Coast Guard Edict May Limit Estuary

Courtesy photo

The yellow line marks the approximate extent of the Coast Guard's proposed expanded security zone on the south side of Coast Guard Island. Local ship captains argue this descision would reduce the navigable width of part of the estuary, creating a choke point for boat traffic.

The U.S. Coast Guard Civil Engineering Unit is proposing to expand the security barrier along a strip of Coast Guard Island (CGI). The expansion of the security barrier will reduce the navigable channel width for commercial and recreational vessels traveling in the Oakland Estuary between CGI and Alameda.

"The purpose of the proposed action is to deepen the Boat Basin and expand the security barrier to accommodate home porting of up to four national security cutters at Base Alameda, wrote Dave Stalters, Environmental Division Chief for the U.S. Coast Guard in a scoping letter dated October 2012. "The vessels need a homeport that would provide a dedicated berthing space, adequate water depths, utilities, access to fuel delivery services, and a central point of operation."

The proposed changes are a result of the U.S. Coast Guard's environmental assessment report. Roy Clark, a civil engineer for U.S. Coast Guard who worked on the assessment, said the security barrier change is needed.

"These cutters are 450-feet long," said Clark. "The barrier is made to withstand boat attacks."

The new proposal seeks to expand the barrier to 75 feet south of CGI - Clark said he was unsure of the current security barrier size. The expansion was to be 200 feet south of CGI, but Clark told Alameda Marina Harbormaster Brock de Lappe on Jan. 23 that figure was a mistake. Nevertheless, the addition of the security barrier has brought on concerns from Alamedans.

"The increased wake from passing recreational and commercial vessels in the narrower channel will result in property damage to boats berthed in the Alameda Marina and increase the rate of erosion," wrote Sean Svendsen, president of Svendsen Boat Works in a letter to Linda S. Peters of URS Group, Inc., an engineering, construction and technical services organization who was contracted to conduct the environmental assessment. Clark said he did not believe the expansion would result in increased property damage, but the Coast Guard will analyze all public comments.

Other complaints by Svendsen included, "if dredging is to occur, the proposed dredge area should be expanded to the southern border of the channel in coordination with the Army Core of Engineers, to reduce the displacement of much shallower bay mud through NSC maneuvers; ambient noise levels from the cutters' activities will disrupt commercial and recreational boaters; and the expansion of the wharf and the addition of a fourth cutter would increase the dispersion of potentially contaminated bay mud and silt into the Alameda Marina from tugboat prop wash during NSC maneuvers; among other inconveniences." When asked about the potentially contaminated mud, Clark said, "the Army Core of Engineers said the mud it is not for disposal in water," but it will not cause any long-term health affects.

Svendson also brought up findings in a previous environmental assessment in 2007 in his letter to Peters to further express his concerns over the expansion. In Section 2.1 of the report it says "the maximum number of cutters expected to port at any one time is three, although all four could be in port a few days a year," and Section 3.13 states "no modifications to the security barrier would be necessary to accommodate the cutters."

Clark said he was unsure why the number of cutters berthed along CGI was moved to four, but said the declaration not to make modifications to the security barrier was revised over time.

"You plan your project based on the info you have at the time," said Clark. "That statement came from an initial report in 2006."

The environmental assessment is still in the public comment stage. Clark said the Coast Guard would continue to receive public comment over the next 60 days, then publish another scoping letter with public input in mind and make it public.

To make a comment on the security barrier expansion, contact Linda S. Peters or Roy Clark.


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