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New Rules Proposed for Anchoring Along Estuary

Boaters and boat owners using the Oakland Estuary may soon face new rules for anchoring there, including a ban on living aboard a boat.

Alameda Post - a man stands on top of a sunk boat. It is encircled in a bright yellow floating circle
An ex-Navy vessel sinks following a storm on December 26, releasing a substantial amount of fuel into the Estuary. Photo Brock de Lappe.

The Oakland City Council’s Rules and Legislation Committee Thursday sent a proposed ordinance to the council for consideration Tuesday.

A report from Interim Police Chief Darren Allison to interim City Administrator G. Harold Duffey said that boats that people live on in the estuary and abandoned or derelict boats pose an environmental threat to the estuary.

In addition, the Bay Conservation and Development Commission could fine the city up to $6,000 per day for allowing such boats there. The commission only allows people to live aboard boats at marinas to protect the bay, police alleged.

Allison wrote, “As the Legislature found in the McAteer-Petris Act, the Bay is ‘the most valuable single natural resource of an entire region, a resource that gives special character to the bay area.'”

The McAteer-Petris Act aims to protect San Francisco Bay from “indiscriminate filling,” and the Oakland Estuary is considered part of the bay, said the commission’s General Counsel Greg Scharff.

Police said BCDC considers derelict or abandoned boats and boats people live on in the bay to be unpermitted fill.

The ordinance to be considered Tuesday by the city council is called the Nuisance Vessel Ordinance and would give police the authority to remove or have occupied boats removed from the estuary.

Allison wrote that police do not have that authority now and 10 to 20 boats are anchored illegally in the Oakland Estuary on any given day.

He said state law already gives the city and police the authority to remove permanently unoccupied boats and those that pose an immediate hazard. Police removed four unoccupied vessels from the estuary last year, Allison wrote.

Scharff said the commission is working with the cities of Alameda and Oakland to remedy the current situation.

The proposed ordinance before the Oakland City Council Tuesday would give boats up to 12 hours to anchor or moor in the estuary. The proposed ordinance also gives Oakland police the authority to inspect a vessel with the owner’s or occupant’s permission or with a court-issued warrant.

That would allow police to determine if the boat is a nuisance. The vessel’s owner would then have to repair the vessel or move it from the estuary. The owner or occupant of the vessel could appeal the nuisance finding.

Also, violation of the Nuisance Vessel Ordinance would be a misdemeanor, Allison wrote.

Allison said numerous complaints have been filed mainly with the Bay Conservation and Development Commission. The complaints have been about the release of raw sewage by boats anchored in the estuary, the danger the boats pose in travel lanes and the danger the boats pose to other boats in a storm.

A spokesperson for the city of Alameda was not immediately available to say what the city is doing to remedy the same problem off its shores.

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