Minutes of June 4, 2015 Commission Meeting
1. Call to Order. The meeting was called to order by Chair Wasserman at the Ferry Building, Port of San Francisco Board Room, Second Floor, San Francisco, California at 1:10 p.m.
2. Roll Call. Present were: Chair Wasserman, Vice Chair Halsted and Commissioners Addiego, Bates, Chan (Represented by Alternate Gilmore), Cortese (represented by Alternate Scharff), Gorin, Lucchesi (represented by Alternate Pemberton), McGrath (represented by Alternate Ajami, arriving at 1:36 p.m.), Nelson, Sartipi (represented by Alternate McElhinney), Sears, Techel, Wagenknecht, Ziegler (represented by Alternate Brush) and Zwissler. Assembly Representative Ting (represented by Alternate Sweet, arriving at 2:24 p.m.) was also present.
Chair Wasserman announced that a quorum was present.
Not present were Commissioners: City and County of San Francisco (Kim), Department of Finance (Finn), Speaker of the Assembly (Gibbs), Contra Costa County (Gioia), Governor (Randolph), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Hicks), State Lands Commission (Lucchesi), Solano County (Spering), Secretary for Resources (DeLaRosa), Governors Appointee (Vacant) and Association of Bay Area Governments (Vacant).
3. Public Comment Period. Chair Wasserman called for public comment on subjects that were not on the agenda.
There were no public speakers present to comment.
Chair Wasserman moved to Approval of the Minutes.
4. Approval of Minutes of the May 21, 2015 Meeting. Chair Wasserman asked for a motion and a second to adopt the minutes of May 21, 2015.
MOTION: Commissioner Wagenknecht moved, seconded by Commissioner Gilmore, to approve the May 21, 2015 Minutes.
Chair Wasserman asked: Is there anyone who objects to the Motion? (He received no replies) Is there anyone who wishes to abstain on the motion? Commissioner Gorin abstained from voting on the Minutes. The Chair announced that all other Commissioners noted on the roll were voting, “YES” and would be recorded as such. The Minutes were approved.
VOTE: The motion carried with a vote 11-0-1 with Commissioner Addiego, Bates, Gilmore, Pemberton, Nelson, Scharff, Sears, Wagenknecht, Zwissler and Vice Chair Halsted and Chair Wasserman voting “YES”, no “NO”, votes and Commissioner Gorin abstaining.
5. Report of the Chair. Chair Wasserman reported on the following:
a. New Business. This is an opportunity to request items to be considered on a future agenda if you have you would like to put on. (The Chair received no requests)
b. Appointment. The California Natural Resources Agency has appointed Raul DeLaRosa, who is the Assistant Secretary for Climate Change, as the Agency’s Commission representative and Claire Jahns, who is the Assistant Secretary for Climate Change Issues, as his Alternate. I know you will join me in thanking Amy Vierra and her alternate, Abe Doherty, for their service and commitment to the Bay and BCDC.
Report out from the Working Group on Rising Sea Level:
This group met just before this meeting. The primary focus of the meeting was our work plan for the next six months. We are going to try very hard to do some significant focusing on a set of items that we believe will allow us to produce an updated and very inspiring, specific report for you in January. We are going to focus in particular on digging deeper into some specific projects that are underway or in the plans so that we can use them for discussions by this Commission as well as our broader communications as specific practical examples of what can be and should be done to adapt to rising sea level in our Bay. We will explore specific ways to better communicate to our decision makers and the public about those specific issues and what we need to do and how we can do a much better about increasing awareness of the significance of this issue which we are all quite familiar with. The third issue will be looking at more detailed and specific ways to finance the projects that will need to be undertaken in order to protect our built environment from the inevitable rising sea levels. We will also have at least one coordinating meeting with the Bay Fill Committee because there is some intersection there, particularly as we recognize that in our next 50 years we are going to have to put more things into the Bay to save it. We look forward to all of that.
I testified last week on behalf of the Commission to a hearing conducted by the Senate Environmental Quality Committee chaired by Bob Wieckowski. I think we have submitted my prepared remarks to the Commission. They were developed in coordination with staff. There are a good, brief summary of adaptation and where we stand. The Committee chair was much more interested in engaging in dialogue and questions about specifically what should be done and what we were asking the state to do. What I told them was, we need more money, more assistance in coordination and more assistance in communication. I want to talk briefly about the status of plans for the 50th Celebration. We should be sending out next week, “Save the Date Reminders”. The celebration will be on September 16th and there will be a seminar in the morning at the Exploratorium as an opportunity to start some serious dialogue about what can and should do over the next 50 years as we look about saving our Bay and the environment around it. There will be a celebration that will take place that evening at the Exploratorium. We have formed a non-profit to help raise funds for this as well as to be recipient for funds for BCDC projects from foundations and others who won’t give to state agencies. Some questions have come up over, “Friends of BCDC’. The non-profit is utilizing the services of an outside counsel, not my firm, who are experts in FPPC, non-profit and conflict-of-interest issues and are carefully clearing what we do with them. We hope to raise a significant amount of money for these activities which we also hope will include funds for a design contest that will be announced as part of the 50th Celebration. We are discussions with the city of San Francisco and others about the specific focus of that.
Discussion of Rebuild by Design:
The city of San Francisco has an effort underway with, “Rebuild by Design” which was involved in the post-Sandy analysis in New York. We will keep you informed. We hope to raise between $350,000 to $450,000 for this activity. We will not solicit or accept contributions from applicants or direct representatives of applicants to BCDC. We will be transparent about contributions. Contributions to the Foundation will be reported periodically on the, “Friends of BCDC” website which should be up next week. We have not received any contributions to date. The morning event will be sponsored by “Friends” and by BCDC.
Commissioner Scharff asked: Are we going to have sponsors of the event? Will groups or companies sponsor it?
Chair Wasserman replied: Yes. Exactly how the sponsors will be recognized is still being worked out. We do expect sponsorships from corporations and foundations who are interested in this area, again, excluding applicants or likely applicants to BCDC. We hope to have a meeting in a couple of weeks that will probably be a back-to-back board meeting but also will give the opportunity for any Commissioners who might be interested in either learning more or sharing ideas to come together and talk to us about that.
Commissioner Gorin spoke: Can I clarify the date? You said, September 16th, is that a Wednesday? (Chair Wasserman nodded, yes.)
Chair Wasserman continued: The San Francisco Bay Estuary Institute is having its annual, “State of the Bay” on the following two days and there will be some connectivity in terms of our presentations. They are also serving as a fiscal sponsor for any entity that would like to make a contribution but by policy won’t give to a newly formed 501,(C),(3).
c. Next BCDC Meeting. We do not expect to hold a meeting for BCDC on either June 18th or July 2nd. We expect the next meeting to be July 16th, here at the Ferry Building in San Francisco. At that meeting we expect to take up the following matters:
(1) We expect to vote on the application by the Golden Gate Transportation District for the Sausalito ferry terminal.
(2) We expect to have a vote on the NOAA Assessment and Strategy for our coastal management program.
(3) We expect to hear an update on our Strategic Plan.
d. Ex-Parte Communications. That completes my report. This is an opportunity if anyone wants to make an ex-parte communication report keeping in mind they actually need to be done in writing. (Chair Wasserman received no comments) He moved on to Item 6.
6. Report of the Executive Director. Executive Director Goldzband reported on the following: As summer approaches the Little League season winds down, interns ramp up, and BCDC is heading into period of transition. By the time we next meet, we hope that the Governor will have signed the budget, that we have hired a new Chief Counsel, and that we will be making some of our limited term employees permanent. Permit applications for big projects such as Treasure Island and the Bay Bridge demolition will be forthcoming. And, we hope that you will continue to be focused and committed despite the season’s temptations. Unlike parents who can pack up their troubles and send them to summer camp, BCDC will stand upright and face our challenges head on.
We are one of the first wave of state agencies to implement a new accounting system. Unfortunately, it does not work very well, yet. Therefore, we have accepted the volunteer efforts of Lily Chan, a 30-year veteran of the Coastal Commission, to help Sebastian Sandoval, our accountant, run our current system while Sebastian also gamely attempts to use the new system. We thank Lilly for her service.
Assisting the Regulatory staff this summer will be an intern named Zoe Siegel. (Ms. Siegel stood and was recognized) Zoe is pursuing a Master’s degree in city planning at Cornell University after earning her undergraduate degree at the University of British Columbia in human geography in 2011. She has worked for the City of Oakland’s Resilience Office, Rebar Art and Design Studio, Greenbelt Alliance, the California Department of Public Health, and SPUR. We have a wide variety of duties awaiting her.
Jennifer Podvin will work with our Planning staff on the Suisun Marsh Management Program this summer. (Ms. Podvin stood and was recognized) Jennifer earned her B.S. in Conservation and Resource Studies at Cal and is studying for her Master’s Degree in Environmental Management at the University of San Francisco, with an emphasis in GIS. She will assist in the update and mapping of the more than 130 individual duck club management plans.
Finally, I am sorry to let you know that Doug Armstrong of our Enforcement staff is leaving to accept his near-dream job of supervising ocean lifeguards at San Francisco’s Ocean Beach under the auspices of the Golden Gate Recreation Area. Doug is a longtime ocean lifeguard, a superb critical thinker and will always be part of the BCDC family.
I want to let you know that, last month, BCDC issued an emergency permit to the City of Sausalito to initiate and complete two outfall repairs on Dunphy Beach. Chair Wasserman approved the action. Jaime Michaels of our staff has been working with the City on this issue and Sausalito has submitted its application for the project under one of our region-wide permits. The repair was necessary because the outfalls were exposed at the beach and posed a hazard to those using the beach. Please let me know if you have any questions.
The second meeting of the Contra Costa Adapting to Rising Tides Stakeholder Working Group was held one week ago today in the City of Richmond’s council chambers. The group includes about 45 Working Group members representing the cities and county, regional and federal agencies, and NGOs. Lindy Lowe recapped the scope and expected outcomes of the project and then presented draft project resilience goals for Working Group feedback and input. Wendy Goodfriend provided an overview of how to analyze future and current flood exposure. There was a facilitated tabletop exercise to help Working Group members develop a collective understanding of the benefits of a robust assessment and how to explore relationships and dependencies among all the assets. At the next meeting, planned for late July, the Group will share detailed findings of the assessment and identify the key planning issues to be addressed by the project. We are really thrilled to be working in Contra Costa County.
One final note – Governor Brown issued an Executive Order on May 20th in response to the recent Santa Barbara oil spill that, in part, suspended the Coastal Commission’s authority to regulate “any work reasonably necessary to mitigate the effects of the emergency.” We have not had a discussion with the Coastal Commission or the Attorney General’s Office regarding this EO and its implications, but we shall. I am happy to report that Linda Scourtis of our staff has just completed training offered by the California Office of Emergency Services that certifies her as a trained emergency responder. In addition, Linda will take part in the Port of San Francisco’s disaster response exercise this month and will volunteer to do so around the Bay so that BCDC is well represented throughout our jurisdiction and both we and all of our stakeholders best understand how we can work together in times of distress.
That completes my report, and I am happy to answer any questions you all may have.
Chair Wasserman asked: Are there any questions for our Executive Director? (He received no inquiries) I need to make one addendum to my report. There is one other element of the fundraising that, “Friends of BCDC” will do in close coordination with BCDC itself. We will solicit additional contributions from the private sector, particularly foundations, for the expansion of the ART Program. We are in active and productive discussions with Caltrans and MTC about giving us the funds that will allow us to expand ART to each of the nine counties in the Bay Area. We have a rough budget goal for that effort in three years of $15 million expecting to get half from the public agencies and looking for the balance from the private and philanthropic sectors. We will not be soliciting or accepting contributions from applicants or likely applicants to BCDC. With that we come to Item 7.
7. Consideration of Administrative Matters. Chair Wasserman announced: We have received reports of administrative actions. Bob Batha of our staff is here if you have any questions. This brings us to Item 8.
8. Public Hearing and vote on an application by WETA to construct a maintenance facility in Alameda. Chair Wasserman announced: Item 8 is a public hearing and vote on the application by WETA to the Water Emergency Transit Authority for a maintenance and operations facility in the City of Alameda in Alameda County. Erik Buehmann will provide the staff recommendation.
Permit analyst Erik Buehmann presented the following: On May 22nd you were mailed a summary of an application to construct the Water Emergency Transportation Authority Central Bay Operations and Maintenance Facility located on West Hornet Avenue in the City of Alameda in Alameda County.
The proposed project involves the construction of a maintenance and operations facility to service and maintain WETA’s ferry operations in the Central San Francisco Bay.
In the Commission’s Bay jurisdiction the project involves the installation of berthing and mooring facilities for up to 12 vessels in an approximately 18,569 square foot area and 900 square foot pile-supporting gangway deck, minor repairs to the existing shoreline protection system, and dredging approximately 47,000 cubic yards of sediment with disposal at a previously authorized beneficial reuse site or at a site located outside of the Commission’s jurisdiction.
Within the Commission’s 100-foot shoreline band jurisdiction the project involves the construction of a four-story central Bay operations and maintenance building or a “CBOM” building with a 6,750 square footprint and a maximum height of 70 feet and a 12,800 square foot work yard.
Also within the Commission’s 100-foot shoreline band jurisdiction, the project proposes enhancements to a public park located east of the proposed ferry maintenance facility.
To offset impacts of the proposed fill in the Bay the applicants propose to remove dilapidated pilings and docking facilities which are no longer used by boats within an approximately 20,200 square foot area near the project site.
A population of Harbor seals currently uses these pilings and docking facilities as a haul-out location. To mitigate the effects of removal on Harbor seals the applicants propose to study and potentially construct an alternative seal haul-out facility.
With the proposed removal of dilapidated pilings and docking facilities the net increase in open-Bay surface and volume would be approximately 1,651 square feet.
The applicant has revised some of the calculations for the development as presented in the summary, most notably; the area of the public park to be enhanced as listed as 25,600 square feet in the summary but is actually 14,310 square feet.
And the proposed landscaping is listed in the summary as approximately 18,000 square feet when it is actually 5,402 square feet.
The recommendation mailed on May 29th includes the corrected amounts for all the development.
The project is designed to be resilient to mid-century sea level rise as the grade is above the level of a 100 year storm event at a conservative 24 inch sea level rise projection at mid-century. The project is not designed to function beyond mid-century.
The public access proposed for this project is similar to public access required in similarly-permitted, Commission-authorized projects. For example, in the Commission permitted WETA and San Mateo County Harbor District South San Francisco Ferry Terminal, the permittees proposed and constructed an approximately 14,000 square foot fill project, solid, floating and pile-supported fill which is similar in size to the fill associated with the Ferry Maintenance Project proposed for here.
The South San Francisco Ferry Terminal proposed a viewing terrace and public access area on the pier connected to an adjacent Bay Trail. This project is similar in that it provides view to the Bay from a viewing terrace and provides an improved Bay Trail connection along the shoreline and to adjacent areas which are expected to accommodate greater numbers of visitors as redevelopment of this area of Alameda continues.
The staff summary lists the issues raised by the project, in particular, whether the proposed fill for the project is consistent with the McAteer-Petris Act and the Bay Plan policies on fill and natural resources and whether the project provides maximum feasible public access consistent with the project.
Here to present the project is Michael Gougherty for the Water Emergency Transportation Authority.
Mr. Gougherty presented the following: I am the project manager for the CBAM or Central Bay Operations and Maintenance facility.
I will start with a brief description of who we are. WETA was created as a regional agency by the State Legislature. We are charged with three primary responsibilities. The first responsibility is to operate existing public ferry services in San Francisco Bay. Our second responsibility is to plan and implement future ferry services in San Francisco Bay. Our third responsibility is to coordinate water emergency transportation services in the event of a regional disaster.
Our agency currently operates four ferry services. These services include the Alameda/Oakland ferry service to San Francisco, the Vallejo ferry service, Alameda Harbor Bay and our new service that opened in 2012, the South San Francisco ferry service.
Of note, we do not operate the Larkspur or the Sausalito ferry services. These services are the responsibility of our cousin agency, the Golden Gate Transit District.
Since 2013 our ridership system-wide has increased 50 percent. Not only does this mean less congestion on the Bay bridges but it also means new opportunities for public enjoyment of the Bay whether it is taking a ferry to work, to a Giant’s game or just out on the weekend for an excursion.
As ferry service becomes more and more popular we are moving forward with several expansion projects. Current projects underway include new services to Richmond, Treasure Island, Seaplane Lagoon, Mission Bay and the expansion of the downtown San Francisco ferry terminal. We also have several other projects in the North Bay and the South Bay that are currently under study and we will be completing feasibility analysis for those in the coming years.
As our system grows both in terms of the current services we operate and future new services, so does the cost and effort of maintaining our fleet of boats. In order to contain these costs we are looking to consolidate our operations and maintenance functions at two facilities to improve our system-wide efficiency.
The North Bay operations and maintenance facility which was approved by the Commission in 2013 and is currently under construction will be the base of our Vallejo fleet of high-speed by the Commission along the Mare Island Straits.
The Central Bay operations and maintenance facility or “CBOM” which is the project before you today will be the base for our current and future Central Bay fleet and we are to place other facilities along the San Francisco waterfront where we currently maintain our boats today.
Our proposed project, the Central Bay maintenance and operations facility would be located at Alameda Point. Alameda Point is the area at the western extent of the city of Alameda and Island of Alameda.
Our specific project site is located just southwest of the area known as Seaplane Lagoon within another area referred to as the Breakwater Basin. This is a protected basin area by an existing breakwater.
This project is a natural fit for the area and the site. The area is generally centrally located to our existing Central Bay services. It has a long legacy of maritime use dating back to the days of the former Alameda Naval Air Station.
The actual site that we are on was formerly used by the U.S. Navy as a small vessel marina and consisted of an overwater wooden marina facility as well as a landside building adjacent to the overwater facility.
Today the surrounding area is still dominated by a strong maritime land use identity anchored by the presence of the U.S. Mare Island Reserve Fleet to the west of the site.
Our site is located directly adjacent to this facility and has fallen into very poor condition since the Navy left with a failing seawall, large broken concrete slabs on the landside and overgrown vegetation. In general, it is in pretty dire need of improvement and is an aesthetically unappealing area.
There are several major improvement components of the project including landside construction within the 100-foot shoreline band, construction of a significant over-water marine facility as well as a public access improvement program. The most prominent feature of the project will be the landside construction of a new four-story building. The building will have a footprint of approximately 6,000 square feet and reach a height of approximately 70 feet.
The first floor of the building will have some shop spaces in it that open into the surrounding yard enabling our maintenance staff to have the space necessary to complete light repair work and light maintenance work that is typical of our operations today. Heavy duty repair work such as dry dockings or engine overhauls are not going to be a part of this facility’s program. Those will be functions that WETA continues to perform offsite. On the second floor we have some space for parts storage and the third floor of the building would be office space for WETA’s administrative, operational and emergency response staff.
The yard area surrounding the building has been designed to allow for the safe and secure handling of hazardous materials. The yard will be enclosed by a transparent perimeter fence. This fence will not only secure the site but it will also offer opportunities for interested passerby’s to view into the yard and see some of the interesting activities occurring related to the ferry repair and maintenance work.
Both the building and the yard will be designed for construction and operation as a LEED Silver certified facility as well.
The project has also taken into account both the city of Alameda and the Commission’s policies on sea level rise. There would be a new seawall constructed as part of this project. Our engineers working in conjunction with BCDC staff have confirmed that the new elevation for the building and the yard would be resilient to protections of sea level rise throughout the expected design life of the project, approximately 50 years.
The project will also include a fuel tank storage area across the street from the building and outside of the 100-foot shoreline band. The storage tanks will provide fuel for regular WETA operations as well as up to a seven day reserve supply of fuel in the event of an emergency. That annex yard area would be across the street.
The feature in our waterside improvement program is the construction of seven slips that would provide berthing capacity for up to 12 vessels in our Central Bay fleet. The marine structure would be comprised of floating docks secured in place by steel guide piles.
The marine facility would be connected to the upland site by a gangway and landing pier.
As part of the project WETA will be removing approximately 20,000 square feet of Bay fill mostly consisting of the remnants of an old wooden dock that was left behind as part of the U.S. Navy’s small marina facility. Much of this wooden dock has partially sunken in and deteriorated over the years. It is in pretty poor condition.
However, in 2013 it was brought to our attention by members of the local community that a group of Harbor seals had taken to hauling out on portions of these docks formerly left by the Navy. In response to concerns that the WETA project would potentially displace these seals, WETA has voluntarily committed to providing a replacement haul-out near the facility. In March of this year we reached and entered into a memorandum of understanding with the city of Alameda setting forth that we were to create a $100,000 fund which has since been earmarked by WETA to study, design and potentially construct the replacement haul-out.
Since the agreement we have convened a working group comprised of staff from the City and WETA, interested members of the community and we have also brought a marine biologist expert onboard from Cal State University to assist with identifying potential sites for the replacement haul-out. Last month our working group met on site at the project and was able to identify a potential location for the haul-out. We are hoping to initiate the construction permitting process to provide the haul-out as early as next month with the goal of having a replacement haul-out in place prior to beginning construction of the project.
The final major component of the project is the public access improvement program. The views along the shoreline at this project are remarkable. There is an interesting variety of maritime uses at this location as well. These uses would include the U.S. MARAD facility and the U.S. Hornet Museum and hopefully in the future the repair and maintenance facility.
In coordination with BCDC staff and the city of Alameda we have focused on providing a program that creates better access and connectivity to the project and also improves the quality of amenities onsite near the project area. Our goal is not only to make it easier to get the site and the area but also to make it more enjoyable once you get there. Making it easier to get there is the component dealing with improving access and connectivity. Our project will be providing a new segment of Bay Trail directly to the north of the facility. We will also be re-routing and improving an existing portion of the Bay Trail to the east of the project site. These improvements will close a gap in the Trail network between the Seaplane Lagoon area and the shoreline heading east. The improved segment of the Bay Trail would be resurfaced and widened and would be consistent with the City and Bay Trail design standards as well.
We will be creating a new park and an open space to the east of the site in terms of amenities improvements. The new area will feature a viewing terrace along the shoreline. The project will also include a series of foot paths. These would connect the viewing terrace to the Bay Trail and also allow people in the area to stand and take advantage of those interesting views into the ferry yard. And lastly, we will be providing a program of interpretive signage, bike parking and landscaping improvements throughout the open-space area to the east of the project site.
In total, the project will be providing over 20,000 square feet of public access improvements. Of this area, 14,000 square feet is what is required as part of the permit but in total the project will be providing additional improvements outside of the 100-foot shoreline band. So the total is 20,000 square feet.
Similar to our treatment of the building and yard portion of the site our strategy in the public access area is to raise the elevation. This will be raised to a level that would make the public access improvements resilient to projections of sea level rise over the entire design life of the project.
We think that this project would be a great addition to the working water front. The working waterfront has become less and less prominent as the economy in the Bay Area changes and uses along the waterfront evolve. This project would provide a modern, environmentally friendly facility that over the 50-year design life of the project would support jobs for up to 10 ferry maintenance and operation staff, 20 to 40 administrative staff and serve as the base for 24 to 48 cruise captains and deck hands that will operate ferries in the Central Bay.
I would be happy to answer any questions you have about the project.
Chair Wasserman announced: The public hearing is open. I want the record to show that Commissioner Ajami has joined us. Commissioner McGrath’s alternate, welcome.
Mr. Klein addressed the Commission: I live in Alameda. I am a member of the working group helping WETA move these Harbor seals to a new location. There were a couple of statements in the BCDC report which were misleading.
Misleading statements can lead to bad conclusions. One sentence in the report says, “There is a small population of Harbor seals.” It doesn’t say how many. They occasionally use the dock. That is completely misleading. They use the dock almost every day. They have adopted this dock as part of their life.
There is another sentence that says, “There is a new haul-out above the breakwater which is a popular haul-out.” That is just plain wrong. The breakwater is not a popular haul-out. We hardly ever see any seals there and in the last three months we have seen no seals there.
The water dock is on the water and it is easy for the seals and their pups to get on. The breakwater is a wall of boulders, not very inviting for seals and they don’t like it. It is particularly difficult for pups to get on the breakwater.
We thought it important that there be a replacement dock like this because there have been some people in the past that have suggested they can just go to the breakwater. The breakwater is not a substitute. They like the dock because it is much closer to natural seal haul-outs which are typically flat beach or mud flats.
Chair Wasserman asked: Mr. Klein, I appreciate your corrections to the record and I just want to be clear that you are in support of the approval of the application.
Mr. Klein answered: Yes, yes.
Mr. Pat Murphy spoke before the Commission: I am with the Blue and Gold Fleet here in San Francisco. The Blue and Gold Fleet is currently under contract with WETA to provide ferry operations for the four routes that WETA has and also to do maintenance for the 11 vessels that WETA has. Blue and Gold Fleet is currently in control of those 11 vessels.
We use our facilities at San Francisco and in Vallejo to operate and to do the preventative maintenance with these vessels. I am here in support of this project. We have had a difficult time with the growth of the ferry service over the last three years in trying to find more mooring spaces and more places to do our maintenance.
Our engineers and vessel crews are also in support of this and have asked me to come here and speak to that support. They think this facility would be a wonderful addition for them to be able to work out of. This facility would be where our vessel crews would be starting their shifts, finishing their shifts and doing this maintenance.
We think that WETA as they continue to grow needs more mooring spaces, needs areas to be able to do these improvements and we look forward to having one of these facilities state-of-the-art. Thank you.
Ms. Irene Dieter spoke before the Commission: I am a resident of Alameda. I am here not to be in favor or oppose the project. I am here to talk about the public process which I believe has been lacking through the whole since this project began. The joint applicants in this project, the city of Alameda and WETA have done virtually no public outreach whatsoever. Even residents who pay close attention to planning projects in Alameda missed the CEQA opportunities to weigh in. If a few of us who spoke up on behalf of the Harbor seals didn’t raise a stink there would be hardly anyone of the public that would know about this project. My husband and I have tried to inform people in the newspaper in the last year and a half but other than that this is a major project for the Bay Area and for the city of Alameda. Public agencies need to be extra careful that they don’t continue to move forward with things without engaging the public. To do the bare minimum that is required by law sometimes doesn’t always work. I am here to encourage that in future projects that things like this don’t happen again.
I am thankful that WETA is building a new haul-out but there has been a big gap in public outreach.
In terms of this spot being a natural fit, I will say that it is close to the huge ships that take out right off into the Bay but some people would say that it is on the borderline of a natural fit because it does butt up next to a regional park with a potential campground there. This is a very serene area. The project is moving forward but I do think that it is important that the public is more informed on these major issues.
Chair Wasserman continued: Do we have questions from the Commissioners? Commissioner Nelson was recognized.
Commissioner Nelson had questions: The project application calls for 12 berths and did I hear correctly that you have 11 vessels now? Could you give us a sense of what you expect your fleet to look like over however far you can project your needs?
Mr. Gougherty replied: The facility will be for 12 vessels. We have 12 vessels but the twelfth is sort of a ghost vessel because it has been retired but not replaced yet.
Our fleet today in the Central Bay is exclusively propeller-based propulsion boats. They range in capacity from 149 to approximately 399. In general, seeing that our ridership as a commuter service is increasing and also in response to our mandate to provide emergency services in the event of a disaster, as we replace our fleet; they will generally get larger in terms of passenger capacity. The typical boat, propeller-based propulsion has a passenger capacity of 399 people.
Commissioner Nelson asked: So does that mean that you are expecting in the future the same number of boats simply larger boats or do you expect that you are going to need to expand this facility to accommodate more vessels?
Mr. Gougherty replied: We don’t expect that this facility will ever overnight berthing for more than 12 boats.
Commissioner Nelson continued: With regard to developing the alternate haul-out facility; have you or staff had a chance at the success in developing alternative haul-out facilities? I don’t know much about sea haul-out facilities but sea lions have a way of being strong-willed and hauling out where they want to. How successful have we been at enticing them to haul-out facilities we designed for them?
Staff member Buehmann answered: In looking at this application I only know of one in the Bay. There was an attempt at Arambaru Island to create an alternative a seal haul-out and that didn’t take from what I understand. The seals did not adopt it. This is something that we discussed with WETA and we are hoping that the study will help establish whether an alternative haul-out will be viable at this location.
Commissioner Addiego commented: I need to know a little bit more about the alternate site that you have identified. The $100,000 figure for study, design and construction; that is not a number you commonly see in government anymore.
Staff member Buehmann answered: One thing I want to point out is that this permit application is not requesting authorization for the haul-out. The recommendation would simply require that they do the study. The authorization for the haul-out will be handled probably in future applications.
Regulatory Program Director Brad McCrea commented: We have a recommendation that we will give to you in a few minutes. As part of that recommendation there is a requirement in the permit to fund a study and then design an alternative site and implement that. The city of Alameda and WETA entered into an MOU and they identified $100,000 as a reasonable amount of money to do this work. In the recommendation that we will present to you we have not included that number. We have simply said that they shall design, fund and implement.
Commissioner Zwissler asked for sea level rise so that is 2050. I have also heard that the projected life of the project is 50 years so that is 2085. I am a little confused between, is it 35 years or 50 years?
Staff member Buehmann replied: We wrote the summary and the recommendation to mid-century being 2065. WETA’s projection of sea level rise is actually for 24 inches of sea level rise. This project will be resilient to 100-year storm at 24 inches of sea level rise at mid-century.
Commissioner Addiego had a second question: What are the future plans, if we know, for the naval facility?
Staff member Buehmann replied: I don’t know the future plans for the naval facility.
Staff member McCrea added: Unfortunately, no one is here from the City.
Commissioner Gilmore weighed in: I can answer that question. Right now there is a proposal in the works with a developer to develop a 62 acre site, mixed use, some retail/commercial, adaptive re-use; that as it is currently scheduled is supposed to go to the city council for a vote up or vote down on June 16th. And this would be the first major project. I believe the developer is hoping that this be a catalyst for the rest of the Base. This is the near future. The rest of the Base also includes several hundred thousand square feet of commercial and retail but that is another phase.
Commissioner Zwissler continued: But is what you are referring to right where the existing boats are docked?
Commissioner Gilmore replied: In this particular phase if it goes forward, encompasses the Seaplane Lagoon and the plan there is to build an additional ferry terminal. The ships stay. Under any scenario you are looking at, the ships stay.
Commissioner Gorin had two questions: Mr. Gougherty, could you describe what kind of outreach efforts with the community you have taken? And a broader question for BCDC, do we offer a list of suggestions or a checklist or at least a description of what kind of community outreach has been engaged in by the applicant?
Mr. Gougherty answered: I would be happy to provide a summary of our outreach efforts. The City who is actually a co-applicant with us on this project could not make it today. It is a partnership between the city of Alameda and WETA. WETA is a relatively small staff of 11 fulltime employees. We really lean on our municipal partners a lot to conduct a lot of our outreach. In the course of preparing our CEQA document that document was posted. Notices about that document were posted at city hall and near the project site. The document was made available for public review at facilities throughout the City and at the WETA offices. Information about the release of the document and approval of the document was posted to our website. It was summarized during numerous board meetings by WETA.
In addition to the CEQA noticing we have also engaged in a very expensive permitting process. In the course of 2013 when it was brought to our attention that the Harbor seals were there we initiated a consultation with NOAA and NMMS under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. That triggered yet another noticing process for the project. We did receive comments about the project in response to that. Those were considered by NOAA when they issued their biological opinion
In terms of other outreach, the project was recently brought before the City Council in Alameda for a lease approval that went through two hearings. There are numerous articles written about it in the local press. Information, again, was posted to our website and also disseminated by the City through its normal channels for city council meetings.
After approval of the lease document by the City Council we went through, yet, another permitting process with the City. It was the issuance of the use permit by the Planning Commission. So, again, information was posted to the website. Again, there were numerous articles written about the project in blogs, local newspapers and regional newspapers.
That brings us to today’s hearing; another milestone in the approval of the project. A notice was posted onsite as required by BCDC policies making the public aware that this project was going before the Commission today. We are committed to continuing to make publicly available any information about the project and any upcoming approvals and any opportunities the public has to weigh in on the merits of the project.
Commissioner Gorin stated: It sounds very thorough. The minute you talk about fish or animals or public access it is a challenge to outreach to people at the appropriate time that they need to have and that is why since we are focused in large part on the public access, we want to make sure that we engage the public specifically for that. Thank you.
Commissioner Bates had a question: This building is going to be fairly tall and it is right in the middle of the 100-foot band. I’m wondering how it qualifies to do that and what the exemptions are, or is this standard practice if you can justify it within the 100-foot band?
Staff member Buehmann asked: Are you referring to views of the site?
Commissioner Bates clarified: I am talking to the facility that is going to be built, the building.
Staff member Buehmann replied: Within the 100-foot shoreline band your authority is limited to determining whether the project provides maximum feasible public access consistent with the project in areas that are not special areas that have a special area plan or priority use designation in the Bay Plan.
There are parts of the Bay in the Bay Plan that are designated for priority uses. And in those areas, and this is not one of them, you have a little bit more authority to determine what goes in there and what kind of uses are in that area. But in this location, in the shoreline band, your authority is limited to determining whether there is maximum feasible public access consistent with the project.
Commissioner Bates added: It is pretty difficult to have maximum access when you have a building right there.
Staff member Buehmann continued: Specifically, that building, the impact there would be that it is tall and it is blocking views to the Bay. In that case, we looked at that and because the applicant is enhancing the park to the east of the site, and providing a viewing terrace where you could look out onto the Bay; it offset the impacts to views that the building would cause.
Commissioner Bates replied: So what about designing a building in a way that you could have a roof garden and really have a wonderful view of the Bay?
Staff member McCrae added: These are questions we ask ourselves as well as the project goes through the application process. You don’t have land use authority per se in the shoreline band outside of the priority use areas. The Commission can only deny a project in the shoreline band if it fails to provide maximum feasible public access.
This project is not unlike any office building project around the Bay that you have approved over the years. And you have approved many, many office projects, residential sub-divisions and others. And all of those projects were reviewed in the context of public access. When we think about public access such as what is the maximum feasible, we look at the quality of the public access and the quantity of the public access. We look at physical public access and visual public access, i.e., views to the Bay. In instances where there is a significant use conflict, such as airports, seaports even conflicts between wildlife and public access; your policies allow and require that the applicants provide in-lieu public access at or near the site.
And this is one of those instances. We couldn’t get access on the site. It is a maintenance facility and there is a lot of heavy work going on here. And that is why the public access is immediately adjacent to the site which is consistent with the policy. We have provided an overlook. We asked them to provide an overlook so you can look into the facility because everybody likes to see the goings on of a working waterfront.
Commissioner Bates added: I am not necessarily opposed to the project. I just think it is an interesting wrinkle that we allow this to happen and by definition a lot of it is going to be office space and then there really is no public access to the building, right?
Staff member McCrae replied: That is correct. It is an office space so we deemed it an inconsistent use with public access and that is why we put those findings in.
Commissioner Bates added: It would be wonderful if WETA could figure out a way that allowed people to come onto the roof.
Staff member Buehmann added: It is something that we specifically challenged the applicant about earlier in the process, even prior to the DRB meeting, why can’t you provide public access on the site; not necessarily on top of the building, but in the work yard. They provided a significant amount of information explaining the activities at this site, at the work yard itself and at the building and convinced us that it was not going to be feasible because of all the intense industrial activities going on there.
Mr. Gougherty weighed in: I can definitely get to this one. The scale of the building has sometimes been a common comment we have heard from people. One of the things that is really important is the context in which the project is being built. Those ships, the MARAD facility ships are about 100 to 180 feet high. The building is 70 feet high and is very small in comparison to the existing uses that are there currently.
In terms of having access into the site or into the building, we are a regional transit agency with a very highly regulated environment. We have Coast Guard requirements, MARSEC requirements and we also have a very clear mandate from the state to be an emergency response agency. We have a lot of commitments that we have to fulfill to create a safe and secure facility from which we can carry out these mandates. Allowing regular public access to this site is inconsistent with the mandates that we have from our funding partners and the agencies that regulate our operations.
That reality resulted in a considerable expansion of our public access improvement program because we were charged with providing significant public access improvements in-lieu of onsite public access improvements. The entire program was expanded to recognize the reality that it wasn’t appropriate to provide on our project site for this project?
Commissioner Zwissler asked: Is the funding in place for this project, including the $100,000? Are you ready to roll?
Mr. Gougherty replied: The $100,000 plus has already been earmarked and it is in our capital budget for the next year. The project is fully funded.
Commissioner Addiego commented: The project manager mentioned that the first floor of the building is shops and the second floor is parts. And then the third and fourth will be administrative offices?
Mr. Gougherty answered: Technically, by code, it is a four-story building. From a layman’s perspective it is a three-story building. The first floor which includes the machine shop spaces that open to the yard also has a mezzanine. So by code that is considered two floors. The second floor is parts storage. There are a lot of parts to keep onsite for the maintenance of 12 ferry vessels. The third floor is the office space. That is the administrative, operations emergency response area.
Commissioner Addiego continued: You mentioned that you had 11 fulltime employees and if they were sharing 13,500 square feet those are nice palatial offices.
Mr. Gougherty added: It would be worth mentioning that the entire San Francisco Bay ferry system is run by more than 11 people. We have a contract operator with Blue and Gold.
Commissioner Scharff commented: I heard you say that the ferry service has gone up 50 percent. You said you had 11 boats and this is going to be 12. Are you worried that you are building a facility that only has 12 boats and you are going to need 16? I mean, if the next 50 percent increase, that seems right around the corner, right? You know, Caltrain is struggling with this same thing. They are having trouble keeping up with the demand. I am curious as to what you are thinking about that.
Mr. Gougherty answered: We can expand service without necessarily having more boats. Two solutions are frequency and shorter headways. One of the drivers of our ridership increase was that we had enough demand to warrant a doubling of the headways for the Alameda/Oakland service. So in the last year that service went from one hour long headways in the peak period to 30 minute headways.
The second option on the table in our toolbox is larger capacity boats. The 149 boats we almost cannot use anymore. They are not large enough. We are transitioning those 149, 199s to 399s. Should new boats be required we are committed that this facility it really is not feasible to have anything more than 12 boats. Should we need more boats we would need to look at potentially keeping more boats than we are currently planning to at the North Bay facility or designing future terminal facilities to allow for the overnighting for vessels at those facilities and maintaining and repairing those boats during the day at our maintenance facilities. That would be our general strategy.
Commissioner Scharff inquired further: Have there been any thoughts about coming down to the mid-peninsula?
Mr. Gougherty replied: Actually, we are in the process right now of developing a strategic plan. It will be the first revision of our strategic planning efforts since we developed the Implementation Operations Plan of 2002. We are not going to specify where we are going to go but there will be a more developed process for understanding where service makes sense and under what conditions it makes sense.
We certainly will be studying sites along the peninsula, the South Bay as well as other sites such as the Berkeley Project in the Central Bay and even potential sites in the North Bay. There will be distinct criteria set forth.
Chair Wasserman commented: The record should reflect that Michael Sweet the alternate for Commissioner Ting has joined us. Any other questions or comments? (No additional comments were received) I would entertain a motion to close the public hearing.
MOTION: Commissioner Pemberton moved to close the public hearing, seconded by Commissioner Nelson.
VOTE: The motion carried with a vote of 15-0-0 with Commissioners Addiego, Bates, Gilmore, Scharff, Gorin, Pemberton, Ajami, Nelson, McElhinney, Sears, Techel, Wagenknecht, Zwissler, Vice Chair Halsted and Chair Wasserman voting, “YES”, no “NO”, votes and no abstentions.
Staff member Buehmann gave the staff recommendation: The staff recommends that the Commission approve BCDC 2014.002 to authorize the proposed project.
The staff recommendation contains special conditions that require the permittee to take a variety of measures. These include: the permittee will provide an approximately 16,138 square foot area of a public park located adjacent to the CBOM facility, 14,310 square feet of which is located within the shoreline band including the widening and resurfacing of bicycle and pedestrian trails, the installation of bike parking, informational kiosks, signage, a viewing terrace, benches and landscaping. And the permittee will provide an approximately 15 foot wide, 290 foot long section of the San Francisco Bay Trail and associated amenities within an approximately 4,140 square foot area along West Hornet Avenue at the northern boundary of the CBOM facility. The area of total public access provided would be approximately 20,278 square feet. The permittee shall remove approximately 20,220 square feet of dilapidated docks and pilings that currently occupy a portion of the site. Finally, the permittee shall fund the study and design and construction of a replacement haul-out location for Harbor seals impacted by the removal of the fill. The study shall include an alternative mitigation plan in the event the study determines that a replacement haul-out would be enviable or infeasible. The permittee shall report on the results of the study to BCDC and the permittees are required to seek further and/or authorization by the Commission for any construction of an alternative seal haul-out. As conditioned, the staff believes that the project is consistent with your law and Bay Plan policies regarding fill and public access. And with that we recommend that you adopt the recommendation.
Chair Wasserman asked: Has the applicant reviewed the recommendation and do you agree to it?
Mr. Gougherty replied: Yes, thank you.
Chair Wasserman asked: Any further questions or comments? (No further questions or comments were voiced) Do we have a motion to approve the recommendation?
MOTION: Commissioner Zwissler moved approval of the staff recommendation, seconded by Commissioner Gilmore.
VOTE: The motion carried with a roll call vote of 15-0-0 with Commissioners Addiego, Bates, Gilmore, Scharff, Gorin, Pemberton, Ajami, Nelson, McElhinney, Sears, Techel, Wagenknecht, Zwissler, Vice Chair Halsted and Chair Wasserman voting, “YES”, no “NO”, votes and no abstentions.
Chair Wasserman announced: The motion is approved. Thank you very much for your presentation and for your work on this project. This brings us to Item 9.
9. Public Hearing and Possible Vote on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Operation and Maintenance Dredging Program. Chair Wasserman announced: Item 9 is a Public Hearing and Possible Vote on the U.S Army Corps of Engineers’ proposed maintenance dredging activities for the next three years. Brenda Goeden will present the staff recommendation.
Sediment and Program Manager Brenda Goeden presented the following: Today you have before you a three-year consistency determination request from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for their 2015 through 2017 dredging project.
Today the Commission will be acting under its federal Coastal Zone Management Act authority, which is different than our state permitting authority in that it is a federal law. The project needs to be consistent to the maximum extent practical with the Commission’s laws and policies.
In adopting the Coastal Zone Management Program for San Francisco Bay the CZMA incorporated the Commission’s state law, the McAteer-Petris Act, the Bay Plan and the Suisun Marsh Act, the Suisun Marsh Plan as part of its overall Coastal Zone Management Program, as well as its regulations.
The difference between consistent to the maximum extent practicable and a fully consistent as in permit requirements is that the Corps needs to look at the policies, identify whether or not their project is consistent; and in the case if they are not fully consistent they need to seek additional funding to become fully consistent unless there is a federal law that prevents them from doing so.
The goals for today’s project include ensuring safe navigation. That is our number one goal here today. And with that we also want to ensure that the LTMS program is implemented as designed and also ensure that the Bay habitat and species are protected to the extent that they can be given that this is a dredging project.
There is an inherent challenge in this project in that the Army Corps of Engineers has another set of regulations that includes adherence to the federal standard. The federal standard as the Corps interprets is that you have to take the least cost environmentally acceptable alternative. That is a challenge when meeting the LTMS program and the Bay Plan policies to the fullest extent practicable.
The Bay Plan policies that are primarily in play with this particular project are: Fish, Other Aquatic Organisms and Wildlife; Water Quality; Subtidal Areas, Dredging, including the implementation of the LTMS program as described in the Dredging policies; the Mitigation policies, the Public Trust policies; and the Navigation and Oil Spill Prevention policies.
The project includes six federal deep-water channels. They are the deep water navigation channels in San Francisco Bay. It is a three-year project. The Oakland inner and outer channels, Richmond inner, Richmond outer harbor, Pinole Shoals up in San Pablo Bay, the Suisun Bay Channel and the Redwood City Channel are all included. You will also note that in the staff recommendation and staff summary, the federal deep-water main ship channel outside of San Francisco Bay is included because the Corps presents its entire program as a package in the consistency determination. That channel is outside of your jurisdiction.
In proposing their dredging projects, they have proposed disposal or placement of the sediment. There are three general locations that we can place dredged material in San Francisco Bay Area The first one, which is everyone’s favorite because it is the least expensive and closest to most dredging projects is in-Bay disposal. The closest in-Bay disposal site from where we are today is the Alcatraz Island disposal site. Heading north from there is the San Pablo Bay disposal site. Then up to Carquinez Straits, just off of Mare Island is another in-Bay disposal site, and the last one is the Suisun Bay Channel disposal site, which is used exclusively by the Corps. In the Corps’ project over the next three years they have proposed to dispose of between 45 and 47 percent of the total dredging at the in-Bay disposal sites.
The next available site is the deep-ocean disposal site. And over the three years they propose to dispose of approximately 53 to 55 percent of their projects at this site. This site is approximately 55 miles out of the coast right along the coastal shelf. It is outside of the marine sanctuary.
The last option, which is BCDC’s favorite option is beneficial reuse. Beneficial reuse is taking dredged material from a federal channel, a berth, or marina and using it in a way that can be beneficial to the environment, to assist with flood protection by providing levee maintenance, to the environment through restoration, raising elevations of subsided sites up to where the marsh plain can be formed again to allow quick vegetation colonization. And in some places it can be used in construction projects like the Port of Oakland used when they were redeveloping the Port. Currently we have Cullinan Ranch and Montezuma Wetlands available for beneficial reuse, and then a small site at Winter Island and in the Suisun Marsh area there are some levees that are permitted for beneficial reuse of sediment.
In dredging, heavy equipment is used to move the dredged sediment. The project can use a clamshell dredge, which is a mechanical dredge dropped through the water, scooping up the mud and taking it over to a scow. The scow transits out to disposal site. The second option is a hydraulic dredge, which tends to be less expensive than a clamshell dredge because the Corps owns its own hopper dredges. This equipment operates very much like the sand mining equipment in that it pulls a drag head over the bottom and sucks sediment up with water. The entire vessel then transits to the disposal site.
Clamshell scows can be offloaded mechanically or hydraulically. The hopper dredge cannot be currently pumped off.
When you are removing sediment from the Bay you are disturbing habitat and you are in some cases taking out species. Disturbance of habitat is an identified issue that occurs either through removal of the sediment itself or burial of organisms when you dispose of the sediment at in-Bay or ocean disposal sites. There is also entrainment. Unfortunately with the removal of the sediment, the removal of organisms and burial during disposal cannot be avoided. However, it is possible to reduce entrainment by changing or limiting the equipment types used.
In the staff’s summary and recommendations we analyzed the entrainment issue. In our special conditions we included a number of items to reduce entrainment. The first one, is a limit to the use of the hopper dredge because examination over the past few years has determined hydraulic dredges have been shown to entraining small fish, particularly Delta and longfin smelt which are in decline.
What we found through a number of studies is that the hopper dredge does entrain more fish than the clamshell dredge. We have asked the Corps in the special conditions to reduce the use of the hopper dredge. That will incur additional costs. Another condition that we have included is seasonal work limitations. We limit the time of dredging to the time of year when the least endangered species are present. That is a pretty standard condition that through the LTMS program, all dredgers have been complying with for a number of years. We have also included a number of operational minimization measures such as only pumping water when the drag head is closest to the bottom if you are using a hopper dredge, and other similar minimization measure.
Also included in the conditions is an entrainment monitoring program because, while we understand that hopper and hydraulic dredges can take up small fish, the actual level of impact is not well understood. We are seeking to have that information better laid out through an entrainment monitoring program. Lastly, working with Cal Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife and NOAA Fisheries we have identified appropriate mitigation at Liberty Island up in the Delta, to mitigate for the take of longfin and Delta smelt.
The LTMS program, which was implemented starting in 2000 after a long stakeholder process, moved through a transition period of a high of 3.3 million cubic yards of dredging being disposed in-Bay down through 2012 to 1.25 million cubic yards currently authorized to go in-Bay through the program.
In 2015 we are maintaining in-Bay disposal volumes at 1.25 mcy annually at the four in-Bay disposal sites.
That volume is averaged over three years to allow for flexibility of different years’ worth of dredging. Some years we have higher dredging, some years we have lower amounts of dredging. Reduction of in-Bay disposal is the main goal of the LTMS program. It is to reduce in-Bay disposal to 20 percent of the overall dredged volume, which is where the goal is now. We have successfully implemented it over the last 12 years. The LTMS program also maximizes beneficial use of the sediment. As much as possible we should take sediment to beneficial reuse sites. In the LMTS program, the ocean is considered a stop-gap measure. In addition to the changes to disposal of sediment, the program has also streamlined the permitting process and increased environmental protection.
Back in 2000, the early days of LTMS, we had 80 percent of the sediment going in-Bay and approximately 10 percent was heading to the ocean and 10 percent went to beneficial reuse.
We have dropped it down to 20 percent in-Bay disposal and the LTMS, EIS/EIR found that a minimum of 40 percent could be beneficially used and 40 percent potentially could end up in the ocean. This is not the 40/40/20 plan, which a lot of people use as shorthand. It is reducing in-Bay disposal and maximizing beneficial reuse.
Some folks would say, well, that was great then. The Bay was in a sediment-rich system. We don’t need to do that anymore. Let’s move on because the Bay has really low sediment load. Everyone here recognizes that we also have sea level rise and we have a number of marsh restoration projects around the Bay that need sediment both to raise the sites to marsh plain elevation quickly and also to help keep up with sea level rise over time. The LTMS agencies, which include the EPA, the Water Board, the BCDC and the Army Corps of Engineers have confirmed, through our 12 year review, that beneficial reuse is not only still valid and important but that it is even more important now than it was in 2000.
The Corps has proposed to put 45 to 47 percent of the material in-Bay. That is quite a bit higher than the 20 percent that we have been asking the other dredging communities to do. The rest of the dredging community has been meeting the target of 20 percent in-Bay and the remainder has been going to beneficial reuse and when not feasible, the ocean disposal site.
We recognize that the Corps has a different funding cycle than most folks. They are requesting funds now for 2017 dredging activities. This year’s dredging money is already accounted for and allotted by the President’s budget and Congress. They should be getting their money soon. And 2016 has already been budgeted for and is already in process with the federal budget. So, in our consistency determination, we found that the Corps currently cannot get additional funds for 2015 and 2016 because that time has passed to request funds for the first two years.
We are still asking the USACE to maximize beneficial reuse potentially through their work plan allotments but the key here is that they start working towards getting funds for 2017 now because we believe that is feasible.
In our consistency determination recommendation, we included a condition that requires the USACE meet the annual volume limits, that they do not exceed the in-Bay disposal volumes and they work with the Dredge Material Management Office to make sure that they are monitoring volumes and not busting the LTMS target volumes on a yearly basis. We also included that they ask for additional funds to increase beneficial reuse rather than continuing with in-Bay disposal. In the condition regarding funding it states that they need to start working now improve in 2017. The Corps has raised some concerns about whether or not they can make requests for additional funds. We understand that they need to check in with the Secretary of the Army to make sure that it is within their authority.
We have had a basic disagreement in that in this CN we believe we are acting within the bounds and under our federal authority. The Army Corps looks at our requirements herein as a state authority. This issue needs to be worked out. And that will be part of the process in asking for funds. We will work with the USACE to further clarify which authority we are all working under and how they intersect. And then we will work hand-in-hand and get reports back on how the process is going in obtaining funds.
Because we are in this period of we are not sure whether the Secretary of the Army will say, go for it and follow the local program; the question has been asked, what happens if we do not agree?
I will briefly lay out the process for you. Today you have the opportunity to approve the recommendation as provided. The Commission can also object to it. If there are issues within the recommendation that you would like to see amended you can do that today. Once the vote happens then the Army Corps steps back and looks at whether or not they can sign off on the consistency determination. If they choose not to, that is considered an objection.
If an objection happens, they have the opportunity to defer dredging and elevate the decision to Headquarters or they can go ahead and dredge anyway and just say, we are going to do what we need to do, we have decided that we are fully consistent to the maximum extent practicable, and we are going to do our project. At that point the Commission has to make a decision as to whether or not they are going to elevate the process further and it can go through the Department of Commerce. You can also enter into a lawsuit against the federal government. Those are our options.
The other question that came up was, what happens on the water? What happens to the actual dredging while all this is going on? What happens to the ships that are coming into the Bay? On the water, the effects are a little bit different. If the Corps defers, they don’t dredge either some of their channels or all of their channels because there is the possibility that some of their projects can be fully consistent while others may not be. For instance, the clamshell dredging might not be an entrainment issue so they could move forward and still be fully consistent with some of their projects, other projects they might defer. If they defer their project that means that it is not being dredged. If you are not dredging your project, over time sedimentation is happening. The process in the Bay, is that deep-water channels shoal up. The Harbor Safety Committee and the Bar Pilots take a look at whether or not those channels are still safe for navigation, and they can implement draft restrictions, which means that big container ships have to drop some of their cargo off at another port before it comes into San Francisco Bay or it doesn’t load up as much when it leaves its home port. That has an economic impact. Over time it is possible that if dredging didn’t happen at all the federal deep-water channels may become impassable for some deep-water vessels, and that is a result we don’t want to reach.
We are here today with what we believe is a good project to move forward. We have considered and inserted a number of conditions that we think are protective of the Bay. We are going to let the Army Corps tell you a little bit more about it. If you don’t have any questions, I will introduce Lieutenant Colonel John Morrow to you.
Commissioner Gilmore had a question: I am trying to make sure I understood the options for authority here. There is the issue as to whether or not we and the Corps are operating under either state authority or federal authority. So that is one issue. The other thing I thought I heard from the very beginning of your presentation is that the Corps operating under federal regulations has a mandate to use the least expensive methods possible. If by conditioning their dredging activity, if that tends to run up the cost, they can ask for more money. And if that money is not forthcoming and they do not have the money to fulfill our conditions, having gone through our process they could make the determination that they are going to dredge anyway.
Ms. Goeden answered: That is correct. When it comes down to the federal standard, it is the least cost environmentally acceptable. Our position has been that the Coastal Zone Management Program represents what is environmentally acceptable for the region. You have to take in both sides of that equation when you are doing your analysis. There is a process under the Coastal Zone Management Act that directs the federal entity, in this case the Corps, to take steps to acquire funding to make their fully consistent. In the event that they ask for funds and they don’t get the funds, we may revisit, but it is entirely possible that is considered not feasible for them. So they asked, they didn’t get money; feasibility includes economics and availability of funds. We believe that there are some significant issues that can be resolved through conditioning, and that they should go through the process to get the funds to become fully consistent with our laws and policies.
Lieutenant Colonel John Morrow then addressed the Commission: Thanks Chair and Commissioners. I am the District Commander/District Engineer for the San Francisco District. First, a couple of shout outs. It has taken a lot of intellectual energy and time for a lot of people and we have a shout out for Brenda and her team and Larry and Steve; the road hasn’t always been smooth. I also have a couple of shout outs for the people on my team. Everyone is very passionate about this and we are passionate about protecting the environment. This position that I am filling now has existed for over 100 years as far as maintaining safe navigation is concerned.
An important piece is to set the stage. There are a lot of perceptions out there on what the Corps does, both positive and negative. Our District handles all the dredging on the northern part of the California coast. We also do flood risk management. We run and operate reservoirs. Today we are talking about dredging in the Bay Area. The San Francisco District has been charged by the U.S. to maintain safe navigation in the Bay Area. It is not optional. Congress says, you will do this. This is why we exist. That is why my position primarily exists and that is why I am here before you.
On an annual basis there are over 4500 deep-draft vessels that have transited the Bay Area. In one fashion or another they are using multiple federal channels that we maintain to provide safe navigation. I look at our authorities as our left and right limits, our bookends if you will. In this case it is the authority under which I am allowed by federal law, by Congressional statute, to do. Meaning me, as a District Commander as the District Engineer. This is important for all of the federal navigation channels, because first you have an authorization and that is a permit authorization and has to be funded. We have to have funds from Congress. We are here to comply with all federal laws, both environmental and fiscal.
We have to have lead times to comply with the permits because it takes two to three years to get enough changes in the pipeline to deal with current situations.
We operate on a three-year budget cycle. Right now we are still building the FY 2017 Budget. Our fiscal year starts on October 1st. This is why we need the lead time we talk about. For the last several years we have been operating under CRA, a Continuing Resolution Authority. We technically do not have new additional funds until several months later. This year we didn’t get our funds officially until February, meaning, we in the District did not have funds available for dredging until February. There are many, many hang ups that can hold up funds for months at a time or even kill a new budget submission entirely.
Regardless of the drought, there is still an amazing amount of shoaling that goes on in the Bay. We haven’t really seen a precipitous drop off in shoaling the last couple of years. The tidal currents are very unpredictable.
The models we use to project dredging amounts are not 100 percent accurate. We do not know exactly the amount of dredging that needs to be done even with the use of our projection modeling. The models are relatively accurate. We have more analytical data on shoaling in the Bay Area than anywhere else in the world. This helps us to be more predictable but it is still not 100 percent predictable.
It is going to take us time to send up the additional request for our authority and additional request for funding. We are very appreciative that BCDC took that into account in specifying the 2017 date.
We are committed to working through the process with BCDC. For today we do recommend a vote for the staff recommendation.
We are part of the LTMS. We share the goal of 40 percent beneficial reuse. Federal law allows for beneficial reuse when the cost is equivalent. If the cost is not equivalent, or we have to have a partner to provide those additional funds we cannot do beneficial reuse. That is the authority we have to have, and that is the constraint I have as a District Commander.
Getting authorities clarified through our policy chain is very complicated. Our higher boss is Mrs. Jo Ellen Darcy the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works. She is USACE’s boss. If she can make a decision for us, that will make things a little quicker. However, if she cannot make a decision she has to go to either OMB, proper, the Office of Management and Budget and/or the respective Congressional subcommittees for both Budget and Appropriations for the water and energy bills. It takes a lot of time to get a clarifying authority, so we appreciate that it is provided for.
Regarding the 20 percent maximum of in-Bay disposal we do have the constraint from the federal regulations. We do need the time to confirm it with our higher organization.
We have the same situation with the reduced hopper dredging. This drastically increases the cost. Because of the increased cost in light of the least cost environmentally acceptable, we have to have that authority clarified.
We will continue to provide regular updates on where we stand as far as our additional funding requirements are concerned. We will also develop funding depending on the authority that we receive.
Commissioner Scharff commented: I would like to thank the staff and the Army Corps for working through some difficult issues. I appreciate the Corps suggesting that we go with the staff recommendation. You said it was significantly more expensive. What kind of order of magnitude are we talking about?
Lieutenant Colonel Morrow replied: For the reduced hopper dredging it is project specific. We have talked about two or even three times more using a clamshell. Commissioner Scharff continued: How much more money are you going to be asking for? Lieutenant Colonel answered: No, we haven’t sir. Deputy District Engineer Arijs Rakstins replied: Just in a rough order of magnitude we are estimating between 10 and 20 million dollars additional a year depending on the size of our program. Our program varies from year to year; anywhere from 35 million up to about 60 million dollars. To comply with all of these regulations as proposed that is our rough estimate starting in 2017.
Lieutenant Colonel Morrow continued: And that would be in perpetuity adjusted for inflation. These are the things that we will have to get clarified because Congress would have to appropriate the requisite amount of money.
Commissioner Scharff asked: If for some reason you don’t get the funding do you have a sense of what happens next or do you come back to us and we re-discuss it? Lieutenant Colonel Morrow responded: We would have to come back to you. We will let you know what our options are and here is our status or the current set. We would discuss a variety of courses of action.
Commissioner Scharff asked: Is it all or nothing when you go back to Congress? Lieutenant Colonel Morrow replied: All the projects are usually appropriated by line item. So each specific project is looked at. It wouldn’t necessarily be all or nothing, but I cannot speak to that because that is a Congressional appropriations matter. Technically, they could fund a certain project to meet a certain requirement and they may not fund an additional project or another dredging project. It could be a menu of items. We do not see it as an all or nothing.
Commissioner Scharff questioned the staff: Do we have priorities in terms of the different dredging projects?
Ms. Goeden replied: I would not say that we have specific priorities. We will leave the priorities to the Army Corps.
Commissioner Scharff clarified his inquiry: I was thinking more in terms of the environmental issues of, if you only have so much money we want you to prioritize using the hopper instead of the clamshell dredge. Ms. Goeden stated: There are two different issues. One issue is the entrainment issue. There are three channels that are currently using a hopper dredge. One of the channels is the Suisun Channel and then Pinole Shoal and San Pablo Bay and Richmond Outer Harbor in Central Bay. Suisun Channel is the one that has both Delta smelt and longfin smelt. It is very likely that the next time the Corps asks the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for a biological opinion to do hopper dredging in Suisun Bay the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will say, no.
There has been talk back and forth and we believe that is the case because of the very significant decline in the Delta Smelt right now. For a lot of the agencies, Suisun Bay Channel is an extremely important one to reduce hopper dredge use in. There will be some federal backing for that as well from the resource agencies.
Richmond Outer Harbor and Pinole are the other two that use a hopper dredge, we would leave the decision between the two channels primarily to the Corps to determine. We have asked what time of year dredging would take place in these channels because even if hopper dredging were to occur in either of these channels; if they go the reduced hopper dredge alternative that would be the best-case scenario, they would dredge with a hopper in one channel. There are some limitations that would help reduce the impacts. So, as far as hopper dredge, the most important reduction would be Suisun Channel to protect the two species that are in most severe decline. Also, salmon move through that area.
As far as in-Bay disposal, we have been working very hard with the Corps to figure out ways to do more beneficial reuse. We all recognize that sediment is a critically important resource at this point in the Bay Area. The Corps is working on a contracting strategy to help realign some of their ocean disposal to bring it to beneficial reuse. We would like to see more beneficial reuse in the future because currently we will not be meeting the LTMS goals over time.
Commissioner Nelson commented: Staff mentioned that the listed species, Delta smelt and longfin smelt, which are also protected under state law are in decline. I wanted to note that this decline is particularly precipitous this year. Biologists, a decade ago were saying that these are becoming endangered species, are now saying that we are now looking at extinction for some species in the Delta. We are about a decade past a crisis and we are now at a point where we could begin to lose species in the Bay and Delta. As we evaluate the environmentally acceptable alternative that is something that we need to bear in mind.
I am trying to understand how the perspectives of the Corps and BCDC staff have wound up in such different position. Colonel, I completely understand that the Corps is a slow-moving, large institution that cannot simply turn on a dime. That is true of LTMS too. The policy that Brenda described as not 40/40/20, but the maximizing reuse policy has been described in terms of 20/40 and 40 percent in terms of allocating disposal options; that is not a new policy. I am hoping that you can walk through how that policy is developed and how it was anticipated to be implemented and how that dovetails with the Corps’ planning process, so that the Corps can meet its need to look down the road in the future. Is this a brand new policy? Has it been around for a while? How does the LTMS policy and phasing dovetail with the Corps’ budget process?
Ms. Goeden replied: The LTMS program was developed over 20 years. Back in the late 1980s we had a very extreme issue in the Bay. The environmental concerns in the Bay area were high, and the Clean Water Act had been implemented, and we were getting up to speed on toxics. There was a lot of concern environmentally about dredging in the Bay from the perspective of contaminants and the turbidity caused by disposing of large volumes of material in the Bay, to impacts to fisheries, both commercial and recreational, and just concern about the ecological health of the Bay. To cap it all off the Alcatraz disposal became a navigation hazard because it was mounding and the four in-Bay disposal sites were designed to be dispersive.
The idea is that the disposal sites were placed on the side of the deep-water channel, so, as you dispose; sediment disperses back out into the system and works its way out to the ocean. The Alcatraz site is not as dispersive as was hoped for a number of different reasons. It became a navigation hazard and all of a sudden there was this perfect storm of environmental issues and navigation issues. The environmental and recreational fishing communities actually blocked dredged material disposal in the Bay. They started circling Alcatraz Island and would not let the dredgers dispose.
That became a huge crisis and it was called, mudlock. At the same time there were also permitting issues in that there are four agencies that permit dredging in the Bay, BCDC, the Water Board, State Lands Commission and the Army Corps of Engineers. The permitting process was such that once one permit was issued, that by the time the last permit got issued, the first permit had expired and dredging should already have happened but it didn’t. These were two main impetuses for the LTMS program. One was the huge crisis on the dredging and the other was the permitting that was frustrating the dredging community. The stakeholders, the business community, the environmental community, and the regulatory agencies and the resource agencies got together and spent 10 years sorting out what the impacts of dredging and disposal were. They did a number of studies that cost about 17 million dollars, of which 5 million dollars was contributed by the State. This information helped develop the LTMS program. The different alternatives were looked at and the 40/40/20 Plan was chosen as the environmentally acceptable option. The agencies that signed on as partners were the Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. EPA, BCDC and the Water Board. State Lands was also in the mix. The resource agencies acted more as advisors. The LTMS environmental document was certified in 1998. Then the Management Plan was developed and finalized. The finalization of that plan was in the year 2000.
The environmental community had requested and succeeded in reduced in-Bay disposal and increased testing to improve our knowledge of what we were putting back in the Bay. The dredging community received streamlined permitting and they agreed to the idea of a transition period from our high in-Bay disposal which was 3.3 million at the time; it had previously been about 6 million but then the Navy left town so we didn’t have to worry about that anymore. This dropped it down to half very quickly.
The LTMS agencies set up a 12 year transition period. We went from 3.3 million cubic yards of in-Bay disposal down to 1.25 million. It happened in three-year increments. The idea was that this transition period would allow for budgeting and planning for the dredging community to increase their funds and their ability to do additional types of disposal, beneficial reuse and time for the beneficiarl reuse sites to come online.
Hamilton Wetlands Restoration Project was a huge feature of the LTMS program in that it was federally authorized. The Corps took it on as a civil works project and put a lot of their dredge material in it and Montezuma Wetlands Restoration Project came online and is still open for reuse. The idea of the transition was to give people time to make this work.
The Corps, as a partner, signed the Record of Decision as part of the final action of the EIS. There has been the twelve-year period to plan and budget for this. The first two things the Corps did was they designated the Richmond Inner Harbor and the Oakland Harbor as, ocean disposal as their federal standard, so they immediately took those projects and started taking them out to the ocean. Since then, those have been the two projects that we can compete with beneficial because when they look at their costs, they consider whether they take it to the ocean or to beneficial reuse? If the cost is close enough to ocean disposal, we can get it to beneficial reuse. Oakland has been the star for the last couple of years taking 600 to 800,000 cubic yards at a time to Montezuma.
Since then it has been status quo. The Corps has not been able to move other projects to beneficial reuse.
Lieutenant Colonel Morrow spoke: You are saying, if it has been like this for 15 years why are we reaching an impasse now? We are starting to work our process. Part of it has been that it has been the ebb and flow especially Hamilton. Hamilton is a great success story. It is now a lovely ecosystem restoration site that took an ugly former Air Force and Army airfield and transformed it back to what Mother Nature had intended it to be.
Over the last several years we thought more beneficial reuse sites would come online. It has become an economy of scale situation. The additional sites would compete enough so the tipping fees would come to a point where it could easily compete with any alternative. Many times it does not pencil out when you do the contractual competition as far as additional costs because Montezuma is not cheap. We were able to put a lot of material in Montezuma last year but that was because the economy of scale happened to work out.
We would prefer to take that material to a beneficial reuse site as opposed to putting it at SF DODS. We are constrained again. If that is the least cost for us at DODS we are literally constrained with having to put the material there. We have reached an impasse. This consistency determination will help give us more justification as we send this up through our higher organization. Why didn’t it happen in 2000, 14 or 15 years ago; I honestly cannot answer that.
Mr. Rakstins added: Part of the issue is that we are at the final step down. As the in-Bay volume was decreasing through a combination of funding and shoaling actually occurred we were able to meet the LTMS goals. We now got to that final point and we are at the margin. If the dredging market and the market for beneficial reuse placement had responded differently there would not be as tight of a cost conflict.
We are trying in our contracting process this year to better represent the cost of beneficial reuse versus the cost of ocean; in particular, the ocean monitoring we have to do, the in-house costs associated with that. So we can make a contract or a placement decision on more of a true cost basis. We are trying to see what we can do to make beneficial reuse comparable to ocean disposal.
Commissioner Zwissler commented: In FY 2014 and FY 2015 in terms of your appropriations request, what did you ask for and what did you get? In the last few years Congress has not been able to fund the President’s Budget. There are all kinds of limits on funding increases. I am trying to gauge everyone’s reasonable expectation that there is going to be 10 or 20 million dollars additional in the future. I think it is highly unlikely and I am just curious historically whether you have been able to see those kinds of increases.
Mr. Rakstins replied: Oakland Harbor was being placed at Alcatraz at about 2.5 to 3 million dollars per year in the 1990’s. Our appropriation now, 30 years later, is 15 million dollars. So there is a way to evolve the budget over time. The problem is, the Corps’ civil works budget is staying pretty much static, about 5 billion dollars a year. It has been like that for about the last decade. As we ask this policy question on funding this program, that funding is going to have to come from somebody else. There is a way to secure those funds if you ask for them.
Commissioner Zwissler made a point: You went from 2 million to 15 million in 30 years. We were hearing so much about sand mining and the removal of sand and now we are talking about the relocation, is there any possibility; I was thinking about Ocean Beach and the concerns that folks had about getting the sand back out on the beach. Does any of that fit into this or is this totally separate? Ms. Goeden replied: It fits very well into that but in the, outside of the Commission’s jurisdiction. The Corps has a demonstration project where they place the sand from the Main Ship channel, which is almost 100 percent sand, right off shore at that Ocean Beach site. Lieutenant Colonel Morrow added: We are feeling very optimistic about our demonstration project. This will be a really good proof of concept. It is great for the environment and it is great for the people in that area.
Commissioner McElhinney commented: Lieutenant Colonel Morrow thank you for your Army service. Brenda is one of our best here at BCDC. You mentioned that once you cross your fiscal year does your budget stop? Do we stop dredging due to budget or do we just keep going month to month with some continuous allocation? Lieutenant Colonel Morrow replied: In theory if we had to dredge in October, November, December; those would be based on an individual, project-by-project basis. It is essentially under emergency funding. Since we do not dredge until at least June or July in the Bay Area we generally always have funds.
Commissioner McElhinney asked: Do we reach these maximum dredge volumes that are estimated on a regular basis? Are we staying ahead of the need on all these main channels?
Lieutenant Colonel Morrow replied: Overall, we have been able to reach most of our authorized depths, those that are federally authorized. The money that was allocated pencils out and it gives us enough dredging removal that we can get to our authorized depth. In theory, if they gave us less money and it does not pencil out, instead of a 40 foot controlling depth maybe it would only be a 38 foot controlling depth. If we do not have enough money we have to work with the respective port to say, this is all the money we have unless we get some additional funding this is what you are going to get. In very simplistic terms this is how we operate if we do not receive that funding that we truly need. We are pretty good at estimating overall about how much in the local economy, how much a dredge would cost for how many cubic yards; but again, sometimes Mother Nature is unpredictable.
Commissioner Techel commented: Getting things funded many times takes a personal visit to a Congressman or to other people. Can we be helpful? Lieutenant Colonel Morrow replied: Yes ma’am, absolutely. We cannot lobby. We are constrained to just sending up the requirements through our hierarchy. We will put together, nothing but the facts. We will include a letter of support. This is all we can do. However, everybody else can be a unifying voice. And that is how it is; it is part of unifying the voice back in Washington, D.C. You all can push the message even though we cannot.
Commissioner Bates had a question: Is there any sand that you could be mining as you are doing this dredging? And if so, that is a mark-up, right? And that is some income. Lieutenant Colonel Morrow responded: Suisun Channel is primarily sand. As far as the dredging, as far as how they would process that; I cannot really speak to that. Commissioner Bates asked: Is that a possibility that you could work out with some of the product companies that are already doing the sand mining to come in and do some of your work for you and you could actually even make some money.
Lieutenant Colonel Morrow replied: For us to personally make money, no. We cannot do that. I was thinking of the aspect that they would give us a discount on dredging knowing that they could use some of that material for sale. Commissioner Bates continued: It is a valuable resource and it seems that there ought to be a way to extend it to the sand mining. It seems like it has an economic value that we ought to at least figure out a way to help fund some this stuff. Lieutenant Colonel Morrow stated: Yes sir. And that is a great thing and we call it “P3”, public, private partnerships. That is something where we partner with private industry for them to help us out and we help them out. That may be a possibility.
Commissioner Bates added: You know you have this huge shortfall and maybe you can generate some funding to be able to cover your shortfall. Lieutenant Colonel Morrow continued: If we can get a discount on the per cubic yard cost for dredging within the Bay; anything that we can do to reduce our overall amount of requirement funding-wise is a great thing.
Chair Wasserman announced: We are going to open the public hearing. We have four speakers, John Coleman.
Mr. Coleman addressed the Commission: John Coleman with the Bay Planning Coalition. I hope the Commission will be in support of the staff recommendation. We have worked with BCDC, Save the Bay, the Bay Institute and the Coastal Conservancy trying to get additional funding through WRDA the last two years, which would benefit the Corps and their operations to do more beneficial reuse. Each one of you in your different capacities whether it be a city, county or regional agency, when that time comes, it will be critical in order to try and secure the funding from the Congressional representatives.
What the Corps is doing, is the number one thing that keeps our economy thriving, keeping the channels to the depths that we need to move products in and out of northern California and throughout the nation and throughout the world. Their permit is necessary in order to be able to do just that. To the LTMS goals we hope that we would be able to expand their budgetary ability to do more and beneficial reuse so we can move forward. It is a long process.
Mr. Jim Haussener commented: Jim Haussener, California Marine Affairs and Navigation Conference. We are an island for equipment here in San Francisco Bay. We do not have a lot of dredging. We only have dredging for a few months out of the year. The equipment that we get that is not already here in California has to come through the Panama Canal. This drives up costs substantially.
In 1997 the year before the ROD got signed for the LTMS, Oakland was 2.2 million dollars a year. Currently that project this year FY 2016 is going to be about 16 million. The last couple of years in a row it has been 20 plus million dollars. So we have seen over 1,000 percent increase in costs.
Back in the 60s dredging was about 25 cents a yard. We are now looking at 25 to 40 dollars per yard. We have an issue here in terms of how much the cost is getting to be. In the future we need to ask, are we getting the benefits out of that additional cost or should we take a look at a different paradigm so we can still get the benefits of dredging and maybe reduce those costs so we can get more beneficial reuse.
The people who own the cargo that is imported into the United States pay a tax. That tax, since 1987 has been collected, and it is roughly now about 1.5 billion dollars a year. Congress appropriates about half of that money. The Administration asks for only about 40 percent of that money.
We have collectively been trying to get more of that money allocated for dredging and work through the energy and water process in order to do it. That money is there and it is being paid for as we go forward. We have asked successive administrations in Sacramento to help us on that and they have not done so in terms of what California is doing to try and get some of that money.
I disagree on the beneficial reuse. Why can’t we put that material into the South Bay, increase the mudflats in the South Bay, target the program down there and put some of the money for the horizontal levee purpose. We really need to change the way we think about dredging and dredge material disposal.
Mr. Thanh, “Thang” Vuong commented: My name is Thang Vuong and I supervise the dredging program at the Port of Oakland. I am here today to emphasize that the Corps of Engineers’ project, especially dredging, is vital to the Port of Oakland’s success as well as the region’s economic success. If the ships can’t safely make it to the marine terminals they will be shut down. That would be bad for us a region. The Port of Oakland is in favor of staff’s recommendation and would hope that the Commission vote in favor of staff’s recommendation.
Mr. George Torgen addressed the Commission: This is George Torgen from the San Francisco Baykeeper. I submitted written comments on behalf of Baykeeper and the Bay Institute. I wanted to speak on two issues that are very important to our organizations - the loss of sediment from the San Francisco Bay ecosystem and species impacts. As this Commission is well aware of there has been a huge sediment deficit in the Bay that has really come to light over the past few years. We are very concerned about the impacts on sea level rise adaptation, coastal erosion, wetland loss and initiating growth in the Bay from the loss of sediment.
In our view the project, even as conditioned by the staff recommendations does not meet the LTMS and the Bay Plan dredging policy 5 for maximizing the use of dredged material as a resource. More than half of the dredged material is still being proposed to go out into the ocean where it is not going to help anybody or anything here in the Bay Area. We think there should be a much stronger push to beneficially reuse sediment now here in the Bay Area. We think this old issue of costs and budgeting is really a red herring. Colonel Morrow correctly said that the dredging program that the Army Corps implements must meet all applicable federal laws; this includes the Coastal Zone Management Act.
The Coastal Zone Management Act requires that all dredging projects be consistent with state-approved management programs, which include the LTMS program and the Bay Plan. Those requirements have been in place as has been noted for over a decade. There is no good excuse for why we are just starting now to think about budgeting three years from now to address these requirements.
Secondly, on the species impacts, we are greatly concerned about impacts to Delta smelt and longfin smelt. These species are on the brink of extinction and have been recorded at their lowest levels ever over the past few months. The Army Corps’ own studies note that up to 29 percent of Delta smelt and up to 8 percent of longfin smelt are being entrained by these dredging projects. We think that the condition that has been imposed on beginning the phase out of hopper suction dredging beginning in 2017 is not strong enough. We would ask for that condition to be imposed today. There is simply no reason to wait until 2017 for a species that are literally on the brink of extinction.
We learned that hopper dredging would not likely be occurring this year or next anyway. So we see no reason to require the use of clamshell, mechanical dredging in place starting now. Fish and Wildlife Policy 4b states that the Commission should not authorize projects that will result in take of listed species unless proper authorizations have been attained from state and federal wildlife agencies. It sounds like there is yet to be a federal biological opinion on this project. No agency has asked the Department of Fish and Wildlife in the State of California for take authorization for this project.
Chair Wasserman continued the meeting: May I have a motion to close the public hearing?
MOTION: Commissioner Scharff moved to close the public hearing, seconded by Commissioner Nelson.
VOTE: The motion carried with a vote of 15-0-0 with Commissioners Addiego, Bates, Gilmore, Scharff, Gorin, Pemberton, Ajami, Nelson, McElhinney, Sears, Techel, Wagenknecht, Zwissler, Vice Chair Halsted and Chair Wasserman voting, “YES”, no “NO”, votes and no abstentions.
Commissioner Sweet commented: I have a comment from Assemblymember Ting. I will read it since it was handed to me on a piece of paper. Assemblymember Ting is unable to attend today’s hearing but asked that I deliver this statement as his alternate. Assemblymember Ting supports maintaining the San Francisco Bay’s six federal deep-water shipping channels. His interest in the renewal of the Army Corps of Engineers’ permit is to see the Corps agree that sand and mud dredging during maintenance be used to restore wetlands and protect shorelines from sea level rise. He also requests, whenever possible, that dredging materials not be dumped deep in the ocean. With the planned dredging we have an opportunity to help protect the Bay and our shorelines that should not be missed. And so ends the statement prepared by Assemblymember Ting.
Commissioner Bates commented: Is it possible in our recommendation that we could put in there a clause about disposal but that there had to be an economic analysis of prior to making the disposal they would look to see what is the most viable economic issue in terms of making the decision of where they dispose? Ms. Goeden commented: I have spared you from a lot of the details of how the dredging approval process actually happens. For the Army Corps of Engineers they are currently proposing their three-year program. And it would be the maximum volume that they would dredge in the three years.
With that three-year approval, the process begins of the alternative disposal site analysis. Every year the Corps comes to the LTMS agencies and says, here is our program for the year. This is what is possible and this is what is not. Part of that analysis includes the economics because they have to talk to us about how much it costs and they are working very hard to equalize some costs right now. Part of it is what equipment is available. Part of it is the timing et cetera. So there is built into the process this analysis that takes place literally on the individual projects. The analysis looks at all the disposal sites as options.
Commissioner Nelson had a question for staff: Can we usually look to the fisheries agencies for guidance on impacts to fish and wildlife? Can you enlighten us as to the status of compliance with the state and federal endangered species act? Ms. Goeden answered: This is where your permitting authority and consistency determination authority or CZMA authority differ. We have discussed with the CZMA folks at NOAA about this issue to make sure we have it right. All of our policies that are applicable to the CZMA have to be enforceable policies. Fish and Wildlife Policy 4 states not only that we should consult with the resource agencies, but that if a project is likely to take listed species we should get a biological opinion or an incidental take permit.
The Army Corps of Engineers is not subject to CESA, the California Endangered Species Act, because it is a state requirement. The Corps is subject to the Federal Endangered Species Act because that is one of the federal laws that the Colonel said he needs to comply with. However, as we discussed this with our NOAA advisors, and they confirmed, that we cannot ask for the piece of paper or the process. We cannot require the Corps to give us a biological opinion. We can require that they take care of Bay native species for the preservation of future generations, and their habitat, et cetera under Fish and Wildlife Policy 1 and 2.
What we do in the federal consistency determinations is if they give us the biological opinion, we use it. In this case there is a biological opinion in place from NOAA
Fisheries and there is a biological opinion in place from U.S. Fish and Wildlife. But it is a programmatic biological opinion, which means that it is for the entire dredging program in the Bay Area. And that is one of the things that sets forth the work windows. For NOAA’s biological opinion, there is no issue. They are happy with the requirements in the programmatic opinion for salmon and that the Corps is working as best as they can within the work windows. NOAA is amending that biological opinion and we expect it to be complete any moment now. We will implement that as soon as it is in our hands. The Corps is in agreement with that.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, two or three years ago, informed the Army Corps of Engineers that they were concerned about hydraulic dredging and Delta smelt. The Corps requested a 10-year biological opinion. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife declined. U.S. Fish and Wildlife said partially that because the Delta smelt is in significant decline we are going to give you a year-by-year biological opinion. We are going to reassess every year. The Corps has provided to them a biological assessment, which is the step that precedes the biological opinion. We have that information. We have incorporated it into the recommendation. We have seen letters back and forth from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to the Corps and we have talked to their staff about the issues. We know that one of the things that they really want is the entrainment monitoring. They also have confirmed that the mitigation that was proposed is appropriate for the take of Delta smelt.
So there is no biological opinion for Suisun Channel. The Corps will ask again next year. This year there is no hopper dredge being used in Suisun, so there is technically no incidental take. We have all the information that we would see, we believe, in a biological opinion. We have done our own assessment under our law and policy and incorporated what we think is appropriate for the take of Delta smelt.
Similarly, we have consulted with, via meetings and conversations and emails and letters, with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, both on longfin smelt and Pacific herring, which is not an endangered species but a species that spawns in the Bay and therefore it is habitat for spawning and needs to be protected.
We have incorporated a number of special conditions that they have recommended. They have recognized that they do not have federal authority but they can still advise other state agencies. They have advised the Water Board and they have advised BCDC of what they believe is appropriate. Those things are in the recommendation and the conditions of the consistency determination.
Commissioner Nelson commented: We need to think more creatively about reusing material and the Commission is working on that process. It is a good point that this is a valuable resource and we need to think about it in ways that are creative with reuse in mind. It seems to me that given the tremendous involvement of the Corps and all of the other agencies over the years, that as the Corps evaluates the least cost, environmentally acceptable alternative I think they can make a very strong case that in the Bay Area the direction that we all collectively agreed to 15 years ago represents the least cost environmentally acceptable alternative. I am very comfortable with the staff’s recommendations as far as requirements for beneficial reuse and I would move the staff recommendation.
Commissioner Bates interjected: I haven’t heard the recommendation really. She hasn’t given it yet.
Chair Wasserman stated: It is slightly in advance but I will accept it. Commissioner Nelson moved and Commissioner Scharff seconded. Commissioner Scharff had a comment.
Commissioner Scharff commented: I really appreciate the Commission’s questions. What I am struck by is the depth of knowledge that staff brings to this when they answer the questions. It gives me a lot of comfort in this. I would consider this to be a difficult situation where we are not completely comfortable with where we are on this. I think you struck the right balance. That is why I am happy to second the motion because I have that strong sense that staff has really put a lot of effort into thinking this through and thinking of all the contingencies.
Ms. Goeden presented the staff recommendation: Staff recommends that the Commission concur with the consistency determination of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, BCDC consistency determination number 2015.00200 as conditioned minimizing impacts to Bay species with minimization and mitigation measures that are appropriate to protect those species, reduction in in-Bay disposal in favor of beneficial reuse and seeking funds to make those measures possible. And with that the Commission staff recommends approval.
Chair Wasserman added: I believe the Army Corps is already on record approving the recommendation and I will accept silence as indicating there is no change in that position. Thank you. That brings us to a vote. We will do a roll call vote on this.
Deputy Attorney General Chris Tiedemann commented: Mr. Chair, the form of the motion under the CZMA should be that the Commission adopts the staff’s conditional concurrence with the consistency determination.
Chair Wasserman stated: That was the motion I heard from Commissioner Nelson. Thank you very much for clarifying his words. We will take a roll call on that motion and the federal representative will not vote.
MOTION: Commissioner Nelson moved the Commission adopts the staff’s conditional concurrence with the consistency determination as described in the staff recommendation, seconded by Commissioner Scharff.
VOTE: The motion carried with a roll call vote of 14-0-0 with Commissioners Addiego, Bates, Gilmore, Scharff, Gorin, Ajami, Nelson, McElhinney, Sears, Techel, Wagenknecht, Zwissler, Vice Chair Halsted and Chair Wasserman voting, “YES”, no “NO”, votes and no abstentions.
Chair Wasserman announced: The motion passes and I thank all of you for your good work. I have two quick comments related to this matter. We want to re-emphasize that we may as a Commission and we may as individuals and we may in our capacities as representing other agencies want to participate in sending letters of support and a lobbying effort, which we can do to support increasing the budget.
The second point I want to make is on the static nature of the Corps' overall budget for civil improvements. It is my recollection that there a number of representatives of the military at the highest level who have gone on public record that they believe that climate change and rising sea level are amongst the major threats to national security this country faces. That being true it seems to me the Army Corps has a significant role in helping us to adapt to rising sea level and we ought to be able to increase that budget. And with that I will entertain a motion to adjourn.
10. Adjournment. Upon motion by Commissioner Zwissler, seconded by Commissioner Sears, the Commission meeting was adjourned at 4:02 p.m.
VOTE: The motion carried with a vote of 14-0-0 with Commissioners Addiego, Bates, Gilmore, Scharff, Gorin, Ajami, Nelson, McElhinney, Sears, Techel, Wagenknecht, Zwissler, Vice Chair Halsted and Chair Wasserman voting, “YES”, no “NO”, votes and no abstentions.
LAWRENCE J. GOLDZBAND
Approved, with no corrections, at the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission Meeting of June 4, 2015.
R. ZACHARY WASSERMAN, Chair