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San Francisco Bay Region

Working Together to Build Resilience

The formal NOAA Sentinel Site Cooperative Program has ended, however, Sea Grant offices at the corresponding cooperative locations continue work in these areas. For more information please visit Maryland Sea GrantNorth Carolina Sea GrantMississippi-Alabama Sea Grant, and Hawaii Sea Grant.

San Francisco Bay And Outer Coast Sentinel Site Cooperative

San Francisco, the Bay area, and its Outer Coast comprise the largest estuarine area on the west coast of the United States. It’s been said that this region is not gauged by its length and width, but by the broadness of its vision and the height of its dreams.

Rush Ranch NERR site by Tom Muehleisen

Rush Ranch, part of San Francisco Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. The tidal marshes at Rush Ranch and nearby China Camp serve as research sites for scientists; classrooms for teachers, land managers and naturalists; and inspiring places for Bay Area residents to visit. Credit: Tom Muehleisen.

The region is a major urban and economic center and a unique ecological treasure. It is home to over seven million people, and retains some of the largest and most important natural areas along the west coast, including three National Marine Sanctuaries (Greater Farallones, Cordell Bank, and Monterey Bay), the Point Reyes National Seashore, the San Francisco Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, and the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge Complex. The estuary serves as a major hub of commerce and supports the most intact Mediterranean-climate wetlands in North America.

The San Francisco Sentinel Site Cooperative Management Team is currently comprised  of representatives from NOAA's Office for Coastal Management (OCM), the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC), the San Francisco Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR), NOAA's Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary (GFNMS), and California Sea Grant. The management team guides the development of the Cooperative and assists with engaging partners and linking existing efforts related to our focus areas, and expanding collaborations in the region.

"The Sentinel Site Cooperative combines ideas, programs, and people on many issues affecting the environment of the San Francisco Bay Area,” explained Jenna Judge, the coordinator of the cooperative program. “Our team consists of innovative partners, at the local, state, and federal level, who have been dealing with important issues such as sea level rise awareness and adaptation planning.”

The San Francisco Bay Area Sentinel Site Cooperative's goals are to build partnerships, capacity, and awareness. To enhance sea level rise adaptation, the Cooperative focuses on bridging natural and built adaptation planning, supporting development of a regional network for early detection and forecasting of marsh ecosystem changes, and fostering resilience efforts that incorporate connections between the ocean and bay. Their vision is a San Francisco Bay Area that is resilient to sea level rise through strong partnerships that together protect critical ecosystem and community services.

Rodeo Lagoon in San Francisco.

Waves breaking at Rodeo Lagoon, Marin Headlands, in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

The Cooperative is involved in ongoing efforts related to three focus areas:

  1. Bridging natural and built adaptation planning: There is substantial evidence that integrating natural and urban infrastructure in adaptation planning can improve coastal resiliency. The Cooperative develops best practices with the most recent science and data to better integrate goals related to restoring healthy ecosystems and protecting coastal communities from rising sea levels, storms and flooding events.

    • To share lessons learned and best practices, the Cooperative Coordinator developed detailed case studies and analyses of the design, cost, and performance of five existing natural infrastructure projects in California in partnership with The Nature Conservancy, Point Blue Conservation Science, and Environmental Science Associates. The report is available for download.

    • As a regional sea level rise adaptation planning leader, BCDC’s Adapting to Rising Tides (ART) Program refines its collaborative approach to adaptation planning that is inclusive of built and natural systems. The ART approach ensures that both ecosystem and coastal resiliency goals are met at the local, regional, and sector-specific scales and is adaptable and applicable to projects and programs around the country. For more information go to www.adaptingtorisingtides.org.

  2. Supporting development of a regional network for early detection and changes in forecasting of marsh ecosystems: Preserving and restoring bayland ecosystems is a long-standing priority in the San Francisco Bay Area, but now the baseline is changing rapidly and it is imperative that we track the response of our tidal marshes to sea level rise and build adaptive capacity into our restoration projects.

    • Many stakeholders, including the Baylands Ecosystem Habitat Goals Project and the San Francisco Estuary Partnership (SFEP), identified a need for a regional marsh monitoring program to ensure we achieve our restoration goals in light of changing sea levels and sediment supplies. The Cooperative assists SFEP in establishing a program that will serve as an early detection network identifying climate related changes throughout the estuary.

    • The San Francisco Bay NERR collects data on the ground and uses innovative remote sensing approaches in tidal marshes to predict how mature and restored marshes respond to changing conditions. These sites provide key data from mature tidal marshes that will be integral to a regional monitoring network.

  3. Fostering resilience efforts that incorporate connections between the ocean and bay: San Francisco Bay is coupled with the outer coast and ocean in many ways, and adapting planning efforts within and outside of the bay could better inform one another. We seek to initiate a collaborative exchange between scientists and managers working on both sides of the Golden Gate Bridge.

    • GFNMS led a collaborative planning process to characterize climate vulnerability of the region's most significant natural resources, and develop climate-smart management strategies to reduce resource vulnerability and enhance resilience.

    • The Cooperative is co-sponsoring the Beyond the Golden Gate Research Symposium, bringing together researchers presenting new, ongoing, and recently completed monitoring and habitat characterization projects in the Gulf of Farallones and adjacent waters between Point Arena and Point Año Nuevo – including Cordell Bank, Point Reyes, and central San Francisco Bay.

"I am excited to see increasing recognition of the Cooperative in the San Francisco Bay Area and the beginnings of collaborations that could have lasting impacts along the entire West Coast," Judge said, "it's really all about partnerships here."

San Francisco Bay and Outer Coast Sentinel Site Cooperative Partners
San Francisco Bay and Outer Coast Sentinel Site Cooperative Website
View of restored dunes at the Surfers’ Point Managed Shoreline Retreat Project. Photo credit: Paul Jenkin
Case Studies: Natural Shoreline Infrastructure in Coastal California

One alternative to coastal armoring is natural infrastructure, which is a cost-effective approach to mitigating the impact of floods, storms, and sea level rise in many places. A new report presents five case studies that document natural infrastructure at work along the California coast. | Download

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