Word on the street about Alameda Point cleanup

Commercial hangar reuse

The massive aircraft hangar at the end of West Tower Avenue moved one step closer to commercial leasing last week.  The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) performed random radiation scanning inside the building to certify that the Navy’s cleanup of paint residue containing radium-226 was complete.  The other regulatory agencies have already signed off on the radiation cleanup after the Navy performed an inch-by-inch scanning effort.

As soon as this fall, CDPH could issue a letter that would allow the city to lease the building.  The nearly million-square-foot building complex (Building 5) has been unavailable to the city for leasing for more than a decade.  Other buildings on the base have been leased to the city by the Navy under what’s known as the Lease in Furtherance of Conveyance agreement, which has allowed the city to sublease the buildings until transfer of ownership. Continue reading “Word on the street about Alameda Point cleanup”

Environmentalists sink Nautilus data center

The proposal by Nautilus Data Technologies to set up a water-cooled data storage facility at Alameda Point was soundly rejected by the Alameda City Council on June 18.  The facility would have pumped over 14 million gallons of water a day through its facility to cool computer servers.  The company said water cooling is better for the environment than existing air conditioning technology.  But by the time the environmental community was finished weighing in, it was clear that the Nautilus once-through cooling system would have replaced one problem by creating a new one.

The screen on the intake pipe underneath Pier 2 sounded good, until you consider that all the water coming out the other end in the Bay would have been filtered water that would have upset the natural ecological balance.  Marine life would have been pasted against the intake screen and periodically scraped off.  Tiny organisms would have made it through the screen and potentially been killed by the heat.  The heated water at the point of discharge was another big concern, since warming water is one of the conditions in which toxic algae blooms occur.

Below are excerpts from letters sent by environmental groups to the city council and excerpts of public comments at the meeting.  Thank you to all who spoke up for the natural world and our fragile Bay ecosystem. Continue reading “Environmentalists sink Nautilus data center”

10 reasons why data center should change water cooling pipe location

Open Letter to Mr. James Connaughton
Chief Executive Officer
Nautilus Data Technologies

Dear  Mr. Connaughton,

The Alameda City Council has granted you approval of moving forward with your data storage facility at Alameda Point.  Please reconsider the route for discharging warm water from the cooling system.  Instead of heading south under the Bay Trail and through the harbor near the ferry maintenance facility, send the water discharge pipe north to the Oakland Estuary.

As someone who was instrumental in protecting large tracts of the Pacific Ocean during your tenure as environmental advisor to President George W. Bush, I believe the alternative route will appeal to your marine conservation values. Continue reading “10 reasons why data center should change water cooling pipe location”

Water-cooled data center proposal . . . not so cool

Nautilus Data Technologies is proposing to convert Building 530, located at 120 West Oriskany Avenue at Alameda Point, into a data storage facility.  The facility would draw 10,000 gallons of water a minute from underneath Pier 2 in order to cool the racks of computer servers.  The warmer water, about 4 degrees warmer, would be discharged into San Francisco Bay.  Water cooling is a cheaper alternative than traditional air conditioning.

The proposal will be voted on at the May 7 city council meeting.

Here are some points made in the city staff report in support of the proposal, followed by reasons why this proposal does not deserve support.

PointThe city staff report claims that the facility will be environmentally friendly because water cooling will use less electricity for cooling than traditional air conditioning.

CounterpointStarting in 2020, all of Alameda Municipal Power (AMP) electricity will be carbon free, producing zero greenhouse gas.  Reducing electrical usage in Alameda is not an environmental benefit, only a cost-saving benefit to the business. Continue reading “Water-cooled data center proposal . . . not so cool”

Rocket manufacturing coming to Alameda Point

Alameda Point has specialty craft breweries and distilleries.   Coming soon – craft rockets.  Startup company Astra Space hopes to sell its economy-sized rockets to any entity wanting to launch its own small satellite into low earth orbit.

On April 22, the city council and members of the public got a tour of its nearly completed production facility prior to a special meeting of the council.  The meeting was billed as a recommendation to authorize the city’s commercial real estate broker Cushman and Wakefield to market a 24-acre industrial area in the commercial Enterprise District to businesses and developers.  But because Cushman and Wakefield had already been authorized to market the area at least twice since 2015, the real reason for the tour and meeting was to showcase a shifting strategy for the district that will now include adaptively reusing some existing buildings, rather than tearing everything down as previously envisioned. Continue reading “Rocket manufacturing coming to Alameda Point”

Unexpected Environmental Review of VA Project

The City of Alameda announced on February 22 that it will be preparing an environmental impact report (EIR) on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) project for a health clinic and columbarium cemetery at Alameda Point. The VA completed its environmental review for the project in 2013. The deadline for commenting on what the city should evaluate is March 22.

The belated environmental review was triggered by California regulations requiring a state EIR in order for the Regional Water Quality Control Board to approve the VA’s wetland mitigation plan.

An EIR is also required for City of Alameda approvals. “Although construction of federal facilities by federal agencies is typically exempt from local land use regulations and review,” said city planner Andrew Thomas, “in this case, the VA plans to construct an access utility/road on approximately 6-acres of city land to the east of the VA Transfer Parcel and two new storm drains across city-owned land to the north of the VA property, which will require approval of easements from the city, which are discretionary actions subject to CEQA [California Environmental Quality Act].”

Revisiting the project’s environmental impacts six years after the VA completed its review presents an opportunity to evaluate the potential environmental benefits of locating the medical clinic and benefits offices in the business “Enterprise District” rather than in the open space on the former airfield. Continue reading “Unexpected Environmental Review of VA Project”

Views of wetland cleanup area to be dug up, upgraded in 2019

The Navy will implement the environmental remediation plan for Site 32 on the western end of the former airfield.  The plan calls for covering the entire 60-acre site with three free of clean soil without raising the elevation of the existing wetlands.  Thus, the existing wetlands will be excavated to a depth of three feet, and then three feet of replacement clean soil will be brought in to re-contour the wetlands.

Most of the water in the accompanying photos, taken in March 2019, is from rainwater.  However, this wetland is also low enough in elevation that it receives water via tidal pressure from the Bay. Continue reading “Views of wetland cleanup area to be dug up, upgraded in 2019”