City misses chance to embrace wetlands at Alameda Point

The city and its consultant recently released a report outlining what will be included in the new climate action plan for Alameda.  What it reveals, unfortunately, is their resistance to thinking big.

The process for updating Alameda’s climate action plan began as a promising effort for a comprehensive look at what it means to adapt our entire environment to climate change.  It is winding up with a narrow focus on protecting local real estate, which they refer to as “vulnerable assets.”

The city has rejected a broader scope of action that would include “opportunity assets,” as in opportunities to improve the natural environment, not just the built environment.  Areas at Alameda Point not slated for development must be viewed as an opportunity asset that can be re-purposed for the good of the environment.

The report addresses solutions to the threat of flooding in our neighborhoods, but offers no vision or emphasis on adding wetlands and plant life to help consume the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, called carbon sequestration.  Natural systems are one of the best and least expensive ways to reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.  They can also absorb sea level rise and storm surges made worse by levees and sea walls elsewhere around the Bay.

There is no mention of natural adaptation opportunities at Alameda Point.  The city’s Town Center and Waterfront Plan calls for removing pavement from the west side of the Seaplane Lagoon and creating an engineered wetland shoreline to naturally adapt to rising sea level and climate change.  It also envisions the construction of floating wetlands anchored near the shore for additional biological value.

This plan is not listed at the end of the  “Climate Action – Adaptation – Vulnerability Assessment” report  as one of the city’s existing plans that already deal with climate change.  The Alameda Point Master Infrastructure Plan is listed, but this infrastructure plan does not include De-Pave Park, which was adopted a year later in the Town Center and Waterfront Plan.

The report also does not mention the Nature Reserve, which is not part of  any climate adaptation plan.

De-Pave Park described in Alameda Point Town Center and Waterfront Specific Plan approved by city council in 2014. It is not part of the Master Infrastructure Plan, and therefore designed to allow for flooding. Click to enlarge image.

It was given the name “De-Pave Park.”  It is directly adjacent to an existing wetland on the federal property and is a prime opportunity to create one big wetland directly connected to the Bay.  De-Pave Park should not be omitted from the city’s climate action plan.  It should be a marquee project.

Hundreds of acres of pavement on the federal property, which the city zoned as Nature Reserve, have also been disregarded.  It’s part of our city, region, and planet and should be included.

If left to fate, both of these areas at Alameda Point will remain a vast concrete wasteland absorbing heat and making the planet warmer, eventually becoming flooded pavement of no value to the environment.  The consultant should prepare conceptual drawings and quantify the benefits for these opportunity assets.  Without a vision spelled out in the climate action plan, there will be no action because no one will provide funding for something we do not think is important.

Approximately 300 acres of the VA’s undeveloped area – zoned Nature Reserve by City of Alameda – are paved.

The climate action plan should include adding wetlands at Alameda Point.  Add tidal canals on the Nature Reserve leading to new wetlands that will absorb storm surges.  In certain areas, build up the elevation beyond worst case sea level rise with clean soil dredged from the Bay that would otherwise be dumped into the ocean.  This will provide valuable soil that can be planted with vegetation that absorbs carbon dioxide and provides habitat for birds, bees, and the web of life that cannot exist on concrete pavement overtaken by sea level rise.

Only those agencies and individuals who believe climate change is a hoax and support their belief with “alternative facts” find this status quo acceptable. If management was governed by science rather than dogma, this area could become coastal dune using clean dredge material, or a tidal wetland.

It’s time to push our decision makers to think big, beyond the built environment.  Our island city – surrounded by water – should embrace wetlands and natural solutions in its climate action plan.

Originally published in the Alameda Sun.

Landscape features envisioned for De-Pave Park in Alameda Point Waterfront and Town Center Specific Plan.

An example of the potential opportunities on the Nature Reserve is represented in this draft wetland mitigation plan (below) for the VA project.  It will enhance the existing Runway Wetland directly adjacent to the proposed De-Pave Park area on City of Alameda property.  It incorporates a precisely engineered tidal wetland to drain exactly the same amount of water as enters during each tide cycle.  

Click to enlarge.

Author: richard94501

My blog is Alameda Point Environmental Report covering environmental issues from wildlife to cleanup at the former Navy base in Alameda now called Alameda Point. Articles on my blog are frequently printed in the Alameda Sun newspaper. I also host a Twitter site and a Flickr photo site. I hope you find my stories and photos of interest. Richard Bangert Alameda, California

6 thoughts on “City misses chance to embrace wetlands at Alameda Point”

  1. Isn’t most of your argument ditected at the federal government (VA, etc.) rather than the City of Alameda? The runways are still under federal jurisdiction, aren’t they?

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  2. Since most of the area west of the fence is under federal control, how much does the City of Alameda control whether or not wetlands are re-introduced?

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    1. Control is not what I’m seeking. It’s influence. There are a host of regional agencies that are pushing solutions like wetlands creation/restoration around the Bay. The VA is not going to take the lead on re-imagining land use for land it never wanted in the first place. Our climate action plan can be a useful tool in bringing this land area to the regional discussion table. If not us, who will it be? Collective pressure from the region at least offers a hope that the VA says, “Do what you want, just don’t ask us to pay for it.” I want to open that door.

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  3. Richard,
    Thank you for raising awareness of this important issue. What can people do to help? Write letters? Attend public meetings?
    Chase R. Martin

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    1. Writing letters to the City Council is very important. They will be making the final decision on what priorities are highlighted in the updated plan when it is presented to them in July. Better that they hear concerns now than at the last minute. Things usually don’t change much at the last minute, especially when the process has gone on for two years.

      Here are their names, titles, and email addresses:
      Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft mezzyashcraft@alamedaca.gov
      Vice-Mayor John Knox White jknoxwhite@alamedaca.gov
      Councilmember Tony Daysog tdaysog@alamedaca.gov
      Councilmember Jim Oddie joddie@alamedaca.gov
      Councilmember Malia Vella mvella@alamedaca.gov

      It would also be helpful to share your thoughts with the rest of the community via a letter to the editor of the Alameda Sun. The email address is: editor@alamedasun.com

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  4. Hello again Richard,

    I wanted to tell you that I reiterated your views regarding the wetlands at Alameda Point on the Open Forum regarding the climate change plan. I quoted your Alameda Sun article extensively. The website is https://www.opentownhall.com/portals/198/Issue_7127 for anyone else who wants to express support for the implementation of wetlands. Thank you for your work in conservation.

    Chase Martin

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