Nabil Al-Hadithy, PhD
PO Box 11734
Berkeley, CA 94712
This is a proposal that I have made as a Berkeley citizen. I have also suggested, as a city employee, to EBRPD to consider the concept. There are a lot of questions unanswered but also a lot of misinformation given to inhibit any discussions of using the Berkeley Meadows as anything beyond leaving it as is, with no improvements. This was a municipal dump, folks. It may have toxics in it. It is not pristine. It is not natural. It needs improvements to keep the toxics from migrating to the Bay. It also happens to be part of Berkeley’s coastline. Finally, please this proposal calls for a feasibility study; that is, I don’t claim to have all the answers.
Go to the Arcata sewage treatment plant web site at: http://hometown.aol.com/erikschiff/municip.htm and see the possibilities. Lets use our imagination and recreate a wetland fit for digesting some of the pollution generated by Berkeley and fit for a wildlife sanctuary, an education center, a place for public art.
After making a presentation to CESP I heard criticism and I have tried to accommodate some of the concerns voiced there.
I also have heard a lot of misinformation and I have tried to address some of that below.
Propose that two major Berkeley creeks get day-lighted and re-routed to a filtration mechanism at the Berkeley Meadows. Filter to remove larger particles and perhaps oils. Filtered water then goes through a series of engineered freshwater ponds and channels at Berkeley Meadows. The Meadows will have wetland fauna and flora to digest organic pollutants and additionally filter particles from the two creeks. Series of ponds can be built into the Bay to the north of the Berkeley Meadows that provide additional area for settling and bio-filtration. Gradually, as the waterway goes into north basin, the water becomes saline. Percentage of Meadows which gets converted into a wetland is not determined. Additional saltwater marshes can be created to the north of current Schoolhouse Creek.
· Daylighting of two creeks
· Pre-treatment of two creeks
· Meeting Phase II of NPDES Permit
· Ecological Educational forum for City Schools
· Ecological preserve for wildlife
· Public Arts forum
· Recreation area
· Improve valuable land
· Improve cap over an old municipal landfill
· Better control of hydrology by placing an engineered cap on landfill
· Control and observe migration of toxic contaminants in Berkeley landfill
· Remove physical obstacles on the Berkeley Meadows
Berkeley has four creeks directly entering the Bay directly, these are at Potter St, University St, Virginia St and Gilman St. These creeks pour untreated water directly into the Bay. The creeks that pour into Aquatic Park get somewhat filtered inside the park lagoons before being flushed into the Bay.
Phase II of the City’s National Pollution Discharge Elimination Service (NPDES) Permit will be more difficult to implement without taking direct action to clean up the storm water outfalls into the Bay. The Second Phase of the Permit may require the City to put filters into parking lots, pretreatment at 33% of storm drains and additional controls on what is termed invisible pollution on construction sites. Taking the wetland pretreatment approach will go a long way towards meeting such requirements.
Phase II NPDES Permit requirements for larger municipalities will cost hundreds of millions of dollars to implement. The City of Los Angeles is looking at over a billion dollars if they are obliged to pre-treat all outfalls that enter the river and ocean with a filter mechanism.
The existing Berkeley Meadows is an uneven flat meadow that covers a former municipal landfill. The landfill has toxic waste identified by the RWQCB. The meadow is covered with a poorly constructed impermeable cap. The cap has concrete and metal poking through it creating a physical hazard. The breaches in the cap can mobilize the toxic contaminants to migrate to the Bay. Re-engineering the cap can provide a proper impermeable surface that will stabilize the contaminants below the surface.
The City is also required to maintain the shoreline at the Virginia Street extension from subsidy and flooding. Incorporating the shoreline into the wetland area could save these costs.
Dogs and people constantly go through this causing it to be of limited use for wildlife. This proposal can create a fenced-off area with limited paths for people and domestic animals. It can also incorporate islands for greater benefit for wildlife.
Large spaces like this Berkeley Meadows wetland project can also be used for large public art exhibits.
The wetland can be designed as a principal study area for school science and environmental studies projects.
· Loss of Virginia Street frontage
While costs are expected to be a significant impediment to this proposal, one should look at the potential other benefits one can get out this project. First of all are the cost benefits from stabilizing the hydrology and checking the migration of pollutants from the Berkeley Meadows (subsurface toxic contaminants) into the Bay. Second, are the added benefits from stabilizing the shoreline by creating a wetland. Thirdly, there are advantages to creating wetlands in terms of availability of funding from private and public sectors.
This proposal has been discussed with various city staff as well as members of the Community Environmental Advisory Commission, the Urban Creeks Council with positive response. We envision widespread support for the proposal.
ALTERNATIVE PLAN (TO ADDRESS SOME CONCERNS OF CESP)
The idea could have many variations. For example, a smaller amount of the Berkeley Meadows can be converted into freshwater marsh and it may serve Schoolhouse Creek only. Strawberry Creek could be opened up and channeled south through the Brickyard and salt marshes could be created along the coastal strip and coastline.
Another idea of using less Berkeley Meadows could be to use more shallow mudflat turned over into a marsh.
An often-repeated criticisms:
a. This meadow is pristine and should not be messed up. Not so, it is a badly kept city dump and needs a lot of work to get it up to spec. Thistles, off-leash animals have inhibited the full potential of wildlife at the Meadow. The idea of turning it into a wetland preserve would improve the quality.
b. The meadow is a preserved wetland. Not so, it is only a wetland when it rains. Otherwise it is open space with less than stellar ecological use. It is only a wetland because some wetland plants are observed during a rain and the rain puddles on the clay cap that was placed on top of the former city dump.
c. The cost of converting part of the Meadows into freshwater wetland is prohibitively expensive. Not so. The landfill is mostly non hazardous but I expect we will find some hazardous materials. The relocation of materials can be done on site or removed off site. Costs will be great but magnitude not determined.
d. To place a new cap on the dump will destroy the existing bird and other wildlife sanctuary. I do not believe so. People tend to believe the land does not have a cap. That is not so. There is a cap, it is in bad condition, it has not been maintained and needs to be improved. EBRPD differs in this opinion, feeling the cap is serviceable. I do not believe there has been annual maintenance over the past 30 years and I have observed concrete and metal poking through the cap. Not the entire Meadows needs to be converted. It is possible to keep 50% or more of the site as a meadow.
e. Replacing or improving the cap is a regulatory nightmare and will cost a whole lot of money. No so. The regulators would be happy to see the cap improved.
f. Berkeley wants to use the park as a sewage treatment plant. Marshes and wetlands naturally digest many oils and other pollutants in a creek. Our shorelines were largely marshes and wetlands. Now they are gone. This is a small attempt to reintroduce these rich ecosystems. It is nothing new. The City of Arcata has done the same thing with their sewage treatment plant effluent. Go to Arcata web site and enjoy: http://hometown.aol.com/erikschiff/municip.htm Please note, the proposal here is to put a filtration system before the creeks go into the Bay. This site should be a compromise between what is good for the people of California and what is good for the people of Berkeley. To deprive the people of Berkeley from the efficacious and proper use of their coastline is grossly unfair. Allegations made that the marsh will pick up metals, pesticides, etc from brake lining etc and become toxic for the marsh organisms are fair questions and I do not have knowledge to answer such a question. I would suggest that a feasibility study, which this proposal calls for, is the proper venue for such questions.