Army Corps Drops its Planned Hand-out to Big Oil

Last year, the US Army Corps of Engineers unveiled a plan to dredge a deeper shipping channel through San Francisco Bay to Stockton. The move itself wasn’t unusual since the Corps regularly dredges mud to clear shipping channels throughout the Bay and Delta. But the new plan had an ulterior motive.

The project—all at tax-payers’ expense—would primarily benefit oil refineries, since deeper channels allow refineries to load even larger oil tankers. The result would be even more oil on the Bay, a higher risk of spills locally (remember the Cosco Busan?), and even more dirty fuel stoking 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 would have had a disastrous effect on drinking water supplies. 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 would make the tap water flowing into hundreds of thousands of homes, freshwater habitat, and the irrigation water reaching the region’s crops much saltier—harming wildlife, public health, and agricultural productivity.

So we joined forces with a coalition of environmental and community organizations to challenge the proposal. We actively opposed the Army Corps’ dredging plan and raised significant legal and technical concerns over the project’s Environmental Impact Statement during the public rulemaking process.

And our efforts paid off! In late November, the Corps announced that it was withdrawing its plans.

“The cancellation of the dredging boondoggle is a big win because it was nothing more than a hand-out to the fossil fuel industry that posed a significant risk to the health of our Bay and Bay Area communities,” Baykeeper Executive Sejal Choksi-Chugh said in a statement. “This is a helpful step to transition the Bay Area’s dirty fuel industry to cleaner energy alternatives. And that’s good news for the Bay, the people of the Bay Area, and for the future of our fragile climate.”

Photo of a clamshell dredger by Richard Bangert.