Dreading dredging: Harbor tab is hefty 

A neglected Marina Harbor that docks hundreds of police, fire and Coast Guard boats annually could get the attention it has needed for years — but the fix won’t be cheap.

Through the years, so much sediment has built up at the east harbor — which is also known as Gashouse Cove — that at low tide emergency boats are sometimes forced to dock in mud to fill up on gas or pick up and drop off their crews.

The Recreation and Park Department runs the harbor — which is divided into east and west sides — but has no record of the last time it was dredged, according to a report.

Today, the Recreation and Park Commission will decide whether to commit to a $9.5 million plan to dredge and contain the impacted sediment below the 600,000 square feet of water in the basin.

The Recreation and Park Department brings in about $811,000 per year for docking fees at its 342 berths, said spokeswoman Lisa Seitz Gruwell.

Chris Kaplan — owner of Gashouse Cove Marina Inc., a 40-year old waterfront gas station at the east harbor — could lose her business if the boats can’t dock there. Kaplan said she understands money is tight, but she said it’s about time something is done.

“It’s not brain surgery,” Kaplan said. “One thing has led to the other and it’s time. The marina is old and needs to be refreshed.”

Some of the cost of cleanup will be paid for by Pacific Gas and Electric Co. because the toxins in the silt could have come from a coal gasification plant the company once owned in the area. The plant was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake. The Recreation and Park Department could also be forced to dispose of the residue in a more time-consuming way that’s more costly, according to department documents.

In 2001, The City filed a federal lawsuit against PG&E to recover costs of the damage. The suit was dismissed in 2004 on grounds that it was premature, according to the Recreation and Park Department.

The utility company and the department have been sharing the tab — so far $250,000 — for determining the nature and extent of contamination and for planning further action.

The cleanup project would also require the temporary relocation of boats that dock in the area, although the vessels would likely be moved in phases, according to the Recreation and Park Department.

The agency put together a working group in July to help make decisions about renovating the west harbor, which also suffers from sediment problems. The Marina Yacht Harbor, West Harbor Project Working Group could make decisions about those renovations as early as mid-November.

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Kamala Kelkar

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