New WETA Facility Raising Concerns

City of Alameda photo - WETA’s plans for its maintenance facility at Alamada Point will do away with a harbor seal haul out and place fuel tanks near an existing electric substation. Both are show in orange on this aerial view.

News Analysis

The lease for the Water Emergency Transport Authority (WETA) ferry maintenance comes before the City Council on March 3. Readers have expressed concerns about the harbor seal haul-out currently at the site of the facility. Despite lobbying and verbal assurance from WETA that it will build a new harbor seal haul-out, no written memorandum of understanding on the harbor seals exists for the City Council to consider. The lengthy lease agreement does not even mention the seals. 

Supporters of the haul out fear that WETA is hoping that the City  Council OKs the lease and accepts a “gentleman’s agreement” that WETA will do something about the harbor seals whose habitat it is taking over if such a move is commercially feasible. Supporters also worry that WETA wants to avoid any commitment that might interfere with the authority’s plans for the site. 

Michael Brune the executive director for the Sierra Club, wrote a letter about the seals to the National Marine Fisheries Office of Protected Resources. The letter is part of the City Council’s packet so staff and the City Council members should have read it before the meeting. 

In his letter Brune points to the lack of maintenance and lack of human presence on the docks over the years as factors that ultimately attracted the seals that made themselves at home there. He pointed to the calm waters and the absence of boating commotion, as well as the food sources for the harbor seals that are in supply in the channel where WETA wants to build its facility.

In his letter Brune states that the Sierra Club recommends “that the National Marine Fisheries Service impose measures to compensate for the loss of harbor seal habitat. 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,” Brune stated. 

In addition to the alarm about the seals some have expressed concern about WETA’s plans to place its fuel tanks next to an existing electrical substation. As is evident in its original plans, WETA was planning to place its fuel tanks underground under the maintenance yard. Last October, WETA apparently decided that it would be cheaper to locate the fuel tanks above ground — right across the street from its maintenance facility. The plans show electrical substation footprint still in place.  

A third concern relates to regular fuel deliveries to WETA’s facility. People who currently live and work at Alameda Point must be made aware of any planes for diesel tankers regularly traversing their neighborhoods. The concern must stretch beyond Alameda Point and today’s residents and workers and look to the people who live on the routes these tankers plan to take to and through Alameda both when the facility opens and well into the future. 

Richard Bangert contributed to this story. Contact Dennis Evanosky at editor@alamedasun.com.