Letters to the Editor

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The Alameda Sun received a copy of this letter. The Sierra Club wrote this letter in response to requests from the National Marine Fisheries Service for comment on the Water Emergency Transportation Authority’s (WETA) request for a seal harassment permit ("Shake, Rattle and Ignore," Oct. 9)

 

Dear Chief Jolie Harrison:

The Sierra Club’s mission includes protection of the natural environment and ecosystems.

The plan for the Central Bay Operations and Maintenance Facility in Alameda, California, will have a profound impact on the Pacific harbor seals that have been using the Alameda Point Channel and Inner Harbor for feeding, hauling out, and even delivering pups. The full impact of the Water Emergency Transportation Authority’s (WETA) ferry maintenance facility project on the marine ecosystem and one of its most prominent inhabitants, the harbor seals, have not been adequately addressed in the Incidental Harassment Authorization Level B permit application by WETA.

Following the end of Navy operations at Naval Air Station-Alameda in 1997, the Navy’s recreational boating dock located at the WETA project site for the proposed ferry maintenance facility fell into disrepair. The coincidental lack of maintenance and lack of human presence on the docks was ultimately fortuitous for the harbor seals that frequent the protected waterway. The dock itself, along with odd wooden structural debris that lodged against the dock, became an easy and inviting haul out for the seals.

During the spring of 2014 at least one pup was reared at the WETA project site. One local observer has suggested that there may have been two pups reared at the site in 2014.

Beside the calm waters and absence of boating commotion, food sources for the harbor seals are in supply in the Alameda Point Channel, and also in the Inner Harbor where the WETA project site is located.

Bat rays migrate into the channel and harbor, and at least one encounter between a harbor seal and bat ray was captured on video this year https://vimeo.com/95702921.

Shoreline development is one of the primary reasons for harbor seal abandonment of San Francisco Bay. When haul-out sites are disturbed by nearby development or regular human presence, the seals are prone to depart for safer
surroundings.

In the case of the WETA ferry facility project, it is not a traditional natural shoreline that will be disturbed or destroyed. But the dock has become a relied-upon haul out nonetheless. Its demolition and replacement with an active berthing facility for 11 ferries will leave the harbor seals little choice but to look elsewhere for a haul out.

The Sierra Club recommends that the National Marine Fisheries Service impose additional mitigation measures on the project to compensate for the loss of harbor seal habitat — namely, the old recreational dock.

Given the geography of the Alameda Point Channel and Inner Harbor, a new haul-out dock nearby, possibly an anchored floating dock, should be evaluated as a mitigation measure to help retain the colony of harbor seals that find respite along Alameda Point’s shore. Maintaining a welcome habitat for the harbor seals will not only benefit the harbor seals themselves; their presence within easy eyesight of shoreline visitors will offer a unique ongoing educational encounter with this reclusive marine mammal.

The permit application is incomplete in that it does not identify loss of habitat as a consequence of the project. We request further assessment of the project’s impact on the harbor seals.

Michael Brune Executive Director, Sierra Club Northern Alameda County Group, San Francisco Bay Chapter

Editor:

Before casting your votes in the upcoming election, I encourage all my friends and neighbors to take some time out of your busy lives and take a good long look at the Island we live on. I took a long drive last week and I returned home with serious concerns about the development that is taking place. "Quality of life" is a phrase thrown around freely in campaign literature and yet as I looked at the all the projects either proposed or underway I am unable to see how the quality of life I currently enjoy will be enhanced by any of the projects.

The new shopping center behind College of Alameda sickens me. The entire development, stores, gas stations and houses look like Anytown, USA. Quality of life? I’m doubtful. The Veterans Administration development on Alameda Point promises to be much more massive than most of us realize bringing with it an unknown component that I find unsettling. Seaplane Lagoon is beautiful but again, who will benefit from the proposed development? Is development of this magnitude wise?

The Del Monte warehouse and Chipman projects on Buena Vista Avenue promise to provide housing and shopping opportunities but will they increase our quality of life? When you add the proposed housing to the Oak Street and Clement Avenue area, the new Walgreens and other retail stores and the proposed development on Tilden Way near the Fruitvale Bridge, it makes me wonder if anyone charged with making decisions has actually looked at the Island as a whole.

It seems as though our planners and city leaders have just rubber stamped each project, one by one.

I am not naive enough to advocate no growth nor to think that this election will solve the mess our elected officials will inherit. I do think that residents need to pay attention and vote. If 80 percent of the eligible citizens vote to keep things as they are, I will shut up and rethink where I want to spend my declining years.

If you believe that Alameda is a very special community and should not be turned into the same boring towns you see across the entire nation, I encourage you to vote, speak up and change the future of the Island. Your quality of life is at stake.

Mike Cooper

Editor:

I am keeping up with letters from distraught residents (of which I am one) regarding the intrusive multiple housing projects "mandated" for Alameda. I urge people to go to the website Bayarealiberty.org for an eye opening explanation for what is in store for us.

The Oct. 9 front-page story "Updates on Development" stated

that the city "wants developers to charge residents and business owners separate fees for their parking in order to reduce car ownership of potential residents."

Does that mean that the city staffers living in or out of Alameda will also reduce their car ownership?

Give the incumbents a rerun, and we will see more rezoning. Hamlet-style living is the plan they have for us, restrictions and government over reach.

Vote them out!

Jane Jackson

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