A new plan by the US Army Corps of Engineers to dredge deeper shipping channels in San Francisco Bay could hurt the Bay—and the health of the people who live here, too.
The plan would connect Bay Area refineries to the Golden Gate with tanker-worthy corridors. At first glance, it may seem like business as usual. The Corps regularly dredges mud out of the Bay to clear shipping channels throughout the Bay and Delta. And in this case, the Corps has committed to using the best practices that Baykeeper has championed for many years, including using dredging equipment that won't kill fish and reusing dredged mud for wetland restoration.
But the plan, even with these hard-won improvements, conceals an ulterior agenda. The dredging project—which will cost tax-payers millions of dollars to execute and maintain—will primarily benefit local oil refineries. Deeper channels will allow refineries to load even larger oil tankers. This will lead to more oil on the Bay, increase the risk of spills locally (remember the Cosco Busan?), and facilitate the global climate crisis. The plan could also be the first step for the Port of Stockton to expand toxic coal exports through the Bay.
What's more, the dredging plan could have a disastrous effect on the drinking water supplies of Bay-Delta communities. Deeper dredging could alter the topography of the Bay so that the salt water of the Bay moves further east than it currently reaches now. This saltwater intrusion would make freshwater habitat, the tap water flowing into hundreds of thousands of homes, and the irrigation water reaching the region’s crops much saltier, harming wildlife, public health, and agricultural productivity.
That’s why Baykeeper is partnering with a coalition—including the Center for Biological Diversity, Communities for a Better Environment, Friends of the Earth, NRDC, and Sierra Club—to push back on the plan. The Corps is essentially providing yet another taxpayer hand-out to the fossil fuel industry—this time at the expense of our Bay’s well-being and the health of Bay Area communities. We’ll stand strong to make sure our Bay and communities are protected.
Photo of a clamshell dredger by Richard Bangert.