Recommended $73 Million Plan for Redwood City Navigation Improvement Program; Public Hearing Set for August 10
A recommended $73 million plan to deepen the Redwood City Harbor and San Bruno Shoal channels – the navigation corridors essential for commerce and the Port of Redwood City — has been issued in draft by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers’ San Francisco District. The draft called the plan “technically sound, economically justified, and socially and environmentally acceptable.”
The Port is conducting a public hearing on what is called the “Redwood City Navigation Improvement Project” August 10 at 7 p.m. at Redwood City Hall, 1018 Middlefield Road, Redwood City. The hearing will allow public comment and recommendations on the project’s Draft Feasibility Study and Environment Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report.
The documents are available and the public has a 45-day review period from July 10 to 5 p.m. on August 24. All comments regarding the draft DEIS/DEIR must be received by that time. Copies of the Draft Feasibility Study and DEIS/DEIR are available online at:
Locally, printed copies are available for review and inspection at the following locations during normal business hours:
- Port of Redwood City, 675 Seaport Boulevard, Redwood City.
- Redwood City Public Library, 1044 Middlefield Road, Redwood City.
Contact the Port (650-306-4150) for a list of other locations in San Francisco, Alameda, Santa Clara, Napa, and Solano counties where the printed report can be inspected.
The draft recommended plan consists of deepening the Redwood City Harbor (known as Redwood Creek until 1949) and San Bruno Shoal Channels from -30 feet MLLW to -32 feet MLLW and slightly realigning the Redwood City Harbor channel to avoid sensitive environmental features of Bair and Greco Islands.
The recommended plan maximizes net national economic development benefits and was identified in the Draft Feasibility Study as the “National Economic Development Plan.” The recommended plan avoids adverse environmental impacts to the maximum extent practicable and includes mitigation measures to offset impacts when necessary.
Analysis of the impacts of channel deepening determined that a slight realignment of the RWC Channel was necessary to avoid or minimize impacts to adjacent tidal mudflats. The current alignment of the channel near the entrance closely follows the border of outer Bair Island. The realignment would slightly shift the channel (approximately 6 feet) in an easterly direction away from outer Bair Island.
The purpose of the Redwood City Harbor Navigation Study is to evaluate alternatives for improving the efficiency of navigation to the Port. This document was prepared by the USACE, San Francisco District, in collaboration with the Port of Redwood City. The purpose of the DEIS/DEIR is to evaluate the potential significant environmental impacts of the alternatives proposed in the feasibility study. The integrated DEIS/DEIR will be used to support Congressional authorization of the recommended plan for improvements to the Redwood City Harbor Navigation Project.
Redwood City Harbor is located on the southwest side of San Francisco Bay, approximately 18 miles south of San Francisco. It is within the corporate limits of Redwood City.
The study area includes the existing federal navigation channel and turning basins at Redwood City Harbor, extending from the mouth of Redwood Creek to deep water in the San Francisco Bay. The federal navigation channel at San Bruno Shoal in San Francisco Bay is also included in the study area, having been added to the federal project by the 1945 authorizing legislation. It is located north of Redwood City and lies within the corporate boundaries of the cities of both Brisbane and South San Francisco.
The recommended plan would dredge 1.4 million cubic yards and be disposed at the San Francisco Deep Ocean Disposal Site (SFDODS), which is also part of the study area but is located in the Pacific Ocean about 50 miles offshore from the Golden Gate Bridge and 85 nautical miles from the Port of Redwood City.
According to the Feasibility Study’s section entitled “Need for Action,” the major problem at Redwood City Harbor is transportation cost inefficiencies.
“The existing navigation project channels at Redwood City Harbor and San Bruno Shoals do not allow for the efficient operation of the vessel fleet that calls on the Port,” according to the report. “Seventy percent of vessels calling on the Port have design drafts that are greater than the authorized channel depth of -30 feet MLLW. Having to wait for favorable tide is inefficient, requiring the practices of light loading or lightering to larger vessels and waiting for favorable tide conditions in order to access the Port.”
“Three classes of commercial vessels call on the Port: Handysize, Handymax, and Panamax vessels. The design drafts for these vessels range from 33 to 46. Because fully loaded vessels exceed the available draft in the channel, vessels must be only partially loaded or light-loaded. For example, a Panamax vessel must take off approximately 2,000 metric tons of material to reduce its draft by 1 foot. Light loading results in increased transportation costs that are ultimately passed on to consumers.”
Questions & Answers About the Study
Q: Why is the draft recommended plan called the “National Economic Development” plan?
A: National economic development (NED) benefits are defined as increases in the net value of the national output of goods and services, expressed in monetary units. The NED plan is the plan that maximizes net NED benefits, consistent with the federal objective. Net NED benefits are calculated by subtracting the average annual costs of an alternative from its average annual benefits. The NED plan was identified as Alternative A-3: Channel Deepening to 32 feet with dredged material placed at the SF-DODS. This plan had the greatest net NED benefits (and the highest benefit to cost ratio). The NED plan will provide significant deep draft navigation benefits via a reduction of light loading and lightering operations, which will realize greater efficiencies and transportation cost savings. Net annual benefits are $466,000.
Q: Were other dredged material disposal sites considered?
A: Yes. These were:
* Montezuma Wetland Restoration Project in Solano County.
* Cullinan Ranch Tidal Restoration Project in the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge.
* Eden Landing Pond Complex in Hayward.
* Alviso Pond Complex.
Q: Alviso and Eden Landing are much closer. Why are they not the preferred dredging disposal sites?
A: The environmental reports say this: Use of the Eden Landing Ecological Reserve or the Alviso Pond Complex for beneficial reuse of dredged material from the RWC Project has been carefully considered in this study. Use of either of these placement sites potentially offer cost savings and environmental benefits. However, due to uncertainty in when the sites will be permitted and available and the methods that would be used to transport dredged material to the sites, they were considered to be potentially not implementable. If either of these sites becomes available in time for project construction and they are found to be cost effective, the project implementation plan can be modified accordingly.
Q: Will the Port have to do any improvements to its facilities to accommodate the deeper channels and larger vessels?
A: In order to take advantage of the deeper channel and thereby realize the projected benefits, the existing berths at the Port have to be deepened by a corresponding amount of two feet. Typically, berths should be a minimum of four feet deeper than the channel depth. Currently all five berths are at -34 feet MLLW; since the new deepened channel will be at -32 feet MLLW, the berths will need be deepened to -36 feet MLLW. The Port will be responsible for both funding and constructing these improvements. It is estimated that 17,000 cubic yards of material will need to be removed.
Q: If authorized by Congress, who pays for all of this?
A: The projected costs for the deepening of the channels and ancillary work described in the plan is $53.4 million, with the federal government paying 75% ($39,887,000) and the Port the balance, $13,514,000. There is another $20 million in costs assigned to the project not covered by the federal government; most of it will be assigned to private parties, such as up to $18 million to two companies to relocate pipelines now located in the Bay in order to deepen the San Bruno Shoals portion of the project.
Q: Were alternatives to the recommended plan considered?
A: Yes, there is a set of 17 preliminary alternative plans, in addition to the “No Action Plan.” The preliminary plans consist of combinations of three channel depths (-32, -34, and -37 feet MLLW) and five dredged material placement sites (Cullinan Ranch, Montezuma Wetland Restoration Project, San Francisco Deep Ocean Disposal Site (SF-DODS), Eden Landing Pond Complex, and Alviso Pond Complex).
Q: How did this study start in the first place?
The federal government, through the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, has been partners with the Port in this study and environmental reviews, which began in 2008. The Congressional authority for the study indicates that its purpose is “to improve the efficiency of deep draft navigation at the Redwood City Harbor and San Bruno Shoal Channels.” With that charge, and based on existing and future conditions, the specific planning objective of this study is to:
Increase efficiencies of deep draft navigation and transportation of goods to and from the Port of Redwood City.
Q: How long would the channel deepening take if authorized and funded by Congress and the Port?
A: Probably two to three years for construction, according to the report, because dredging is restricted to environment “windows” from June to December.
This map shows the route of a typical disposal vessel trip to the SF-DODS. The vessel remains within the established shipping lanes in the vicinity of the Farallon Islands as required.