Coastal Post Online


October, 2003

Why Do The State And Marin Want To
Suck Up Hamilton Toxics
By Elena Belsky
   County of Marin Supervisors have submitted a letter to Governor Gray Davis supporting early transfer of contaminated lands on former Hamilton Air Force Base (HAFB) to the state of California. The letter appears to have been requested by the State Coastal Conservancy (SCC) which is slated to take possession of the toxic parcel.
   In seeking to support the current version of a wetlands project on Hamilton, the Board of Supervisor's (BoS) has stepped into a controversial area, and should have done their homework on the proposed project before putting their pens to paper.
   Writing to the Governor, the BoS urges the state to accept the contaminated parcel from the Army, as "Éextremely beneficial to the local community and environmentÉ"  Yet the US Fish and Wildlife Service's (FWS) Biological Opinion (an interpretation of the Endangered Species Act for the specific HAFB site) does not agree. It asserts that protections are not stringent enough and are not being applied properly, and that the Supplemental EIR and Record Of Decision / Remedial Action Plan significantly underestimates the acreage of habitat being destroyed.
   The BoS would have done the County residents a better service by researching their position before putting it in writing to the Governor.

Port of Oakland Dredge Spoils Coming to Marin
   A key element in the push for the state to accept liability of the property mentioned in the BoS letter is MONEY.
   The Port of Oakland has dredge spoils that have nowhere to go. If the Hamilton Wetland Restoration Project (HWRP) land transfer does not move forward immediately, Oakland would suffer costly delays and more expensive alternatives for dumping of their dredge material.
   So it seems that HWRP is marching to the tune of Port of Oakland's drum, rather than following a timeline best suited to safety or intelligent decision making in relation to the Marin project.
   Direct enquiries as to whether the Port of Oakland has paid any financial benefits to parties involved in the HWRP remain unanswered; however, documents suggest that the State Coastal Conservancy will significantly offset its portion of wetlands project costs through payments for accepting Port of Oakland dredge materials.

State Should Keep It "Clean" - Army Should Keep Its Toxics
   There is no legal or rational reason for the Army not to maintain possession of the HAFB property - and to do the wetland restoration project. There is no reason for the state of California to assume the burden of cleanup costs for HAFB wetlands parcel which has been thoroughly polluted by years of military uses on that site.
   Environmental groups, neighbors, and agencies all want to see a wetlands restoration project happen at Hamilton. But the responsibility and liability for the costs of adequate clean up is what is at stake, and whether adequate clean-up will occur before a wetlands project is implemented.
   This conversion/reuse of contaminated land has not been fully thought out-that should be taken as major caution for moving the property transfer forward.
   The state of California can facilitate and contribute their percentage to the project  but should remain unencumbered as to the additional liability of accepting toxic property from the Army.
   Please see accompanying letter to the State of California Public Works Board for more detailed information.


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