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City to Apply for $50 Million FEMA Flood Protection Grant

On February 6, City Council unanimously directed staff to proceed with submitting a significant flood protection project for a $50 million Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant on behalf of the Oakland Alameda Adaptation Committee (OACC). The project is called the Oakland Alameda Multi-Hazard Adaptation and Community Benefits Project.

Alameda Post - the flood zones on Bayfarm Isalnd
Floodwaters enter Bay Farm Island along the arrows. All areas would need to be addressed to mitigate flood risk. Image presented at February 6, 2024 City Council meeting, Agenda # 7-A, Staff Presentation.

If issued, the grant would provide flood protection improvements for Alameda’s Bay Farm Island Northern Shoreline neighborhood, the Oakland International Airport, and East Oakland’s Columbian Gardens neighborhood.

Environmental background

Danielle Mieler, City of Alameda’s Sustainability and Resilience Manager, noted that sea level rise is a significant risk to Alameda, with eight inches of sea level rise measured to date, another foot of rise projected by 2050, and four feet projected by 2100.



Sea level rise causes groundwater also to rise. Rising groundwater can infiltrate and corrode underground infrastructure, damage roads and structures, cause flooding inland, mobilize soil contamination, and increase liquefaction risks. The San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) anticipates the cost of adapting to sea level rise to be $110 billion for the Bay Area and $22 billion for Alameda County.

City plans of action

To begin addressing these concerns, the City:

OACC is an interagency collaboration between the City, Port of Oakland, City of Oakland, California Department of Transportation (CalTrans), East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD), the San Francisco Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB), and community organizations to plan for sea level rise adaptation in the Oakland-Alameda subregion.

Planning, Building, and Transportation Department employees and their consultant team lead this coalition to leverage interagency resources for the City’s planning needs. In the long term, however, staff recognize it is unsustainable for the City to continue leading the partnership and foresee a new form of governance, such as a memorandum of understanding (MOU) where the City is no longer the designated leader.

Alameda Post - a graph predicting sea level rise until 2100
Image presented at February 6, 2024 City Council meeting, Agenda # 7-A, Exhibit 5, shows different scenarios for sea level rise.

BCDC anticipates the cost of adapting to sea level rise to be $110 billion for the Bay Area and $22 billion for Alameda County.

Adaptation projects

OAAC is working on three major adaptation projects: the Sub-Regional Adaptation Plan, the Oakland-Alameda Estuary Adaptation Project, and the Bay Farm Island (BFI) Adaptation Project. By the end of 2025, early-stage planning and project scoping will be complete for the Bay Farm Island Adaptation Project. Subsequent steps will require significant funding because sea level rise adaptation involves large-scale infrastructure.

OACC identified a FEMA Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) Grant as an excellent opportunity to fund flood protection improvements such as seawalls or earthen berms in the following six areas:

  1. State Route 61/Doolittle Drive/San Francisco Bay Trail.
  2. BFI Northern Shoreline.
  3. BFI Veterans Court.
  4. Columbian Gardens Stormwater Flooding (East Oakland).
  5. BFI Lagoon.
  6. Wetland Enhancements (San Leandro Bay).

OAAC proposes these six mitigation projects as one solution to reduce costs and maximize the likelihood of achieving a comprehensive flood risk reduction solution for areas that are hydraulically linked (meaning their waters are connected). For instance, flooding on Bay Farm Island results from overtopping at Doolittle Drive, the BFI Lagoon, and BFI Veterans Court.

Benefits for Alameda

A significant benefit of the project for Alameda would be removing the lagoon area of BFI from the FEMA 100-year floodplain, potentially alleviating flood insurance requirements for lagoon area property owners. The project would protect the SR-61/Doolittle Drive corridor, closing the gap in the San Francisco Bay Trail on Doolittle Drive to create a 17-mile continuous trail, protect the Bay Trail along BFI’s northern shoreline from erosion, and enhance marsh habitat and access to the San Leandro Bay shoreline.

Notably, according to the Grant Technical Report (link downloads report), homes near Maitland Drive are not included in the project benefiting area. This area has ground elevations 5 to 10 feet below the surrounding areas and would still experience stormwater flood risks.

Alameda Post - a map of Alameda with flood risk areas
With the FEMA grant, the City of Alameda would initiate flood protection measures around Bay Farm Island. Image presented at February 6, 2024 City Council meeting, Agenda # 7-A, Exhibit 5.

Public comment

Paul Beusterien, Board Vice President of the Harbor Bay Isle Owners’ Association, voiced strong support for submitting the project for the grant, noting its benefits to the roughly 3,000 homes represented by the Association.

Keta Price of the Hood Planning Group said it was a “no-brainer” to support a project that would benefit so many, particularly an economically disadvantaged community in Oakland.

Public correspondents who also wrote in support included Assemblymember Mia Bonta, Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao, Alameda County Supervisor Lena Tam, Oakland Councilmember Treva Reid, and representatives of the Port of Oakland, the San Francisco Bay Trail Project, the San Francisco RWQCB, EBMUD, the East Bay Regional Park District, Community Action for a Sustainable Alameda (CASA), the Confederated Villages of Lisjan Nation, the Greenbelt Alliance, the Hood Planning Group, and the San Francisco Estuary Institute.

Next steps

City Council unanimously voted to direct staff to prepare the project’s application for the BRIC grant. Staff will return at the February 20 meeting to request formal approval of a resolution authorizing the BRIC grant application and the City’s match commitment for $1.9 million. City Manager Jennifer Ott noted that the City will aim to secure other grant funds to cover the match commitment rather than dip into the General Fund.

The Port of Oakland has already made a financial commitment for their portion of the required grant match ($2.6 million), and the City of Oakland will request City Council approval of their grant match ($1 million) at their February 20 meeting. If all approvals are received, City staff will submit the application by the grant’s February 27 deadline.

Contributing writer Karin K. Jensen covers boards and commissions for the Alameda Post. Contact her via [email protected]. Her writing is collected at https://linktr.ee/karinkjensen and https://alamedapost.com/Karin-K-Jensen.

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