December 10, 2012
Who cares about Aquatic Park?
Shit of all sorts rolls downhill, they say, and Aquatic Park is a case in point.
The park serves as a buffer between Berkeley and the bright blue sea. Excess storm runoff from much of Berkeley makes its way downhill to the park, sometimes flooding parts of West Berkeley on the way to the lagoon. From there the effluent mingles with the Bay as tides permit. As the water flows it carries with it such pollution as we have, ultimately polluting not only the park but also the Bay.
Like all authorities adjacent to the bay, Berkeley is under legal obligation to reduce these polluting discharges or pay stiff penalties. At the same time, Berkeley has endogenous obligations to reduce flooding in the city and to improve the quality of the park.
These obligations to the city compete. Flooding can be reduced by increasing the efficiency of storm-water flow into the lagoon -- but only that expense (all else being equal) of further polluting the lagoon and the Bay.
Here is the state of things:
Storm run-off does not flow fast enough towards the park, and so we have flooding. Partly this is because our system of paving causes too much run-off. Partly this is because the city infrastructure doesn't carry water into the lagoon fast enough.
On the other hand, the tides do not circulate water through the lagoon efficiently enough, resulting in a stagnant lagoon. Again, neglected infrastructure -- literally inadequate and poorly maintained culverts between the park and the bay -- are to blame.
But on the third hand, while improving those flows might help reduce flooding and local stagnation, it would worsen Berkeley's contribution to polluting the park and the Bay (and in ways that can can directly cost the city real money).
Nobody is quite really sure if we can raise the money to fix this. It's one of those unaccounted deficits that, if we could really put them on the books, might help prove that Berkeley is well and truly bankrupt, several times over.
It is against this background that Toni Mester writes a fine backgrounder, encouraging public attention to an upcoming public hearing. Here's a teaser. Go read it on that cornerstone of the Free Press in Berkeley: the Daily Planet.
In the meantime, APIP tries to merge two incompatible functions: flood control and repair of the water quality in Aquatic Park, which wasn't created as a flood basin. It's questionable whether this redesign of the Park to accomplish both tasks at once can succeed without further damage to the Park's infrastructure, especially if future storms exceed past downpours as a result of global warming.
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