Coast Guard drops plan to curtail drawbridge staffing
The U.S. Coast Guard announced Wednesday that it is withdrawing a plan to eliminate nighttime supervision of Alameda’s drawbridges in response to an outcry over the impact the proposed change would have on safety and on businesses that sit on the estuary.
“The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is withdrawn due to comments received in opposition and the potential negative impacts to navigation and the surrounding community. We have determined the regulation change, as proposed, would not meet the reasonable needs of navigation on the waterway,” a notice published in the Federal Register on Wednesday said.
Alameda County, which operates the drawbridges, had asked the Coast Guard to reduce the hours they must staff them as a cost-cutting move. But local sailors and marine-based clubs and businesses said the cuts would compromise safety and harm businesses situated on the Estuary.
“I’m very pleased by the outcome,” Mayor Marie Gilmore said Wednesday. “The concerns of the city and the residents were taken into account.”
County officials had asked the Coast Guard to allow them to only staff the Fruitvale, High Street and Park Street bridges between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., raising the bridges on off-hours only with four hours’ advance notice. They said boat traffic under the bridges had declined sharply over the last several years and that the move would save them an estimated $600,000 a year.
The Coast Guard released the proposed change on May 27, 2010 and got back more than two dozen responses, including petitions, from business owners, mariners and others opposed to the plan. They got two responses in support of it.
County officials had originally considered asking the Coast Guard to allow them to keep the bridges raised at night, but backed off the plan after it created a huge outcry. County officials, who didn’t respond to a request for comment Wednesday, said it costs $2.6 million a year to staff the three bridges 24 hours a day.
Local mariners said the move to reduce staffing would make it harder for them to use the water and could be dangerous in an emergency. And they said the bridges’ tenders help protect the bridges and the areas surrounding them from crime, terrorism and jumpers.