February 14, 2007 Water Trail Steering Committee Meeting Summary

Next Meeting—March 21, 2007, BCDC

Meeting Overview

  • The Water Trail Steering Committee (Committee) discussed and provided feedback on a conceptual organizational structure for water trail implementation. The Committee raised questions and made suggestion about stakeholder representation in the organizational structure, the specific roles and procedures for different implementing entities, and project-specific environmental review of potential trail heads within this organizational model.
  • Staff proposed an approach for designating launch sites as part of the trail, and presented a map showing a pool of existing and planned launches. The Committee suggested changes to the map and components of the approach to trail head designation, but was supportive overall of the proposal.

Action Items

Responsible Task Deadline
Steering Committee Email or call Sara Polgar with corrections for the maps, and additional comments and ideas on trail head designation. 03/02
Sara Polgar Revise the map and proposed approach to trail head designation based on feedback from the meeting and submitted comments.

Prepare ‘job descriptions’ to clarify the roles of the different entities shown in the conceptual organizational structure for the trail.

03/07

For Materials or More Information
Please contact Sara Polgar (415 352-3645; sarap@bcdc.ca.gov) for a copy of any documents mentioned below, or with any questions.

Meeting Summary
Water Trail Conceptual Organizational Structure
To introduce the conceptual organizational structure for the water trail, Sara Polgar reminded the Committee of the roles and responsibilities of different agencies, organizations and individuals in trail implementation. She then outlined a simple model for trail organization that was developed based on these roles and responsibilities, and to address the needs of the project and requirements in the Bay Area Water Trail Act (2005). For more information about the organizational structure discussed in the meeting, please refer to the staff report “Water Trail Implementation.”

Clarifications about the Management Team
Participants asked staff clarifying questions about the Management Team (MT) membership and processes. Staff clarified that the MT would have approximately 8-10 members based on the representation described in the staff report. Staff thought that the MT would initially need to meet on a monthly basis. MT meetings would be open to the public.

Management Team participation
People doubted that shoreline resource management agencies such as U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, East Bay Regional Park District and a local park district would be able to participate consistently in MT meetings and thus have a meaningful role in trail decision-making. It was suggested that in reality agencies would engage in the MT when the issues affect them; the MT should be designed to ‘pull-in’ the interested parties and expertise that are relevant to the projects or issues under consideration.

Representation on the Management Team
Concerns were raised that with its existing representation, the MT would fail to sufficiently factor-in certain perspectives (e.g. wildlife protection, navigational safety and interests of local municipalities) in its decision-making. Additionally, the shoreline resource managers on the MT would not be able to represent perspectives beyond the scope of their particular sites.

Functionality of the Management Team
Staff proposed the MT as the group that “rolls up its sleeves” and implements the Water Trail Plan. It will be directing staff on decision points, including the expertise that should be brought in on key issues and the role of the Partnership in weighing in on issues. People questioned whether a larger MT would be able to function effectively in this role. However, if MT representation was not expanded to encompass interests such as wildlife and navigational safety, Committee members were concerned that the MT representatives would lack the appropriate awareness to recognize projects and other decisions that require additional expertise and Partnership input.

Clarifications about the Partnership
Responding to questions before and during the meeting, staff clarified that the Partnership is essentially an extension of the Steering Committee, with the Committee serving as its base membership. The Partnership would be expanded to include other interested parties such as environmental advocacy groups. Staff recognized that membership and participation would probably wax and wane depending on the suite of projects and issues in front of the MT. Furthermore, Staff recognized that maintaining an active and engaged Partnership would require continuing organizational support and financial sponsorship.

Size and functionality of the Partnership
Committee members were concerned about the potentially large size of the Partnership and its effectiveness as a group in reviewing and providing input to the MT on potential trail heads and other implementation topics. They requested a detailed description in the Water Trail Plan of how the Partnership would function, and a suggestion was made to rename the Partnership (e.g. maintain the “Steering Committee” name or include “stakeholder” in the title).

Environmental review
Committee members raised concerns about how stakeholders would learn about project-specific environmental reviews for sites that might become trail heads. Under existing notification requirements for CEQA or NEPA environmental review, specific launch site projects might “slip in under the radar.” Staff agreed that sections of the Water Trail Plan on organizational and implementation procedures need to explicitly describe how water trail stakeholders will be notified of these reviews and given opportunities to weigh-in on environmental issues in the trail head designation process.

Conservancy staff clarified that the Programmatic EIS/EIR for the Water Trail Plan will include environmental review of the existing and potential launch sites included in the Plan. However, it will not examine the specific details of each site; this level of assessment would occur with project-specific CEQA or NEPA reviews. At a site requiring no improvements other than signage to be a trail head, the Programmatic EIS/EIR may or may not be sufficient. The need for additional project-level review will be very site-specific, depending on the initial environmental checklist assessment and the judgment of the shoreline manager. Staff also reminded the Committee that there are quite a few checks and balances outside of the water trail implementation process, such as permitting from BCDC and local agencies, that will trigger environmental review of site improvements.

Concerns were raised about assessment of cumulative environmental impacts. A suggestion was made for the programmatic EIS/EIR to include review of cumulative impacts at a sub-regional level (e.g. Richardson Bay, Carquinez Strait) for more meaningful analysis of potential water trail effects.

Trail Head Designation
Sara Polgar described key opportunities and needs related to trail head designation – or inclusion of launch sites into the water trail – and introduced an approach to trail head designation. The proposed approach involves designating a pool of sites as the backbone of the water trail, and then, from this backbone, identifying low-hanging fruit sites on which trail development efforts would be focused. For more information about this approach that was discussed in the meeting, please refer to the staff report “Water Trail Implementation.”

Clarifications about the map handout
To facilitate discussion, staff handed out new maps at the meeting. The information of these maps was the same as Figure 2 in the staff report, “Water Trail Implementation.” However, in the meeting handouts the Bay was broken up into four maps (as opposed to only two in the staff report). At the meeting staff clarified features of the map handouts:

  • The backbone of “working pool” sites – existing and planned sites that fulfilled the three criteria shown at the top of p.4 of the staff report – are represented by the red, orange and green triangles and they are labeled in bold-faced, black text. There are approximately 100 of these sites on the maps.
  • The “low-hanging fruit” sites are the orange triangles. These are existing launch sites where launch facilities do not require additional improvements, site managers support trail head designations and there are no major management issues require further site assessment and planning prior to designation. Please note that in determining which sites fell into this category, staff was not able to canvass the site managers about their support for designation prior to the meeting. There are approximately 50 of these sites shown on the maps.
  • Italicized labels indicate the site name for a harbor seal haul out or a location where protected bird species are present.

Working pool, or backbone, sites
Overall, Committee members were supportive of designating a working pool, or backbone, of sites. However, they requested that staff explicitly state conditions that would “preclude” an existing or potential launch site from inclusion in the water trail. This was the third criteria – the third bullet at the top of p.4 in the staff report – that was used in selecting the working pool of sites (red, orange and green triangles).

Low-hanging fruit sites
Committee members were also generally supportive of identifying and prioritizing low-hanging fruit sites from the working pool. They made a couple of suggestions; another consideration for selecting these sites should be health risks to boaters (e.g. the Inner Richmond Harbor is a Superfund site); and these sites should be renamed “high opportunity sites” as a better reflection of what they represent in the trail development process.

Proximity of designated sites
Staff asked the Committee about designating sites that are very close together. Committee members expressed concern about attracting too many people to an area (e.g. a small bay or basin with sensitive wildlife species) by promoting multiple sites that are very near each other. Additionally, dividing funds and other resources among multiple sites like these could diminish the quality of improvements (e.g. signage and facilities) that are possible for the trail heads.

In response, Committee members commented that the appropriateness of designating multiple sites in close proximity is very situation specific. By placing a limit on the number of designations in the area, the trail might miss an important target audience. For example, Coyote Point Park and Marina and very near each other and both sites are popular launches, but for different user groups: windsurfers and kayakers. Committee members also pointed out that boaters will land at sites to rest, even when the sites are close together. It would be best to have guidebook information, signage and appropriate facilities at each of these locations rather than leaving it up to the boater to determine the appropriate behavior at a site.

Sites with sensitive wildlife nearby
Committee members expressed concerns about trail head designation in areas with sensitive wildlife (e.g. near Corte Madera marsh, or Gallinas Creek). It was pointed out that if big problem occurs at a trail head and it is removed from the water trail (i.e. no longer promoted as a trail head with signage or information in a guidebook or website), “undoing” the increased knowledge and usage of the site would be impossible. One suggestion was to look for opportunities in developing the trail to provide and promote alternative trail heads with superior facilities and education that would draw usage away from launches where wildlife or safety issues are, or could become, a problem.

Designation and site managers
Committee members and others pointed out that the water trail project will not be able to (nor should try to) dictate to shoreline owners what they are to do at their sites. Staff agreed with this, but clarified that these shoreline managers would be looking to the trail for guidance on trail development and management and that it is appropriate for the trail to be providing these recommendations. The Committee also discussed the importance of having a process for removing designated sites from the water trail if a problems related to trail usage cannot be resolved. This would not remove access from the site, only trail head designation.

Trail head designation and signage
Committee members pointed out that a component of the signage needed for trail head designation may be for neighboring sites with sensitive wildlife or safety concerns. A suggestion was made that the water trail might consider providing signage for heavily-used launch sites even if they are not designated trail heads.

Suggestions for the map handout

  • Explicitly note that the sites shown on the map do not necessarily represent endorsement of the managing agency.
  • The map should callout sites that potentially offer overnight accommodation, to help target trail development efforts towards making overnight trips possible.
  • Other environmental features should be noted, such as colonial nesting bird sites.
  • NOAA will be adding ferry routes to the nautical charts for San Francisco Bay. These should be noted on the maps.

Meeting Participants

Steering Committee
Mike Ammon, Dept. of Boating and Waterways
Margot Brown, SF Bay Harbor Safety Committee
Ted Choi, City Kayak
Cecily Harris, Western Sea Kayakers
Beth Huning, SF Bay Joint Venture
Jim McGrath, Bay Access, SF Boardsailing Association
Marilyn Latta, Save the Bay
Barbara Salzman, Marin Audubon Society
Laura Thompson, ABAG Bay Trail Project
Penny Wells, Bay Access
Brian Wiese, East Bay Regional Park District

Staff
Patrycja Bossak, ABAG Bay Trail Project
Ann Buell, California Coastal Conservancy
Joe LaClair, BCDC
Sara Polgar, BCDC

Members of the Public
Carol Arnold, Contra Costa Resource Conservation District
Larry Chin, Corte Madera resident
Brian Clark, US Coast Guard
Kisasi Brooks, Office of Assemblywoman Loni Hancock
Fred Cooper, Bay Area Sea Kayakers, Bay Access
Paul Kamen, Berkeley Waterfront Commission
Robert Johnson, Oyster Point Marina
Ken Mannshardt, Bay Area Sea Kayakers
Paul Nixon, Bay Access
Linda Scourtis, BCDC
Ted Warburton, City of Brisbane Marina

Facilitator Contact Information
Gina Bartlett, Center for Collaborative Policy
1303 J Street, Sacramento, CA 95814
Tel: 415-255-6805, E: gina.bartlett@gmail.com