Enough Mud to Fill 670 Skyscrapers?

by | May 9, 2021

Graphic: SFEI

How much mud do we need to save Bay Area marshes from rising seas and how will we move it into position? If the future is drier there’s one answer, and if it’s wetter another (see chart), but the ballpark is 477,000,000 cubic yards. That’s the amount of sediment needed to sustain the ring of wetlands now protecting shoreline communities and infrastructure from a rising Bay, according to a new SF Estuary Institute report. Moving this much sediment into the right places–enough to fill the Sales Force skyscraper 670 times–will require the largest multi-decade public works project in the Bay Area’s history, says the Institute’s Warner Chabot. The report explores various nature-assisted methods of deploying the necessary material, ranging from spraying mud on the marsh surface and seeding it into the water column to placing it in the shallows near needy marshes. It also does a supply and demand breakdown, and reviews various sediment sources. Some, like dredged sediment now dumped at sea, are being wasted at a time when every grain is gold. Hard edges don’t have much flex when it comes to changing conditions, so climate-ready infrastructure needs to be softer and greener. Indeed, the local push to reinvent Bay Area shorelines defines exactly what Biden’s reimagined infrastructure for the 21st century is all about. Science-based solutions with an assist from nature.

Other Recent Posts

Future-Proof Homes?

Oona Khan dreams about her home of the future, after losing her Malibu retreat to fire. Caught in a quagmire of legal battles with Southern California Edison, and surging construction costs, Khan is still waiting to start construction.


In Part 1 FIRE, KneeDeep explores where to expect debris flows from burn scars, how one neighborhood became fire wise, and what schools are doing to become safe havens.

East Coast: Three Tales of Trouble and Triumph in the Fight Against Storm Surge

In this January mini-series, KneeDeep reaches across the continent to the East Coast to see how New York, New Jersey and Miami are wrestling with rising seas, whether they are succeeding in getting the local populace on-board, how the Army Corps’ is faring in its slow embrace of more nature-based flood-protection, and what parallels can be found here in San Francisco Bay. Three different angles on the same story, including one presented for your listening pleasure, by reporters Lilah Burke, Robin Meadows, and Ashleigh Papp.

About The Author

Ariel Rubissow Okamoto

is KneeDeep’s managing editor. She is a Bay Area environmental writer and editor and co-author of a Natural History of San Francisco Bay (UC Press 2011). For the last decade, she’s been reporting on innovations in climate adaptation on the bayshore (Bay Nature). She is also an occasional essayist for the San Francisco Chronicle. In other lives, she has been a vintner, soccer mom, and waitress. She lives in San Francisco close to the Bay with her architect husband Paul Okamoto.