PLEASANTON, CA – Rep. Eric Swalwell (CA-15) today led five other Members of Congress from the Bay Area in urging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to pave the way for urgently needed repairs to trails and levees managed by the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD).
In a letter to Fish and Wildlife Service Director Daniel Ashe, Swalwell and the other lawmakers noted that EBRPD manages more than120,000 acres – covering 65 parks and more than 1,250 miles of trails – in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. This includes responsibility for wetlands and levees along the San Francisco Bay’s eastern shore that protect residents and property against storm surge and sea-level rise – problems which will only escalate as our climate warms.
But before the Army Corps of Engineers can authorize EBRPD to do routine maintenance and repair on shoreline trails and levees, the district first must obtain a Programmatic Biological Opinion (PBO) – which assesses how the proposed work could affect endangered species – from the Fish and Wildlife Service. The district has been seeking a PBO for more than three years, and has been able to make only emergency repairs to levees on the verge of failing.
“Waiting for an emergency to do repairs raises the risk that a failure will occur,” Swalwell and the other members wrote. “It is also is less efficient and more costly than conducting routine maintenance. A completed PBO is thus critical for the EPRPD to effectively maintain access to the shore and protect the East Bay.”
“The Congressional delegation is leading efforts to prevent levee and shoreline emergencies,” said East Bay Regional Park District General Manager Robert Doyle. “The Park District needs a federal permit to perform basic maintenance that will protect our communities from flooding because the Bay-Delta shoreline trails, levees and wetlands are the first line of defense in protecting billions of dollars of infrastructure from storm surges and sea level rise.”
Read the full text of the letter here.
Swalwell – a member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology – is keenly aware of the impact that climate change is having on our communities, shorelines and environment.
EBRPD officials informed Swalwell of this need during his September 19 visit to the district’s Hayward Regional Shoreline and the Hayward Area Recreation and Parks District’s Hayward Shoreline Interpretive Center. During that visit, Swalwell toured the levees and trails to see the deterioration; he also was presented with the National Recreation and Park Association’s 2016 Congressional Park Champion Award, in recognition of his tireless efforts to protect parks, shorelines and open space in the East Bay and beyond.
East Bay Regional Park District Park Supervisor Mark Taylor shows Rep. Eric Swalwell an eroding levee in the Hayward Regional Shoreline, Sept. 19. 2016. (Photo courtesy of Rep. Swalwell’s office.)