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Bay Area wetland restoration tax passes

A ballot measure expected to raise $500 million over two decades for wetlands restoration and other projects designed to improve the health and resilience of San Francisco Bay passed Tuesday.

As of Wednesday morning, the measure received 69.3 percent of the vote. To pass, it needed support from two-thirds majority, or 66.7 percent of voters within the nine Bay Area counties.

The measure fell short with 63.3 percent of the vote in Sonoma County, one of four North and East Bay counties where it trailed. The others were Napa, Solano and Contra Costa counties.

The measure, the San Francisco Bay Clean Water, Pollution Prevention and Habitat Restoration Program, would impose a $12-a-year parcel tax on property owners in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, Sonoma and San Francisco counties, generating about $25 million a year over its 20-year lifespan.

The money would be used to fund a host of shoreline projects around the region intended to restore tidal marshes and freshwater wetlands that play a critical role in filtering bay water, creating wildlife habitat and buffering against flooding and climate-related sea rise.

Wetlands are the bay's “heart and lungs,” keeping the water clean and providing abundant wildlife habitat, according to Save the Bay, an environmental advocacy group. Yet, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, the region has lost 95 percent of its original wetlands due to human activity since the mid-19th century.

“We've done extensive polling on the measure and about people's attitudes toward the bay for many, many years,” said David Pine, chairman of the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority. “What's encouraging is people across the bay - even those who don't live near the bay shore - have a strong affinity toward the bay and see it as a defining asset of our area and one that needs to be passed on to the next generation in better shape than we got it.”

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 521-5249 or mary.callahan@pressdemocrat.com.

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