Funding Requested for Point VA

Courtesy photo    Plans to construct the Alameda Point VA facilities have been inching forward.

Costs spike during transition

In its 2021 Budget request to Congress, submitted on Feb. 10, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is asking for $152.9 million in additional funding in order to construct the clinic and administrative office building at Alameda Point. Up until now, the VA had funding only for site grading, utilities and road work, the first phase of the cemetery and on-site wetland mitigation.

The total project cost estimate is now $310.5 million, which is $100 million more that it was in 2015, and construction has not even started yet. The revised cost estimate for the project in the 2021 VA Budget calls into question the wisdom of the decision by Congress in 2015 to shift management of VA major construction projects to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in order to curb cost overruns. 

The transition in management from the VA to the Corps of Engineers moved at a snail’s pace. The VA first had to execute a partnership with the Corps, which took two years. Then the Corps had to do its own review of the established design documents. 

Meanwhile, the Regional Water Board is still waiting for the VA to complete its state-mandated environmental impact report. This report is needed for the Water Board to approve the VA’s on-site wetland plan. The wetland mitigation plan is required because of the impacts to existing wetlands caused by the VA project. 

The wetland plan was agreed to in concept in 2018 by the Water Board and the Corps of Engineers. These two regulatory agencies must approve projects that are connected with public waterways. The VA submitted a detailed description of the wetland plan, along with drawings that are 60 percent complete. 

The wetland plan calls for expanding the existing wetland on the VA’s property, next to the city’s proposed ecological park dubbed DePave Park, west of the Seaplane Lagoon. The VA’s wetland plan will include a network of tidal canals connected to the Bay and removal of non-native vegetation and introduction of native wetland plants. This wetland is in the area zoned Nature Reserve on VA property by the city in 2014.

If the 2021 Budget request is approved by Congress, the VA will have a total of $266.2 million in funding. The VA will need only $44 million in a future budget in order to construct the Conservation Management Office and complete the cemetery.

Richard Bangert posts stories and photos about Alameda Point environmental issues on his blog at https://alamedapointenviro.com.