exposes a vulnerable shoreline. But San Francisco Bay has been fundamentally shaped by sediment flowing down from streams, rivers, and the Sacramento Delta, nourishing estuary and wetland ecosystems and building Bay shorelines. Too much sediment impedes ship navigation; too little starves wetlands and shorelines of critical habitat and protection from rising sea level.
Our relationship with sediment has been changing since the Gold Rush era when mining along streams and rivers pushed sediment from the foothills to the Bay. The extra sediment clouds up Bay and Delta waters and requires annual dredging to keep the shipping channels open. But now we may be facing a sediment drought, as the last of the mining sediment clears the system and sediment that would normally flow through tributaries is instead trapped behind dams. Climate change could exacerbate the sediment shortage with diminished rainfall and extended droughts. Is it time to rethink our relationship to sediment?
About the Speakers:
Bruce Jaffe is an oceanographer from the United States Geological Survey. His research at the Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center focuses in part on the physical processes and human activities that impact the San Francisco Bay shoreline and how sea level rise, climate change, and sediment management practices will impact beaches, tidal wetlands and submarine resources now and in the future.
Brenda Goeden is the Sediment Program Manager for the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission. She manages navigational dredging for ship traffic and is particularly focused on the beneficial reuse of dredged sediment for habitat restoration, flood control, and other resilience projects.
Brett Milligan is a professor of landscape architecture in the Department of Human Ecology at UC Davis, and cofounder of the Dredge Research Collaborative, an independent organization devoted to improving sediment management through design research, facilitating transdisciplinary collaboration, and expanding public knowledge. He is also a member of the Resilient by Design Public Sediment team.
This event is part of a collaborative Conversations About Resilience series co-sponsored by the Exploratorium’s Fisher Bay Observatory Gallery and the Resilient by Design: Bay Area Challenge. Resilient by Design is a collaborative research and design project that brings together local residents; public officials; and local, national, and international experts to develop innovative solutions to the issues brought on by the climate change we face today.