Oakland Marinas harbormaster, Brock de Lappe, has been working for years to protect the Oakland Estuary from illegal anchor-outs and environmental degradation caused by sinking and abandoned vessels. We’ve written about the results of his efforts and the broader estuary challenges in the past, but it remains a recurring problem. Brock sent in a couple of recent photos of a new crop of anchor-outs, including one sinking right near the bridge to Coast Guard Island and the recently destroyed Cryer Boatyard.
Clearly, the Bay Area has a housing crisis. Just as clearly to most people, solving homelessness with illegal anchorages filling up with aging and poorly maintained vessels is not the solution. As with homelessness throughout the Bay Area, the agencies and people responsible for clearing up the problems seem overwhelmed and ill-equipped to solve them. Currently, clearing out abandoned vessels and illegal anchor-outs is a wash, rinse, repeat cleaning cycle.
Deep in the Oakland Estuary, Coast Guard Island provides weather protection for the anchored-out boats. Yet this is not primarily the Coast Guard’s problem. However, their description of their mission reads as follows: “The Coast Guard is the principal Federal agency responsible for maritime safety, security, and environmental stewardship in U.S. ports and waterways.” You could see sinking boats and illegal anchorages as a threat to both the environment and maritime safety, but hard to solve in the murky boundaries between agencies. However, it is the Oakland and Alameda police who are charged with protecting and managing these problems on the Estuary.
Other California harbors, such as San Diego, pictured above, have well-managed mooring fields that create the opportunity for some to live ‘on the hook’ and additional less expensive mooring options. As Brock notes, “There is no legal anchorage anywhere in the Oakland Estuary. The boats can become a hazard to navigation, and just allowing boats like this to anchor, sink, pollute, and generally intrude on public waterways creates a dangerous situation for all.” Mooring fields can be a great solution for both long-term and short-term recreational usage. They could provide revenue for cities to help clean up the boats falling into disrepair and sinking in the Bay.
In the meantime, Brock and a community of businesses along the Oakland Estuary have been working closely with the local police to solve the problems, including contributing office space for a new, local Oakland police substation. These businesses have chipped in to help clean up the Oakland coastline and waterways by helping support the Oakland Police Department: Brooklyn Basin, Motel 6, Conley Family LP, Homewood Suites, Executive Inn, Cook Natural Products, Oakland Marinas, Bay Yachts, Miller Milling, and Hager Pacific Properties.
The Bay Area’s homeless situation is way beyond local harbormasters and law enforcement’s scope and abilities. Still, homelessness needs to be solved somehow, while also keeping the Bay and Estuary’s magnificent coastline and waterways clear for all boaters to enjoy.