What If There Was No San Francisco Bay?
If there was no Bay, the climate would change, beloved views would be drastically altered, the economy would be different and the ecosystem would be irreparably damaged.
From the Gold Rush of 1849 through the land rushes up to 1965, fill operations, reclamation projects, diking and siltation reduced the size of the Bay by one-third, from 787 square miles to 548 square miles today. Another 325 square miles had the potential of being filled which could have reduced much of the Bay to little more than a river. Could this have really happened?
Unbelievably, yes. In 1959, the Army Corps of Engineers produced a map highlighting sections of the Bay “susceptible to reclamation” — a blueprint for further Bay filling that was widely reproduced in Bay Area newspapers. While there was little immediate public outcry at the thought of losing so much of the Bay, protecting the Bay from uncontrolled development was beginning to enter the public consciousness.
Spearheaded by three Berkeley women with ties to the University of California, the story of how the Bay was saved is not only compelling in its own right, but offers an invaluable lesson about how an activist citizenry can have an impact on protecting and enhancing our natural environment. As many of the key participants in this story are in their late 70s, 80s and even 90s, Saving the Bay represents the last chance to capture live footage of the remaining key players in this milestone environmental policy process.
San Francisco Bay enters the new millennium in far better shape than could have been predicted just 40 years ago. The surface area of the Bay is expanding, the water is cleaner and many of the potentially most damaging development schemes have been thwarted for good. Now the focus has changed to repairing and enhancing the Bay, including the largest wetland restoration in the United States after the Florida Everglades.