Redwood City Ferry Terminal Must Avoid Harm to Marshland Wildlife

Harbor Seals at Bair Island. Photo by Judy Irving Pelican Media

A proposal for commuter ferry service and a new ferry terminal at the Port of Redwood City has been in the works for several years. Now, the Port and the Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA), the agency that operates public commuter ferries in the Bay Area, are preparing to start work on a draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for this project. Green Foothills and our partners will be watching closely to make sure the new ferries and the new terminal will not harm the wildlife and wetlands at nearby Bair Island and Greco Island, which are part of the Don Edwards Wildlife Refuge.

New Ferry Terminal Should be Located Near Port, Not Greco Island

Two possible locations for the new ferry terminal have been proposed. One would be in the existing deep-water channel of Redwood Creek where there are already docks for large ships; the other would be in Westpoint Slough across from Greco Island. The Greco Island site would require dredging of the shallow slough channel, which would deplete the sediment needed to maintain the health of the tidal marshland at Greco Island.

Green Foothills advocated with WETA, the Port, and the Redwood City Council to choose the Redwood Creek site, which would be cheaper as well as less environmentally harmful. Although both locations will still be evaluated in the EIR, both the Port Commission and the City Council expressed a preference for the Redwood Creek site.

Ferries Traveling Too Fast Are Harmful to Wildlife and Kayakers

To guard against shoreline erosion and other harmful impacts to Bair and Greco Islands from the wakes created by ferries traveling at excessive speeds, a “no-wake zone” needs to be implemented and enforced. Wakes from ferries can inundate the marshlands, harming the wetland species that live there, including the endangered Ridgway’s Rail and the endangered salt marsh harvest mouse. In addition, the waterways near the Port are used every day by recreational kayakers, scullers, paddleboarders and others, including various middle-school, high school, and college rowing and paddling programs. Small, light sculls and kayaks are easily capsized by high wakes, and in recent years when temporary private ferry services have operated in Westpoint Slough, rowers and paddlers have reported frequent capsizings.

Enforcement of no-wake zones will become much more challenging if private ferry services are allowed to use the ferry terminal, which could happen in the future if an expansion of use is approved. We are calling on WETA, the Port, and the City to commit to a policy of not allowing private ferry service at the new ferry terminal.

What You Can Do

We will be monitoring the EIR process, which is expected to take as much as two years. When the EIR is released for public input, we will alert supporters to the opportunities to comment on it.

Thank You to Those Who Make Our Work Possible
Green Foothills appreciates every individual, agency, and foundation who makes our work possible and we are proud to recognize every contributor in Our Donor Community. Thanks to their generous support, we are able to champion land use decisions that affirm and support open space, biodiversity, climate resilience, and natural resources in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties. To ensure local nature always has an advocate, please become a Sustaining Contributor today.

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