Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Alameda's Contaminated Lagoons Exposed to California Water Board

"Environmental abuse is like racism; people are so
conditioned to it that it seems invisible."
Duck shock in Alameda's Lagoon #1

(For the record, I have the utmost respect for the Water Board and its staff. Their responsibility is immense; their budget is tight; and work must be prioritized. This regional office deals with major health threats like mercury and PCBS and major polluters like large dairy operations for nine counties and 76 municipalities. I sat through 5 hours of deliberations and presentations before returning a second time for a chance at the microphone. These dedicated professionals quietly go about the invisible job of protecting our health and lives.)

Alameda's aging finger lagoons are subject to state and federal environmental laws, and they're an environmental disgrace to the otherwise beautiful and progressive city of Alameda.

Today I presented a plea for strict enforcement of storm sewer regulations (see attached) at a hearing in the Elihu M. Harris State Building auditorium to the Regional Water Quality Control Board and attendees. It was highly satisfying to finally get in front of sympathetic and responsible authorities who can take appropriate action. (Here is a complete transcript of my presentation: July 8 Water Board Presentation)

The images projected onto a wall-sized screen in dimmed light were highly effective, and I delivered my rapid-fire opening statement like a prosecuting attorney. The words had been honed down to a bare minimum to fit the 3-minute format.

There's nothing special in the words I spoke. It was the simple truth people have been avoiding for years. Environmental abuse is like racism, people are so conditioned to its presence that it seems  invisible. Now the secret shame of the lagoons is out in the open.

There was a point, early on, when I sensed a hush in the place and I knew I had everyone's rapt attention. The comments from the Board Chair were rich with appreciation and concern. There was no substantive rebuttal. The Board staff seemed embarrassed, saying water quality in the lagoons was a long-known problem and would receive more attention.

It was immensely satisfying, a day I will not forget.

Nor, I suspect, will the people present.

The Water Board will be looking into the matter, and I now have friendly face-to-face relations there .

Great white egret in Marin County

There's a win-win-win solution begging to be implemented here that involves innovative thinking.

An eco-minded architect could design self-funding solar-collecting sculptures that also aerate while reducing the solar footprint on the lagoons, thereby increasing aesthetics while solving the algae problem.

Whats up, millennials? My generation Messed up. Let's put our heads together and make Alameda a model for eco-sensible partnering between man and nature. Property values would be enhanced and we could all be proud of the result.

All the Bay Area Universities should be falling over each other to solve this problem. You can't tell me that with today's technology we can't come up with a solution that preserves the beauty of the lagoons while restoring the richness of their natural function as marine habitat.

This is how they do it in Vancouver
Bayside water garden in Vancouver, B.C.

My dream is the return of seabirds to Alameda's finger lagoons. If we can't do this, they should be filled-in and made into a park.