Sierra Club Yodeler: Harbor seals get new float at Alameda Point, August 4, 2016
A new cement float for harbor seals was delivered to Alameda Point on June 22. It is the first float of its kind on the West Coast. With seals starting to use the new platform, a milestone has been reached culminating two-and-a-half years of citizen advocacy to maintain a resting site for harbor seals at Alameda Point. A ferry maintenance facility is slated to begin construction this summer at the site where the seals have been finding solitude for over a decade. The new float will soon be anchored 100 yards away from their old haunt.
The Water Emergency Transportation Authority’s (WETA’s) environmental impact study for its new ferry facility at Alameda’s Inner Bay Harbor overlooked the significance to the seals of an old wooden dock left behind by Navy. Site visits by the consultant conducting the environmental study took place at a time of year and time of day when the seals are rarely seen out of the water (“hauled out”). When WETA was alerted to the harbor-seal issue in January of 2014, it sought review by the National Marine Fisheries Service, which administers the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
The National Marine Fisheries Service ultimately ruled that the seals were not threatened and could find somewhere else to rest. But although Breakwater Island at Alameda Point has been used by seals in the past, ongoing observations by local seal advocates revealed that the seals only haul out on the breakwater at low tide and have rarely chosen the breakwater over the old dock. The new floating haul out, on the other hand, will provide a resting platform throughout the tide cycle.