Caspian and Elegant Terns join Least Terns to nest at Alameda Point

Naval Air Station-Alameda gained notoriety as a refuge for the endangered California Least Tern when the base closed in 1997.  Over 500 acres were dedicated to protecting the terns’ adopted nesting site next to a runway formerly used by jet aircraft. 

This unlikely bird habitat for the Least Terns some 400 miles north of their historic breeding grounds along the southern California coast offered the birds something they had lost, which drove them to the brink of extinction – nesting sites free of human disturbance near a source of small fish to feed their chicks. 

Surprisingly, two other tern species have recently begun nesting in the vicinity.  Elegant and Caspian Terns seem to be thriving there, while the endangered Least Terns are struggling.

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Opening of park at Seaplane Lagoon highlights climate change

On April 9, 2022, the first phase of the terraced Alameda Point Seaplane Lagoon waterfront park officially opened with cultural performances.  One of the groups christening the new three-acre park was Fog Beast, in collaboration with the Shawl Anderson Youth Ensemble.  Their performances captured the nature of the park, highlighting climate change and sea level rise.

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De-Pave Park slated to receive planning grant

Alameda’s proposed De-Pave Park project has made the short list for this year’s grant funding from the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority.  The Restoration Authority Board will hear staff recommendations and provide input at its February 25, 2022, meeting, with authorization coming at its April meeting. 

Of this year’s 18 applicants, six have been selected for funding.  The recommended award for De-Pave Park is $800,000.  This amount is expected to cover the cost of developing a master plan, as well as the first level of construction drawings. 

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Seaplane Lagoon Waterfront Park Opens

The first phase of the waterfront park on the north side of the Seaplane Lagoon at Alameda Point opened for public use on Monday, January 31, 2022. Moments after the construction fencing came down, people began enjoying the new park. The park was built by the developer of the adjacent mixed-use area, Alameda Point Partners. Future phases will be built by other developers.

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Guns and Traps Used to Protect Least Terns at Alameda Point

The endangered California least terns that nest on the old airfield at Alameda Point are well protected during their April to August nesting season.  Fencing keeps people away from the 10-acre sandy nesting site, but it won’t stop other birds and mammals from getting to the eggs and the helpless chicks.  Only a well-armed and outfitted predator management officer can effectively deter other animals.

Every year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hires a wildlife biologist from Wildlife Services, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  Typically used for protecting crops and livestock, the agency is also hired to protect dozens of endangered species every year.  The most recent field report available for Alameda Point is for 2019, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

The report describes a variety of methods used to deter or eliminate threats to the nesting terns.  First, loud noises and bright flashes of light are fired from a gun to frighten away an avian predator, called hazing.  Second, the wildlife biologist drives a vehicle toward an avian predator, another form of hazing.  Third, predators are trapped.  And fourth, as a last resort, the biologist is left with no other choice than shooting the predator with a shotgun or rifle or euthanizing. 

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Security Firm Is Failing Alameda Point

Despite the city’s attempts to curb large unauthorized car events on the west side of the Seaplane Lagoon at Alameda Point, wimpy gates and lax security have not stopped abuses or muscle-car madness.

On October 19, 2021, the City Council voted to block off most of the auto traffic at the future De-Pave Park area.  In November, yellow-painted concrete blocks were placed around the area next to the Seaplane Lagoon shoreline, which is intended for the quiet enjoyment of cyclists and walkers. 

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Navy Forced to Destroy Wetlands at Alameda Point

A recently released Navy document reveals that an implausible last-minute health-risk theory killed the Navy’s plan for upgrading and expanding wetlands at Alameda Point where a regional park is planned (Navy To Create New Wetlands,” Jan. 3, 2019).

A 60-acre cleanup site, known as Site 32, was on track to include 15 acres of seasonal wetlands, along with a doubling of watershed drainage into the wetlands.  The regulatory agencies overseeing cleanup — namely, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Regional Water Board, and Department of Toxic Substances Control — had signed off on the plan in 2018.  But nothing has been done since the tons of clean soil for the project were delivered there in 2019.

A support agency, the CA Department of Public Health (CDPH), interjected claims that trees, other vegetation, and burrowing animals could compromise the proposed soil cover underneath the 15 acres of proposed new wetlands, exposing people and animals to radiological contaminants from paint residue on scattered objects that have been buried there for 65 years.

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