Speier has billion dollar plan to restore wetlands

April 23, 2010 6:30:58 PM PDT
With bay wetlands behind her, San Mateo Congresswoman Jackie Speier announced Friday she is authoring a bill to restore wetlands areas around San Francisco Bay.

"It's time to save the bay again," Speier said.

Speier's legislation calls for $1 billion over the next 10 years to restore 100,000 acres of wetlands; two-thirds of the former wetlands that have been drained or lost to development.

The Bay Institute's program director tells ABC7 restoring wetlands makes economic sense because wetlands protect the rest of the shoreline from erosion.

"By restoring those wetlands that are there, we can move those forces off shore again and begin to, again, put in that kind of natural barrier against flood protection," Marc Holmes said.

"Something that's already been done, I might add, in Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes and all we're saying is we deserve our fair share," Speier said.

Speier says the Great Lakes got $475 million last year when the economy was tanking.

But ABC7's political analyst points out; it is not the same economic environment in Washington D.C.

"You had a kind of 'let's spend our way out of economic troubles' attitude last year," Bruce Cain said.

Cain says this year the rising deficit is much more of an issue and even though Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's office says she is supportive of Speier's bill, the fact is there are other parts of the country that are far more politically competitive.

"If they're going to give goodies out, it's going to be focused in the areas where they're thinking of losing seats," Cain said.

Concord Congressman George Miller is a co-sponsor of the bill and admits $1 billion is a heavy lift.

"We're probably not going to get $100 million this year, but we've got to start down that road and increase it until we can get this work done to protect and preserve San Francisco Bay," he said.

One more economic reason for restoring the bay wetlands -- they act as filters to clean the water and they provide habitat for all kinds of wildlife. But again, getting the rest of Congress to go along is the big hurdle.


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