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Vote yes on Measure AA to protect the Bay

Petalumans are intimately tied to San Francisco Bay more than any other Sonoma County city. The river that bares the city’s name is actually a tidal slough, a long finger that connects Petaluma to the San Pablo and San Francisco bays.

But human encroachment along the bay shore in the past 60 years has greatly diminished this ecological resource, including right here in Petaluma. Additional human activity in the form of carbon emissions are leading to rising sea levels, which further threaten the wetlands and communities that dot the bay.

On the June ballot, residents of the nine Bay Area counties have an opportunity to restore the bay wetlands and stem the rising waters due to climate change. If passed, Measure AA, a $12 per year parcel tax, would raise $500 million over 20 years for the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority to use exclusively for restoration, flood control and recreation projects along the bay.

The North Bay alone stands to receive at least $45 million for projects, according to the Sonoma County Water Agency, several of which are pegged for the Petaluma River watershed. Through the flood control, environmental restoration work and recreation projects, Measure AA would directly benefit Petaluma, and voters should support it.

The Petaluma Marsh and Sears Point wetlands - already the site of ongoing restoration work - would see additional funding if the measure passes.

The funds also would be used to help protect several locations on the bay shoreline from rising sea levels. Bay water levels are expected to rise by at least two feet by 2050 and as much as five feet by 2100, according to the National Academy of Sciences. The rising water is expected to inundate the lowlands just south of Petaluma if we don’t act.

Measure AA would fund levee projects throughout the bay, including at Sears Point, protecting North Bay communities and Highway 37, which otherwise will likely be under water due to sea level rise. The wetland restoration and levee projects will create new recreational opportunities for people to explore these sensitive ecosystems on foot or in boats.

Think about Shollenberger Park, a community asset where Petaluma residents go to spot birds and get exercise along the riverfront levees. Now, imagine the recreational opportunities created by many more levees constructed through this measure.

Passing the new tax requires a two-thirds vote. Opponents point out that it is a regressive tax as it is applied equally to all property owners, regardless of income level. They say that residents living far from the bay will receive little benefit.

But Petaluma is in a prime location to see direct benefits from the planned projects. All Bay Area residents, no matter how far inland they dwell, should still support protections for the bay as it is the singular natural resource that defines the Bay Area.

The $12 per year tax increase, or $1 per month, is a modest sum to pay to protect our beloved bay and our way of life.

We encourage voters to vote yes on Measure AA on June 7.

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