Crossings Bay Environment
Outs on Richardson Bay—Fair or Foul?
By Teri Shore
For decades, sailors and other
free spirits have set anchor in the protected waters of Richardson Bay off
the Sausalito waterfront. Over the years, yachts, houseboats and other
unusual craft have developed into an eclectic fleet populated by people
who are clearly, and often defiantly, independent. Sadly, this stretch of
Bay has also been used as dumping ground for derelict boats, barges, dry
docks and other floating structures. Many of the worst navigational
hazards have been removed, but today 89 various craft remain.
Of the 89 vessels, 39 are used as
residences. About 20 are occupied by longstanding residents. The rest are
stored recreational boats. The perennial controversy over whether these
so-called anchor outs should be allowed to stay or permanently moved from
the Bay is being debated once again. The San Francisco Bay Conservation
and Development Commission is ready to enforce laws that require that all
anchor outs be taken away because they pollute the Bay and constitute an
illegal "bay fill."
The greatest environmental harm
caused by the anchor outs is the unlawful dumping of contaminants,
untreated sewage, called blackwater, and other pollutants into the Bay. An
anchor-out resident contacted by Bluewater Network said that a sewage
pumping service visits his vessel twice a month to remove blackwater. But
he also admitted that not all of his neighbors are as careful.
There is also the question of
dumping graywater, which is untreated water leftover from washing, cooking
and other onboard activities. Such discharges are not regulated (though
they should be), except on cruise ships in Alaska. As a result, many types
of large commercial vessels, fishing boats and recreational craft dump
large volumes of graywater in into California’s coastal waters and
harbors. This dirty water certainly fouls the Bay. But anchor outs
contribute a relatively small amount to this problem.
Many of the long-time residents of
Richardson Bay remain committed to their life on the water. Some say they
can simply not afford to move to shore. This is a valid complaint due to
the Bay Area’s high rents, particularly for those with fixed or low
incomes. Marinas around the Bay allow 10 percent of their berths to be
occupied by live-aboards, so space is limited, and often expensive, too.
Moving out the anchor outs could mean making some people homeless.
Another problem with the anchor
outs is that many of the vessels are decrepit and not at all seaworthy.
Often when a winter storm hits, boats break loose and are washed onto
shore or into other vessels.
"I am almost guaranteed of
seven boats or more that go onto the beach during the storm," said
Bill Price of the Richardson Bay Regional Agency. Vessel recovery and
removal is funded by state grants. Price’s agency has taken the lead in
removing numerous illegal vessels from Richardson Bay, sixty last year
alone. The staff also sends visiting yachts on their way to prevent new
vessels from joining the illegal Richardson Bay fleet.
As a possible solution to the
anchor-out dilemma, Price’s agency and BCDC are considering enacting new
regulations that would set standards for anchoring in Richardson Bay,
phase out permanent moorings and prevent new vessels from moving in.
"Marinas as close as Pillar
Point Harbor and Monterey Bay or anywhere south of that, all have mooring
regulations," said Price. "What it does is affords you the
ability to control how long the boats sit there, and what sort of vessel,
and the type of mooring."
Bluewater Network supports the
development of mooring standards and agrees with the phase-out approach.
We also have some recommendations: All longstanding resident owners of
anchored out vessels must be required to prove that they contract with a
pump-out service to remove blackwater, or that they properly dispose of it
ashore. Second, all anchor outs should be seaworthy vessels, capable of
adequate propulsion to maneuver to safety during severe weather
conditions. Owners who don’t comply should be fined and their vessel
removed. Finally, no new vessels should be allowed to take up permanent
residence in Richardson Bay.
A public hearing on the BCDC
proposal for removing anchor outs from Richardson Bay is scheduled for
Aug. 2, 2001, during the regular meeting that begins at 1 p.m. For an
agenda and location, contact BCDC at 415-352-3600 or www.bcdc.ca.gov.