Alameda Point harbor seals attract educational groups

About 240 students from Eldorado Middle School in Concord visited Alameda Point to make observations of the harbor seals on March 22.  The school participates in an educational program sponsored by the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito called Ocean Ambassadors. 

The students arrived in two groups.  While the first group was at the trailside viewing site, a second group was on a ferry ride around San Francisco Bay to view marine wildlife. The second group arrived in the afternoon, while the first group went on the ferry excursion.

Alameda Point was chosen for viewing harbor seals because it is the only place on the Bay that is easily accessible for viewing seals.

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Jet fuel cleanup relies on laundry detergent booster

Draining jet fuel from Navy planes, known as defueling, was a routine step before doing maintenance work on the planes.  This defueling process at Alameda Point inadvertently contaminated groundwater at one location across the street from the Pottery Barn Outlet on West Oriskany Avenue.  During February, the Navy’s cleanup contractor conducted a form of industrial-scale in-ground chemotherapy known as oxidation. 

The injected chemical compound breaks apart the fuel molecules, turning them into harmless carbon dioxide, water, and oxygen.  The main ingredient in this oxidation process is sodium percarbonate, the same active ingredient in OxyClean™ laundry whitener and stain remover, albeit with a different objective.

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Mia Bonta introduces fix to Surplus Lands Act for Alameda Point

An amendment to the California Surplus Lands Act that went into effect in January 2020 brought long-term leasing and land sales at Alameda Point to a screeching halt for two years.  The new law mandated that no government-owned land could be sold, or leased for more than a year, without first offering the land to affordable housing providers on a state clearinghouse.  After the city listed six initial sites on the clearinghouse, the process ended in January 2022 without yielding one single unit of additional housing of any type.

In an effort to remedy the flawed law, Assembly Member Mia Bonta has introduced legislation to exempt Alameda Point from the process, citing the agreement with the Navy to follow the community base reuse plan.  Under the current process, it forces Alameda to entertain ad hoc changes, such as offering to place housing in job-generating commercial zones.  The Community Reuse Plan for Alameda Point adopted in 1996 spells out the types of uses for all of the areas, and the Navy has been conducting environmental cleanup based on those agreed-upon uses.   

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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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