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City to Turn in Revised Dredging Plan

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday January 22, 2008

Berkeley Public Works officials told the Aquatic Park subcommittee that they expect to turn in a revised dredging work plan for the Aquatic Park lagoon to the Regional Water Quality Control Board this week. 

The city’s Public Works department dredged the lagoon at the north end of the park on Nov. 5 and unloaded the spoils along the shoreline without requesting a permit from the water board. 

Loren Jensen, supervising engineer for Public Works, told the Aquatic Park subcommittee Wednesday that the project had commenced without notifying the proper authorities and the Parks Recreation and Waterfront division. 

Jensen said the plan to dredge the lagoon to clear out the debris around the tidal tubes and clean out the Strawberry Creek storm drain to improve circulation had been entrusted to Public Works by Cliff Marchetti, the city’s former waterfront manager, and Marc Seleznow, former director of Parks Recreation and Waterfront, last February. Both are now retired. 

William Rogers, acting director of Parks Recreation and Waterfront, said that he had been unaware of the project. 

Jensen said that Public Works was responsible for the miscommunication. 

“Project manager [for the dredging project] Hamid Kondazi indicated that he had turned in applications to the Army Corps of Engineers, the BCDC and the water board, but it turned out he had not,” Jensen told the subcommittee. “We were contacted by the water board on Nov. 7 and I went out to see the work. The project was immediately stopped. 800 cubic yards of spoils have been removed so far. Another 700 to 800 cubic yards will be removed from the Strawberry Creek storm drain.” 

Jensen said that although a trench had been put around the existing spoils, it needs to be put in water-tight containment after the work plan is approved. 

The spoils, tested by W.R. Forde, the contractors responsible for the dredging, were high in lead, the principal contaminant, but were not hazardous. 

Jensen said that the city’s toxics department had done an independent test on the spoils and reconfirmed the lab tests, and that the spoils would be retested in May before being sent to a suitable landfill. 

At the Dec. 18 City Council meeting—at which the council voted to consider the six-page staff report and accompanying 63-page lab analysis of the dredged spoils—some councilmembers had questioned whether the existing spoils could be used in the park itself.  

Jensen told the subcommittee that the water board had recommended against it. 

Although the original dredging contract would have cost the city $80,000, Jensen said that a revised work plan would mean higher costs. 

Councilmember Darryl Moore has said that he would conduct workshops to look at the root cause of toxics entering the lagoons. 

The subcommittee also forwarded the Aquatic Park Improvement Program to the Parks and Recreation Commission with the recommendation that it sends the plan to council for CEQA review. 

A $2 million grant was awarded to the city by the Coastal Conservancy from Prop 50 for habitat improvement in Aquatic Park. 

The proposed project plans to do this by widening the storm drain outlets in the park to help circulation. 

Subcommittee members stressed that they would prefer the project would eliminate storm water entering the park. 

Located in West Berkeley, Aquatic Park was created in the 1930s as part of the construction of the road which later become I-80, in order to provide a water-based recreation area. 

It is made up of 101.5 acres, including 68 acres of open water and seven acres of roads and trails.  

The Main Lagoon, the Model Yacht Basin and the Radio Tower Pond are connected to the bay through a series of tide tubes and through the Potter Street Storm Drain, parts of which have deteriorated over the years.