EPA’s scathing reply to Caltrans’ Draft Environmental Impact Statement

EPA accuses bridge planners of inadequate analysis, of failure to comply with federal law, of providing false and misleading information to the federal government, and of failing to disclose critical facts to the public and to appropriate agencies. It recommends full public disclosure and discussion of all ‘‘apparent mis-statements." This document recites a list of environmental impacts that were not considered by Caltrans, including planned dredging of the bottom of the bay, proper chemical analysis of the underwater soils and effects on protected species.


The Long Term Management Strategy (LTMS):

Starting in 1990, a comprehensive, inter-agency approach combining and coordinating the authorities and policies of the federal and state agencies responsible for dredged material management in the San Francisco Bay Area was initiated.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE), Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB), Bay Conservation & Development Commission (BCDC), and the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) joined together with navigation interests, fishing groups, environmental organizations, and the public in a cooperative effort to establish a comprehensive Long Term Management Strategy (LTMS) for Bay Area dredged material. The fundamental goals of the LTMS are to ensure that dredging and dredge material disposal is undertaken and completed in an environmentally sound and economically prudent manner, to maximize the beneficial reuse of dredge material, and to develop a coordinated permit review process for dredging projects.

The LTMS Programmatic Policy Final EIS/Report (ROD to be signed Winter 1999) is an important milestone in the ongoing regional effort to minimize environmental impacts and maximize environmental benefits of dredging and dredged material disposal in an economically sound manner. Ultimately, the objective of the LTMS is to establish a dredge material disposal policy of 20 percent in-Bay disposal, 40 percent ocean disposal, and 40 percent upland/wetland re-use (20/40/40).

The proposal brought forth in this DEIS is to dispose of all of the dredge materials, an estimated maximum of 712,000 cubic yards (cys), in-Bay at the Alcatraz site. Inasmuch as the LTMS is nearing the end of its formulative stage and that 20/40/40 is expected to be the standard for disposal of dredge materials, we are very concerned that not considering beneficial re-use, upland and ocean disposal options in the DEIS, could set a negative precedent for future dredging proposals. We strongly recommend that FHWA use 20/40/40 as the project standard for this important undertaking. Completing an analysis of the available disposal options and presenting those options within the NEPA process is a critical aspect of establishing a full perspective of the potential environmental impacts associated with the project. This information should be made available to the public prior to issuing the Final EIS (FEIS) for the project.

Hazardous Materials:

We are extremely concerned that the DEIS lacks a specific analysis of the proposed project’s direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts to the aquatic environment from hazardous materials which could be resuspended by dredging and disposal. Equally disconcerting is the lack of information on the basic chemistry and toxicity potential hazardous materials which could be resuspended by dredging.

Without specific information, we must infer that dredging could increase organics and/or metals in the water column, which, in turn, could result in adverse environmental impacts. It would be helpful for the public to understand the nature of the sediments and the anticipated environmental effects of dredging and disposing of these materials prior to issuing the FEIS Sediment testing previously conducted for possible pier placement for the seismic retrofit of the existing structure (approximately 264,000 cys), does not reflect the depth nor location where dredging is being proposed now (approximately 712,000 cys). Previous testing was completed only to a depth of 6 feet rather than 20 feet - as called for in the current dredging proposal. The actual location of the proposed dredging has yet to be identified. A site plan delineating the proposed dredging footprint and a schematic showing the proposed depth and typical profile should be provided to the public prior to issuing the FEIS.

A chemical analysis and toxicity testing of sediments were not included in the DEIS.

Given the agreements contained in the multi-agency National Environmental Policy Act and Clean Water Act Section 404 Integration Process for Surface Transportation Projects in Arizona, California, and Nevada Memorandum of Understanding (NEPA/404–MOU), it would have been advantageous to have such information in the DEIS. The timing of presenting this information to the public and agencies associated with the NEPA/404 MOU is critical in identifying the Least Environmentally Damaging Practicable Alternative (LEDPA) pursuant to Clean Water Act Section 404 since sediment characterization is necessary before the LEDPA can be accurately selected.

In keeping with the NEPA/404 MOU, the LEDPA should be identified prior to circulation of the FEIS. Throughout our involvement in this project, Caltrans has consistently indicated that they intend to dispose of the dredge material in-bay, if permitted. EPA, in turn, has consistently insisted that an analysis of disposal options should be included in the DEIS to assist in identifying the LEDPA. We believe that the disposal issues have not been adequately addressed within this DEIS.

We acknowledge the need to press forward on this important project, however, we strongly recommend that at minimum, grain size and chemistry characterization should be completed prior to identifying a preferred alternative and circulating the FEIS.‘

We are also troubled by the conclusion stated in the DEIS that the dredged sediments will not cause adverse affects to marine biota when disposed of at the Alcatraz disposal site. We believe this conclusion may be premature since the material to be dredged has yet to be tested. We recommend that the FEIS include a statement of conclusion, which accurately reflects the results of sediment characterization and also addresses the suitability of the material for disposal as beneficial reuse, as appropriate.

Issues Identified by the Dredged Material Management Office (DMMO):

The DMMO, in a letter to FHWA/Caltrans, dated October 26, 1998, concluded that the analysis of dredging and dredged material disposal associated with the project is inadequate and, of more concern, is somewhat misleading.

We concur for the following reasons:

* The DEIS states that the DMMO has conceptually granted approval for in-bay disposal. Actually, the DMMO has not approved the project volumes that are discussed within the DEIS, in concept or otherwise.

* The DEIS states that up to 712,000 cys of material may be dredged. This is a substantial increase over the original estimate of 264,000 cys, a figure upon which early planning was based.

* New sediment testing requirements have been put into effect since the DMMO made its initial suitability determination in 1996. These new requirements would apply to this project and could change the complexion of the disposal options. The lead agencies were informed on July 8, 1998 that the 1996 DMMO suitability determination no longer applies to this project.

* On July 8, 1998, the lead agencies were advised that the in-bay disposal option would unlikely be accepted as the LEDPA. The lead agencies were further advised that beneficial re-use options should be evaluated first, followed by upland and ocean disposal, and that in-bay disposal would only be considered if these options could be clearly established as being not practicable. None of this information and coordination is reflected in the DEIS. –
Without data on the relative volumes of physically, chemically, and biologically suitable material, it is not possible to determine the potential direct, indirect, and cumulative environmental impacts of dredging and disposing of that material. EPA has discussed this issue at length with FHWA/Caltrans. We have also identified several feasible beneficial re-use options for consideration, such as the proposed Montezuma Wetlands and Hamilton Wetlands restoration projects; we suggested considering habitat restoration at another close location which is already owned by the California State Lands Commission; and, we suggested considering the use of the suitable materials as construction fill for other projects. These disposal options were not evaluated in the DEIS. A clear discussion of dredging and disposal options and the potential adverse impacts that may be associated with such activities are critical elements of the project and NEPA document. As such, this information should be circulated for full public review, before completing the FEIS.

In discussing the topic of dredging and dredge materials disposal with FHWA/Caltrans, it is apparent that information missing in the DEIS would be addressed at the permit stage of the project. While it may be strategically advantageous to defer providing information until the permitting stage, NEPA requires full public disclosure. With its lack of dredging information and no evaluation of disposal options, we believe the DEIS does not meet that public disclosure requirement. The Council on Environmental Quality supports early disclosure by stating clearly that Agencies must integrate the NEPA process into other planning at the earliest possible time to insure that planning and decisions reflect environmental values, to avoid delays later in the process, and to head off potential conflicts.

We recommend that the information described herein be compiled and circulated for public review and comment to the maximum extent possible prior to the publication of the FEIS. The discussion should also include all information necessary to ensure that the apparent mis-statements contained in the DEIS are appropriately and accurately addressed.


The DEIS provides insufficient information on the acreage, location, and functions of existing special aquatic sites and important resources (wetlands, mudflats, and eelgrass beds) in the proposed project area. In particular, FHWA’s subsequent NEPA document should include a map identifying the existing natural resources (including acreage) and the specific areas of those resources which would be directly and indirectly impacted by the proposed project.

The DEIS has identified sixteen special status wildlife species in the vicinity of the project area. Special status species are defined as either endangered and/or threatened species protected under the Endangered Species Act and marine mammals protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Protected species which could experience negative adverse impacts from dredging and disposal activities include the Winter-run, Spring-run, Fall-run Chinook Salmon, Central California-coast Steelhead, Central California-valley Steelhead, Green Sturgeon, Longfin Smelt, Peregrine Falcon, and Harbor Seal. We are particularly concerned that resuspension of dredge material and use of explosives could adversely affect protected species.

Since neither the DEIS, the Biological Assessment, nor the Biological Opinion specifically describe the proposed dredging and disposal options in detail, it appears that the direct, indirect, and cumulative adverse impacts to these species may not have been fully considered. Once the dredging and disposal details are developed, the biological aspects of the project may need to be revisited. This could necessitate re-coordination with the appropriate jurisdictional agencies. FHWA should ensure that these agencies are aware of the lack of dredging information in the DEIS and they should be advised that additional material is forthcoming for their consideration.

Upland and the ocean disposal sites, which have yet to be evaluated, could also have endangered species present. Once optional disposal sites are evaluated, FHWA should re-engage the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service to ensure that any additional protection requirements are factored into the project and project decsionmaking. This information should be included in the FEIS. ‘


The DEIS does not contain an analysis of the air emissions resulting from dredging and disposal of the dredge material. FHWA should quantify the emissions resulting from the dredging, disposal and other construction activities and present this information in the FEIS. The FEIS should also discuss the applicability of the Clean (Air?) Act Section 176 conformity requirements. If a conformity analysis is necessary, the conformity determination should be provided. If results indicate that the activities will be non–conforming, strategies to ensure conformity must also be presented in the FEIS as part of the determination.

One of the major goals of the East Span Seismic Safety Project is to provide a lifeline connection between the Peninsula and the East-Bay. Coupling that goal with the need to move more people more efficiently between the Peninsula and the East Bay over the proposed 150 year life of the project, and an ongoing need to help reduce vehicle emissions by providing additional mass transit opportunities, it may be prudent to consider bridge-based rail options at this stage.


The FEIS should include an expanded discussion of cumulative impacts. That discussion should include impacts from other projects within the geographic vicinity of the proposed project, such as, but not limited to, the West Span Retrofit Project, the Benecia Martinez Bridge Project, the San Mateo/Hayward Bridge Project, the Carquinez Bridge Project, the Ports of Oakland and Richmond Deepening Projects, the maintenance dredging projects scheduled for Alcatraz, disposal during the projects construction period, and other projects which affect the environment. The public should be apprised of the range of projects and potential direct, indirect, and cumulative environmental impacts from those projects in keeping with 40 CFR 1502.16 (b), 1508.7, 1508.8, and 1508.25‘

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